RE: cool accomodations?
I love Sarasota. I went to college there - it is my favourite beach town. There are a lot of places to stay in Sarasota, but, you're right, most of them are pretty old and generic. My favourite place to stay is the Gulf Beach Motel, but I don't think that's really your bag. To my knowledge, the Ritz-Carlton is the only resort in Sarasota that offers a full spa treatment. It's off of US 41 - - not on the beach, but near the bridge to the keys.
If I were you, I'd rent a car, stay a private rental house (you can find listings on the internet . . . try longboat or siesta key) or stay in any little hotel on Ben Franklin Drive, and buy your wife a gift certificate to an in-town spa. The Pineapple Holistic Spa is nice.
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