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Luxury Retirement Living Sarasota

A Guide to St. Armands Circle

by Frank Herold
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adults eating lunchLooking for a break from the mundane? Need a special getaway-day to spend shopping, touring, and dining out at fine restaurants? Maybe it's time to take a drive down John Ringling Blvd. to visit historic St. Armands Circle!

Related Blog: 5 Places To Go In Sarasota To Experience Arts & Culture 

St. Armands Circle Has It All!

Located only 7 minutes from Sarasota Bay Club, the shops and restaurants of St. Armands Circle have been a favorite destination for over 90 years. Whether your interests lean towards boutiques, ethnic markets, foreign or antique car shows, scrumptious creameries, or craft beers, St. Armands has the variety and diversity to create special memories for anyone; and one day isn't nearly enough time to explore everything, making St. Armands Circle an area that will demand many future returns!

The shops and restaurants are divided into 4 quadrants, each identified by signature colors; the Purple Quadrant, Pink Quadrant, Aqua Quadrant, and Gold Quadrant.

If you need a break from shopping, take a stroll to the Center Park located in, ...you guessed it; the center of town! Relax under the shade of palm trees and enjoy the breeze with your shopping buddies as you take in the picture-perfect landscape of botany and Italian sculpture from Ringling's collection.

Special seasonal events also highlight the calendar every year, and are well worth a visit to St. Armands. Thousands travel from the mainland to attend craft festivals, auto shows, boat shows, Ladies' nights, and more!

History of a Tycoon (and a Typo)

St. Armands Circle has a unique and unusual story behind its development and success. In 1893, a Frenchman named Charles St. Amand bought approximately 132 acres of island land for $27.71. Somehow when the property deed was registered, an "r" had found its way into his surname, and it has stayed there ever since!

He mainly used the land for recreational purposes such as fishing, and gardening; leaving the natural beauty of the half-wild setting. It remained a remote island until 1917 when the famous circus tycoon John Ringling decided to buy it with the intent of building a luxurious district of high-end homes and businesses.

The construction soon began, and his plans were flourishing, just like the rest of the Florida real estate industry during the early 1920s. He even used his circus elephants to help with the work of building seawalls and moving logs! The beautiful Center Park was created at the heart of Ringling Estates in honor of President Warren Harding, and various American Presidents were commemorated throughout the town as Street names.

For a few years before the bridges were built, the island was only accessible with boats and ferries. Ringling's steamboat "Success" was used to carry supplies to the construction sites, while workmen built the roads to Sarasota. The roads and bridges soon brought flocks of people into the booming town, and home sales and business deals went through the roof! But the Great Depression struck in the 1930s' and crippled tourism across the nation, including St. Armands Circle.

It wasn't until the 1940s that the Circle rose from dormancy, as investors once again brought the town to life. Now more than 140 shops, restaurants, and galleries thrive in the district, and the streets buzz with the excitement of local, national, and even international tourists every day.

Parking and Transportation

The ease of parking in St. Armands makes the experience all the more enjoyable. Free parking lots are available in various places throughout the shops and along the roadways, and free 3-hour parking around the Circle helps ensure a spot for everyone.

For those who are not wanting to drive, or are not able to, Sarasota County Area Transit Buses (SCAT) offer a route from downtown Sarasota to Siesta Key, Monday through Saturday, every hour from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. They have scheduled stops at downtown, St. Armands, Longboat and Lido Keys along the way. For more detailed information on public buses, call SCAT at +1(941)861-1234. Taxi services are also available; Yellow Taxi +1(941)383-8885.

Let's Go Explore!

Ready to have a great day out at St. Armands Circle? Get your friends and family together, and go make some special memories. There's something for everyone to enjoy, and there are even professional photographers on site to help you capture the moments.

So, what are you waiting for?

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