Venice, Florida’s Jewel

Venice, a beautiful town on the Gulf of Mexico, is our favorite place in Florida. She is known for her historic Main Street district built in the Mediterranean style. Five major public beaches, over a dozen public parks with tropical trees, and the breathtaking gulf views will capture your heart.

Venice, Florida’s Jewel

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Tolik on March 8, 2005

Gorgeous beaches, a cultural district, and a wealth of recreational opportunities combine to make Venice one of the best places in Florida to visit. Set in an idyllic subtropical landscape and shrouded in almost eerie calm, Venice is just 77 miles south of Tampa off Interstate 75 and only 2 hours from the theme parks of Orlando.

Venice’s historic district is filled with amazing Mediterranean Revival and Northern Italian -style buildings, charming antique stores, restaurants, and coffeehouses. You will enjoy local arts visiting a community theater, the art center, and the Symphony Orchestra.

Venice enjoys an average annual temperature of 75°F (23º C). With miles of coastline and shimmering Gulf of Mexico waters, southwest Florida has the best beaches in the world (according to the Oceanographic Institute). Recreational options range from golf and tennis to water activities and professional sports. There are plenty of accommodation choices as well – you can rent a house or stay at one of the RCI resorts (there are 41 resorts within a 50-mile radius). Venice’s amenities make this lovely subtropical town a great place for visitors and residents alike. ${QuickSuggestions} Venice’s gorgeous beaches are also good for collecting shells and hunting ancient shark teeth (the city’s nickname is the Shark Teeth Capital of the World). Our favorite beaches include Brohard, Caspersen, and North Jetty Park.

Use Venice as your base for exploring this amazing area. Visit the Warm Mineral Springs, the only mineral spring resort in Florida (14 miles away). Its water has more mineral content than any spring in the USA (even more than the hot springs in Arkansas).

Explore Sarasota, the cultural capital of Florida (15 minutes away by car), with gems like the magnificent Ringling Museum of Art, the great Asolo Center for the Performing Arts and the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, two film festivals, a ballet company, and an opera house. In addition, vacationers can visit beautiful Mary Selby Botanical Gardens, Sarasota Jungle Gardens, amazing Mote Marine Laboratory, and more. The Sarasota County area offers an array of cultural venues unprecedented for a community its size.

Visit Tampa (a 1hr drive), where you can explore Busch Gardens, one of Florida’s premier theme parks. Take a day trip to Orlando, just 2 hours drive of Venice (Walt Disney World, SeaWorld, and Universal Studios). ${BestWay} The closest airport in the area is the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (SRQ) located about 15 miles north of Venice; it offers several major carriers and quick connection routes. The Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) is located approximately 60 miles southeast of North Port in Fort Myers. The St. Petersburg/Clearwater International Airport (PIE) is located roughly 48 miles northwest between St Petersburg and Clearwater. Most likely you will fly into the Tampa International Airport (TPA) located about 47 miles north of resort in Tampa. Rent a car or take a shuttle bus from the airport.

Local public transportation called SCAT (Sarasota County Area Transit) links Venice with Sarasota and Warm Mineral Springs.

Historic Venice Walking Tour

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Tolik on March 8, 2005

Venice is a wonderful place to explore. Park your car at the spacious parking next to the city’s library at Nokomis Avenue and walk up to Miami Avenue. The Venice Historic District is a well-preserved gem surrounded by waterways and graced by Northern Italian architecture and beautifully landscaped boulevards dating back to the original city plans of 1925. The street names in the area reflect the Italian influence – Via Venezia, San Marco, Firenze, Milan, Turin, Salermo, Sorrento, etc. On the corner of Miami Avenue you will find the small Fountain Park. It features a cast-iron Italian fountain; across the street from it is a café with delightful meals. Turn left onto the Miami Avenue. The picturesque avenue is filled with charming gift shops with exotic imports; small, inexpensive antique stores; and many restaurants (American, Italian, and British). You can park your car along the street or at a small public parking (free for 2 hours), but we found it is difficult to find a spot here. At the intersection with Nassau Street, turn left. Down the road you will find the Triangle Inn, built in the Italian Renaissance style (today it houses local historic museum on its first floor). It is very interesting building, with a tower and arcade loggia. The museum is free and open Mondays and Wednesdays from 10am to 4pm. Another landmark on the Nassau Street is the former Venice Hotel (now the Park Place Residence). Retrace your steps back to Miami Avenue and continue walking west, turning into Granada Avenue. Walk down the wide avenue and you will notice massive banyan trees and live oaks draped with Spanish moss. When you reached the end of Granada Avenue, you have reached the Gulf of Mexico. Venice Beach has picnic areas, beach volleyball, and lifeguards on duty during the day. Take a stroll on the beautiful beach, and then turn right. Here at Venice Avenue, stately Mediterranean revival houses line the road. Parks, fountains, statuary benches, and nostalgic streetlights add to the Old World ambience. Here and there you see beautiful wrought-iron doors and window details, charming courtyards, and lovely archways. As you progress towards the Tamiami Trail, more and more boutiques and restaurants greet you. You can find every kind of clothing imaginable, from beachwear to eveningwear. Stop for a lunch, cup of coffee or tea, ice-cream cone, or sweets at one of the many delicious treat shops. This is the area where you can see the famous Pigs in Paradise (have your camera ready).
Historic Venice Walking Tour
Historic District
Venice, Florida

Venice History 101

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Tolik on March 8, 2005

The area of Venice was inhabited by the Calusas, Native Americans who lived more than 12,000 years ago. The European settlers began arriving in the area in the 1860s. At the time, the place south of Roberts Bay was known as "Horse and Chaise" because of trees on the shore that resembled a horse and buggy.

In the middle of 1880s, they had enough of a population to have their own post office. Maybe the old name did not sound attractive, maybe it was too long to be used as a part of an address, but they came with awesome idea to call the settlement Venice. And why not? Florida remotely resembles the Italian peninsula, and the name sounded good for a town on the coast...

In 1910, the railroad came to the town, linking it with Tampa. Doctor Fred Albee and his wife Luella arrived in 1916. He purchased vast acreage and commissioned famous architect John Nolen to design the city with the Northern Italian style of architecture. Venice was incorporated as a city in 1927. The next year, the Tamiami Trail (also known as US41) was completed, passing through Venice on its way to Miami.

The Venice Jetties were constructed, and a channel was dredged between them in 1937. Today, we can enjoy two nice parks on the either side. But Venice became an island only in 1967, when the Intracoastal Waterway was dug. Nowadays, the greater Venice includes five communities: the City of Venice, South Venice Beach, Nokomis, Laurel, and Osprey, with estimated population of 98,000.

Warm Mineral Springs

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Tolik on March 8, 2005

The springs are a sinkhole. But not a regular one, one pretty common in Florida. It is an hourglass-shaped, water-filled sinkhole. Warm Mineral Springs around the sinkhole lake has been in operation as an international day spa since 1946. Recently, they started to build so-called Vacation Village east of the lake; one day you will be able to stay there. Meanwhile, there is a hotel nearby (at the corner of Tamiami Trail and Ortiz Blvd.) and numerous house-rental options.

From the spacious parking, you enter the resort’s lobby, a place to buy your tickets.

General Admission - $14
Students - $9
AAA members and Ages 65 and over - $12
Children 12 and under - $5

From here you walk towards the lake. The picnic area is on your left, followed by the drinking fountains. Yes, you can drink the water, too. I would not say that I enjoyed it, but it was interesting to try. Next come the facility rooms (massage, homeopathic doctor, etc) and café. In the café they serve healthy Mediterranean cuisine (the café called the Springs Café, of course). Finally, from the terrace you can see the springs. Allow from 3 to 6 hours to enjoy it fully.

Surrounded by 84 acres, the 1.4-acre spring is 230 feet deep in its center, has a constant water temperature of 87°F, and produces 9 million gallons of fresh re-circulated, mineral-enriched water each day. On the surface it looks like a lake, 80 yards or so in diameter and 230 feet deep, where warm, heavily mineralized water enters from regions far below. They say that the water in the lukewarm lake can provide relief for many ailments, including skin conditions, stress, pain, muscular problems, and arthritis. In addition to swimming, the facility offers massage therapy, facial rejuvenation, and acupuncture. And curious visitors can learn more about the history of the springs at the free Cyclorama presentation that takes place every day at 1pm.

The water's buoyancy makes it easy to wade around the lake's edge at least eight times, which is the equivalent of a mile. An estimated 600 to 800 people a day walk around the circumference or swim in the lake. The water is good for humans but definitely bad for metals - dimes and quarters corrode quickly. You will enjoy swimming in the warm mineral springs, but remember to take off your watch.

Warm Mineral Springs
12200 San Servando Avenue
North Port, Florida
(941) 426-1692

Pigs in Paradise

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Tolik on March 8, 2005

This is the one of the most unusual open-air exhibitions we have ever seen: the Venice Art Center made 44 sitting and 12 standing fiberglass pigs, and then local artists painted them. Last year the center placed the wonderful animals all around the town. The pigs will be gracing Venice for 13 months.

Seven feet long from tail to nose, they are on a mission to educate visitors about the area’s rich heritage, fantastic beaches, and amazing attractions. Their leader, Capitan Will B. Cooked, has been nominated as the Venice Art Center Pigs in Paradise Ambassador. There is also Elvis Pigsley, Andy Warhog , Pigcasso, Mr. Main Street, etc. The lovely creatures will not stay here forever - at the end of April 2005, the pigs will be auctioned off for charity. /p> My favorite? The pig in front of the wine store (at the corner of Venice Avenue and Nokomis Avenue) called Swine Connoisseur.

Venice Art Center
390 Nokomis Avenue South
Venice, FL
(941) 485-7136

Shark Tooth Capital of the World

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Tolik on March 8, 2005

One of the best-known events in Venice is the annual Sharks Tooth Festival. This colorful event, which celebrates the area‘s natural bounty of fossilized sharks’ teeth, is held every spring.

The 13th Annual Sharks Tooth Festival will be celebrated April 8 to 10, 2005 at the beach near the Venice Pier. The festival features live entertainment, educational booths, fossil vendors, more than 100 artists from around the state, and great food! The festival showcases sea-related stuff: shark teeth, shark jaws, stingray spine fragments, stingray teeth, alligator teeth, sea biscuits… you name it. Local artisans sell all kind of sea-related treasures, homemade crafts, and jewelry.

But you can collect the teeth yourself combing a beach of your choice (it’s free and will keep you occupied). The teeth you are looking for are from sharks extinct for millions of years. Sharks that have died sink to the Gulf of Mexico floor. Over time, the cartilage of their bodies disintegrated. Eventually, some of the teeth are washed up on shore with tides. Combing these shores to look for the dark gems has always been a favorite pastime of visitors and residents here because these teeth make great collectibles. The teeth range in size from one-eighth of an inch to three inches and may be black, brown, or gray depending of type of minerals, deposits, and vegetation in the soil in which they have been buried.

The locals claim that the Caspersen Beach is the place. To start your own collection, you have to take a walk along the shore and hopefully discover sharks' teeth, for which the beach earned national acclaim. Success is almost guaranteed.

Venice Fishing Pier
1600 Harbor Drive South
Venice, Florida, 34285

South Venice Beach

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Tolik on March 13, 2005

Beyond Venice’s old district to the south lies the picturesque area of South Venice Beach, our favorite part of Venice. Development of the area began in 1952 (it was called then simply South Venice). The New York development firm of W&A Construction Company began building, and the first residents moved into their homes in October 1953. The area along Tamiami Trail is full of shopping; the friendly and useful AAA office is also here. But turn westbound towards the sea and you will find a beautiful residential area in a bird sanctuary amid lush subtropical vegetation. As a part of the deal, the developer guaranteed in writing to all South Venice residents direct access to the Gulf Coast (the area lies on the shores of Lemon Bay). Tall wooden bridges over the water were erected providing access to the private beach at Manasota Key. But in 1966, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredged the canal linking the Lemon Bay with the Roberts Bay, and downtown Venice became an island and South Venice switched to ferry service (residents and visitors alike use annual passes).

On the Lemon Bay near the Alligator Creek estuary, you will find 5 acres of public area with the ferry terminal, boat ramp, and crab dock. The ferry holds 18 passengers at a time and leaves the dock every half-hour between 9:30am and sunset every day (except Wednesdays) to carry you to your private beach on the Gulf of Mexico. The 4-minute ride to the pristine beach on the Gulf is unforgettable. The beach is unique in its privacy and provides an opportunity for swimming, sunning, shelling, and shark-tooth hunting. You may see manatees during the ride, and dolphins come to the beach almost every day. It is a perfect place for those looking for a vacation of low-key activities like boating, kayaking, or sailing. Shore fishing in Lemon Bay is another popular activity.

Florida is a paradise for golfers and draws more golfers than any other state. The South Venice Beach area alone offers three privately-owned golf courses (Bird Bay, Capri Isles, and Waterford), one public golf course (Lake Venice Golf Club), and another eight within a half-hour’s drive.

In the northwest part of South Venice Beach is Shamrock Park & Nature Center (free). Here visitors can find tennis and basketball courts, children’s playgrounds, a nature trail (1 mile), an environmental center, and a sheltered picnic area. The Venetian Waterway Park links Shamrock Park with the Venice historic district. The Waterway Park is actually a 8-foot-wide picturesque trail running along the Intracoastal Waterway.

South Venice Beach
South Venice Beach
Venice, Florida

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