Mandatory Electronic System Travel Authorization for foreign travelers

On line forms needed for Visa Waiver ProgramIn 2008 Congress enacted legislation to expand the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The new law required that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) develop an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) to gather biographic information from nationals of the soon-to-be 34 VWP countries traveling to the U.S. in advance of their visit.

ESTA is mandatory for all VWP travelers beginning January 12, 2009. Information required through ESTA mirrors the data travelers already submit through the I-94W paper form currently filled out upon arrival at a U.S. port of entry; however, it simplifies the process by allowing visitors to complete the form online prior to arrival.

Question and Answers about the program

Bean Point – Anna Maria Island’s Secret Serenity

Bean Point is a must stop spot on Anna Maria Island. it’s a local secret that provides the most breathtaking views of the sunset on a pristine beach.  Named for George Emerson Bean, the first permanent resident of Anna Maria Island, Bean Point is located on a secluded stretch of beach at the northern end of what was Bean’s original homesteaded property.

You won’t find a parking lot, or any large signs, to direct you to this treasure of nature.  To get there you’ll need to head North of the City Pier in Anna Maria on North Bay Blvd.  The “main entrance” to Bean Point is located at a small crossroads.  You will notice the tree lined path that divides the two properties at the the intersection of North Bay Blvd & North Shore Dr.  If you ride your bicycle, you can ride right up the path, and park just to the side of the classic, wooden footbridge that sets the tone for your Anna Maria beach experience.  If you drive your car, you have a few options.  There are actually entrances at the corners of Fern St & N. Shore Dr, and Gladiolus St. & North Shore as well.  Each of these entrances is marked by a small white posted sign that merely states “Public Beach Access”.  Using the intersection of North Bay blvd and North Shore will provide immediate access to the famed “Bean Point” but half the fun is getting there?  Using the public beach access point to the South will allow you to walk along the beach and take in the sites where the Bay and Gulf meet.  When parking you can choose a spot near any of these entrances, and take the path out to the beach.

Local Tip: parking regulations are strictly enforced on Anna Maria Island.  If it says No Parking, don’t do it. Unless you want a ticket. If you do park on the roadside be sure your tires are off the asphalt street. If just 1″ is on the street you most likely will return with a bad surprise after your leisurely stroll along Bean Point. There are spots along the side streets, including Gladiolus and Fern.  To park near the footbridge entrance, I would recommend heading down to Jacaranda to find an empty (and legal) parking place.

Once your car is settled, head up the nearest path to the gorgeous turquoise waters where the Gulf of Mexico meets the Tampa Bay.   After your leisurely stroll down the path, turn right when you get to the sand, and head north to the point, for spectacular views that include the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.    If the tide is low, you can see the sand bar just off the coast.  Just a little wading into the warm water will take you there, and you can shell ‘til your heart’s content!  The views are amazing, the water is inviting, and the atmosphere is relaxed and serene.  There are quiet spots to sit and enjoy the view, and watch the waters and the wildlife.  I love where the water collides as the tide shifts from the East side of Anna Maria Island to the West side.

There are signs of life relaxing all over the Point. There is always something to delight the bird watcher too, with several different types of birds to entertain you as they guard their beach turf from one another.

So head over to Bean Point and capture a quiet beach moment or a breathtaking sunset, and enjoy one of the most relaxing spots on an island famous for its relaxation.

Red Box Rentals Anna Maria Island

Red Box Rentals Anna Maria Island are located at Publix market and also CVS Pharmacy. This is a great option if you end up encountering rain during your Anna Maria Island vacation. This is also a great solution if you need some late night entertainment.

Red Box Rentals Anna Maria Island

Holmes Beach Publix
Holmes Beach Publix
Updated Info – DVD rentals are in the Publix Red Box in Holmes Beach. Publix is in a central location in Holmes Beach on East Bay, and they have a good selection of newer movies for rent. CVS pharmacy has a Red Box. It is located just next door to Publix.

Baby Toddler equipment rentals

ABC Baby Toddler equipment rentals is a fabulous resource for Anna Maria Island.  They deliver equipment and pick it up on the day of your departure.

Baby Toddler Equipment Rentals

Be sure to ask for baby toddler linens when renting beds. Island Real Estate only offers standard bed linens. They are integrated into our office and deliver items to your vacation rental.  Anything required is set up in your vacation rental home or condo.  You can rent toddler beds, cribs, baby seats, strollers, swings, and toys.   In addition to renting legos to life jackets for toddlers, they also rent bicycles, joggers, kites, beach umbrellas, and beach chairs.   All items can be rented daily or weekly and most rentals are less than $40.   ABC does have two locations, one in Holmes Beach on Anna Maria Island and one location in Sarasota.

ABC Rentals
4519 South Tamiami Trail
Sarasota, FL, 34231
(941) 929-1850

Community Center on Anna Maria Island

Center of Anna Maria Island

The Center of Anna Maria Island, located in Anna Maria City, is a non-profit community center open Monday – Saturday.  The Center provides an abundance of different human service needs for children, seniors, and every age group in-between.

Whether you’re looking to take up a karate class with the whole family, or get out of the house by-yourself for the Center’s yoga class, there are tons of fun activities to take part in for everyone.

Along with the variety of classes taught there (Meditation, Cycling, Tai Chi, etc.), they also provide an awesome before and after school program, summer camps (ages 5 – 14), and different recreational sports.

Becoming a member is easy, and a great way to meet new people. You can get individual annual passes, or a family pass for only $105 a month. If you’re visiting Anna Maria Island for a vacation, the Center also does daily, weekly, or monthly passes.

 

Address: 407 Magnolia Ave, Anna Maria, FL 34216
Phone: (941) 778-1908

Top 10 Activities to do in Sarasota

What to do and see in Sarasota, FL

Have you been spending a lot of time on Anna Maria Island? Looking for a change of pace? Experience the beautiful city of Sarasota, where there is a whole lot to do! Below are our pick for the top 10 Sarasota activities to take part in.

1 ) John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art – The Ringling museum is the best bang for your buck in Sarasota. Costing only $25 for adults, your ticket gives you access to the entire Ringling “campus”, where you will get lost for hours wandering around the immaculately landscaped grounds. The actual museum of art runs special exhibits year round, and is packed with Asian, European, and American treasures. Be sure to make it out to the breathtaking 56 room Ca’ d’Zan Mansion, built in 1925, which overlooks gorgeous Sarasota bay. Last but not least, be sure to visit the Circus Museum. Built in 1948, it was the first museum to commemorate the robust history of the American circus.

2 ) St. Armand’s Circle – After you’ve experienced all the shopping that Anna Maria Island has to offer, the next logical step is St. Armand’s. The circle as we know it today was developed in the early 1950s, and has been steadily growing alongside the city of Sarasota ever since. Enjoy a cocktail before your meal at Tommy Bahamas’, or experience the fine dining of The Columbia Restaurant, which is based on the restaurant of the same name in Tampa, founded in 1905. After your meal, be sure to check out one of the many elegant shops that populate the circle, which include luxury clothing stores, jewelers, and multitudes of specialty shops.

3 ) Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium – Mote Marine is one of the most interesting attractions in the greater Sarasota area, for multiple reasons. First and foremost, it acts as a marine animal rescue and research center, which is an incredibly important service with the ever-growing population of people around the Gulf of Mexico. Now here’s the fun part: the animals that they can not rehabilitate for the wild are put into educational exhibits where they are treated like royalty. Be sure to check out the different touch tanks, which are full of sting rays, hermit crabs, sea anemones, and other cool creatures. This is a perfect place to bring your kids!

4 ) Sarasota Jungle Gardens – One of the oldest consistently open attractions in Florida, The Sarasota Jungle Gardens are truly amazing. The diversity of the plant life is a major attraction, with over 3000 different species of flora that have been introduced to the ecosystem since it opened. I, however, found the wildlife to be the most interesting aspect. The Gardens play an important role in the upkeep of central Florida’s wildlife, as the vast majority of the exotic animals there are rescues, with many of them being taken in from the wild after previous owners abandoned them. Be sure to check out one of the daily shows featuring local wildlife.

5 ) Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall – Sitting on sparkling Sarasota Bay, The Van Wezel is known by locals as the premiere location to catch a good play or concert in the area. Built in 1970 and recently renovated in 2000, The Van Wezel has been serving the community for a long time. As a child growing up in the greater Tampa Bay Area, every school I attended would come to a show put on specifically for children that was always a blast. Shows include performances ranging from nationally acclaimed stand up comedians, to lesser known dance troupes, and of course musical acts from all walks of life. The Van Wezel is about a half an hour drive from Anna Maria Island and is always 100% worth it.

6 ) The Sarasota Classic Car Museum is the equivalent to any car fanatics dream! It is the second oldest continuously operating antique car museum in the Nation. With a beautiful, and very wide variety of antique care, including a car that was John Lennon’s, this is a great place to take the entire family to admire the fine craftsmen ship of the vehicles that have gone down in history.  Punta Gorda hosts another classic car museum.

7 ) Siesta Key Beach – While Anna Maria Island certainly has some of the most beautiful beaches in the country, they are simply surpassed by the beach at Siesta Key, and that’s saying something! When you’re taking your trip to St. Armand’s, make sure you stop off here and soak up some sun. This is the highest rated beach in the entire United States of America.

8 ) Yoder’s Amish Restaurant – Easily my favorite restaurant in the greater Sarasota/Bradenton area, Yoder’s is simply the best place in Sarasota to enjoy a good meal. Featured on a few different national television shows, the restaurant’s home-cooked style meals never disappoint. I usually keep it simple with my order; succulent turkey breast, mashed potatos, corn on the cob, and fried okra. At that point, I’m always far too stuffed for desert; so I take home one of their famous peanut butter cream pies.

9 ) Myakka River State Park – I’ve always found Myakka River State Park to be one of the best places to get a true taste of what little bit of “wild” Florida is left. Located in eastern Sarasota County, I’ve spent days at a time experiencing all the amazing activites the state park provides us. Your options are endless; there’s hiking, biking, fishing, and even a “canopy walk” where you walk between giant trees on rope bridges. My personal favorite: the air boat tour. You and a few friends jump on an airboat and the driver whips you around the marshes, while giving a verbal tour detailing the history, wildlife, and vegetation in and around Myakka River.

10 ) The Powel Crosley Estate – This giant mansion overlooking Sarasota Bay is an absolutely gorgeous place to visit. Built in 1929 by Powel Crosley for his wife, the estate now serves as a venue that you can rent for weddings, family reunions, etc. That, however, isn’t even the fun part! When it isn’t being rented out, the estate decorates the mansion and puts on intimate, interactive “plays” where actors read poetry, or re-enact scenes from classical literature. I’ve personally attended multiple Edgar Allen Poe readings, A Charles Dickens Christmas, and a reimagining of Shakespeare that was a blast.

Bridge Street Market in Bradenton Beach

If you have visited our wonderful little island of Anna Maria, then you have probably been to Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach. If you haven’t, then you’re missing out on a lot!
Especially if you are on the Island anytime between November and April. Because that is when the Bridge Street Market takes place!

 

 

Bridge Street Market is held from 10:00 am – 3:00 pm every Sunday in November, through April. The market is located at 107 Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach. Visit your favorite vendors and enjoy fantastic food, beautiful art and jewelry, great local musicians, fresh produce, and much more!

Address: 107 Bridge St, Bradenton Beach, Florida 34217
Contact Number: (215) 906-0668

 

The Red Barn Flea Market in Bradenton

Located in Bradenton, Florida, is an immense shopping center known as the Red Barn Flea Market. This place is massive, seriously, it might just take you a couple days to get through!

 

Fresh produce at the Red Barn

With more than 600 flea market booths and shops you’ll need to devote a couple hours to cover the full 145,000 sq. ft. complex (80,000 of this space being air-conditioned). With so much to do it may be better to plan out your routes ahead of time with this handy market guide and  market map.

The Red Barn Flea Market also has an awesome food court area. Get some kettle corn, jerky, Italian ice, and so much more! Make sure you stop by Miller’s Snack Shack and Meaney’s Mini-Donuts for more delicious treats.

 

Every Friday and Saturday they have live music in the Main Food Court, and they also do Garage Sale Weekends where you have even more of a chance of finding a hidden treasure.

The Red Barn Flea Market is in East Bradenton and about a 25-30 minute drive from Anna Maria Island. It is definitely worth spending a day, or two, checking out everything it has to offer.

 

If you visit the Island often, you should do yourself a favor and visit the Red Barn Flea Market.

 

Phone: 941-747-3794
Email: info@redbarnfleamarket.com
Address: 1707 First Street East Bradenton, FL 34208

Hours:
 

Monday – Closed
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday the plaza only is open 10am – 4pm
Friday, saturday, and sunday entire market is open 8am – 4pm

The Annual DeSoto Grand Parade

 

Parades are a big thing on Anna Maria Island. It seems that every holiday there is a coordinating parade that takes place. People will line up off the road and wait for the floats to come by. It’s truly always a fun time, no matter what occasion the parade is for.

 

However, there is an extremely impressive (and massive) parade that takes place in Bradenton every year since 1939. The DeSoto Grand Parade is a huge event, and in recent years, it has brought in a crowd of over 200,000 spectators. To give a little background, In the early 1500’s, Conquistador, Hernando DeSoto, and his army of soldiers walked the grounds of Bradenton, making local and national history.

 

The parade travels 2.4 miles in a 3 hour time span with over 150 illuminated floats/entries. The parade starts at Manatee High School, and then travels to Manatee Avenue where it continues until it reaches Downtown Bradenton.

 

The event takes place on a Saturday, typically in the month of April. You’ll know the parade is going to start soon once you see lawn chairs out on the side of Manatee Avenue. This brings me to another important aspect of the DeSoto Parade, GET THERE EARLY! Walking to the parade is the best to avoid traffic. So if you have a friend or family member that lives close to the parade route, I’d ask to park at their place. Remember, Manatee Avenue will be closed starting around 5PM from 44th Street West, to U.S. 41.

 

So bring the kids, wear comfortable clothing, and collect some beads and other goodies at the annual DeSoto Grand Parade in Bradenton!

 

Parade Route

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