A Travel Price Comparison for Florida Gainesville vs. Sarasota for Families, Attractions, Nightlife, and Food

Should you visit Gainesville or Sarasota?

Which is cheaper to visit? Which is more expensive for vacation?

If you're trying to decide where to visit between Gainesville or Sarasota, this travel comparison, which includes costs, can help. The overall cost of travel is usually a consideration when deciding where to go next, and the cost comparison down below can help you decide based on the average prices from other travelers along with your own travel budget.

Gainesville

Gainesville is a vibrant, high energy, and active city. Visitors also love the museums, nightlife, and food.

Sarasota

Sarasota is a underrated, relaxing, and entertaining city. It's also known for museums, nightlife, and food.

Gainesville and Sarasota: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for students
Things to Consider
  • Less family-friendly
  • Less popular with backpackers
Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Nice resorts
  • Popular beach
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
Things to Consider
  • Less popular with backpackers


Is there more to do in Gainesville or Sarasota?

Travelers will generally find more things to do in Sarasota than Gainesville. While Gainesville is larger than Sarasota, Sarasota has more sights and attractions for tourists. Sarasota is very popular for its resorts and beaches, while Gainesville attracts visitors for its nightlife. Sarasota is more touristy than Gainesville and is popular for its sandy beaches and its fun activities. It is also well known for the John and Mable Ringling Museum. Gainesville is famous for being the home of the University of Florida

How is Gainesville different from Sarasota?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

Let's take a look at the differences and similarities between Sarasota and Gainesville. Then, you can decide for yourself which place is better for your next trip.

Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Gainesville or Sarasota?

Gainesville
Sarasota

Both Gainesville and Sarasota have great landmarks and museums for visitors.

With a variety of museums, monuments, and historical sights, a trip to Gainesville can be an interesting and educational experience. There's a surprising number of museums around town such as the Florida Museum of Natural History, the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, and the Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention. Also fascinating is the Historic Haile Homestead, the Butterfly Rainforest, and the city's planetarium.

You'll find a good number of museums and monuments packed into Sarasota. There are some decent museums in town such as the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, the Sarasota Classic Car Museum, and the Ca' da'Zan. Another highlight is the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium.


Is the Food Better in Gainesville or Sarasota? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Gainesville
Sarasota

Both Gainesville and Sarasota offer nice local cuisine and restaurants.

Gainesville offers number of good local restaurants to choose from. Casual eateries are popular around town, particularly with the student population. There are grills, diners, and bistros that serve local dishes at affordable prices.

Sarasota has a delicious restaurant scene that relies on local flavors. You'll find plenty of seafood around town, but there are also international restaurants and quirky local joints.

Is Gainesville or Sarasota Better for Nightlife?

Gainesville
Sarasota

Gainesville is great for nightlife and partying. Also, Sarasota is not as popular, but is still a nice city for its evening party scene.

Many people head to Gainesville for the nightlife scene. The nightlife centers around the student population. The two main party areas are Midtown and Downtown. Midtown is between Northwest 17th Street and Northwest 18th Street and it's convenient for students who live on campus. The area has a great stretch of bars and clubs. The Downtown area has many of the city's top clubs, and it's popular with upperclassmen and students who live off campus.

There's a variety of activities in the evening in Sarasota. You'll find beach clubs, live entertainment such as drum circles, and plenty of bars around town. There are also evening cruises and late night parties.

Is Gainesville or Sarasota Better for Resorts?

Gainesville
Sarasota

Sarasota is a nice place to visit for its resorts. However, Gainesville is not a resort destination.

Sarasota has a handful of resorts to choose from. You'll find beachfront resorts with pools and nice views.

Gainesville is not a resort destination.


Is Gainesville or Sarasota Better for Beaches?

Gainesville
Sarasota

Sarasota is a nice place to visit for its beaches. However, Gainesville is not a beach destination.

Sarasota has a beach worth visiting. There's no shortage of beaches in the area where you can spend a relaxing day playing the water and lounging in the sun. Siesta Key, Sarasota Gay Beach, Crescent Beach, and Coquina Beach are some of the favorites.

Gainesville is not a beach destination.

Is the Shopping Better in Gainesville or Sarasota?

Gainesville
Sarasota

Both Gainesville and Sarasota are nice shopping destinations.

Gainesville is a great destination for shopping. You'll find all of the standard shopping options around town such as malls, shopping centers, and retail outlets. Two popular areas are the Neighborhoods at Butler and Celebration Pointe.

Shopping is a popular activity when visiting Sarasota. Upscale shopping can be found at St. Armand's Circle. There's also Sarasota Square Mall and the Mall at University Town Center. If you want to pick up some local items you can check out Sarasota Farmers Market.

Is Gainesville or Sarasota Better for Families?

Gainesville
Sarasota

Sarasota is very popular for its family-friendly activities. Also, Gainesville is not as famous, but is still a good city to visit for its kid-friendly activities.

Sarasota is an amazing family-friendly city to visit. There's a huge number of hands on activities for kids and families in the area. Many families enjoy a visit to Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium. There are also botanical gardens, science museums, and outdoor adventure centers. Animal lovers will appreciate a visit to Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary. The city also has many performing arts and entertainment options for kids. And make sure you check out the museum dedicated to the Ringling Brothers Circus.

Gainesville is a family-friendly city. You'll find outdoor activities, nature parks, and a couple of museums that will appeal to all ages. Highlights for families include A. Quinn Jones Museum and Cultural Center, the Adventure Outpost, and Alfred A. Ring Park.


Is Gainesville or Sarasota Better for Couples?

Gainesville
Sarasota

Gainesville and Sarasota are both nice to visit as a couple.

Gainesville is a nice destination for couples. Couples can enjoy wine tasting and fine dining or enjoying the city's many outdoor activities. Go on a picnic or explore one of the museums in Downtown Gainesville.

Sarasota makes for a fun place to visit for a couple. A night out at St. Armands Circle is a fun way to spend the evening. There are also sunset cruises, nice restaurants, comedy clubs, and more.

Is Gainesville or Sarasota Better for Students?

Gainesville
Sarasota

Gainesville is great for its student-friendly activities. However, Sarasota is not popular with students.

Many students visit Gainesville. As the location of the University of Florida, you'll find many students around town. This keeps the energy high with plenty of evening activities and affordable entertainment options.

Sarasota is not popular with students.

Is Gainesville or Sarasota Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?

Gainesville
Sarasota

Gainesville is a good destination for times when you don't have a car. However, Sarasota is not a good destination for its public transit.

While Gainesville offers some public transit options, it might not be your first choice. There's a decent bus system that's free to students and employees of the university.

Public transit is generally limited in Sarasota. There's a bus system around town but most visitors depend on their own car for transportation.


Is Gainesville or Sarasota a more walkable city?

Gainesville
Sarasota

Gainesville is a good destination for its high level of walkability. However, Sarasota is not a good destination for its ease of walking around.

Gainesville is a somewhat walkable place. Biking is actually a popular way to get around town and some areas are pedestrian-friendly.

Sarasota is generally not very walkable. While the downtown has some walkable parts, you'll need a car to access most things around town.

For even more information, also check out Is Gainesville Worth Visiting? and Is Sarasota Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in Sarasota or Gainesville?

How long in Gainesville or Sarasota?

In either Gainesville or Sarasota, you'll find plenty of activities to fill your time. Most visitors tend to spend more time in Sarasota than Gainesville because of the overall number of sights and activities. Usually, 1-2 days is a good amount of time for Gainesville, and 2-5 days is enough time in Sarasota.

Families should spend more time in Sarasota than Gainesville. Because of the many family-friendly attractions and fun things to do for kids in Sarasota, it's a great place to visit with the whole family.

Couples should spend more time in Gainesville than Sarasota. You'll find plenty of romantic sights and fun activities in Gainesville that are great for a weekend getaway or a longer couple's trip.

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Gainesville than Sarasota if your budget allows for it. With a larger number of budget-friendly sights, good nightlife, and active things to do, anyone traveling on a budget would have a good time in Gainesville.


  • How many days in Gainesville or Sarasota? Ideal Length of Stay
    Gainesville 1-2 
    Sarasota 2-5

One day in Gainesville or Sarasota?

The city of Gainesville offers food and shopping. With all of its activities, you can easily fill one day here. It will give you the chance to have new experiences.

Visitors enjoy the nightlife and food when visiting the entertaining city of Sarasota. One day is usually not enough time for a trip here as there is plenty to do. The entire region has so many activities, and you'll want time to do everything.

A weekend in Gainesville or Sarasota?

Gainesville is a popular place that is full of things to see and experience. If you have a weekend, this city makes for a great vacation. While some people choose to spend more or less time in Gainesville, a weekend is sufficent for most. Take your pick from the many activities offered here.

Visitors enjoy the food and shopping when visiting the underrated destination of Sarasota. This city offers something for everyone. Plenty of people spend a weekend in the area when traveling. If you enjoy all that's offered here, then a weekend is just the right amount of time to spend here.


Five days in Gainesville or Sarasota?

Gainesville is a popular choice for travelers. Five days is usually plenty of time to spend here with extra days to spare. With this much time, visitors often visit nearby destinations or take day trips. The entire region has so many activities, and you'll want time to do everything.

Visitors enjoy the shopping and museums when visiting the entertaining city of Sarasota. Many people spend five days here.If you enjoy all that's offered here, then five days is just the right amount of time to spend here. The length of your trip often depends on your style of travel.

A week in Gainesville or Sarasota?

Gainesville is a great place to explore. One week is more than enough time to enjoy everything. Take some day trips to nearby places to fill the extra days. This city offers something for everyone.

Many people enjoy the museums and nightlife when visiting Sarasota. Anyone can find something fun to do here. Most people find that one week is more than enough time to see everything.


For some great organized tour ideas, see The Best 2-Week Tours in United States of America, The Best 3-Week Tours in United States of America, The Best Bicycle Tours in United States of America, and Tours for Outdoor and Nature Lovers in United States of America.


Which place is cheaper, Sarasota or Gainesville?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

The average daily cost (per person) in Gainesville is $221, while the average daily cost in Sarasota is $249. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each destination. What follows is a categorical breakdown of travel costs for Gainesville and Sarasota in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Gainesville $119
    Sarasota $108
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Gainesville $238
    Sarasota $216
Compare Hotels in Gainesville and Sarasota

Looking for a hotel in Gainesville or Sarasota? Prices vary by location, date, season, and the level of luxury. See below for options and compare which is best for your budget and travel style.

Hotels in Gainesville


Hotels in Sarasota


Kayak helps you find the best prices for hotels, flights, and rental cars for destinations around the world. Compare prices for multiple destinations when planning your next trip.


Our Analysis
We've analyzed the average and typical hotel prices based on guest reviews, star ratings, and hotel amenities here: Gainesville Hotel Prices and Sarasota Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Gainesville $40
    Sarasota -

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Sarasota

Also for Sarasota, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:

  • Sarasota–Bradenton Intl. Airport (SRQ) to Sarasota - Arrival Private Transfer: $48
  • Sarasota to Sarasota–Bradenton Intl. Airport (SRQ) - Departure Private Transfer: $48
  • Sarasota–Bradenton Airport (SRQ) to Sarasota Round-Trip Transfer: $96

Is it cheaper to fly into Gainesville or Sarasota?

Prices for flights to both Sarasota and Gainesville change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.





Food
  • Food Meals for one day
    Gainesville $70
    Sarasota $137
Typical Food Prices in Gainesville

Some typical examples of dining costs in Gainesville are as follows:


  • Diner Breakfast for Two
    $17
  • Lunch at Chop Stix (for 2)
    $24

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Sarasota

For Sarasota, here are some samples of tours and activities related to meals and dining experiences:

  • Taste of Downtown Food Tour: $105
  • Downtown Walking Food Tour in Sarasota: $110

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Gainesville $44
    Sarasota $11
Typical Entertainment Prices in Gainesville

Some typical examples of activities, tours, and entrance ticket prices in Gainesville are as follows:


  • Manatee Tour for Two
    $98
  • Tour Guide Tip
    $5.00

Tours and Activities in Gainesville

Some specific costs of activities, tours, and entrance tickets for Gainesville are as follows:

  • Butterfly Rainforest at Florida Museum of Natural History Ticket: $15
  • Private Snorkeling Tour in Florida Springs: $250
  • Unique Scavenger Hunt Experience in Gainesville by Operation City Quest: $10

Tours and Activities in Sarasota

Also, here are some specific examples of entertainment, tickets, and activities for Sarasota.

  • Palmetto: Haunted History Guided Walking Tour: $30
  • Adventure and Wildlife Watch Kayak Rentals in Sarasota: $50
  • Mangroves, Manatees, and a Hidden Beach: Kayak Tour: $50
  • 2 Hours Guided Robinson Preserve Mangrove Tour: $55
  • Sharkey's Glass Bottom Fish Feeding LED Night Tour in Sarasota: $55
  • Siesta Key Kayak Tour : $57
  • Kayak Paddling Experience at The Bay Park: $58
  • Sarasota Guided Mangrove Tunnel Kayak Tour: $59
  • Sarasota Mangrove Tunnel Guided Kayak Adventure: $59
  • Siesta Key Guided Eco Tour: $59
  • Sunset Kayak Experience with Dolphin Sightseeing: $60
  • Osprey: Guided Dolphin and Manatee SUP or Kayaking Tour: $65

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Gainesville $49
    Sarasota -


When comparing the travel costs between Gainesville and Sarasota, we can see that Sarasota is more expensive. However, the two cities are actually relatively comparable in price, as the difference is somewhat minimal. Generally, this means that you could travel with generally the same travel style and level of luxury in each place. Since both cities are in North America, it's no surprise that their costs are relatively close, as many destinations here have somewhat similar travel prices overall.

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is Gainesville Expensive? and Is Sarasota Expensive?.


Which is Bigger, Gainesville or Sarasota?

Gainesville has a larger population, and is about 2 times larger than the population of Sarasota. When comparing the sizes of Gainesville and Sarasota, keep in mind that a larger population does not always imply the destination has more attractions or better activities. So, always research the type of place that you want to visit along with the activities and attractions that interest you.


When is the best time to visit Gainesville or Sarasota?

Both places have a temperate climate with four distinct seasons. As both cities are in the northern hemisphere, summer is in July and winter is in January.

Should I visit Gainesville or Sarasota in the Summer?

The summer brings many poeple to Gainesville as well as Sarasota. Many travelers come to Gainesville for the family-friendly experiences. Additionally, many visitors come to Sarasota in the summer for the beaches and the family-friendly experiences.

In the summer, Gainesville is around the same temperature as Sarasota. Typically, the summer temperatures in Gainesville in July average around 81°F (27°C), and Sarasota averages at about 82°F (28°C).

It's quite rainy in Sarasota. Gainesville receives a lot of rain in the summer. Gainesville usually gets less rain in July than Sarasota. Gainesville gets 6.8 inches (174 mm) of rain, while Sarasota receives 8.4 inches (214 mm) of rain this time of the year.


  • Summer Average Temperatures July
    Gainesville 81°F (27°C) 
    Sarasota 82°F (28°C)

Should I visit Gainesville or Sarasota in the Autumn?

Both Sarasota and Gainesville are popular destinations to visit in the autumn with plenty of activities. Many visitors come to Gainesville in the autumn for the shopping scene. Also, most visitors come to Sarasota for the shopping scene during these months.

In October, Gainesville is generally cooler than Sarasota. Daily temperatures in Gainesville average around 71°F (22°C), and Sarasota fluctuates around 76°F (24°C).

In October, Gainesville usually receives less rain than Sarasota. Gainesville gets 2 inches (51 mm) of rain, while Sarasota receives 2.6 inches (65 mm) of rain each month for the autumn. June to November is the hurricane season in Gainesville. June to November is the hurricane season in Sarasota.


  • Autumn Average Temperatures October
    Gainesville 71°F (22°C) 
    Sarasota 76°F (24°C)

Should I visit Gainesville or Sarasota in the Winter?

Both Sarasota and Gainesville during the winter are popular places to visit. Most visitors come to Gainesville for the museums, the shopping scene, and the cuisine during these months. Also, the winter months attract visitors to Sarasota because of the museums, the shopping scene, and the cuisine.

Gainesville is cooler than Sarasota in the winter. The daily temperature in Gainesville averages around 54°F (12°C) in January, and Sarasota fluctuates around 59°F (15°C).

Gainesville usually gets more rain in January than Sarasota. Gainesville gets 2.9 inches (75 mm) of rain, while Sarasota receives 2.3 inches (59 mm) of rain this time of the year.


  • Winter Average Temperatures January
    Gainesville 54°F (12°C) 
    Sarasota 59°F (15°C)

Should I visit Gainesville or Sarasota in the Spring?

The spring attracts plenty of travelers to both Gainesville and Sarasota. Also, the beaches are the main draw to Sarasota this time of year.

In the spring, Gainesville is cooler than Sarasota. Typically, the spring temperatures in Gainesville in April average around 69°F (20°C), and Sarasota averages at about 73°F (23°C).

In April, Gainesville usually receives around the same amount of rain as Sarasota. Gainesville gets 2 inches (50 mm) of rain, while Sarasota receives 2.1 inches (53 mm) of rain each month for the spring. June to November in Gainesville is the hurricane season. June to November in Sarasota is the hurricane season.


  • Spring Average Temperatures April
    Gainesville 69°F (20°C) 
    Sarasota 73°F (23°C)

Typical Weather for Sarasota and Gainesville

Gainesville Sarasota
Temp (°C) Rain (mm) Temp (°C) Rain (mm)
Jan 54°F (12°C) 2.9 inches (75 mm) 59°F (15°C) 2.3 inches (59 mm)
Feb 57°F (14°C) 4.5 inches (115 mm) 62°F (17°C) 2.9 inches (73 mm)
Mar 63°F (17°C) 3.3 inches (83 mm) 67°F (20°C) 3.9 inches (99 mm)
Apr 69°F (20°C) 2 inches (50 mm) 73°F (23°C) 2.1 inches (53 mm)
May 75°F (24°C) 3.1 inches (79 mm) 78°F (25°C) 2.4 inches (61 mm)
Jun 80°F (26°C) 6.8 inches (174 mm) 82°F (28°C) 6.5 inches (165 mm)
Jul 81°F (27°C) 6.8 inches (174 mm) 82°F (28°C) 8.4 inches (214 mm)
Aug 81°F (27°C) 8.3 inches (211 mm) 82°F (28°C) 8 inches (203 mm)
Sep 78°F (26°C) 5.5 inches (139 mm) 81°F (27°C) 6.3 inches (161 mm)
Oct 71°F (22°C) 2 inches (51 mm) 76°F (24°C) 2.6 inches (65 mm)
Nov 63°F (17°C) 2.4 inches (61 mm) 69°F (20°C) 1.8 inches (45 mm)
Dec 56°F (14°C) 2.9 inches (74 mm) 62°F (17°C) 2.2 inches (56 mm)