This is going to sound super cliché, but I really believe some things happen for a reason. The reason isn’t always clear right away, and it might take time to realize what it is, but it is always there. After spending a lot of time on the east coast of Florida in Jacksonville and St. Augustine, we were looking for a change. We knew our options were limited for warm winter locations, but we needed something different, so we looked into the west coast of Florida because neither of us had been there before.
We looked into the Clearwater/Tampa area, and found a great place in our price range, which was in a town called Bradenton, Fl. On the Airbnb map, it looked to be really close to Clearwater/Tampa but it ended up being almost an hour away. I was disappointed at first, until I started looking into Bradenton and Anna Maria Island…a true blessing in disguise!
First of all our hosts were the nicest people ever. It was evident that they love being hosts, because they make every effort to make your stay enjoyable. We even had dinner with them one night, and they also treated us to handmade arepas and empanadas! YUM! If you ever want to stay with a nice Columbian couple who will care for you like their own kids, stay with them by CLICKING HERE.
Bradenton, FL is about directly in between Sarasota and St Petersburg, and a short drive over Cortez or Manatee would bring you to the most beautiful beaches! Anna Maria Island is such a wonderful place, with cute vacation rentals, no high rises, fun beach bars and restaurants, and many beach options.
In just a 30 minute drive, you are in Sarasota, which has a lot going for it! In Sarasota, you will find a great shopping and dining area called St Armand Circle, Lido beach which is small, quiet and beautiful, and lots of fun things to do! We went to The Ringling Museum on a Monday, which was FREE! The free pass only gives you access to the art museum which was really nice. We would have liked to see the circus museum and the Ca’ d’Zan home, but the art museum and rose garden were still very nice to see on a free Monday!
Also in Sarasota is the Big Top Brewing Company, where we met up with one of the members from the Y I used to work at. We had a great time catching up, sampling the great beers they had, and trying a peanut butter burger (much better than it sounds!)
Outside at the Rose Garden! I really loved the peach colored roses!
The special exhibit by Anne Patterson called Pathless Woods. There were tons of hanging rainbow ribbons that you could walk through which was really fun! Check out the video below to see what it was like inside!
BRADENTON, FL EATS
We found a few gems right near us, including Ellas Greek Food, a Fast Greek Food restaurant! They had great prices, fresh yummy food, and we both fell in love with taramasalata dip! Fratello’s Pizza was right near us, and had excellent Chicago style pizza. We visited the Bridge Tender Inn dockside bar which nice, and the Island Time Bar and Grill a few times, where we met some interesting people from Idaho and Switzerland! This is a fun place for live music ! We came to watch the Pats one night, but unfortunately they didn’t have the sound on because of the game. Boo!
If you are looking for an indoor activity, the Red Barn Flea Market is really cool! We went on our first day because it was cold and rainy out. They really have everything there, including a farmers market, which had some great prices on produce, collectibles, tag sale type items, t-shirts, and a lot more!
BEACHES AND SUNSETS
Being on the west coast, you will get amazing sunsets every night, and if you are lucky, you will see some dolphins! Coquina Beach, Lido Beach, Homes Beach off of White Ave, and Manatee Beach were just some of the places we visited and caught a sunset at. The causeway is another great place to pull over, and enjoy a sunset. We actually did this one night after booking a sunset cruise, which was cancelled after we got there, so we took our picnic tailgate to the causeway, and had a great time!
Sunset tailgate picnic at Palma Sola Causeway! Sunset cruise was cancelled after we packed all these goodies! Couldn’t let the food or sunset go to waste!
If you are looking to get some fresh air, see some pretty sights and get some exercise in, visit De Soto Memorial Park and Robinson Preserve! We came to these places almost every day to get a run or a walk in. At Robinson, they have a cool observation tower where you can see the bridge to St Petersburg and beyond.
Speaking of St Petersburg….in just about a 40 minute drive, you can get there, and visit an amazing art museum, The Dali. This museum holds the largest collection of Salvador Dali’s work, outside of Europe. His work is really interesting surrealism, with lots of double images to see and ponder on. We were lucky enough to also see the Frida Kahlo exhibit that day as well.
Bradenton, FL was a great experience for us, because we got to see a whole side of Florida that we had never been to, too many sunsets to count, and another potential place to live on our list! Sunsets, beautiful beaches, nice people, and affordable living? Sign me up! What started out as a mistake, turned into a blessing in disguise! Funny how things work out like that….!