From the Ringling Circus Museum to 30 local art galleries and 10 area theaters, there are plenty of ways to explore the vibrant arts scene of Sarasota, Fla.
But at the Art Ovation, the city's recently opened, arts-focused hotel, travelers become fully immersed in creativity, starting from check-in.
"Would you like to borrow an instrument?" asked the front desk employee. It's part of the Check in, Jam out program, which enables guests to borrow cellos, guitars, banjos and even drums to play in the privacy of their room.
Knowing it would become painfully obvious to my neighbors that Yo-Yo Ma was not staying next door, I left the instrument library untouched and headed up to my room. The elegantly understated space, with muted colors, floor-to-ceiling windows and swirling paintings, felt like a blank canvas for me to funnel my creativity into the leather-bound sketchbook (accompanied by Faber-Castell colored pencils) and ukulele available in each room.
Travelers don't have to stay in their rooms to stimulate their creative side at the Art Ovation, though. The 162-room boutique property boasts a calendar chock-full of complimentary workshops, activities and performances for guests. I learned how to fold origami boxes out of handmade paper designed by a local artist, painted Audrey Hepburn during a portrait class, took a ukulele lesson beside the rooftop pool and listened to live jazz.
The highlight, though, was certainly the nightly Art and Wine Tour, led by the Art Ovation's cultural curator, Lisa DiFranza. She kicked things off at the Studio, where the artists in residence hone their craft in front of guests, before walking us through the hotel's dozens of carefully selected pieces. Stainless steel sculptures set a contemplative mood near the performance space downstairs, larger-than-life abstract oil paintings energize the lobby and works in just about every medium reflected something fresh and interesting about the community on each floor of the hotel.
Now fully in the artistic mindset, I began noticing more subtle creative touches around the hotel. Staff nametags each include their personal muse, like Frida Kahlo, Elon Musk, Freddie Mercury and other icons. Breadsticks are served in paint cans at the on-site restaurant, Overture. And a recording of Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" playing through speakers made the lobby restroom a place to linger. The overall experience felt like an artists' colony that I had no interest in leaving.
With that being said, guests don't have to venture too far from the hotel to explore other creative spots around Sarasota. Art Ovation is just a short walk from art galleries, the Florida Studio Theatre and the Sarasota Opera. The hotel's complimentary shuttle can also bring visitors to farther destinations, like the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, white-sand beaches or anywhere else inspiration strikes.
Rates start at $169 per night. See https://artovationhotel.com.