Tango Diva : Travel Stories for Women, by Women

The Sunshine State consistently leads the nation in terms of distinctive beach destinations and vacation values.

For my end of summer soirée, I opted to explore Florida’s West Coast renowned for crystal clear waters and pristine sugar-sand beaches.

My search, aided by a trusted friend’s recommendation, brought me to Sarasota’s lovely Lido Beach and The Helmsley Sandcastle Hotel.

Lido Beach is on Lido Key, one of Sarasota’s seven barrier islands.

And, this little island is all about LOCATION and Big Fun!

Lido Key itself may be small, approximately 2 miles long and 1 mile wide, but don’t be fooled. You will need more than a weekend to enjoy all that this special Gulf Coast beach find has to offer.

Lido Key is connected to downtown Sarasota by bridge via the John Ringling Causeway and is a two minute drive to the popular shopping entertainment district, St. Armand’s Circle. This treasured roundabout is a beautifully manicured center of activity. A stunning collection of Italian statues, part of the Ringling Estate collection, graces the grounds with welcoming European charm and artistic flair. Discerning divas will delight in the boutique shopping and foodies will enjoy a vast of array of dining options ranging from pubs to outdoor cafes. In all, indulge in over 150 delightful distractions.

The Helmsley Sandcastle Hotel is the perfect home base to experience the best of Sarasota. Guests enjoy direct access to the Gulf of Mexico, 600 feet of private beach, and two resort swimming pools.

The resort hotel layout consists of several 4-story buildings offering a variety of guest rooms. Choose from Gulf of Mexico water views or courtyard/pool views. Interiors are consistent and comfortable. Each guest room offers a private bath, compact refrigerator and a flat screen television. The décor is bright with tropical accent colors.

By all standards, The Helmsley Sandcastle Hotel is truly an authentic Old Florida original.

Real estate and land developer, Mr. Harry Helmsley and wife Leona, fell in love with Lido Beach in the early 60’s and the rest is history. The property was officially completed in 1966 and continues to be a Lido Key landmark.

What this iconic resort hotel lacks in trendsetting hip architecture and interior design elements, it makes up in service and value. Today, the property offers modern amenities like wireless internet and premium cable channels, parking and car service to nearby attractions and beach chairs and towels – all absolutely free with no daily resort fee.

Guests are invited to use the volleyball and shuffleboard courts. And, a wide range of onsite outdoor sport rentals are also available: Kayaks, personal watercraft, small sailboats and bicycles.

Naturalists will love nearby South Lido Park, a 100 acre eco-tourist playground. The county-owned park is a protected mangrove living eco-system that is home to an impressive number of plant and animal species. Visitors will find a boardwalk trail, a picnic area, canoe/kayak launch and Lido Key’s best bird watching and fishing. The park is free and open to the public from 6 a.m. to dusk and a short walk to the hotel.

Whether seeking a relaxing retreat, an active adventure or a combination escape, The Helmsley Sandcastle Hotel team is ready to please.

Room Rates: $150-$269 / Suites: $359+ (Seasonal)

For more information and special savings packages, visit the hotel website: Sarasota’s lovely Lido Beach and The Helmsley Sandcastle Hotel or call 800-225-2181

Hotel Highlights:

  • 179 Guest Rooms/7 Suites
  • Two Pools – Heated
  • Pool Cabana Bar
  • Coffee Shop/Restaurant
  • 24 Hour Front Desk Reception
  • On-site Laundry Facilities
  • Climate Control Air Conditioning
  • Daily Newspaper
  • In-room Safe/Refrigerator/Coffee Maker
  • Daily Housekeeping
  • Make-Up/Shaving Mirror
  • Complimentary Wireless Internet
  • Complimentary Cable & HBO
  • Meeting Space (2400 square feet)

Sarasota’s Best Bets:

Mote Aquarium: A renowned marine research lab offering sweeping views of Sarasota Bay. Visitors can uncover the secrets of the sea through educational and interactive exhibits, touch pools and special eco-tours. View over 100 species of marine life including sharks, manatees and stingrays. Open 7 days a week/365 days a year.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens: The Gardens are Sarasota’s Pride & Joy – a stunning indoor and outdoor colorful showcase of indigenous and exotic plants, trees and flowers nestled on 14 acres. The Gardens’ expansive orchid collection (6,000 +) and the historic Christy Payne Mansion should not be missed.

The John and Maple Ringling Museum of Art: The Museum complex is the former waterfront estate of John Ringling, a true self-made man. Best known as a founding partner of the famous Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Ringling left his art collection, Venetian-inspired thirty-room palazzo mansion and grounds to his beloved Sarasota. Set aside a full day to explore and enjoy this timeless legacy celebrating Florida’s Gilded Age. The collection of carved circus wagons, poster/handbill memorabilia, and the Ringling private train car are tour favorites. But, the ultimate showstopper is the museum of miniature circuses, an amazing display of artistic talent and workmanship.

Fun Eats:

Marina Jacks: Sarasota hot spot for bay front dining and live entertainment. The portside patio is the perfect place to catch a cool Gulf breeze and toast the sunset as mega yachts cruise along. Before leaving the marina, don’t miss a chance to pose with Sarasota’s famed “Unconditional Surrender” towering sculpture, a 26 foot tribute to our serviceman and their sweethearts.

Nancy’s BBQ: Serving up tasty Carolina- Style Pulled Pork with a Smile! You can’t miss the Smokin Red Hot Building and Tractor on Pineapple Avenue in Downtown Sarasota.  Hip and inviting atmosphere with good tunes and a robust menu to match.

The New Pass Grill and Bait Shop: Sarasota’s Best Kept Secret. A local favorite fishing and watering hole near the Aquarium. Serving up fresh catch and fantastic views daily!

Mattison’s City Grille:  Award-winning restaurant featuring outdoor patio seating and live music nightly.

For more information and vacation planning assistance, visit Sarasota Tourism.

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