What To Do in the Rain on Siesta Key

Updated July 27, 2015

Its one of those rainy days on the Key.  As a resident of Siesta Key there’s plenty to do around the house but for the visitors of our Key who don’t have home improvements to work on, errands to run, friends to visit or other stuff going on, I put together a little list of things to do when it rains on Siesta Key.

The obvious, for a relaxing rainy day at the beach, especially if you’re staying in a condo/house is to be prepared.  Bring books, puzzles, board games, video games and DVDs with you to anticipate a not-so-perfect day at the beach.  That’s harder to do if you have a hotel room because you’ll likely get cabin fever quicker.  But for real excitement here are some ideas:  if there’s no thunder in the area, and your condo/hotel has a pool and you don’t care about getting wet (that’s a joke, ha) go swimming in the rain.  If you have a poncho/slicker/umbrella and don’t care about dodging rain drops just do what you’d normally do…shop at our cool stores in the Village or walk on the beach.  Otherwise, we have a great many restaurants to dine in so take a board game and some money for dessert and hang out at one of them.

Leaving the Key, just over the south bridge (Stickney Point) you’ll find Books-A-Million (we love visiting bookstores when we travel), and going south on Tamiami Trail, there’s the bowling alley, and a mall with a movie theatre.  A bit further south is the Tervis retail store.  Tervis is a Florida company and the entire collection of available cup designs is there for purchase.

Off the north bridge (Siesta Drive) you’ll find Barnes and Noble.  There’s also a mall on the east side of the Trail just north of Barnes and Noble.  If you go south on 41 you’ll come to the Landings shopping center on the right and Phillippi Creek shops on the left.

If it’s just a small, annoying rain that’s keeping you off the beach, don your rain coats or umbrellas and shop around St. Armand’s Circle.  Better yet, hop in the car to drive to Anna Maria Island.  It’s a nice drive up the Key (start on Long Boat and drive north), stop at Holmes Beach for a little shopping and great ice cream, go across the bridge to Cortez and visit the Sea Hag on the left. It’s an awesome indoor-outdoor shop of nautical decor and nick-nacks. While in the area, have lunch at Star Fish.  It’s one of our favorites.  Go back over the bridge and head north to Anna Maria Island. There is a little shopping area that we love as well.  Stop in, have some fun, talk to the parrots caged at one of the stores.  If you missed StarFish and you’re hungry, eat at Beach House Restaurant or Rod and Reel.  On your way back to Siesta Key, just over the bridge to Longboat Key, turn left.  Drive back into the neighborhood and if your lucky, you’ll see the peacocks roaming the neighborhood.  I don’t know if they are still there but according the latest report I could find, they may. Unfortunately, they are a nuisance for the residents as they take over every free space to roam, nest and make noise.  But for the visitor, it’s cool to see.  Just be respectful driving slowly through the neighborhood; people live there.

Annoying little rains that keep you off of the beach are still great times to throw on that poncho, grab a little bag and go beach combing.  Since the water may be churned up from a storm, and people generally stay away from the surf at that time, you may be able to find some cool finds.  South on Casey Key, stop at the public beach and collect some sharks teeth.  They’re everywhere.

Take a Marina Jack cruise.

Our totally indoor museums are:

South Florida Museum in Bradenton has a museum, planetarium and aquarium.  They also host family nights and Friday matinees.

Classic Car Museum (www.sarasotacarmuseum.org) – We went their on a field trip with some other homeschoolers and had a blast.  The tour was excellent and thorough.  My boys (huge Beatles fans) loved seeing John Lennon’s Mercedes Roadster and Paul McCartney’s Mini Cooper.  I don’t know if those cars are still on exhibit. Call before you go, if you want to, but the museum is really worth visiting regardless.

Ringling Museum of Art and their circus museums (www.ringling.org) – we went with the grandparents.  The circus museum was incredible.  It took us several hours to get through the circus stuff, gardens and only part of the art museum.  We were set on the Grandma Moses exhibit which is all we saw so we’re planning a trip back.  I understand Monday afternoons are free.  If you’re a teacher, check out their educator’s page on the website for discounts.  I recommend the Ca d’Zan (the mansion), also.  My husband and I had an abbreviated tour of the building which is amazing.  He had worked for the Cincinnati Reds and we were blessed that they held one of their family/staff dinners at the mansion during Spring Training one year, when  so we got to go in.  We mostly enjoyed the back veranda.  What a view!  What a sunset!  Hope they choose their dinner there again this year.  Take an umbrella because on a rainy day you’ll get wet going from building to building.

The Reds have moved but the Orioles are in town now.  On a good day in March you can catch a game.  You can still go when it rains, unless the game is called. Check out the gift shop but call first to see if it is open.

The Suncoast Science Center is open to the public and you can pay for a day  pass to tinker scientifically.  Call for information: 941-840-4394

The Ringling College of Art and Design has an art gallery. It is located just north of town along Tamiami Trail.

MOTE Marine Laboratory and Aquarium (www.mote.org) – they have a lot of events going on so check out their website.

Need a great place to eat?  Our website, http://www.dixiedining.com, has a complete and up-to-date listing of great dining places we’ve tried.  It includes wonderful restaurants and bakeries in Sarasota.

I have since moved away (why???, job related) but on a recent vacation back to the area we encountered a few very rainy moments. We used this time to go thrifting. The Sarasota/Bradenton area is home to some of the finest Goodwill stores we have found in the South. It was a lot of fun rummaging through pre-owned stuff. All of the stores are a little different. If you only go to one, check out the large one located off Hwy 30 between Sarasota and Bradenton.

There are a ton of other things to do in Sarasota: shop on Main Street, check out the aquarium in the kids section at the Selby public library, visit the art galleries.  We also like the bakery and the bookstore.  There is a movie theatre there, too.  Look into the concert schedules at the Florida Studio Theatre (www.floridastudiotheatre.org), the Sarasota Symphony (www.sarasotaorchestra.org), Van Wezel (www.vanwezel.org) as there may be a daytime event.  During the fall/winter months there is always something going on at the Sarasota Municipal Auditorium, mostly on the weekends.  They host flea markets, stamp shows, coin shows, shell shows.  Here’s their link: http://www.egovlink.com/sarasota/events/calendar.asp?Category=605, but if it doesn’t work just Google “sarasota municipal auditorium”.

Here is the Sarasota calendar of events.

There’s still more I could list but this should keep you busy on a rainy day.  You could always just sit on your balcony and look out at the Gulf.

Things to do on and around Siesta Key

Ever notice how once September arrives there is something to do every weekend? Summers in FL, I’ve noticed, are dull if you’re looking for festivals, parties, or special events. Then the weather starts getting perfect and the northern visitors start arriving and then the calendar gets double-full. I’ve noticed this with our school calendar. Of course, lots of things don’t happen during the summer…4-H, boy scouts, Audubon events (of course I still watch for birds). So now that September is here, and today the first day of fall, I thought I’d post some events for the next month. I’ll include the last weekend of September in the mix.
Downtown Sarasota Farmers Market
Downtown Association
every Saturday – rain or shine
7:00 Am – Noon
Lemon Avenue and Main Street
Buy Fresh – Buy Local – a Sarasota tradition for over 28 years OLD RECORD NIGHT
Canvas Cafe Gallery
every Wednesday night
8 p.m-1 a.m.
1912 Adams Lane
enjoy old records and new friends at the Canvas Cafe Gallery
Tai Chi on Siesta Beach
through – Sunday, Dec. 28, 2008
Every Monday
15 min. before sunset
Siesta Beach in Siesta Village
Siesta Key
A free half-hour practice of T’ai Chi Chih, easy-to-do movement exercise. No experience needed.

Second Saturday Family Program
Mote Marine Laboratory
Saturday, Jul. 12, 2008 – Saturday, Dec. 13, 2008
Second Saturday of each month year round
Mote’s Marine Education Resource Center, 1600 Ken Thompson Pkwy
941-388-4441, ext. 369
Mote’s Second Saturday Family Programs are intimate, hands-on experiences designed for children ages 6-12 and their favorite adult

20th Annual “St. Armands Art Festival”
St. Armands Association
Saturday, Oct. 11, 2008 – Sunday, Oct. 12, 2008
10 – 5 pm, Sunday Sidewalk Sale noon – 5 pm
St. Armands Circle, St. Armands Circle
Art Festival with Live Entertainment plus Sidewalk Sale

Mote Island Quest: Talking Trash
Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium
Saturday, Oct. 11, 2008 – Saturday, Oct. 25, 2008
Three consecutive Saturdays
1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, 1600 Ken Thompson Pkwy.
941-388-4441, ext. 229
Mote’s newest hands-on offering for kids ages 8-11

“Mingling not Mixing” with Anne Abgott
Art Center Sarasota
Sunday, Oct. 26, 2008 9:30 am – 3:30 pm
Art Center Sarasota, 707 North Tamiami Trail
Learn from one of the leading watercolor artists in our area. She was the president of the watercolor society in 2006.

Cocktails at the Cà d’Zan October 16th. There is a $5 cover charge, cash bar, and food vendors. Free parking at Florida State University Center for Performing Arts. No advance reservations required. Limited seating available. For more info:  

14th Annual Sarasota Craft Festival October 18th and 19th. This Annual Craft Festival takes place at Orange and Main Street in Downtown Sarasota.

Pineapple Scare Haunted House
October 25th from 7pm – 11pm. Take the family to the Pineapple Scare Haunted House hosted by the Sarasota Firefighters Benevolent Fund on the corner of State and Pineapple Streets.


Trick or Treat in Siesta Village
October 31st from 3pm to 6pm
I’m sure there’s a lot more to do. But this is what I found. In addition to 4H, homeschool outings and the usual trip to the beach every Saturday and Sunday I know this family will be busy. How about you?




My car conched out!

My car was so stinky when I got into it yesterday to drive to a meeting.  The whole way I kept thinking “what died in here”.  Wracking my brain I thought of maybe a small lizard got in the car and shriveled up, or worse a snake (we have them on our property) or maybe something I brought from the beach and left in the car.  So I got out and went to my meeting.  Two hours later I got into the car and nearly threw up. 

Seashells!  Maybe there’s a dead clam in the kid’s beach toy bag.  Travis likes finding clams and bringing them home, so that’s got to be it.  So I opened the back door and looked through all the bags, and then found, in the crate where we place our beach buckets when they have shells in them, a Florida Fighting Conch shell that was left behind.  As soon as I picked it up juice/water started dripping out and then as I held it over the parking lot the dead conch slid out with all its dead gooey-ness. 

Oh, you could probably smell it in the next county.  I moved the crate and threw baby powder on the carpet to soak up any ick that might have dripped on it.  I had to drive home (from east of I-75 to Siesta Key) with the windows down which is really one of my pet peeves because it blows my hair in my face and its annoying (my hair is in that in-between stage of growing out, and its bothersome in the wind) but I managed and was able to breathe fresher air with the windows down.

I did get the smell out.  I left the back door and one of the side doors open all day today. 

We had gone to Turtle Beach this past Saturday and found this shell.  I remember it because it was so perfectly polished and colorful.  I also remember placing it on top of my bucket because I showed it to my husband before we drove home that day.  The critter must have crawled off the bucket and landed at the bottom of the crate until I found it dead.

Moral of the story: make sure when you’re beachcombing that every shell you find ends up out of your car when you get home.

A Walk on the Beach

A couple times I have tried walking from Turtle Beach to Casey Key.  Each time I have good intentions of getting there and getting the exercise I need walking through that soft sand.  Each time I just can’t wait to see what it looks like along the way.  And each time I look forward to saying, “I did it!”

That was the plan today.  Siesta Key beach was flying a double red flag so we decided it wasn’t a good idea to try to swim or float.  So, we packed the four of us in the Windstar with a bag of towels and headed to Turtle Beach.  The parking lot was not even half full of cars.  We got a spot easily.  Just for the sake of it I brought along 2 buckets and, of course, my little bag I carry my keys, drivers license and phone in.  It’s big enough that I can fit a few shells in it if I need to.

We headed south.  The surf was not as angry as it had been all week but you could still tell there had been a storm.  We passed the condos and a few houses.  A shell here, a shell there…they we’re hugh, though.  Some of the largest cockles you may have ever seen, but they were also broken.  We saw a storm damaged home (the pink house, we call it).  Looks like the sea just burst through the dune separating it from the house.  I quickly spotted the mound of shells. 

A shell fanatic’s dream come true.  Mounds and mounds of shells washing up and down with the tide.  More than I had seen in Sanibel.  More than I had seen the other time I tried walking from Turtle Beach to Casey Key.  We couldn’t resist but to stop and start picking.  Good thing I brought the buckets!  Olives, welks, fighting conchs, an apple murex or two.  There were a ton of clams, scallops and of course the largest cockles you’ve ever seen, unbroken.  We filled our buckets, my little bag, pockets and then the boys tucked some in the front of their shirts to carry. 

As you figured we never made it to Casey Key.  We couldn’t go any farther south…the buckets were too heavy, so our only option was to go home.  Casey Key will have to wait for another day…again.

Hurricane Ike

Ike dumped a lot of rain on Siesta Key the past two days.  We stayed in the house and just listened to it pound on the roof.  And it was windy but not windy enough to knock down the trash cans or blow the recycling onto the ground.  Some of the streets on the north end of the Key that normally flood, did and even more so this time.  Some were still flooded today.  But the sun was out, the wind was still blowing and it was a beautiful day.

So I took my usual walk before dinner to check out the beach.  There are road detours at beach access parking lot #5 so I took the detour to Beach Road N and parked at access #4 and walked to the public beach and back.  Glad I did because there is now a lagoon at the #5 access.  Once that parking lot opens I don’t know if anyone will be using it because you can’t get through unless you walk through the lagoon.  Its about mid-calf deep and as long as the birds hang out, I wouldn’t walk through it.  The beach ends in a little hill that slopes down to form the lagoon.  My bet is that its there for a while.

Accesses 7-8 were also blocked from what I could tell.  The usual lagoon has been narrowed but lengthened.  The grasses, though not all, have been covered with sand and the beach is widened. 

The waves were fierce, coming in closely behind each other.  There was a double red flag, rip currents present and the life guard stands were shut, but there were still a lot of people in the water.  Now, if your a surfer (and I’m assuming surfers no how to swim) I expect you to be out there catching waves.  It’s your thing.  But I also saw parents with young children (smaller than mine) way out there in the waves.  Again, double-red flag and rip currents present; would you risk your child in that surf?  My husband didn’t even go to the beach with me because his common sense said “too risky” and he’s a big, strong guy.  Parents…please think about what you’re doing. 

Ok, I’m off my soap box.  What I saw on the beach was too cool.  Jelly fish.  Tons of them and I’m not exaggerating…ok maybe a little.  They were huge!  I actually measured the biggest ones I saw and their diameter was mostly the length of my leg from my ankle to my knee.  Yeah!  Roughly the size of a large pizza…like a 16″ pizza.  I’m not exaggerating.  I did see a few little ones maybe the size of a tennis ball.  On my trek back to the car I was walking in the water until a huge one floated by in front of me.  I kept to the sand the rest of the way. 

Ike is heading toward Houston.  I spent summer 2007 living there on the far NW corner.  Traffic was awful 24/7.  I couldn’t imagine having to evacuate that city or even part of it.  Hopefully Galveston’s sea walls can withstand the raging sea.  We’ll wait and watch and meanwhile pray for the people who live there.

I’m getting older

Yesterday I officially became a year closer to 50.  It was my birthday and I had a nice time. 

Gary and the boys took me to lunch at the Columbia Restaurant at St Armand’s Circle on Lido Key.  I actually requested it.  The Columbia is a fantastic place and I especially enjoy the 1905 Salad.  So now you know what I ordered.  Also good there is the Cuban sandwich but I’m not big on eating meat so I seldom eat it, but its a must to try if you’re planning lunch there.

Gary had to go back to work (no they didn’t give him the day off for my birthday) so the boys and I took off to Long Boat Key and stopped at one of the public accesses just past the fire station.  It was unbelieveable.  The surf was a little rough, the wind was kicking up loose sand (Hurricane Ike’s in town) but it was beautiful.  The surf line was filled with shells.  Mostly kitten paws so we decided to rename Long Boat Key as Kitten Paw Beach.  We’ve spotted many areas along that Key with multitudes of kitten paws so it was fitting.  Along the upper shell hash were tons, and I literally mean tons, of sea urchins as far as the eye could see.  Wow!  I hustled back to the car and pulled out our 3 sand buckets.  We filled them all to overflowing and also carried some in our hands.  There were tiny ones, huge ones and a lot of broken ones we just left.  They must have been there for a few days because they were dead as dead could be.  Most with deteriorated innerds so it’ll be easy to clean them.   The beach was lined by a vacated condo building (all the units had their hurricane blinds on) and a few small homes and a vacant lot so no one had been in the area, except a few folks on their daily walks.  I should go back once Ike leaves our neck of the Gulf, and get some more.  Sea urchin tests are so cool.  Sometimes you can find one with the spine well preserved and if you handle it ultra carefully and soak in tap water until clean the spines may stay on.  I have a few like that…thankfully unstinky. 

So what am I going to do with all of these sea urchins?  What am I going to do with all the shells and sand dollars I’ve been collecting?  Who knows.  But I’m open to suggestions.  Want to buy them?

So we were heading back and crossing over the north bridge to Siesta Key when a common thought of mine popped in my head…it would be so cool to have a sail boat.  I used to sail competitively on other people’s boats on the Chesapeake Bay before I met Gary and began my adventure across the country.  I saw a boat in the bay and it was beautiful.

The boys presented me with my gift.  A bouquet of flowers and a small wooden sail boat…for the coffee table or book shelf.   I got my sailboat!  I was amazed.  What a really cool coincidence.  I’ve always admired the wooden sailboats people display in their homes and always wanted one.  Somehow, though, shoes and haircuts and groceries always trumped any purchase of a wood decorator sailboat.  I guess my family thought it was about time I deserved it.

After a delivery of flowers from my in-laws (oh, so pretty) we finished the day at Bonefish Grill for dinner.  I ordered the grilled shrimp and scallops.  Yum!

Gustav changed our beach

If heavy waves crash on your shore it’s bound to change the appearance.  Such is with Gustav and Siesta Key.  No, it’s not dramatic but you could sure tell something came through.  First, what was once called Sunset Beach and then Dog Beach and now something else had some more of the road washed away.  I recently heard that the Gulf side of the street that is now beach used to be a neighborhood but was wiped out in a storm.  The person relaying the story couldn’t remember which one.  Apparently the “lots” are still owned and the owners are just waiting for something to happen.  Don’t know what but that’s the short version of the story. 

Ok, going down the beach, the surf had come over the first set of dunes.  Then down by access #5 we now have a shallow lagoon where the surf got stuck.  Hopefully it’ll dry up in a few days but the beach is flat as can be out to shore now.  Farther down you can see where the surf came up fairly high along the vegetation.  This is where the snowy plover nests had been roped off earlier this summer.  Then, there’s no longer a ridge from the surf to the lagoon.  It’s flat and the lagoon now has a drain to the Gulf.  And so on down the beach.  I stopped at access 10 and returned north. 

So, what did I find beach combing?  A couple pieces of broken glass, lots of broken sand dollars, some bottle caps, lots of jelly fish, welk operculums, a sea urchin and a baby octopus (dead).  That was the coolest of the finds.  I determined it was dead because it was found quite a distance from the surf line, it was covered in sand and not moving even when placed in water.   I thought it would be an awesome treat to bring home, show the boys, observe it under the microscope and then dissect it.  They were amazed.  It’s soaking in water until we get our science kit out.

As of this writing the levees in NOLA have held.  I’m so thankful.  Hurricanes can be scarey, cause unbelievable stress when your hometown is in the way and make for hardships for the people evacuating.  I remember we had spent a lot of unbudgeted money one year having evacuated Myrtle Beach…gas, hotel, meals out and necessary items you forget to pack.  During Hurricane Floyd we couldn’t get back for almost a week because of flooding from the Waccamaw River.  We were lucky to be able to spend time with friends in Asheville NC (thanks Suz and Jerry) which helped ease the strain but not many people have that kind of luxury.  If there’s no room at the shelters, you’re shelling out cash for hotels.  And sometimes you can’t get a hotel nearby so you have to keep driving. 

I pray for all the people who had to leave their homes and wish them a safe return. 

Meanwhile, our beach will always be changing as long as waves are crashing.

Hurricane Gustav

We’ve had some rainy moments here on Siesta Key but that’s about it, thank God.  Let’s pray for all those in Cuba and the northern Gulf coast that Hurricane Gustav has and will tragically effect.

After a bit of rain this morning, I headed to Lido Key with my husband.  I just figured with Siesta Key’s sandbar, the waves (if any) wouldn’t be that exciting.  Just north of the public beach parking lot, at the northern most lifeguard stand, we parked and headed out.  There were about 2 dozen surfers in one spot waiting for the best wave to ride in on.  The waves were large but were crashing close to shore.  Farther north you could see them crashing out away from the coastline.

My husband was body surfing and had a great time.  I stood by beachcombing.  The waves were coming in so fast one after another that when I’d spot a cool shell it was swept out faster than I could reach for it.  Nonetheless, I did get a few little specimens and an awesome chunk of coral that looks like someones arthritic hand.  The wind picked up and the loose sand started blasting the backs of my legs.   I had to stand firmly bracing myself in the wind.  Lesson learned: even if its not sunny, wear sunglasses on the beach during high wind or don’t wear your contacts.  We stayed about an hour.

Later in the day we had a big gust of wind from the south with torrential rain.  The power went out around 5pm but was restored before 6pm.  Yeah Florida Power & Light!  I called FPL to report the outtage.  What an awesome automated system.  They knew who I was from my phone I called on (its good to have a fully charged cell phone when there’s a hurricane nearby), they estimated when power would be restored and even called me back to say what exactly had caused the outtage.  Cool!

I’m a coastal person.  I’ve lived on the Atlantic coast (Surfside Beach SC), Baltimore MD (hung out in Ocean City and Annapolis in my youth), and the Gulf coast (Mobile AL, Houston TX and now Siesta Key).  I’ve evacuated for many many hurricanes and tropical storms.  No matter what anyone says about it, I still enjoy this over being inland.  With a hurricane, you know what’s coming, and you can leave.  You can take responsibility for your self and your property by properly insuring and protecting it otherwise.  Our inland life (though brief) brings back memories of ice storms, blizzards, hiding in closets during tornado warnings, and stressing over whether the next earthquake would be in your community.  For me, the coast is where I want to be, whatever the weather.

Here comes another band of heavy rain.  Gotta go.

Roseate Spoonbills on Siesta Key

On weekends we go to the beach before lunch.  Gary and the boys swim while I take a walk.  This morning I was so amazed by the birds.  There are always lots of birds near the lagoon but today I’m thankful I had my camera and binoculars.  There in front of me were 4 unbelievably beautiful Roseate Spoonbills.  I watched as they waded northward sweeping their bills through the water.  When they do this their spoon-shaped bills sift through shallow water for insects and small fish.  They walked the edge of the lagoon and returned to their starting spot.  Then I watched as they preened themselves before settled in for a nap.

 The first time I saw a Roseate Spoonbill, I was in Texas.  There was a former rice field near the house we were renting last summer.  I had pulled out of my street and straight ahead was a small flock of pink things sweeping their heads in the shallow puddles (it rained a lot in Houston last summer so puddles were plentiful).  I was so amazed because I had only heard of them and figured I’d never see one.  They hung out for a couple weeks in the same area so I took advantage of the spotting and visited them often.  Apparently they nest in colonies mixed with Herons and they are related to the Ibis.  

The other birds I saw this morning by the lagoon included Great Egrets, a Reddish Egret, several types of plovers, somes Willets, a Ruddy Turnstone, a smorgasbord of terns and gulls including my favorite the Royal Tern and 4 black skimmers.

Low Tide

At the north bridge to Siesta Key you can pull over in a small parking lot, fish, watch the sunset or whatever.  I’ve even seen a little webber cooking someone’s dinner at this parking lot.  At low tide you can walk across a sandbar on this little part of Roberts Bay toward someone’s back yard.  There are usually lots of birds, welks, and fiddler crabs.  I’ve never seen a boat moored in this area until this week.  First there was one sailboat, then another, then 2 canoes.  As you can see the one sailboat moored too close to the sandbar.