2018 Awards & Accolades: Sarasota, Manatee & More

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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 millennial’s, 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
Wallethub.com 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 Livability.com’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.

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, OutsideOnline.com 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!

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 Kayak.com 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.

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!

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, Realtor.com 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.

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

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

From “#1 Beach” to “Best City for Small Businesses”, our region saw its share of notable achievements in 2017. We’ve compiled a list of Manatee, Charlotte, and Sarasota accolades – 20 more reasons why we love where we live.

#1 Beach in the United States | Siesta Beach
Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman (aka Dr. Beach), coastal expert and professor at Florida International University, named Siesta Beach the #1 beach in the United States based on fifty criteria, including water,  sand quality, number of sunny days, safety and management.

#1 Beach in the United States | Siesta Beach
Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman (aka Dr. Beach), coastal expert and professor at Florida International University, named Siesta Beach the #1 beach in the United States based on fifty criteria, including water,  sand quality, number of sunny days, safety and management.

Happiest Cities in the United States  | North Port / Sarasota / Bradenton
According to National Geographic Explorer, our region has joined a very happy collection of 20 communities across the Unites States. North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton was noted as a place where “locals smile and laugh more often, socialize several hours a day, have access to green spaces, and feel that they are making purposeful progress toward achieving life goals.”

The Best Place to Retire in 2018 | Sarasota
US News and World Report named Sarasota as No. 1 retirement spot in the country, providing a high quality of life at an affordable price.

Best City for Young Entrepreneurs  | North Port / Sarasota / Bradenton
MoneyRates.com named the North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton region as the number one city in the county with a welcoming climate for young business owners. They considered factors like growth rates, educational attainment, young adult affluence, and business tax environment.

Useppa Island

10 Best Car-Free Island Getaways Useppa Island
Coastal Living encouraged readers to leave their keys and cars behind, featuring top destinations in the United States where no car is needed.

Best States for Business | Florida
Chief Executive Magazine ranked Florida #2 for the fifth year in a row in their comprehensive list of “Best & Worst States for Business” citing Florida’s annual job growth rate of 3.2%, exceeding the nation’s rate of 1.7%.

100 Best Places to Live | Sarasota
US News and World Report analyzed the 100 most populous metro areas to find the best places to live. They named Sarasota #21 based on its good value, desirability, strong job market, and high quality of life.

Healthiest Regions in Florida | Sarasota County
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ranked the 67 counties of Florida in terms of health and wellness. Sarasota was named 3rd for overall health outcomes (length and quality of life) and 2nd for overall health factors (behavior, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment).


Bradenton’s Riverwalk

Happiest Cities in America |  North Port / Sarasota / Bradenton
North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton ranked at #6 in the United States for highest well-being communities by Gallup-Healthways.

#1 Beach in the United States | Siesta Beach
TripAdvisor’s Travelors’ Choice Awards gave Siesta Beach the #1 spot to it’s collection of the top 25 beaches in the United States.

Best Place for Small Business | Sarasota-Bradenton
Topping the list, American City Business Journal named Sarasota-Bradenton #1 for Small Business Vitality Rankings.

Cast of Asolo Rep’s production SHOW BOAT. Photo by Frank Atura

Happiest Seaside Towns | Sarasota
Coastal Living noted Sarasota’s world-class beaches and top-shelf arts and culture scene, ranking it as the 3rd happiest seaside town in America.

Top Selling Master Planned Communities | Lakewood Ranch
Real estate consultant firm, RCLCO, named Lakewood Ranch the third most top-selling master-planned community in 2017.

#1 Performing Arts Hall | Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall
The fifth time winning this title, Sarasota’s favorite purple venue topped the national list from Venues Today of performing arts halls in North America in the 2,000-seat category.

LECOM Park in Bradenton

Best of the Ballparks Spring Training | LECOM Park
Fans voted overwhelmingly on Ballpark Digest, naming LECOM Park in Bradenton as the Best of Ballparks in the Grapefruit League for Spring Training.

Florida’s Best Kept Secret | Sarasota
Beyond accolades, Vogue Magazine did a feature story on the Sarasota area, touting it as perhaps Florida’s best kept secret. Author Christina Perez noted that our region was home to some of the country’s finest examples of mid-century modern architecture, beaches, and cultural attractions.