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Palmer Ranch: A Mom’s Guide to the Best Sarasota Neighborhoods

I have lived in Sarasota for 14 years. When we moved here we moved to a condo subdivision in Palmer Ranch while much of the area was getting developed.  To watch it transform and thrive first hand has been amazing. More than a decade later, I’m still in Palmer Ranch, and it is the perfect location to raise a family.  Wether you have a wild side that loves to get in touch with nature, or a modern family that loves to shop all the hot styles and eat plenty of local food, Palmer Ranch is located right in between Sarasota and Osprey, giving you plenty of neighborhood options no matter your family needs.     

What are some local attractions near Palmer Ranch? 

What’s so unique about Palmer Ranch is that you are surrounded by lots of modern homes, shopping, and activities, but you can also be one with nature and see some of Sarasota’s historical charm.

Beaches and Pools

So let’s begin with the most important question that everyone wants to know, how far is it from Siesta Key? I am happy to announce that this Sarasota neighborhood it is a mere 20 minute hop, skip and jump away from Stickney Point Road, which leads you to the south bridge to the island.  However, if you don’t want to cross over the bridge to the beach, there are plenty of other options for cooling off. The Evalyn Sadlier Jones YMCA is perfect for the whole family with lots of activities, as well as the Selby Aquatic Center, with an Olympic-sized pool and seasonal water park (open April-October).

Mall and Entertainment  

Just across from the YMCA, is also the Westfield Sarasota Square Mall. Yes, the mall seems silly to list as an attraction, but there is plenty to do on a rainy day in here.  This mall features several shops, including a Costco, which is great for families to save on bulk items; a merry-go-round located in the food court; and a movie theatre with 20 screens, including an IMAX theatre.

State Parks and Nature

When the weather is great for being outdoors and soaking up that vitamin D, Palmer Ranch is nearby to true Florida nature.  

A big highlight you can’t miss is The Legacy Trail.  Surrounded by beautiful trees, it is perfect for a leisurely or athletic walk, jog, run or bike ride.  Speaking of trees, just past Clark, off of Beneva, is Red Bug Slough Preserve.  You are greeted by a little playground and then you see some walking trails that lead you through paths surrounded by gorgeous trees.  

If you want an even bigger adventure, we are right by Myakka River State Park, as well Oscar Scherer State Park.  These state parks require an admission fee, however you can camp and they offer a wider ground to cover.  Myakka has tree canopies to climb, concessions on site, and airboat tours.  Oscar Scherer has a playground and picnic tables, canoe and kayak rentals (or you can bring your own), and fresh and saltwater fishing.

Historic Spanish Point

If you want a little bit of Sarasota history, we have quick access to Historic Spanish Point.  This place is rich with Sarasota history set in an absolutely gorgeous 30-acre property.  Free for children age 5 and under, and our well behaved leashed dog babies are also welcome.  Annual memberships allow you to explore all year, and also include an awesome reciprocal program for other family adventures.  

No matter where you go around the Palmer Ranch area you will see plenty of families and retirees, so there is something to appeal to everyone. 

What schools do your kids go to?

Early Childhood

Palmer Ranch is so centrally located that you have lots of options.  There are several churches that offer childcare from infancy.  I highly recommend Good Shepherd Lutheran Church and School.  Even if you are not Lutheran, it could still be a good fit for your family since they do not dive very deeply into the religion, just the belief in God.  From newborn to VPK, there is a classroom for everyone on a large spacious property.  They even offer summer camp all the way through 5th grade, so children can go back and spend time with the teachers with whom they began their education.

Public Schools

Depending on where you are located in Palmer Ranch, your kids could attend one of two highly regarded Sarasota public schools: Gulf Gate Elementary or Ashton Elementary.  And for the future years, we are right by Sarasota Middle School and Riverview High School, which are both fantastic curriculums. 

Charter Schools

You also have the option of some fantastic charter schools including Island Village Montessori and Sarasota Suncoast Academy.  We have chosen Imagine Academy of Palmer Ranch for our son’s kindergarden.  It is perfectly located right in Palmer Ranch and a grade A school.  This school has a fantastic curriculum, since it partners with Cambridge University, has a friendly staff, and has good security.  My 5-year-old is so excited and points to his soon-to-be school every time we pass by.  Imagine also offers early childhood options, as well as middle school.  

What are some of your favorite places to shop in Palmer Ranch?

Big Stores and Local Businesses

This is one of my favorite questions because our neighborhood is surrounded with amazing options.  I’m a simple Target obsessed mom and happily find myself at the Palmer Ranch Target, which is conveniently right by Publix and the Westfield mall.  

However, we are also right by Gulf Gate, which in case you did not know is popping up with all kinds of local businesses, such as Wild Ginger Apothecary and Crop Juice, as well our favorite big stores in the plaza. My children also love to check out The Compound Board shop, because what’s Florida without a surf and skate shop.

Grocery Stores 

And of course, every mom needs groceries as part of her shopping.  Palmer Ranch is designed so brilliantly that no matter what subdivision you are in, there is a Publix conveniently located in your corner.  There is also a new Walmart Neighborhood Market, and in case you didn’t know, you can buy your groceries online and then pick them up at this location. What?! Game changer for parents with car sleepers, or busy schedules in general.  

A new hot spot for us has been the new Sprouts Farmers Market.  It is the perfect grocery for health conscious parents, who don’t want to break the bank while going healthy.  What is so awesome is they also have ready-to-eat snack packs and kids packs, with wholesome foods.  Win-win!            

What are some of your favorite restaurants in Palmer Ranch? 

I could honestly write a whole book on places to eat all over this Sarasota neighborhood.  I love to eat and we are surrounded by great food.  

Gecko’s Grill

If you have never been to Gecko’s, you are missing out on a Sarasota staple.  This locally owned family restaurant has grown over the last few years, and with good reason; the food is fantastic.  Family friendly, great service, weekly specials, plus they do so much for the community, including supporting local farmers. 

The Grasshopper Mexican Restaurant and Bar

Our family also loves Mexican food, and for an authentic family friendly place, we adore The Grasshopper, located just off Tamiami Trail.  This franchise is run by a local family and the Mexican grandmother runs the kitchen.  We are always so satisfied with our meal.  The salsa is made fresh daily and guacamole is made to order.  If your kids aren’t on the quesadilla and taco train yet, there are french fries and other staple kids menu options. We love the daily specials including taco Tuesday, and fajita Friday.

Off The Hook Seafood

However, maybe mom and dad need a date night out? There are so many options, but Sarasota being right by the water, of course has to have amazing seafood.  Off The Hook Seafood, located just off Gulf Gate, has the freshest seafood in town.  The fish comes in daily, fresh off the hook, to the table (get it?). All the fish is cared for and fileted in house.  There are lots of fresh appetizers, gluten-free options, and yes even some delicious filets for you land lovers.

Rico’s Pizzeria 

I get, though, that sometimes we just want a calm day in, and nothing says eat-in like good pizza.  Rico’s Pizzeria in Gulf Gate offers pick up and delivery of some seriously amazing New York style pizza. The menu also includes gluten-free pizza, as well as vegan cheese and specialty pizzas.  The staff is very friendly, and there are dine in options if you wish, though seating is limited.

Like I said, I could write a book but these are some must-try stops!  No matter what your taste in food though, there is truly something for everyone. 

What are some neighborhoods in this area that you would recommend? 

Palmer Ranch is full of housing subdivisons, and honestly, all of them are wonderful in their own way.  If you are deciding that Palmer Ranch is the Sarasota neighborhood for you, I would suggest deciding if you are looking to rent or to purchase.  There are new homes going up as you are reading this, both rental apartments and new houses.

If a subdivision is not for you, there are fantastic options near Ashton Road, Vamo Road and Gulf Gate that will get you near Palmer Ranch without the subdivision life.   I have grown up in this area and can say that it is only getting better.  

Why would you recommend Palmer Ranch as a best neighborhood in Sarasota? 

Well, if you have not been able to tell from the above information, I love this area.  With so much to do, it seems like I am talking about a whole city! Meanwhile this is only a tad bit of Sarasota.  It is so perfectly located to the beach, nature, local shops, and just about everything you need.  

I have an 18-month-old, a 5-year-old and am a bonus mother to my 10-year-old stepdaughter, and there is something for all of us, including my parents and grandparents whom reside in Palmer Ranch as well.  I have seen this neighborhood grow and thrive with new shops, new homes, and schools. As a local, it gives me a sense of pride to see the growth of the city. We love living here and know that you will too.    

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