Beneath a canopy of towering palms, visitors to Sarasota Children’s Garden trace a winding pathway around a koi pond and animal topiaries. The idyllic environs stem from owner Joan Condon’s vision to provide a playspace immersed in Sarasota’s natural beauty. Garden curators hone in on nature’s whimsical side, dotting the premises with fairy gardens and sculptures of mythical creatures. Beyond providing ample space for frolicking and befriending retired tooth fairies, the garden also strives to introduce stewardship to young minds with classes and events.
It’s not uncommon to stumble upon fake alligators as you make your way around a mini-golf course. But at Smugglers Cove's locations, live American alligators snap their jaws in exhibits nestled amid the miniature fairways. With an old-fashioned bamboo pole players can dangle a treat above 20–50 of the predatory alligators, which leap from the water to snatch their treat. Between feeding frenzies, games take place on Smugglers Cove’s 18-hole outdoor courses, where balls roll past rushing waterfalls, into caves, over mountainous terrain, and into a hole in a pirate ship.
BounceU Sarasota welcomes kids to descend upon an inflatable, climate-controlled playground where they can bounce and ricochet in safety. Along with birthday parties and group outings, BounceU hosts open-bounce sessions that let sock wearers of all ages imagine they're synchronized leapers in a futuristic moon performance as they carom around the inflatable stadium, expending energy with every leap. Adults are welcome to act like 8-year-olds and join the vivacious youngsters in the playground. The inflatable arena also opens its buoyant doors to creative-themed bounce camps and programs, where boys and girls spend half their time with brain-bolstering projects such as creating their own painted masterpieces or learning to reprogram the remote to skip all news channels. After stretching the limits of their imaginations, kids then spend the other half of the day stretching the limits of their limbs on the inflatable playground.
With more than half a century of history behind its name, Sarasota Lanes has seen generations of locals bowl its alleys, with progeny making sly, crouching approaches to the same lanes their parents did years ago. The tradition continues at the alley’s 36 lanes with automatic scoring, far superior to counting on the fingers and toes of fellow players. The alley's snack bar refuels bowlers with succulent chicken wings, burgers, pizzas, and drinks. At the pro shop, bowlers can gear up for future lane domination with balls, bags, and accessories.
Skaters blaze across Stardust Skate Center’s retro-themed, 14,000-square-foot rink amid a flurry of spotlights, lasers, and scanning beams. After retrieving their eight-wheeled rentals, friends and families strap in and set out on a circular trip down memory cul-de-sac. A giant disco ball fills the room with refracted light as foursomes choreograph roller dances to DJ-spun tunes that pump from a surround sound system synced up with the kaleidoscope of lights. After an hour or two of hairpin turns and confused wrestling maneuvers, skaters can enjoy well-earned refreshments in the complex's remaining 10,000 square feet of entertainment space. Stardust Skate Center is open for public skating on Fridays and Saturdays, and on Sundays starting October 2. Check the schedule for times.