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2018 Awards & Accolades: Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte Counties & Boca Grande

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Sarasota was named as “One of the Best Cities in the U.S.” by Conde Nast Traveler

From one of the “South’s Best Cities” to being named a “Dreamy Beach Town for Entrepreneurs,” Sarasota, Manatee, and Charlotte counties have been raking in some impressive national accolades in 2018.

When compiling the year’s list, we certainly noticed a number of themes. Consider us spoiled but it’s not so surprising to read that our region is an exceptional destination for beautiful beaches or an ideal hub for retirees. Still, other accolades may not have been so predictable to those who only recall the Gulf Coast of yesteryear – that we are a top spot for entrepreneurs, a mecca for millennials, or that one of our southern cities was named among the trendiest destinations for Spring Break (keep reading to find out which!). There’s also much for our region to be proud of, with our public schools ranked as foremost in the state of Florida. Read on for over 30 reasons we are, quite literally, the best!

Superior Cities

The Best Cities in the U.S. | Sarasota
Conde Nast Traveler readers cast hundreds of thousands of votes in this annual national survey. Sarasota was named as one of the best of the best for small cities with this premier travel publication noting our wealth of cultural attractions, elegant new hotels, and a dynamic food scene.

2018’s Best Beach Towns to Live In | Sarasota & Venice compared 205 waterfront cities across six key dimensions: 1) Affordability, 2) Weather, 3) Safety, 4) Economy, 5) Education & Health and 6) Quality of Life and split the sample between ocean towns and lake towns. When looking at ocean towns (yes, someone should explain to Wallethub this is technically the Gulf), Sarasota ranked 3rd overall while Venice came in at 15. It should also be noted that Sarasota ranked in the top standings for most nightlife, most restaurants, and most coffee shops per capita.

The South’s Best Cities 2018 | Sarasota
Joining an illustrious list from Ashville to Austin and Savanah to San Antonio, Sarasota rounded out this compilation from Southern Living of “vibrant hubs of incredible regional cuisine, culture, music, and design.”

8 Dreamy Beach Towns for Entrepreneurs | Sarasota
“If you can work anywhere, why not work from paradise?” We quite agree with’s sentiment as they named Sarasota No. 2 to this entrepreneurial list. They credit not only the region’s sugar sand beaches and business-friendly tax policies but its “long history of nurturing creativity and new, offbeat ideas.” (Ringling Bros. Circus, anyone?)

Best Golf Communities | Lakewood Ranch
Ideal-Living Magazine created their “Best of the Best” list searching for communities with multiple courses designed by the most respected architects in the business, that have active men’s and women’s golf leagues, and a variety of links and challenges for newbies and seasoned golfers alike. Lakewood Ranch impressed the jury with its wealth of courses, memberships, and the award-winning Lakewood Ranch Country Club.

Lakewood Ranch golf

The Lakewood Ranch Golf & Country Club

Inspiring Islands

The Top 10 Islands in the Continental U.S. | Longboat Key
Longboat Key was named a debut winner of this list from Travel + Leisure with one reader citing, “My husband and I felt like we were in the Caribbean, with pure white sand beaches and crystal-blue water.”

2018 America’s Happiest Seaside Towns | Anna Maria
Coastal Living presented 10 sunny beach towns guaranteed to make you smile and named our very own Anna Maria as 6th. We certainly second their motion that “It’s hard to be unhappy when you live on a barrier island with a seven-mile strip of bone white beach.”

Beautiful Beaches

North America’s 16 Best, Most Overlooked Beaches | Boca Grande
From its old-school ambiance, laidback living, and nature-focused lifestyle, loved everything about the barrier island of Boca Grande.

Top Beaches in the United States | Siesta Key Beach
Apparently, our little Siesta Beach is the ivy league, the American Pharoah, the Katharine Hepburn, and the Lewis Hamilton of beloved beaches. Time and time again, we’ve been named a top beach in the United States and it continues to garner recognition. This year, Trip Advisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards placed it at No. 2. but watch out No. 1, we’ll be back!

Siesta Beach

The always alluring Siesta Beach

Catering to the Younger Generations

Best Public Schools in the State of Florida | Sarasota
Niche ranked the places with the best public schools in Florida based on test scores, graduation rates, SAT/ACT scores, teacher quality, and student and parent reviews. Sarasota significantly swept all the top spots with Longboat Key, Laurel, Englewood, Nokomis, Osprey, Siesta Key, and Venice also rounding out most of the top standings.

The Trendiest U.S. Spring Break Destinations for 2018 | Punta Gorda
Brit + Co worked with to compile a collection of trending top searches for spring break hot spots. Not only were we pleased to see vacation habits are a little less…wild than they once were, but Punta Gorda was named 7th on the list. Brit + Co praised this waterside city with “Old Florida” experiences, beautiful weather, and authentic architecture as an homage to past decades.

Top 10 Places Where Millennials Are Moving | Sarasota
The Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program’s report examined the demographic makeup of millennials across the nation. Domino reported that surprisingly, millennials aren’t moving to big cities but relatively smaller places – including Sarasota at No. 9 with an 11.10  percentage of millennial growth.

Ready for Retirement

100 Best Places to Retire in the USA | Sarasota
US News and World Report analyzed data for the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the USA measuring the happiness of local residents, housing affordability, tax rates, and healthcare quality and named Sarasota to the third spot.

10 Best Islands for Retirement | Gasparilla Island
Boca Grande on Gasparilla Island was recognized in the top ten of this retiree-friendly list from Coastal Living Magazine noted for its relaxed beach lifestyle with “no high-rises, chain stores, or billboards, just sweet cafes, bookstores, and an air of genteel bonhomie.”

10 Great Places to Retire for Your Health | Venice
Waterfront living, parks, yoga on the beach, culture, health care, tax-friendly…what’s not to love for active retirees? Kiplinger, a leader in personal finance news, compiled this list of slower-paced, budget-friendly small or mid-sized cities with quality healthcare with Venice rounding out the collection at No. 10.

The city of Venice has a wealth of parks and a pedestrian-friendly way of life.

Safest Cities to Retire | Venice & North Port
Venice garnered the very top spot from “At a crime rate of just 1.8%, it’s also one of the top 40 lowest ranking cities for crime in the U.S. Retiring in Venice means residents can enjoy 31 municipal parks, central downtown shopping and a very affordable cost of living.” North Port came in at No. 10 noted for its even lower crime rate (1.5%), location near beaches, and affordable housing.

Top Spots for Retirees in the Nation | Venice
Where to Retire Magazine ranked Venice as a hot spot for those looking to enjoy their years in retirement. We’ll just let them take it from here: “One of the prettiest cities on southwestern Florida’s Gulf Coast, Venice was walkable before walkable was cool. A 1920s-era planner demanded that homes, parks and schools be in walking distance. On a typical Saturday, the city’s main thoroughfares are bustling with shoppers in locally owned stores, diners enjoying lunches in front of cafes and strollers meandering through the farmers market adjacent to downtown’s Centennial Park.”

Wanna Getaway?

10 Best Little Beach Towns to Visit in Fall | Anna Maria
For those looking for a little peace and quiet in the autumn months, Coastal Living suggested Anna Maria with it’s “Old Florida” beach town feel, walkable streetscapes, and a mandated slower pace of life – with only a top speed limit of 35 mph!

Anna Maria Island

The bridge from Longboat Key leading to Anna Maria Island.

The Most Affordable Winter Vacations in the U.S. | Punta Gorda
Travel + Leisure compiled a collection of lovely winter destinations easy on the pocketbook and Punta Gorda picked up a spot boasting an average temperature of 74 degrees in January, beautiful downtown, and scenic fishermen’s village.

Real Estate Recognitions

Top-Selling Master-Planned Communities | Lakewood Ranch & West Villages
With a 33% increase in sales over last year and the growth of its latest phase, Waterside, Lakewood Ranch moved up to the No. 2 spot on this national survey of high-performing communities from RCLCO. And while it hasn’t been around quite as long, West Villages, Sarasota’s second largest community, rounds out the top-5 with a fifth-place finish again this year with 648 sales year-to-date—a 23% increase over last year.

With local luxury sales up significantly and nationwide tax reforms benefiting our region, named Sarasota to the top of its list of  Fastest Growing Luxury Markets; Forbes even broke the news quoting the luxury real estate expertise of Michael SaundersSmart Asset recognized Sarasota-Bradenton as one of the Best Places to Buy, and Christies International Real Estate named Sarasota the third Hottest Second-Home Market. Learn more in our article and video on the MSC Blog!

Darling Destinations

Beyond our cities and towns, a number of area attractions brought in lots of love.

Ca’ d’Zan was the winter home of John and Mable Ringling. Courtesy the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art

For even more area awards, check out our compilation of last year’s accolades on the MSC Blog:

2017 Accolades for Sarasota, Bradenton & Beyond: Why We’re No. 1

Try though we may, this list is not inclusive of all our awards so please comment below with any we’ve missed! Also, share your favorite things about Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte counties and beyond! And to learn more about why we love Florida’s Gulf Coast first-hand and Sarasota real estate, contact one of our experienced real estate agents or call 888-552.5228.


2018 Awards & Accolades: Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte Counties & Boca Grande was last modified: December 5th, 2018 by Kathryn Parks