University Town Center brings much anticipated shopping to the area!

Sarasota – When visiting it won’t take long to realize that dragging yourself away from the sugar-sand beaches of Anna Maria Island for shopping is nearly impossible! However, during times it may get a little rainy, take the day and head over to the BRAND NEW MALL in Sarasota!

The Mall at University Town Center (Mall UTC) just had it’s opening day on October 16, 2014.  The architecture of this mall is unique and attractive.  The glass brick roof keeps the mall light and bright letting the Florida sun shine through – it really compliments the fresh new mall. For us locals, it was very anticipated for the area! This multi-level, 880,000 square foot mall changed shopping for us here in Southwest Florida.

The mall which includes over 100 stores to shop, 12 places to get some food (including casual dining, fine dining and quick eats) as well as a list of upcoming events such as styling from Aveda Salon, Eye Wear Trunk Show, Designer appearance and fashion show at Dillard’s, and more!

Mall UTC  is located at 140 University Town Center Drive in Sarasota, FL 34243, which is only 30-35 minutes from AMI.  Time for some serious shopping fun!

Here is the Mall Directory:

American Eagle Outfitters
Ann Taylor
Auntie Anne’s Pretzels
Banana Republic
Bath & Body Works
Bose Boston Proper
Brighton Collectibles
Brio Tuscan Grille
Brooks Brothers
Brooks Brothers Women
Brow Art 23
Calypso St. Barth
Camicissima Milano
Champs Sports
Cold Stone Creamery
Crate & Barrel Sale
Diventi Bella
Edward Beiner Purveyor of Fine Eyewear
Everything But Water
Express Men
Fast Fix Jewelry Repair
Foot Locker
Forever 21
Gap Kids
Godiva Chocolatier
J.S. Trunk & Co.
Jackie Z Style Co.
Janie & Jack
Johnston & Murphy
Kate Spade New York
Kay Jewelers
Kona Grill
Lilly Pulitzer
Lululemon athletica
LUSH Fresh Handmade Cosmetics
MAC Cosmetics
Mandarin Express
Mayors / Rolex
Michael Kors
Oil & Vinegar
Organic Nail Bar
Pottery Barn
Rise Pies Handcrafted Pizza
Robert Graham
Saks Fifth Avenue
Seasons 52
SEE Eyewear
Smoothie King
Soap Stories
Solstice Sunglasses
Soma Intimates
Sophie’s (inside Saks Fifth Avenue)
Stuart Weitzman
Sunglass Hut
Sweet Doctors
Tesla Motors
The Art of Shaving
The Capital Grille
The Cheesecake Factory
The Walking Company
Things Remembered
Tina Stephens
Tommy Bahama
Venus Med Spa
Vera Bradley
Victoria’s Secret
White House | Black Market
Yankee Candle Co.
Vince Camuto
Z Gallerie

Coming Soon!

4D Gelateria, Arhaus Furniture, Banana Moon Swimwear, Burger & Beer Joint, Charlotte Russe, Fit2Run, Footgear, Forever Flawless, Forever Nails & Spa, Francesca’s Collections, Free People, Great American Cookies, H&M, Invicta, Kiehl’s, Lucky Brand Jeans, Motherhood Maternity, Naracamicie, Natural Comfort Footwear, Talbots, Tricho Salon, Camuto and YO! Sushi.

mallutc2 mallutc6 mallutc5


Anna Maria Island Thanksgiving 2014 Restaurants Open

Anna Maria Island – Visiting during Anna Maria Island Thanksgiving 2014, but don’t feel like cooking a big meal? Here is the list of restaurants that will be open so you can take it easy.

Anna Maria Island Thanksgiving 2014 Restaurants

The list below is mostly Anna Maria Island restaurants, but Longboat Key, Bradenton, Sarasota and Saint Armands Circle as well. You’ll find a great selection of places to dine with both fine dining and casual options.

Anna Maria Island Thanksgiving 2014
Thanksgiving 2014 Restaurants, what’s open

It’s a good idea to make reservations at the restaurant of your choice to ensure you have a place to gather.

Have a happy holiday, and enjoy a tropical Thanksgiving on Anna Maria Island!

Manatee Performing Arts Center (lovingly known as Manatee Players)

Bradenton – Three musicals about Jesus and a show about a whorehouse are coming to Bradenton. Those shows, and nine others, are part of the Manatee Players 2014-15 season.  It’s the company’s second full season at the Manatee Performing Arts Center that was recently renovated.

The season includes seven shows in the larger Stone Hall and six in the Bradenton Kiwanis Studio Theater. The company’s first season of presenting shows in two theaters proved to be a big success, and audiences have responded to the more varied offering made possible by the intimate Bradenton Kiwanis Studio Theater.

The Stone Hall shows (all musicals) are:

  1.  “Disney’s Tarzan” (Aug. 7-24),
  2. “Dames at Sea” (Sept. 11-28), “
  3. “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” (Oct. 23-Nov. 9),
  4. “Meet Me in St. Louis” (Dec. 4-21),
  5. “Brigadoon” (Jan. 8-25),
  6. “Into the Woods” (Feb. 12-March 1, 2015)
  7.  “Jesus Christ Superstar” (March 19-April 5, 2015).

The Kiwanis Studio Theater shows mix plays and musicals:

  1. “Morning’s at Seven” (Sept. 11-28),
  2. “Godspell” (Oct. 31-Nov. 17),
  3. “Amahl and the Night Visitors” (Dec. 4-21),
  4. “The Foursome” (Jan. 15-Feb. 1, 2015),
  5. “Agnes of God” (Feb. 19-March 8, 2015)
  6. “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” (April 9-26, 2015).

Most shows are classics, or at least well-known to theatergoers, but a few aren’t so familiar. “Tarzan” is of course based on the 1999 animated film, which features music by Phil Collins. It ran for a little more than a year on Broadway in 2006-07. The same company that created the flying effects for this season’s production of “Peter Pan” for Manatee Players will be back for this show.  “Morning’s at Seven” is 1939 drama about four aging sisters. Its three Broadway runs have not been hugely successful, but it’s popular with regional theaters.  “The Foursome” is a Norm Foster comedy about four buddies who play golf.

They picked “Godspell,” the 1970s Stephen Schwartz musical, to balance out “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”.  They don’t expect any community objection to “Whorehouse,” which despite its title, is a light and splashy musical, but by staging “Godspell,” which is based on the Gospel of St. Matthew, at the same time, they are offering something for families.

“Amahl and the Night Visitors,” gives Manatee Players a chance to explore opera.   “Amahl” will be the first opera Manatee Players has done in decades.  Historically, about 60 years ago, operettas were a regular part of their schedule.

The Manatee Performing Arts Center is at 502 Third Ave. W. in Bradenton. For information about the season or any of the shows, call 941-749-1111 or go to

The Spectacular Desoto Parade


Bradenton – One of the largest parades in the South that attracts over 200,000 people every year, is Bradenton’s famous Desoto Parade. To give a little background, In the early 1500’s, Conquistador, Hernando De Soto, and his army of soldiers walked the grounds of Bradenton, making local and national history. In the first few months of every year over 150 beautifully lighted and decorated floats are driven through the streets of the city. If you’re staying with us during this time, it is a highly suggested event to take part in with the entire family. Definitely come out to enjoy some tailgating, music, candy, beads, and various merchant carts on this exciting evening.

However, IMPORTANT  to note, if you do plan on coming I highly suggest getting there at least an hour early to set up some chairs and get situated (This event gets EXTREMELY crowded and busy, so make sure to keep an eye on your children). This is a very fun parade, which is patrolled the entire time with an abundance of police officers and deputies to keep everyone safe, so don’t hesitate on bringing you’re entire family/friends to this entertaining time.

For more info head to the Desoto Parade website! And keep an eye on our Event Calendar for more information!

Bradenton Marauders baseball, a taste of the big leagues.

Bradenton Marauders, Minor League BaseballBradenton – The Bradenton Marauders are an outstanding affiliate baseball team of the Pittsburgh Pirates, they are also one of the only two minor league affiliates owned and operated by a major league club. If you talk to the locals, you’ll know how big of a deal this team is to Bradenton.

The Marauders might as well be classified as a major league team in this area because with the press and turn outs they get at their games, its quite impressive. Over the years and new players, the team has only gotten better and better making their baseball games a fun way to spend the afternoon or evening. Plus the Marauders are always hosting fun events! You even get to interact with the players, which is pretty cool if you ask me. While you’re here definitely take the family to one of their games just in town and have fun at the McKechnie Field.

Have some drinks and food, and just enjoying the all American sport of baseball. Click HERE for the Marauders Team Schedule.

Anna Maria Island Pizza Places

If you’re looking for the Best Pizza On Anna Maria Island, then this is the post for you:

Best Pizza On Anna Maria Island

Solos: If you’re wanting some pizza, but everyone else you’re with is not, Solos is the place you need to stop by. Located on Holmes Beach, solos is a convenient and cheap place to get not only pizza, but also; burgers, subs, finger foods, and salads. Of course we suggest the pizza because of the various amounts of toppings you can get! Make sure to stop by!
3244 E Bay Dr Holmes Beach, FL 34217
(941) 778-8118

Oma’s: Oma’s is not only one of the best pizza places on the Island, however is may just be one of the best restaurants on the island, period. Their pizza is always fresh and delicious and it’ll have you eating way after you should have called it quits. So definitely stop by and enjoy Oma’s friendly environment, and the best pizza and calzones.
201 Gulf Drive N, Bradenton Beach, Anna Maria Island

The Feast Restaurant: The Feast is one of my top restaurants in general on the island. They have amazing food in good sized portions (plan for leftovers), though their pizza is fantastic. Their pizza is so good, sometimes we get it delivered to our offices. Trust me, once you just look at the pizza you will be impressed. It is the perfect balance of sauces, cheeses, and toppings. Much compliments to the chef .
5406 Marina Dr, Holmes Beach, FL 34217
(941) 778-5092

Village Idiot Pizzeria: Though there is not a big menu, you don’t need one! The food they have is so fantastic that you won’t even need to read half of the menu before you have your entire meal picked out.  This place is known and dedicated to their pizza selections! and it’s no wonder because it’s all amazing. The Village Idiot is located about right over the Cortez bridge, so make sure to drive over and enjoy.
11904 Cortez Rd W, Bradenton, FL 34210
(941) 896-4857

Fire & Stone Pizza: This newer restaurant certainly is talked about around here, and so far I haven’t heard anything near disappointing, in fact it’s all been praise and compliments. Not only is everything handmade, but it’s also a buffet! That’s right, no waiting around to settle your starvation, instead you can get up and get as much pizza as you want, which trust me, you’ll want to get a lot of their pizza.
10519 Cortez Rd W, Bradenton, FL 34210
(941) 792-5300

J Burns’ Pizza: Offering fresh hot, thin crust, square cut pizza using a special blend of cheese and sauce made from fresh tomatoes. You’ll love their sub sandwiches too! Find J Burns’ on the north end of the island in the city of Anna Maria. J Burns’ also offers gluten free options!
308 Pine Avenue
Anna Maria, FL 34216

Derek’s Rustic Coastal Cuisine

Derekf’s Rustic, Coastal Cuisine is a new Bradenton, Florida  restaurant that I urge everyone to try!  It is located on State Road 64 (Manatee Avenue) about 6 miles from Anna Maria Island.  I have been driving by for months now, so I decided it was time to try it out and boy was I rewarded.

The chef/owner Derek Barnes has shaped his menu around rustic, coastal cuisine highlighting fresh seafood while offering his dinners something that is fresh, fun and casual.  Derek’s is perfect for the power lunch crowd, casual lunches, those special evenings, business dinners, private parties and also for families of all ages.

Here is just a little background on Chef Derek Barnes.

A semifinalist for the prestigious James Beard Best Chef South award, Derek worked with Emeril Lagasse in the kitchen of Emeril’s in New Orleans before opening his own restaurant on the Gulfcoast in Sarasota.  Derek’s gift for creating distinctive, mouthwatering dishes has earned him Florida Trend’s Golden Spoon award, the “Most Innovative Chef” title in the Best of SRQ Magazine, and inclusion in the exclusive Zagat America’s “Top Restaurants” listing.

In case you were wondering Derek’s also offers a private room for business lunches/dinners, small sporting events, birthday parties, anniversaries or for that intimate gathering… say rehearsal dinner.  I was able to peek in the room since there wasn’t a party going on, and it looks to be a good size and comfortable!

My fiance and I aren’t food snobs by any means, but we do like well-prepared delicious dishes when we go to any restaurant, and Derek’s is both!

We wanted to sample a little of everything, so we started with the fried green tomatoes appetizer.  I am a Florida native and this was a staple in my house growing up, so the bar was set pretty high to see if this could stack up to my mother’s cooking.  Don’t tell mama, but these were way better because they paired it with a Dijon mustard remoulade.  My mama just gave us ketchup!

Prime Burger at Derek's Coastal Cuisine in Bradenton
The delicious Prime Burger at Derek’s Culinary Casual!

Next came the main course, and we both ordered the same thing which is pretty common when we go out.  We ordered their Prime Burger, but we added a little of that Dijon mustard remoulade I mentioned earlier.  I think Derek’s should bottle that remoulade, and sell it because I would love to have that in my house!  This burger comes with a side of extra crispy shoestring fries which happen to be a personal favorite of mine.   You probably guessed, but I also dipped those fries in that remoulade also.

I have to confess something… whenever I go out to dinner I am never able to finish an entire meal because I get full quickly.  I love this place because the portions are just the right size for me, so I don’t feel I am being wasteful for eating too little or feel sick for eating too much.  Plus we were then able to order dessert.  We had ordered the S’mores Cup which was the perfect size for sharing.  The melted dark chocolate hiding under the marshmallow was melted to perfection, and not too sweet. 

Derek’s doesn’t have a full bar which is OK by me because with a nice meal beer or wine is the perfect compliment.  I can only drink sweet white wine which doesn’t leave me with too many

Florida Cracker from Cigar City Brewing at Derek's Culinary Casual in Bradenton
Florida Cracker from Cigar City Brewing

choices, so I usually pick a Riesling or a Moscato.  They have the most delicious Moscato I have ever had, but you are not able to buy it anywhere as the distributor only goes to restaurants!  Looks like I will just have to go back soon if I want more.  My fiancé had a locally brewed beer called Florida Cracker.  I will admit he is a bit of a beer snob, so it must’ve been good because he went to the store to get some for the house.

The pricing is right in line with say Bonefish or Outback, but the food quality and presentation is definitely superior.  Stop in and see for yourself, and maybe we will run in to each other!

Rustic, Coastal, Cuisine

5516 Manatee Avenue West
Bradenton, FL 34209

Lunch:  Monday – Friday 11:30 – 2:00

Dinner:  Monday – Saturday 5:00 – 10:00

Kayak Anna Maria Island -The Latest And Greatest Around

Kayak Anna Maria Island is the latest and greatest pass time around with locals and visitors alike. Kayaks are really the craze!!! They are now starting fishing tournaments just for Yakers(yes that short for kayak).  Have you ever sat in a Kayak for more than an hour?  Ouch!

Kayak Anna Maria Island Yak-Tamer by Ocean-Tamer Marine Bean Bags

The Yak-Tamer marine bean bag by Ocean-Tamer provides superior comfort that other products can’t offer when used alone. It’s specifically designed to use in conjunction with your existing kayak seat.When paired with your existing kayak seat, this light weight, high quality, innovative seating product offers the comfort of a bean bag, 6 inches of elevation for a more comfortable seating position and better visibility when fishing, all while utilizing the backrest of your existing kayak seat. With its built-in tackle and storage system, you have the ability to store lures, pliers, and other important items at your fingertips. The Yak-Tamer can be used with virtually any kayak seating product on the market while providing more comfort than you could ever imagine!

This is the coolest, and you can get it at 10% with the following Coupon code:  4Acause

Check out this and more at

 kayak anna maria island

2014 Bradenton Arts Movieville Film Festival

Running May 8th through the 18th, catch the Bradenton Arts Movieville Film Festival. Previously called the Movieville International Film Festival, it brings the festival across Manatee/Sarasota. From Burns Court Cinema in Sarasota up to the Manatee Performing Arts Center in downtown Bradenton.

2014 Bradenton Arts Movieville Film Festival

The mission is to “promote young talent and bring national and international films”. The festival is also set for a series of shows across the region. The Manatee Performing Arts Center will be screening 20 Feature length films. In addition to smaller short films made by State College of Florida Students.

From the Movieville Film Festival website:

The overall theme of the Movieville film festival portion of the Bradenton Arts & Movieville Festival is to celebrate and showcase a variety of high quality, noteworthy, new and groundbreaking independent Motion Pictures, Short Features and Documentaries produced by local Florida filmmakers as well as by national and international filmmakers at the stunning and brand new Manatee Performing Arts Center in beautiful downtown Bradenton, Florida. It is an inclusive film festival embracing filmmakers from all ethnic backgrounds and communities, both U.S. and International.

Submissions are carefully vetted and independently judged by a panel of peers. This is to ensure that the content selected will be creatively sound, high quality, noteworthy, and appropriate. This film festival also provides new and emerging filmmakers and talented film students with a friendly platform. Additionally, the will find a supportive environment and an opportunity to display and exhibit their new work to audiences in a first class theater.

Sponsors from the business, entertainment and resident community will be invited to participate. Local and National media will partner with us and Celebrities will be invited to attend to both support their content being exhibited as well as mixing with Producers, Directors, Distributors and Hollywood Studio Executives.

Our annual award to the best of the best depicts The Fish ( an original sculpture by celebrated local artist Frank Colson) has historically denoted Friendship and Community – which is also the theme of the Movieville International Film Festival. The key objective is offer talented independent producers with a positive and supportive environment. Here their latest work are viewed, enjoyed and celebrated in a first class auditorium.”

Visit the Bradenton Movieville Film Festival website for more information on locations and ticket prices.


bradenton movieville film festival

2014 Easter Services on Anna Maria Island

Easter is just around the corner and there’s no shortage of Easter services and ways to celebrate it on Anna Maria Island. Whether a church service, or some Easter Bunny fun, there is something to do for everyone.

Early Easter morning everyone is invited to the Manatee Public Beach in Holmes Beach at 6:30am for the 50th All-Denominational Easter Sunrise Service. Bring a blanket or a chair to watch and sit and take the trolley if you can!

Church Easter Services

CrossPointe Fellowship

8605 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, 778-0719. There will be a service on Good Friday at 7 p.m. and an Easter Sunday service at 9 a.m.

Episcopal Church of the Annunciation

4408 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, 778-1638. Stations of the Cross at 5:30 p.m. on Monday through Wednesday, April 14-16; Eucharist and healing at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, April 17; Maundy Thursday service at 7 p.m. includes foot washing, stripping of the altar and the vigil in the garden; the vigil in the garden continues on Friday, April 18, at 8 a.m. and there will be a Good Friday service at noon entitled Seven Last Words. On Easter Sunday, they will there will be a Eucharist Rite 1 with music at 7:30 p.m., at 9 a.m. Rite II with music, a 10:15 a.m. Easter egg hunt and an 11 a.m. Rite II with music.

Gloria Dei Lutheran Church

6608 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, 6778-1813. There will be a Maundy Thursday service at 7 p.m. on April 17, a Good Friday service at noon and 7 p.m. and on Easter, services at 8 and 10:30 a.m. plus a brunch and Easter egg hunt at 9 a.m.

Harvey Memorial Community Church

300 Church Street, Bradenton Beach, 779-1912, will hold a service on Easter at 9:30 a.m.

Roser Memorial Community Church

512 Pine Ave., Anna Maria, 778-0414. will celebrate Palm Sunday April 13 at 9 and 11 a.m. in the Sanctuary. On Maundy Thursday, April 17, there’s a celebration of the Lord’s Supper with special music by flautist, Mary Deur, at 7 p.m. Good Friday, there is a service at noon. On Easter Sunday will be services at 9 and 11 a.m. in the Sanctuary.

St. Bernard Catholic Church

248 S. Harbor Drive, Holmes Beach, 778-4769. There will be Holy Week Masses Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. and morning prayer all week at 9:15 a.m.

On Holy Thursday, April 17, there will be a Mass of the Lord’s Supper at 7 p.m., an Altar of Reposition in the Chapel until 10 p.m. and a night prayer at 9:45 p.m. There will be no morning Mass on Good Friday, but there will be a Blessing of Easter Baskets at 10 a.m. and an Easter Vigil Mass at 8 p.m. On Easter Sunday, there will be Masses at 8:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., plus two at 10:30 a.m., one Mass in the church and one in the Parish Hall. Kids will be able to hunt for Easter eggs after the 10:30 Masses.

Church service list thanks to