I’ve called Venice, Florida, my home for the majority of my life. My family moved here when I was 6 and we’ve never left. Venice is a small coastal town just south of Sarasota, an hour south of Tampa. The island of Venice has a quaint, upper-end tourist feel, complete with a downtown area lined with palm trees, shops and restaurants, three bridges, three beaches, nature trails, parks for kids, and an airport.
Growing up in Venice in the mid 80s to late 90s was pretty idyllic – we never even locked our front door. This area has low crime, fun parades or festivals each month, a small community feel and the best part…our traffic is only noticeable during “snowbird season” (October – April), but nothing we can’t handle. And once season is over, we can reclaim our town and breathe a little easier. Basically, our slice of paradise is so perfect that others come here to escape winter. They add to our local economy, and we try to live with more (and slower) traffic for six months. It’s worth it!
What local attractions are nearby?
Now, 30 years later, raising my own children in my hometown has been a little surreal. While some may argue that Venice is strictly a retirement community, after having lived here three decades I beg to differ. The city has been steadily making improvements with the intent of attracting and retaining younger families in the area.
Beaches and Parks
My family loves going to the beach (a mere 5 minute drive from any of the three bridges), and my young kids love the beautiful county parks in the area, especially the ones on the island, like Maxine Barritt Park by the beach, Woodmere Park, just off Shamrock Rd., or Caspersen Beach Park on the island.
Splash Park and Ice Cream
Another popular hot spot for young families, is the water fountains/splash park downtown on the island. This is a fantastic place to take your family to cool off, and there are two ice cream shops just a block away on Venice Avenue!
Venice also has fabulous public libraries that always provide entertaining and fun programs for our young kids during the week. We’ve spent so many Tuesday mornings at library story time! Jacaranda Public Library is known for their outstanding children’s programs!
Venice is also home to the Venice Theatre. Most of their performances are more appropriate for adult audiences, but they do offer acting camps for younger kids, and I take my students and family to see A Christmas Carol, every year, they love it!
Where do your kids go to school?
Growing up in Venice, I attended Venice Elementary School and Venice High School (Go Venice Indians!). Both are excellent schools with incredible teachers who create fun learning environments for students.
Venice is home to 4 public elementary schools, 3 charter schools, 2 middle schools, and 1 high school. Lots of learning is taking place here!
Having a 6-year-old and a 4-year-old, we divide our time between elementary school and preschool. I taught at Garden Elementary School, which is also an amazing school! The Garden Elementary art teacher actually started the #venicerocks movement here this summer! She’s incredibly talented and has made my son obsessed with all things artistic. Garden Elementary offers motivational after school programs like Girls on the Run, and STEM club.
Our daughter attends Grace United Methodist Preschool on the island. She absolutely loves Grace; most of her friends go there. The teachers go above and beyond to make the learning environment as entertaining, educational and fun as possible!
What are some of your favorite local businesses or shops?
One area where Venice is seriously lacking is in the retail industry – I say that with utmost respect to the local Venice Stein Mart, TJ Maxx and Target that get plenty of my business. The clothing stores on the island are mostly boutiques that cater to the 65+ crowd or tourists. Venice does need to expand their shopping options for the younger population, but in the meantime, we venture to Sarasota or shop ONLINE! This is one of the reasons I opened my online clothing boutique, Isla Bella Boutique. To give locals another option (and free shipping!)
Where we lack in retail stores, we make up for in grocery stores! Too bad we can’t wear food. We have 6 Publix stores, 2 Winn Dixie stores and a Detwiler’s Farm Market! Anyone living in Florida has most likely already experienced the grocery shopping obsession that is Publix, but if you haven’t made it to a Detwiler’s yet, find one! They have very fresh and reasonably priced produce along with deli meat, freshly caught seafood and an Amish bakery to die for!
What are some of your favorite restaurants?
As a busy mom of two young kids and the owner of a new business, and with a husband who is even busier with his own business, let’s face it…we eat out…a LOT. Lucky for us, Venice boasts some delicious places to dine!
One of our absolute favorites is Mi Pueblo, the authentic Mexican restaurant that offers food that come hot, fresh and fast! You will most likely find locals here on a Friday or Saturday night, stuffing their faces with their incredible chips, salsa and margaritas.
We also love Gold Rush for delicious BBQ and a fun, family-friendly environment.
The last place that I have to mention is Luna, located near downtown Venice. It is Italian cuisine at it’s absolute BEST! The portions are mammoth-sized and mouth-watering. If you go, don’t miss the bread with spicy lava spread. It’s an obsession of mine!
What neighborhoods would you recommend in Venice?
Venice is a very small, beachy coastal town. I grew up on the island, living about a 15 minute walk to the beach. Today I live just off the island with my family, but about a 5 minute walk to the beach. There are some fantastic areas in Venice: Downtown Venice and the island, South Venice, Laurel, Nokomis and Osprey.
Venice Island has two different beaches, four schools (elementary, middle and high school and private school), lots of community festivals and happenings throughout the month, and just an overall, close-knit community feel.
South Venice is a small community located off US 41 and is less “touristy” with local restaurants and shopping, and is mostly residential areas on either side of 41.
Nokomis and Osprey
Nokomis is a small town, just north of Venice, while Osprey is the northernmost town and the oldest. It’s the home to Oscar Scherer State Park for fun hikes and camping and Historic Spanish Point, which usually has a fantastic kids camp every summer.
Why is Venice one of the best neighborhoods in SRQ?
Within the southwest cost of Florida, Venice is a small-town treasure, just a short drive south of Sarasota. As I said earlier, the City of Venice is constantly making improvements to attract and retain younger families, but there is still room for improvement.
Venice is rated as #2 in the state of Florida as the best city to retire, according to the Venice Area Chamber of Commerce. That being said, I couldn’t imagine raising my kids anywhere else. They love the beaches, parks, activities and friends we’ve made over the years, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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