Who Goes? A mix of people depending on the time of year. People that like laid back beaching, folks interested in world class fishing and boating, artists, and families. You will not generally find the glitterati – but I’ve seen more than one famous actress, sports star or singer. They like it because no one bothers them and it’s low key. HOW FAR AWAY IS THE AIRPORT? There are several airports that are nearby. Sarasota (SRQ) is approximately 35 minutes Tampa (TPA) is 1 hour and 30 minutes Clearwater/St. Petersburg (PIE) is approximately 1 hour DO I NEED A CAR? WHATS TRANSPORTATION LIKE? It’s easy to drive around -and you will need a car to explore Sarasota, St. Pete, etc – but on the island there is a free trolley that runs until 10:00Pm or so. This makes using your car on the island almost unnecessary. WHAT ARE THE BEACHES LIKE? Mostly powdery white sand with some crushed shells. 7 mile stretch of beach provides great beach walking and jogging. Generally a calm surf with 2-3 foot waves. Gets deep quick but there is usually a visible sandbar. FISHING OR BEACH DURING THE DAY , WHAT ABOUT NIGHT? Good restaurants for all interests are on the island, including 2 of the best in Florida. Most places are casual. Nearby is a much wider selection in Sarasota or St. Pete. Most bars are your typical beach bars, though I will tell you the live music is often outstanding. Don’t be surprised if someone famous or nearly famous joins in. Wider selection in Sarasota which is close by. generally the “sidewalk rolls up at 11pm” – people want to get to the beach or out fishing the next day! Get the free Anna Maria Island Sun and Islander newspapers (weekly papers with new additions on wednesday) for activities, shopping, restaurant, and live music ideas. They also have websites – www.amisun.com and www.islander.org ITS RAINING! WHAT CAN I DO? A nap is always a great idea. Rain is typically short lived – it’s rare there is a full rainy day. Fishing in the rain is terrific and one of the public piers has gazebos so you don’t get wet. Nearby there are antique and art stores aplenty, along with museums such as the Ringling Museum and Ca’ d’ Zan. Mote Marine center is good in the rain and there is always outlet shopping in Ellenton or high end browsing at St. Armand’s Circle in Sarasota. Busch Gardens in tampa is always an idea. IM A SPORTS FAN , WHO PLAYS? If you are here in March – SPRING TRAINING BASEBALL! Over 5 teams play within a hour of Anna Maria. Then April-September is minor league baseball – great for kids!or Tampa Bay Devil Rays in St. Pete. Tampa has american football September to January, Indoor american football January to May, NHL Hockey Oct to May. there is plenty of golf, tennis, kayaking, boating, fishing right on the island or nearby. I HAVE TEENS . ANYTHING FOR THEM? You bet. There’s mini-golf just off island, fishing, two libraries with internet access, bike rentals, boat rentals, windsurfer rentals, kayaking, skim board lessons (by a local teen who is awesome!), parasailing, tennis, golf and a whole lot more. Busch Gardens Amusement Park (Year round) and Adventure Island water park (seasonal) in Tampa is great too. WHAT ARE SOME SPOTS FOR LOCALS? If I told you, it wouldn’t be a secret! However one tip – locals tend to go “opposite” the sun. Morning breakfast at the beach, dinner towards the bay-side. And, there are a number of great places off island or in St. Pete or Sarasota. Ask us! many of the privateers (see below) live on island or stop in at the very helpful chamber of commerce. The AMI Sun newspaper has a best of edition that is also on their website. I’m not going to say the voting is rigged 😉 , but generally the recommendations are dead on. WHAT'S THERE TO DO WITH LITTLE KIDS? The entire island loves kids -it’s something we hear all the time. There are 3 large playgrounds for young kids. Little ones love the beach – even in the rain!. The quiet beach by the Anna Maria City pier, or south island by the bayside park near cocina beach, is a great place for little ones to learn to swim – many island kids learned there and since it faces east – it is more protected from the sun than the gulf beach side. Fishing – especially crabbing – is something that holds the attention of little ones. Mote marine center or a trip to the pelican man island bird sanctuary is also something most little ones love. That said, when my kids were young they loved the trolley that runs the entire length of the island. They would ride it (with us) for hours. Other alternatives are the Zoo in Tampa, the Aquarium in Tampa – great kids “explore the shore” area — bring a suit and towel. TELL ME ABOUT THE THEME PARKS About 90-120 minutes away by a clearly marked interstate. Go to the trip adviser Disney World/Orlando forum for the scoop – but my suggestion that I make to my guests is – If you want to go to Disney, either do it before or after your island stay. It’s a long tiring day to do it in the middle. Busch gardens, however in Tampa is VERY doable in a day – especially on a cloudy/rainy one. Many of our guests who are flying in come in Orlando – do Disney/Orlando for 2 days then come to Anna Maria and fly out Tampa. There typically is not a rental car drop off fee in the state of Florida so you can rent in Orlando and drop in Tampa. I'M NOT FROM THE US AND MY ENGLISH IS NOT THAT GREAT - WILL THAT BE A PROBLEM? We might understand you better than some of our visitors from other parts of the US! Seriously, you generally will have no problems if you are a foreigner. The island hosts tourists from all over and many people speak French, Spanish, or German. (Unlike Europe – not all 3!). You’ll be amazed what you can accomplish with pointing and sign language! There is a large supermarket on island and shopping so if you are concerned about driving – that’s OK – take the trolley. What you won’t find are the things you might get “at home” – though, especially for our British visitors, that’s getting better (Cheeses! Pimms!) Be sure the kids try peanut butter and jelly sandwiches – an american kid staple. HOW DO I DRESS/ACT LIKE A LOCAL? Anna Maria is casual and locals are friendly and laid back. Leave the sense of urgency at home or at work – You’re on holiday! That means shorts/shirts during the day – and the same at night – unless you are cold and want to wear long pants or a skirt. The thing you need to remember is that the sun is strong year round. Wear sunscreen and sunglasses even if you are not going to the beach. Most people don’t wear white socks with sandals ;). The island is generally biting bug free during the day, you may get some mosquitos at dawn and dusk. Bug spray helps. If you see two bugs flying together – they don’t bite – they are called love bugs. You typically don’t have to worry about sand fleas like other places. Most locals use a chair and a take a cooler to the beach, as well as an umbrella. The sun is strong. ANY DANGERS OR ANNOYANCES I SHOULD KNOW ABOUT? While crime is very low, never leave valuables in your car at the public beaches. Do what the locals do and take only what you need to the beach and if you have valuables like your wallet, don’t put them in your beach bag, but bury it in a plastic bag near your chair/blanket. WHERE DO I GO IF SOMEONE IN MY PARTY GETS SICK? There are two very good hospitals within 8 miles of the island with 24hr emergency service. There is a private clinic open late on/near the island. There are a number of pharmacies open until 11pm and off-island 5 miles close by is a 24 hour pharmacy. WHAT ABOUT THE RED TIDE I KEEP HEARING ABOUT? It’s a fact of nature that been with us for centuries. Summer is usually worse, winter is almost always red tide free. We have had years with none the entire year, and other years where is seems more persistent. While it smells (due to the dead fish) generally the only affect for humans is just at the beach – coughing and watery eyes when it is bad – which is rare. The water is generally safe. It’s caused by a naturally occurring organism that likes sunlight and nitrogen. Consequently when there are warm days in succession and low winds it tends to flare up. But it is spotty. I’ve sat on my beach and had a great day – when up the beach 20 miles it’s awful. More information and a “red tide forecast” can be found here: http://www.floridamarine.org WHAT'S THE PIRATE SHIP AND THE PIRATEERS I SEE? Ah, something unique to Anna Maria. The pirateers are local civic leaders who raise money for scholarships and good causes. They dress for events in pirate costumes and they have a pirate ship float they use. While you are here they may be out for a parade, blood drive, fund raising or other event – Join in the fun and donations are welcome – and they go to good local causes.