Let me start off by saying that as a new Minnesotan, going to a warm place in the middle of winter, is the best thing ever! Ever ever! There is no greater feeling than peeling off the coats, hats, and boots in the middle of winter and throwing on a bathing suit to feel the hot sun on your skin.
Last year was our first time taking a true winter trip to Jamaica which was life-changing. I mean it. You come back truly recharged. This year we wanted and needed a little winter sunshine escape. However with our new little baby sidekick, trips are much different. Our adults only couples resort in Jamaica wasn’t going to work. No, this year we decided to head to sunny family friendly Anna Maria Island and Bradenton, Florida.
Key considerations for the trip:
Book a longer trip to make it easier to acclimate with the baby and really settle in to enjoy our time.
Stay in a house with a kitchen to make some meals (mostly lunch, breakfast and baby food).
Rent a car. Having a car made it easier to take trips to the beach, the grocery store and day trips with family.
Vacation mixed with family time. We planned time with both our families in one trip. Since it was Spring Break, the timing worked out nicely.
Spring break is busier in Bradenton and Anna Maria Island so expect a little traffic. If possible travel before or after Spring Break.
Temperatures can vary from 50s to 80s in March so check the weather before packing and going.
In a nutshell our days consisted of trips to the beach, walks, fresh seafood, ice cream, fishing and low key meals siting outside enjoying the weather. As we traveled with an 8 month old it was wonderful to spend some slower days with little to no plans aside from going for beach walks and spending mealtimes relaxing at the house or at laidback outdoor restaurants. This trip was also an active one. With perfect 70 degree weather, I was able to get several long runs in, play tennis and the hubs got lots of morning fishing in!
Must-do’s in Anna Maria Island and Bradenton:
- Go to Manatee Beach, hang out in the sand, play beach paddle and grab a bite at the Anna Marie Island Beach Cafe.
- Spend the day at Coquina beach and use one of the many available grills to cook up a beach picnic.
- Take a day trip to Sarasota, check out the marina, yachts and island park. Then grab a drink and dinner at Owen’s Fish Camp and window show the nearby boutiques.
- Watch the sunset at Manatee Beach with your toes in the sand.
- Stroll down Bridge Street Pier, hangout with the Pelicans and grab a cup of coffee.
- Go fishing at the Bridge Street Pier, City Pier or Rod and Reel Pier. Watch out for the pelicans
- Find some high school tennis courts, bring your rackets and play tennis!
- Go for a morning walk down Coquina Beach walking/bike path.
Places to eat and drink:
- Ana Maria Island Beach Café – café directly on Manatee beach, part of it literally on the sand! Grab some delicious fish and chips or island catch salad with a refreshing adult drink. Better yet go for their breakfast and all you can eat $5.99 pancakes.
- Starfish Co. – Hands down the best freshest fish in Bradenton/Sarasota! Picnic tables outside overlooking the fishing boats catching your meal and the many pelicans waiting for fish scraps. Our fav dishes: Grouper fried or blacked, shrimp, and calamari. Recommendation: to avoid the long lunch wait, go for an early dinner.
- Tyler’s Ice Cream – Delicious homemade ice cream on the road to the beach! A must-stop for an afternoon snack or after dinner dessert. Favorite flavor: Pralines and cream.
- Joe’s Ice Cream – More delicious ice cream in a fun rainbow house. Across the street from the beach! Favorite flavor: Pineapple coconut.
- Owen’s Fish Camp – Fabulous southern style restaurant in Sarasota. Fresh seafood broil is the way to go and a fun way to eat with a group. Also do not miss the fried green tomato salad. Warning, be prepared for a wait. Recommendation: check in and give your phone number, then stroll around the nearby boutiques.
- Island Creperie – yummy crepes, sweet and savory, that is a nice change from the fried fish scene.
- O’Leary’s Tiki Bar – located on Island Park in Sarasota, this is a fun place to sit outside steps from the water with a drink in hand.
- Mazzarro – Italian market, deli, wine shop, cheese shop, and bakery in St. Petersburg. Totally worth the trip to St. Pete’s. Maybe stop in on the way to or from the Tampa airport for authentic in-house roasted coffee, a killer tiramisu and tons of Italian imported treats.
If you are looking for a family friendly vacation, Anna Maria Island and Bradenton, Florida are top notch. Miles of beaches with mostly snow birds and families, great low-key restaurants with the freshest fish/ seafood, and an overall laid back island atmosphere that is fun for kids and adults.
Also a special thanks to a dear family friend who made this possible 🙂
Have questions about Anna Maria Island, Bradenton or any of the activities above? Send me a message below and let’s chat 🙂