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Trip Report Anna Maria Island Trip

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Just back from a great trip to Anna Maria Island. We stayed at the Palm Tree Villas in Holmes Beach, a great little property about a block from the beach.

Restaurants we recommend:
Rod n Reel Pier Restaurant - if you can't get seated inside, simply order at the bar on the first floor and eat out on the pier. Watch the sunset, the people fishing off of the pier and spot the dolphins. Pitchers of beer were $6.95. Food was good.

Tyler's Ice cream (Bradenton and on Manatee)

Joses Real Cuban (Bradenton) - Small hole-in-the-wall place serving authentic Cuban food. Great portions, flavor and price. There is a Tyler's down the road from here. Although the place was tiny, the family seated behind us lived about 10 minutes from us, and a man seated at the counter has family one town over from us. NJ is everywhere!

Skinny's - small dive bar across the street from Manatee Public Beach that serves great burgers. A few tables inside and some outside. Order at the bar and they call your name when the food is ready. Cash only.

Café on the Beach - Holmes Beach - All you can eat pancakes $5.99 . Need I say more?

Hub Bar & Grill - Siesta Key
Had a nice lunch here. Great vibe. Live guitarist playing in the mid-afternoon.


BEACHES
We swam a lot in Holmes Beach at 66th. Water was clear, sand was beautiful. Sunsets were beautiful. No facilities here so it's mostly locals or vacationers renting close by. On two different days we had a manatee swim within a couple of feet of us .... so amazing!

Manatee Public Beach was busy as we were there on a Saturday. Shops, restaurants, restrooms, shower were there. Beach was large.

Siesta Key Public Beach
My favorite. Expansive white sand beach. Food, facilities and lifeguards on site. Nearby town had quaint shops and restaurants.

Turtle Beach
Not impressed. Beach was tiny, sand was very coarse and hot. Not sure why this sand was so different from the beaches nearby. Water dropped off dramatically compared to the other beaches.

ACTIVITIES
Very easy to rent bicycles and other beach equipment from the shops around. Although many people like biking, I did not find too many bike lanes where we were and would not have felt comfortable riding alongside the traffic. I suggest you drive around and check out the area before committing to a bike rental.

Tampa Bay Rays baseball - took a trip out to this indoor stadium to catch a game.

Busch Gardens - we bought a one-day pass with dining option online for $95. (go through ebates.com) Consider adding this dining option as I felt it was a good value. It is good in 6 restaurants on the property. EACH TRIP through the line you are allowed one entrée, one side or dessert and one drink (water/soda/iced tea). Certain items were an upcharge (babyback ribs and some snacks) but we just avoided those. Good ALL DAY! We went on a very hot day and each got about 4 waters that would have cost us each $12 alone. We thoroughly enjoyed the Smokehouse. (Sample price here - $3 side dish, $14 entrée, $3 drink = $20 for one meal) Snacks, ice cream and BEER were Buy 1, Get 1 free with the dining plan, too.

RENTAL CAR
We rented through Thrifty because we got a great rate through AAA. The agent bombarded us with questions on upgrading, this option/that option. My head was spinning at the counter. One thing I did not expect was a question about the toll pass. Apparently, Florida is in the process of making their tolls cash-less. As a result, rental car companies have come up with a way to take advantage of the car renter. If you don't "rent " the toll pass and have to go through a cash-less toll plaza in the rental car, the rental agency will hit you with a fine or something. Of course, we would not know exactly what roads we were going to be on, whether or not they were toll roads, and if so, if they were cash-less. The charge to "rent" the unlimited pass was $8.99/day or $45.99/week. We rented the darn thing. Naturally we discovered that all of the toll roads we traveled still accepted cash. Apparently, if you are from out-of-state and driving your own car, a photo of your license plate gets taken and you are sent a bill for the toll in the mail. Anyone have any experience with that? Do you get one lump-sum bill for your whole trip or a separate bill for each toll?

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