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    - Luis Santana

    Florida Scenic Highway: Tamiami Trail, Window to the Gulf Coast

    By Dalia Colon

    Where: Running along Florida’s west central Gulf Coast, through the cities of Palmetto, Bradenton, Sarasota, Venice and North Port.

    Length: 70 miles.

    How to get around: Car.

    Best time to visit: February to April for Major League Baseball’s spring training. The Baltimore Orioles practice in Sarasota, while the Pittsburgh Pirates train in Bradenton.

    Fun fact: Sarasota’s Siesta Key consistently tops lists of America’s best beaches.

    For more info: Go to or check out this interactive report by the Tampa Bay Times.

    Tamiami Trail isn’t just sitting pretty.

    “Our highway is a functional highway,” said spokesman Volker Reiss. “The road was historically designed to move people and vehicles.”

    That it does. Once the only paved highway between Tampa and Miami, today this portion of the 275-mile trail known as Windows to the Gulf Coast Waters provides a practical way to maneuver among some of the most desirable cities on Florida’s so-called Cultural Coast.

    Arts and cultural amenities abound particularly in Sarasota, from the Ringling Museum of Art to the Sarasota Opera to Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and more.

    And foodwise, you can’t do much better than the hundreds of restaurants along the trail. You’ll find everything from Southern barbecue to fine dining to Amish cuisine.

    “But we still have a lot of nature left,” Reiss notes. Take a dip in the legendary Warm Mineral Springs of North Port. Jog along the Bradenton Riverwalk, which runs parallel to the Manatee River. Or canoe through Oscar Scherer State Park.

    “You’re basically in Old Florida there. You don’t even know you’re in Sarasota anymore,” said Reiss.

    With Tamiami Trail’s mix of practical amenities and access to nature, Reiss said, “I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, even if I had a lot of money.”

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    The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art has a mansion and 21 galleries of internationally recognized European and American art by such artists as Rubens and Van Dyck.

    - Luis Santana for VISIT FLORIDA

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    Wilderness awaits visitors in the 8,593-acre Myakka State Forest that offers a spot for a picnic, walk, horseback riding, canoeing, fishing or off-road cycling on the Windows to the Gulf Waters Scenic Highway.

    - Luis Santana for VISIT FLORIDA

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    St. Armand's Circle is a shopping and restaurants mall on an island along the Windows to the Gulf Waters Scenic Highway.

    - Luis Santana for VISIT FLORIDA

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    John and Mable Ringling bought 20 acres in Sarasota and built a museum that now has a mansion and 21 galleries of international pieces along the Windows to the Gulf Waters Scenic Highway.

    - Luis Santana for VISIT FLORIDA

    Places to Remember