Manatee County

Anna Maria Island at a Glance
Anna Maria Island just may be one of the most unpretentious places left on the planet. No one’s consulting their schedule via web-enabled cellular device, or looking at the logo on your shirt. They’re too busy with more important activities – like eating grouper sandwiches at funky little beach bars, kayaking with dolphins in Palma Sola Bay, fishing from an old wooden pier, or watching the sky turn 10 shades of beautiful as the sun settles into the Gulf of Mexico. Life is simple here and good – and even if you come for only a few days, you come away feeling better for that.

Longboat Key at a Glance
If Anna Maria Island is a bit of a beach bum, then Longboat Key is her more sophisticated seaside cousin. Quiet, leisurely and relatively upscale, Longboat Key lures visitors who want a bit of pampering. Here, travelers dine well on globally-inspired cuisine and fresh seafood, shop in small boutiques, and gaze at the impossibly green waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The Key is perfectly sandwiched between the beachy playfulness of Anna Maria Island to the north – and the nightlife, restaurants and culture of St. Armands Circle and adjacent downtown Sarasota, just a few minutes to the south.

Bradenton at a Glance
There’s plenty to do in Bradenton, making it a great spot to take a break from the beach. Visitors will find a vibrant downtown with restaurants, galleries and boutiques along with the South Florida Museum (home to Snooty, quite possibly the world’s most famous manatee) as well as a planetarium, science and natural history exhibits. Visitors can shop and explore Village of the Arts, a working artists’ community or check out Emerson Point Preserve archaeological site and Gamble Plantation (once a working antebellum sugar plantation), and the historic fishing village of Cortez. Just off of I-75, Prime Outlets-Ellenton – with scores of stores including Saks OFF 5th, COACH Factory, and more – is a must-do for shoppers. The Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex, near the outlet mall, offers a fun way to get out of the sun.

Lakewood Ranch at a Glance
Lakewood Ranch began its life as a planned residential community, but it’s grown up now, becoming an attractive place for visitors too. Most spend their time exploring the upscale boutique shops and restaurants on Main Street (there’s everything from a Parisian café to a Scottish pub to Russian restaurant to a sushi place), or catching a mainstream or indie flick at the small movie theater. There’s a good chance you may wander into an event while visiting: farmers markets, festivals and concerts are held regularly, including "Music on Main" (free and held the first Friday of every month). A great deal of Lakewood Ranch is set aside as park or public recreational space, and visitors can take advantage of the area’s playgrounds and miles of walking and jogging trails.

Sarasota International Airport