Outside of the beaches, window shopping St. Armands or downtown and exploring the three island parks there's lots of FREE things to do while in the area. Some of these activities are only on certain days of the week or are seasonal so be sure to check the websites before heading out. By no means is this a complete list and I'd recommend checking out some local Facebook pages such as I love Sarasota, Florida, SRQ Nightlife, or Lido Beach to get more ideas.
MONDAY - The Ringling Museum of Art
John Ringling was a collector of art and had his own museum to house them in. First opened in 1930 the pink, Renaissance-style palace has 20+ galleries surrounding a sculpture courtyard. Over 80 art pieces were created before 1500. The works in the collection include jewelry, paintings, sculptures and tapestries with some borrowed from notable museums.
The Ringling Museum of Art and Bayfront Gardens are free to the public on Mondays. Regular admission pricing applies if you wish to visit the nearby Circus Museum or Ca’ d’Zan. I find I spend a half day or so whenever I visit on Mondays.
TUESDAY - Roof Top Views of the City
The Westin’s 18th floor rooftop pool and bar provides some spectacular views of the city marina and downtown Sarasota. Art Ovation Hotel few blocks away is not as tall at 7 stories but the rooftop pool and bar also provide some nice views of the city. Art Ovation also has some amazing art on display in the hotel; it's like a art museum. Might be a good way to spend a lunch one day while exploring downtown.
WEDNESDAY - Explore the Legacy Trail
The paved legacy trail runs from Sarasota to Venice. Best done on bikes but also a nice walking trail that passes through Oscar Shearer State Park. There are several entry points so be sure to check out the website depending on if you want country or city sights along the way.
THURSDAY - Hunt for Sharks Teeth at Caspersen Beach
Ok, I got a beach in here, but not any beach. It's hard to believe but Venice and Caspersen Beach are considered the shark tooth capital of the world by some. Walk hunched over to comb the beach or bring a Florida snow shovel to sift the sand. You might get lucky and find one from a megalodon.
FRIDAY - Siesta Key Rum Distillery Tour
What FREE stuff would be complete without a rum tasting! Be sure to register in advance and have some fun in the tasting room. They are not open everyday so plan in advance and pace yourself if you're driving.
SATURDAY - Sarasota Farmers Market
With over 80 vendors mixed in with the downtown businesses this is one of the best Famers Markets in Florida every Saturday morning rain or shine. Between the food vendors and fresh vegetables you can grab a cup of coffee and listen to some of the live music while enjoying the downtown vibe. Parking can be tough so try the State Street Garage or Whole Foods.
SUNDAY - Siesta Key Drummers Circle
Starting an hour before sunset every Sunday on Siesta Key Beach. Bring the incense and beach chairs and be prepared for some real entertainment and great people watching. Here's a video of the action. Get there early or spend the day and finish it off with the drummers beating the sunset into the ocean.
Other things to consider
For over 50 years the Ski-A Rees have been hosting national level talent free water ski shows. It all started in 1958 when Cypress Gardens hosted a water ski exhibition and has been here ever since.
Located in the eclectic Laurel Park area of downtown. Working art studios and sanctioned art walks with live music. Be sure to check the schedules in advance.
This place will cheer up anyone having a bad day. Everything is whimsical here and will make you smile. Currently closed due to Coronavirus. Check the website for reopening.
Hope you like exploring Sarasota!