A visit to Sarasota isn’t complete without a stroll around trendy St. Armands Circle.
Go round and round on a journey through St. Armands’ boutiques, restaurants and galleries, doled out to sidewalk strollers with all the casual charm and kitschy pleasures of Old Florida. But, with a fashion-forward zest for life.
It’s also the right spot to soak up fun ’n the sun at Lido Beach, only a quick swirl motoring through St. Armands roundabout. Or, leave the car behind and take an easy half-mile walk from St. Armands to the beach — and back again for more shopping and dining.
Day trippers, tourists and Sarasota natives all find their way to St. Armands.
Austrians Max Sambs and Sabine Balleitner passed up Miami to spend their Florida vacation in Sarasota and St. Armands.
“It’s more relaxing, more quiet, more charming than the big city,” said Sambs, as the couple strolled past gia ventola.
The boutique sells couture dresses, a denim collection and fashionable accessories from hats and belts to one-of-a-kind jewelry. Cher, Britney Spears and Nicole Kidman are fans, according to the store’s website.
But, St. Armands isn’t all upscale.
Tourists who need swimwear, floats, shorts, ball caps, sundresses, sunglasses, a Florida souvenir cup, toys, games, towels, beach bags, shot glasses, a stuffed Minnie Mouse from a Disney carousel or the requisite Florida T-shirt can find that, and more, at Alvin’s Island.
In between, there is everything else.
The Columbia Restaurant — with its original location in Ybor City — brings its Latin menu and familiar elegance to the Circle.
From casual to fine dining, there are plenty of places to please the palate, including Cha Cha Coconuts, La Creperie Caffe, Lynches Pub & Grub, Crab & Fin, the Blue Dolphin Café and Tommy Bahama’s Restaurant & Bar (and retail store).
Men’s and women’s wear can be found at Binjara Traders Inc., Cotton Club, Island Pursuit, Foxy Lady West and Lily Pulitzer.
Other shops and galleries include Green Ginger Hair Designs, FantaSea Coastal Home, Soap Stories, Flip Flop Shops, Charleston Shoe Co., Tervis, The Stadium Gallery, McCarver & Moser and Woof Gang Bakery.
Ice cream aficionados can scoop up treats from Ben & Jerry’s or from the old-fashioned ice cream parlor at Kilvin’s Chocolate & Ice Cream.
Gigi’s Cupcakes is one of the newest treat shops on the Circle, opening just months ago. One-of-a-kind gourmet cupcakes are made fresh daily by baker Caroline Kaye.
The bakery is the brainchild of Gigi Baker, who moved to Nashville for country stardom but founded a cupcake empire of more than 100 stores instead.
St. Armands Circle soon could be her busiest store in this natural outdoor mall.
“People like to come down for a day and shop at the boutiques,” said the store’s marketing consultant, Jerry Pippins. And, to choose from such selections as Hunka Chunka Banana Love and White Midnight Magic.
St. Armands Circle has come a long way since Frenchman Charles St. Amand bought 130 acres for $20 in 1893 for his private home. The name change to St. Armand can be chalked up to a clerical misspelling.
The Circle of today belongs to the vision of circus ringmaster John Ringling who bought the island in the mid 1920s.
“St. Armands is here because of his layout and street grid,” said Diana Corrigan, executive director of the St. Armands Circle Association. “It really is a shoppers’ paradise. It’s very unique. The majority of our businesses are individually owned. They are unique boutique stores.”
The mantra of the association?
“Get out of the box. Get into the Circle.”
What: St. Armand’s Annual Fall Sidewalk Sale/28th St. Armands Circle Art Festival
When: Nov. 12 for both events; sidewalk sale from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and art festival from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Also, on Nov. 11 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., St. Armands Circle businesses will celebrate Veteran’s Appreciation Day, with special discounts and offers for members who served in the military. Bring proof of military service.
Where: St. Armands Circle, 300 Madison Drive, Sarasota
Parking: Free at two parking lots within walking distance from the Circle; also, free 3-hour parking on St. Armands Circle from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday
Information: Contact the St. Armands Circle Association at (941) 388-1554, email , or visit StArmandsCircleAssoc.com.
Published November 2, 2016