Venice, Florida, is a small city located along southwest Florida’s Gulf of Mexico coast, south of Sarasota. It has a vibrant downtown district with unique shops, restaurants, and an area known as Centennial Park.
The downtown is designated as a “Main Street” district and has been the site of extensive improvements in recent years. Sidewalks were expanded and landscaping added in 2019. The district covers three major through streets: Tampa Avenue, West Venice Avenue, and Miami Avenue. Following West Venice Avenue takes you all the way to the beach.
September 2022 brought Hurricane Ian to southwest Florida. Despite being one of the state’s most destructive storms ever, the beaches and the rest of the attractions mentioned below are intact and ready for visitors.
Whether you’re looking for art, food, or beach activities, Venice has a lot to offer. Here are the best things to do in Venice, plus where to eat and stay.
Things To Do In Venice
1. Search For Shark Teeth At Caspersen Beach
The beach at Venice is billed as The Shark Tooth Capital Of The World. Teeth big and small are found along the shoreline, particularly in the area known as Caspersen Beach. It’s not that there are more sharks in the waters off Venice, but because the quirky currents in the Gulf of Mexico wash more up on the shore here. Beachgoers can usually be spotted bent over, carefully eyeing the tide line for teeth and shells.
Pro Tip: Visit in April for the Venice Sharks Tooth Festival.
2. Shop At Earth Treasures
A must-visit shop downtown is Earth Treasures on West Miami Avenue. Owners Donald and Draeanne Rivette buy and sell shark teeth, and may have the most extensive collection in Florida. During our visit to the shop, Don held out the huge megalodon teeth that are millions of years old. Megalodon’s teeth are rare finds. Most teeth are much smaller, and black or gray in color.
3. Venice Main Street
Sharks are such an attraction to the area that the local business organization, Venice Main Street, has positioned 10 miniature bronze shark statues around the downtown business district. Kids are encouraged to go on a scavenger hunt to find them all. To help, there is a map on the Main Street website.
Located in Sarasota County, Venice has long lived in the shadow of Sarasota. It was known as a sleepy beach town until the 1980s when changes started being made. The Venice Main Street nonprofit was established to help revitalize historic downtown Venice. Today, that area of town is walkable, inviting, and energetic. There are few vacancies among the shops and storefronts along the downtown main streets.
4. Venice Audubon Rookery Park
Venice Audubon Rookery Park is located south of downtown. During peak migrating season in the winter, the rookery is populated by birds from all over Florida, the U.S., and Canada. Nesting season is from December to May when you have the best birdwatching opportunities.
Bring a camera with a zoom lens if you have one and binoculars. Admission to the rookery is free.
5. Take In A Baseball Spring Training Game
Venice is the spring training home of the National League’s Atlanta Braves. The team is in residence from mid-February to the end of March. The Braves play in CoolToday Park, located south of downtown Venice. Games attract a large following of locals and fans from the Atlanta area.
6. Venice Train Depot
Venice was the winter home of the Ringling Brothers’ Barnum and Bailey Circus from 1960 to 1992. Many former performers still live in the Venice area. All that’s left of the circus is a railcar parked in the 1927 Historic Venice Train Depot on East Venice Avenue.
7. Monty Andrews Arboretum
For those who enjoy flowers and plants, the Monty Andrews Arboretum is located in West Blalock Park, near downtown. The park covers four-and-a-half acres and has a gazebo that is often the focal point of local outdoor events. There are more than 80 species of trees and palms in the park, and more trees are added on a regular basis. There are four life-sized sculptures of Florida native wildlife: the Florida panther, a sea turtle, a manatee, and a tarpon.
8. Clyde Butcher Venice Gallery & Studio
Venice is home base for noted Florida photographer Clyde Butcher. His studio is located in a commercial district, on Warfield Street, east of downtown. Here, Butcher works with an oversized enlarger to create the huge black-and-white prints he is noted for. Finished prints by him and his wife Niki are on display and for sale.
9. Yoga Classes On Venice Beach
Venice Beach is active with attractions for both locals and visitors. There are daily yoga classes with Elin. These classes are free. Just bring water and a blanket. Elin’s classes are held next to the lifeguard stand at the Venice beach pavilion. There are other classes by Toby and other instructors at the north jetty on Casey Key, at Nokomis, and on Manasota Key.
Pro Tip: Beaches along the southwest Florida coast are often plagued by red tide during warm months. Foul-smelling and fish-killing, the tides have become a regular occurrence off the gulf coast. Before booking your beach vacation, consult the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for the status of red tide in beach areas.
10. Brohard Paw Park
Don’t forget to bring Fido to the beach. The only dog-friendly area on the beach is Brohard Paw Park. Dogs are allowed off-leash, free to run the sand and frolic in the surf. Waste disposal stations are available, so pick up after your pet.
11. Venice Fishing Pier
Venice Fishing Pier is located near Sharkey’s restaurant. It runs 720 feet out into the Gulf of Mexico and is a popular location for fishing and watching sunsets. There is Papa’s Bait Shop on the pier that also rents fishing rods and reels. Several picnic shelters and volleyball courts are located by the pier and public restrooms.
12. Cultural Campus
Venice’s Cultural Campus on Nokomis Avenue (aka East Blalock Park) features the public library, the museum, the arts center, and a community center. It will soon be home to “Old Betsy,” a 1926 LaFrance fire engine that was one of the first things purchased by the city after it was incorporated.
Pro Tip: If you are into the performing arts, check out The Venice Symphony!
13. Ideal Classic Cars
Old-time car buffs will love Ideal Classic Cars on South Tamiami Trail. Dozens of old, restored cars and trucks are on display and for sale. This is an actual private dealership, not an attraction, but visitors are welcome to come in and browse around the immaculately restored relics.
14. Nokomis Beach Drum Circle
Every Saturday and Wednesday evening, dozens of drummers show up at Casey Key in Nokomis for the Nokomis Beach Drum Circle. Normally held on the beach just before sunset, it was moved under a pavilion because of the threat of rain the night I was there. The drums attract spectators and even dancers. Depending on the weather, it usually draws a large crowd.
Best Restaurants In Venice
Sharky’s On The Pier
You get two restaurants with one stop on Venice Beach. On the lower level, you find Sharky’s On The Pier, a traditional beach bar and restaurant, with a beachside patio and walkway onto the Venice Pier. The menu is extensive, featuring rice bowls, catch of the day, pasta dishes, and steaks. Enjoy the sunset on the pier and then grab a table on the deck for a great place to dine.
Fins At Sharky’s
Upstairs at the same location is Fins at Sharky’s, a fine dining experience in a casual beach atmosphere. You can dine inside or out on the deck overlooking the pier, where you can watch the sunset in the Gulf of Mexico. Steaks and seafood are on the main menu. The wine list is extensive. Reservations are recommended.
Hotel Venezia Restaurant And Bar
Hotel Venezia Restaurant and Bar offers a fine dining experience and an excellent wine selection. Saturdays are London Broil nights. Friday is a fish fry. Enjoy a wonderful Cobb salad or try the onion-crusted salmon. With a name like Venezia, you know there have to be Italian favorites on the menu. Try the chicken piccata. There are bars inside and outside by the pool.
If your tastes are organic, you have to try Café Evergreen in Nokomis. It has vegetarian and vegan options on the menu. Everything is fresh and cooked to order. There are a number of fresh salads. Enjoy the roasted cauliflower appetizer. Try probiotic drinks, smoothies, and fresh juices. It offers organic coffee.
Upper Crust Café & Bakery
A great place for coffee and breakfast is Upper Crust Café & Bakery downtown across the street from Centennial Park where many of the locals eat. The omelets are exceptional. The café serves breakfast until noon and then offers a lunch menu. There is also a bakery with fresh pies and cakes.
Best Hotels In Venice
Venice Hotel Venezia
Whether your travels are business or pleasure, Ramada by Wyndham Venice Hotel Venezia on Route 41 Bypass is a centrally located place to stay. Just minutes from downtown or the beach, Venezia is well-appointed and comfortable. There is a large pool, pool bar, and fine dining restaurant. It has meeting rooms, a conference center, and a fitness center.
Inn At The Beach
If you want to be near the water, Inn at the Beach on West Venice Avenue is your spot. This resort hotel offers beachside accommodations, one and two-bedroom suites, studios, as well as standard hotel rooms.
Venice Beach Villas
Another beachside location is the Venice Beach Villas. Catering to vacationers, the villas offer efficiencies and studios, one and two bedrooms. There is a large pool. This is an older property and not all units are handicapped accessible.
Banyan House is a vacation rental hotel located near the beach. It has rooms, balcony suites, and apartments. Originally built in 1926, Banyan House is part of the Venezia Park Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It has been carefully restored and keeps its Roaring ’20s charm nearly a century later.