In Full Awareness

The Gulf Coast Traveller

ba68bhus9ma-jake-melara_smI just moved back to Sarasota after almost two years in Virginia Beach. Good timing, considering the winter weather.

But I am back in the Gulf Coast with weekends free. What is a person to do? This weekend I think I will scrap my usual movie itinerary although anyone can enjoy the independent art films at Burns Court or the mainstream pix at Regal or AMC.

No, this weekend I shall not be in a dark theater or attached to my I-Pad bringing on the third season of Chicago PD. This weekend I shall venture outside and treat myself to a vacation. If people come down to Naples, Fort Meyers and Sarasota all the time to vacation, I can do the same and I don’t have to pay for an airplane ticket.

The weekend will begin late Friday afternoon. I’m skipping out early (don’t tell my boss) to enjoy Livingston Amusement Center off of Clark Road with several of my guy friends. Beer or shots for them, cocktails for me. We’re psyched to play billiards or race around the track in go-karts but the macho challenge between us is the 24’ rock-climbing wall. At 10 years old, that wall would have been a breeze. Now, it is forbidding. My advice? Don’t look down. If we have time, we can take on a Mission Impossible and save the world in laser tag or a virtual paintball war.

Livingston is open until 2 a.m., but we’re going to cut out early because we’re heading to dinner at Mattison’s City Grille on Main Street in downtown Sarasota. Dinner for me will be Filet Mignon with Gorgonzo. But my friends probably will have the Lobster Cakes or the Spinach & Crab Meat Salmon. We’re looking forward to the live music — BC and the Gang is playing. You can check out the live music schedule here. I might even ask someone to dance.

After getting home at 1 a.m., I’m going to sleep in Saturday morning, but if my friend and his three kids were visiting I’d be recommending the Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary. The kids would love the big cats, such as the Siberian Tiger, African Lion and the rare White Tiger, as well as the other exotic wildlife animals. They can even save money by printing out an entry fee discount coupon from Other fun attractions for a family to do on Saturday include Sarasota Jungle Gardens and the Ringling Circus Museum.

But Saturday afternoon for me is going to be little more relaxed. I’m going to bicycle at the Venetian Waterway Park and enjoy the natural beauty of the paradise I call home. You can walk or bike the 5-mile trail on each side of the Intracoastal Waterway to either Caspersen Beach Park or Shamrock Park and Nature Center in Venice. It also connects to The Legacy Trail which runs through the Oscar Scherer State Park, and creates a 23-mile path for the physically fit. No cars allowed. Just you and nature. I’m even bringing a picnic lunch to eat while reading the latest James Patterson thriller on my I-Pad.

You are correct if you think I will come home Saturday afternoon to nap, but there is still romance waiting for me Saturday night. I’ve scheduled a sunset dinner-for-two cruise on the Marina Jack II, a 96-foot yacht that will cruise the Sarasota Bay offering beautiful vistas. It could be the romantic evening to propose, but I’m not ready for that just yet. Still, me and my gal will have a dinner and evening to remember.

Sunday morning we are planning a champagne brunch at Ophelia’s on the Bay, a special eatery named one of the Top 100 Restaurants in Florida, Most Romantic Restaurant in America and Best Waterfront Restaurant. Zagat’s has given Ophelia’s an “Excellence” rating for 10 years in a row. Although we can dine inside, the weather this weekend beckons us to the outside deck.

We can choose starters from Eggplant Crepes, Rope Cultured Prince Edward Island Black Mussels and Colossal Lump Blue Crab Cakes or order a variety of seafood & meat main courses. But for $25 per person and a $10 Coupon, we’re opting for the Spectacular Sunday Jazz Champagne Brunch Buffet.

Afterwards, we are going to take a leisurely stroll on Lido Beach near St. Armands’ Circle where we will have an early dinner at Columbia, a tradition since 1905, which specializes in South American, Cuban and Spanish cuisine.

What a weekend! I lived the life of a tourist and enjoyed the natural wonders of the greater Sarasota area, as well as a diverse culinary dining experience that my hometown paradise has to offer. And, as always, I saved money by checking out and printing out all the available discount coupons

Next, another adventure is on the horizon..

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