Square sights in South Florida
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Conceived and initially developed by John Ringling in the 1920s, St Armand's Circle is essentially an upscale outdoor shopping mall surrounded by posh residences. Yet even more than downtown, this traffic circle is Sarasota's social center; it's where everyone strolls in the early evening, window shopping and buying souvenir T-shirts while enjoying a Kilwin's waffle cone. Numerous restaurants, from diners to fine dining, serve all day. The circle is also an unavoidable traffic chokepoint; mid-morning and late-afternoon beach commutes are worst.
Take all those energies, subcultures and oddities of Keys life – the hippies, the rednecks, the foreigners and, of course, the tourists – and focus them into one torchlit, family-friendly (but playfully edgy), sunset-enriched street party. The child of all these raucous forces is Mallory Sq, one of the greatest shows on Earth. It all begins as the sun starts to set, a sign for the madness that it's OK to break out. Watch a dog walk a tightrope, a man swallow fire, British acrobats tumble and sass each other. Have a beer. And a conch fritter. And wait for the sun to dip behind the ocean and for the carnival to really get going.