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The OTHER Keys

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While most of the country thinks of a vacation in “the keys” as heading south of Miami to the islands that end at the southernmost point of the United States, there are in fact a set of OTHER keys that dot the beautiful gulf coast of Florida.

I’ve been living in Florida for nearly eight years, and THIS was the FIRST time I’d ever even HEARD of Longboat Key (or Lido Beach), but I was about to discover what has become a FAVORITE spot on the West Coast of our state.

If you’ve never been before, here are five reasons that you should consider it:

1. Upscale and casual – whether you’re looking for that girlfriend getaway that’s spaaalicious or you need a break from the reality of winter, the barrier islands off the coast of Sarasota offer everything from upscale elegance of fine dining at the Portofino Ristorante & Bar (a private restaurant for guests of the BEAUTIFUL Longboat Key Club), or slurping down the fresh raw oysters at the Siesta Key Oyster Bar.

2. There’s no clowning around at the Ringling Museum, well, maybe a little. From the turn of the century Ca’D’Zan Ringling Mansion, to the Bayfront Gardens, there’s something for just about everyone. The kids will LOVE the interactive activities at the Circus Museum, while culture vultures meander through the archives at the beautiful Museum of Art.

3. Whether it be yoga on the beach at dawn, a round of golf on the links, or just lazing in a hammock while watching the dolphin play, you’ll CERTAINLY want to stay at The Resort at Longboat Key Club for ALL that it has to offer.

4. Baba Ram Das watch out, because every Sunday in Sarasota you’ll be treated to a Drum Circle Show at Siesta Key Beach. The show begins about an hour before sunset…just follow the beat and you’ll find it.

5. Are you a wildlife lover? One visit to the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium and you’ll gain a whole new perspective on sharks, turtles and dolphin. Rehab and study of marine habitats and its inhabitants are the KEY here. MOTE has not one but TWO nationally recognized animal hospitals dedicated to caring for sick and injured dolphins, small whales and sea turtles. This is NOT your run of the mill aquarium.

6. Golf may not be my FORE-TAY, but I was willing to learn a few new tricks at the Resort at Longboat Key Club (they also offer some of the best tennis facilities in the country). Patience and understanding with a great sense of humor…just what I needed in a golf pro. After you finish banging that bucket of balls on the practice range, head over to the nearby Spike n’ Tees for lunch or a cold one.

7. Explore nearby Armand’s Circle with its quaint village feel and wonderful shopping and dining. Pop into Shore for dinner, and you’ll be dining in mid-century modern meets surfer décor, with a menu that’s JUST as fashion forward.

8. Extend your stay and visit the Lido Beach Resort, just a few miles down the road. The beautiful beach will be at your toes, and the pool at your fingertips.

9. Spending the weekend with your besties? My secret girlfriend restaurant is Mattison’s City Grille in Sarasota. Make sure you grab a seat outside on the patio for some major people watching. Don’t miss Chef Paul Mattison’s Greek Salad, complete with baby lambchops, goat cheese and cucumber dressing. For those looking for something a bit more substantial there are brick oven pizzas, oversized sandwiches, or just order a variety of appetizers and share

10. Relax and rejuvenate at the newly redesigned Island House Spa (located at the Resort at Longboat Key Club). Whether you want the wind and wave beach massage ON the beach, a non-surgical face lift, or the lemon verbena Body Polish for baby soft skin, you can spend the day devoted to YOU.

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