March 09, 2015

Scenes from Anna Maria Island

This time last year we were lucky enough to go to Anna Maria Island for spring break. I never really posted about it but because it is spring training now and the area is advertised as a travel destination to Pittsburghers (due to its proximity to Bradenton, where Pirates spring training camp is held annually) I thought I should share our experience.

Since we are big baseball fans, we decided to visit Pirates spring training camp and festivities for the first time last March. We settled on Anna Maria Island as our primary destination. It takes about a half hour to get to either Pirate City or McKechnie Field. My mother-in-law located a cute little beach house to rent about six houses away from the shore on a very quiet block. We flew into Tampa and drove from there which took a little over an hour. We had a great trip and if you go, we especially liked:

Star Fish Company
Anna Maria Donuts
Mixon's Citrus Farm (next to Pirate City)
Eat Here Restaurant
Mazzaros (in St. Petersburg, where we stopped on our trips from and to the airport in Tampa)
Ellenton Premium Outlets (It has an Off Fifth and a Kate Spade factory store)
Ginny's and Jane E's Bakery Cafe
Sandbar Restaurant (try to time it so you are there for the sunset!)

If you plan to stay in Anna Maria Island but also want to visit Pirates training camp or go to games, you will definitely need a car. I would recommend one regardless because although Anna Maria Island is walkable and has some cute little shops and restaurants, the broader area is not very walkable and didn't seem to be served by comprehensive public transit.

The Anna Maria Island beaches were clean, quiet, and uncrowded. We also visited Holmes Beach which was lovely but much busier, particularly in areas that offered large public parking lots and nice, well-kept playgrounds. I can't speak to the area's night life because I didn't explore it but I'm sure it's available. You won't find many tall hotels lining the coast though. The bulk of properties are single family homes of varying sizes. The pace of everything there was pretty relaxed and just about everyone we met was friendly and kind. When we'd walk up and down the shore, many people complimented Emilia's or Chris's Pirates gear and asked us if we were from Pittsburgh. We felt right at home!

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