Posted 18 April 2013 - 08:15 AM
There are nice hotels (and often very expensive during season) nearby, but I think if you stay on the outskirts of downtown the prices are reasonable. If money is not a problem you will find plenty of places near all three of their performance venues. They perform at the Sarasota Opera House sometimes and sometimes at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts (a very beautiful theatre actually), and the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, so PAY ATTENTION to the venue when you purchase tickets!!! All places are fairly close to each other by car though so if you discover you are at the wrong place it isn't too hard to get to the other place within minutes. Sarasota Opera House is owned by the opera company and is downtown so lots of hotels nearby within walking distance (but fairly expensive). Van Wezel is the performing arts center for touring acts, musicals, etc. and there are a couple of hotels right near it but probably expensive also. It is fairly close to downtown also. Just northeast of downtown the FSU Center is the prettiest venue, in my opinion, but it has a tiny stage (but looks like a jewel box horseshoe shaped theatre on the inside), and the hotels near that are sort of a long walk but can be walked, but it is a very, very busy intersection of two main streets. This FSU venue is mainly for plays, but Sarasota Ballet uses all three places. Sort of strange situation, I guess. I think a rental car might be best if you stay near the FSU venue. It is sort of too far to walk to downtown but in a car it is a short drive. The Ringling Museum is right next to the FSU Center. It has beautiful gardens, a mansion, and circus museum as well as art museum. It is worth a visit too.
Downtown Sarasota has experienced a Renaissance of sorts. When I lived in Tampa and first started attending Sarasota Opera for the rare Verdi operas, the downtown was dead and closed up for the evening. The restaurants were "okay," but now there are tons of wonderful restaurants, shops some that stay open at night, etc. It is really a lovely, quaint downtown now by American standards.
I think you can get by without a car once you make your way to the downtown-ish area, but I think most visitors would be happier to have a rental car for freedom of movement. Basically, I suggest a car rental.