F&D Destination: Florida

SOUTHWEST

SARASOTA

One of Florida’s hidden gems, Sarasota County is an ideal place to host a company retreat. Located about 60 miles south of Tampa on the Gulf Coast of Southwest Florida, the county is complemented by six keys: Longboat Key, Lido Key, Siesta Key, Casey Key, Manasota Key and Venice. In 2016, the area welcomed more than 2.4 million visitors, and the number continues to grow.

If you build it, they will come. In an effort to accommodate visitors, hotels are popping up everywhere. “New hotels opening in the heart of downtown, and centers for art and festivals have made Sarasota their home in recent years,” says Lynn Hobeck, Communications Manager at Visit Sarasota County. “This explosion of new offerings in Sarasota is not expected to slow in the coming years. There is more on the horizon.”

In 2016, Aloft Sarasota opened downtown with 139 guest rooms, and in April 2017, the Westin Sarasota will open its doors. Just four miles from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, The Westin will offer 255 guestrooms, a rooftop pool and more than 26,000 sq. ft. of functional meeting space. By 2018, other hotels, such as the Hampton Inn & Suites, Hotel Sarasota and a boutique Embassy Suites, will be up and running too.

Lido Beach Resort

floridaThis property, which is on Lido Key, recently completed renovations to all 223 rooms and suites. Attendees will relish time in their guestrooms before going to all-day conferences. Each room comes with a private balcony, king-size bed and full kitchen (including stainless steel appliances), and displays warm tones of seaside blues, light grays and browns.

Smaller groups will love the 6,000 sq. ft. of indoor/outdoor meeting space. Each year, the Groundwater Protection Council utilizes the property’s 1,742-sq.-ft. Sunset Terrace and a portion of the Royal Palm Ballroom. “We’ve been having meetings here for nine years. The dedication and warmth of the Lido Beach Resort staff keeps us coming back,” says Paul Jehn, Technical Director.

The city is exceptional too. After the day’s meetings, attendees can head downtown to Shore Diner in St. Armand’s Circle (a chic shopping destination conceived by circus mogul John Ringling in 1926) for dinner. If the group gets in an UberXL, it’s about a four-minute drive from the hotel, or the crew can take the daily shuttle service offered to and from St. Armand’s Circle (it runs from 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.). One of Shore’s highlights is its enclosed patio with retractable awning, a perfect ambiance to enjoy Key West shrimp and scallop with lemon risotto, or perhaps the oak-grilled aged skirt steak with vegetables.

St. Armand’s Circle is also home to boutiques such as Soap Stories, where craftspeople sell handmade soaps made from locally sourced organic ingredients. Big Olaf Creamery, known for its Amish homemade ice cream, was voted “The Best” by residents. —Laura Janelle Downey

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