Today, St. Armand’s Circle is known as the premier shopping destination in Sarasota, with over 140 high end and boutique shops, it's tempting for those who live there and those just visiting! However, the history behind this commercial center is wildly fascinating.

When Charles St. Amand purchased the area for $22 in 1893, his name was misspelled on the deed but he liked the ring it had to its name and left it. After developing the area into a small fishing and farming zone, Charles sold the property a few times and eventually (rumor has it) John Ringling won it in a poker game.

Mr. Ringling wanted St. Armand’s Circle to be an exclusive neighborhood for the wealthy and willing to spend. And wouldn’t he be thrilled if he saw it today!

Many believe that it was developed into a circle due to his love for the three-ring circus. He even used circus elephants to help develop the area into an upscale shopping destination.

Once the area was ready for more exposure, Ringling hired a marching band to parade across it and lead the rich and famous across the bridge he built to connect St. Armand’s Circle to Sarasota. He lined the roadways with famous Roman and Greek statues that he had collected from his lengthy travels.

Though Ringling did not live long enough to see the success of his premier shopping destination, he would be undoubtedly thrilled to see how the area has blossomed over the years.

Today, with over 140 different boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants located throughout St. Armands Circle it is a destination for the ones who Ringling intended it to be for: those wealthy and willing to spend. At almost every street corner, you can find a plaque or sign that tells a short story about the history of the area, so be sure to check those out when you visit!

Top 5 Restaurants in St. Armands Circle

Crab & Fin Restaurant

The Crab & Fin is one of Sarasota's original seven restaurants and there are plenty of reasons it’s been a staple in the area for so long! With an airy and upscale-casual spot, they invite customers to have a date night, special occasion or family dinner at their restaurant or on their patio. They serve fresh seafood with an extensive wine list so don’t be afraid to ask your server to do a pairing for your meal!

Cafe L’Europe

Cafe L’Europe is a continental cafe with an old-world ambiance right in the middle of St. Armands Circle. With a warm vibe, they invite you in to sit down, relax and have a drink with gorgeous views of the circle. Their menu features longtime favorites such as classic Dover Sole Meuniere, Potato Crusted Grouper, Chateaubriand served tableside, Lobster Bisque, and French Onion soup served in a large sweet onion, as well as many other creative and delicious offerings. Don’t miss out on this dining experience, it's one of St. Armands finest!

Columbia Restaurant

If you want to try one of Tampa Bay’s oldest restaurant concepts, Columbia Restaurant has its own location in St. Armands Circle. Check out their authentic Latin and Cuban dishes filled with fresh seafood, flavorful spices, and lots of love. You can taste the history in between the traditional Cuban style bread that provides bookends to one of the best Cuban sandwiches in Pinellas County. Head there for some fun entertainment during dinner as well.

Tommy Bahama Restaurant & Bar

This isn’t your typical Tommy Bahama store, it actually houses one of Sarasota's best restaurants as well. The Tommy Bahama Restaurant & Bar will provide you with some good eats as you shop! Sit down with a book in the cafe as you browse through their online store or just have a bite to eat and window-show so you know what to purchase on your next major shopping trip. Grab some fresh seafood like a catch of the day grouper sandwich so you don’t get hangry while you’re shopping and be sure not to miss their Happy Hour which lasts from 3:00 PM -6:00 PM!

New Pass Baithouse & Grille

New Pass Baithouse & Grille is the best spot for a casual breakfast, lunch or dinner with some friends. This circa-1929 tackle shop turned eatery has kitschy fishing decor but they keep your tummy full with breakfast, lunch and dinner. Some of their most popular items are their subs and burgers! You’ll feel at home in this casual establishment so put on your softest denim, comfiest t-shirt and flip flops and New Pass Baithouse & Grille will make you feel like you're doing a clam bake in your own backyard!

Top 5 Nightlife Destinations in St. Armands Circle

Shore St. Armands

Shore St. Armands is one of the most bougie craft cocktail bars in the area! With the cutest outdoor seating area, it provides the perfect Instagram background for those of you looking to influence your followers with great places to check out in the area! It has a killer happy hour from 3 pm-6 pm daily with $7 craft cocktails, affordable entrees, and bar bites! Stop by for happy hour with the girls or a romantic date night with your s/o, with a warm atmosphere like this it’s somewhere you could even bring your family!

Daiquiri Deck

Do you like frozen daiquiris and getting caught in the rain? Or hitting up daiquiri deck in St. Armands Circle for a fun night out with friends? Well, we do! At Daiquiri Deck they provide the right amount of fun with live music and DJs that play late at night on weekends. So if you’re looking to get a little crazy on your next adventure in St. Armands Circle I would start off by ordering a daiquiri from the Daiquiri Deck on St. Armands Circle!

Cha Cha Coconuts

Speaking of Pina Coladas, Cha Cha Coconuts has one of the best in the 941area! This vibrant hangout serves authentic Floribbean fare, delicious craft cocktails, and local and imported beer in casual digs where everyone is welcome. Cha Cha Coconuts wants you to feel at home while sitting at the bar so come comfortable, socialize with the locals sitting on either side of you and get to know more about St. Armand’s Circle on your next visit!

Speaks Clam Bar

Though Speaks Clam Bar is also a fabulous restaurant in St. Armands Circle, they also mix up some of the strongest and most delicious cocktails in the neighborhood. Every night they host local vocalists or musicians to support the local art scene so if you’re looking to hear some local talents, head there from 6 pm-9 pm any night of the week. With a deep list of drinks to wet your whistle, including craft beers, garden-to-glass cocktails, and wine.

The Terrace at Surf Shack

This upstairs eatery features coastal American entrees, cocktails, nightly live music and a rooftop patio. So what else could you ask for? Stop by The Terrace at Surf Shack to drink with the locals and eat well while doing it. With a full bar they can craft you up any cocktail you may be craving!

Top 5 Destinations for Things to Do in St. Armands Circle

Key Culinary Tours

Key Culinary's Tours are fun-filled experiences that combine food and stories for unique, intimate peeks into the rich history of the Sarasota area. You bet your booty, John Ringling’s favorite flavors fill this trip with good eats and even better information about Sarasota’s history.

St. Armands Circle Shops

With over 140 shopping destinations in St. Armands Circle, I had to give you a snapshot into the different things you’ll be able to find! From big brand names like Chico’s and The Black Dog to smaller one-off local shops like Woof Gang Bakery & Grooming, there will be something for every member of the family to purchase on this shopping trip. Take mom to Brighton and Dad to Tommy Bahama! This is also a well-known spot for holiday shopping as the possibilities are endless when it comes to shopping on St. Armands Circle.

The Spice & Tea Exchange

For a unique gift, The Spice & Tea Exchange is the perfect destination! For your friends who like to cook or those friends who need to relax, the ideal gift for those who are hard to shop for can be found at The Spice & Tea Exchange.

Lido Key Beach

The closest beach to St. Armands Circle is Lido Key Beach and it is one of the 941area’s most beautiful white-sand beaches. Perfect for catching a sunset with your significant other or showing friends from out of town exactly what the West Coast of Florida is made of! This is the ultimate destination for locals and travelers alike looking for a day in the hot Florida sun! Don’t return from vacation without a tan, head to Lido Key Beach before you leave!

Sarasota Suncoast Tours

At Sarasota Suncoast Tours, they offer visitors and locals alike the chance to learn all about Sarasota's rich history. Join them for a variety of experiences like a historical guided walking tour about ghosts and murders that have happened in the area. If the spooky tour isn’t up your alley, they also have trolley tours and tours on gods, goddesses, and myths that are believed to take place in St. Armands Circle. Take a tour of St. Armands Circle with Sarasota Suncoast Tours to know all of the insider deets about the area!

For more on St. Armands Circle, check out our full directory of everything St. Armand’s Circle has to offer on our neighborhood page! And return to 941area for more local guides, events and things to do in Manatee County!