Summer is well underway and it's hot! So what is the best way to escape the heat? Well, if you asked my wife, she'd say "shopping!"
Joking aside, it's not just the beaches of Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key that bring visitors to our area; shopping is one of the top reasons people visit. In fact, shopping is a huge draw for our international travelers, especially since the Pound and Euro are so strong. Visitors, predominantly from Canada, the UK and Germany, rave about the great deals and unique finds in the Bradenton area.
The Ellenton Premium Outlets are a must-do for anyone who loves fantastic deals on designer fashions. It's the largest outlet center on Florida's west coast with more than 130 factory direct brand-name stores. And, if you've ever been there on a weekend or during the holidays it's busy. The outlet center sees more than 4 million visitors annually.
You could spend a whole weekend visiting the many unique shops and boutiques on Anna Maria Island. At Bradenton Beach, Historic Bridge Street has become a popular spot. This newly restored quaint street is beautifully landscaped with charming shops, restaurants, bars and accommodations. If you're visiting from November to April, check out the Bridge Street Market. The outdoor market offers local artwork, crafts, produce, gifts, souvenirs, live music and more. The unique shops and boutiques on Pine Avenue in the City of Anna Maria are another hot spot. Completely restored to its original "old Florida" charm, Pine Avenue is being touted as the Greenest Little Main Street in America, connecting the beach to the 100-year-old historic Anna Maria City Pier.
Near downtown Bradenton, a family could easily spend an entire day at the Red Barn Flea Market or mark your calendar to attend a monthly Art Walk in our Village of the Arts. In addition to offering some of Bradenton's freshest produce and authentic local fare, the Red Barn also is one of Florida's most popular flea markets with more than 80,000 square feet of air-conditioned shopping. You'll also find a variety of new and used merchandise in more than 600 booths. Plus, there's plenty of parking.
Located in the heart of Bradenton, the Village of the Arts is a vibrant community of artists living and working together. With more than 35 artists, the village is Florida's largest art community. Monthly art walks on the first Friday and Saturday of each month fill the streets with art lovers looking for affordable fine art, jewelry, ceramics, designer wear and collectibles of all kinds. They'll also find an
inviting bookstore, gourmet cafes and restaurants.
Main Street at Lakewood Ranch should be your next stop. This outdoor venue offers stylish boutiques and international restaurants to tempt your taste buds for lunch or dinner. Main Street at Lakewood Ranch combines elements of the ideal downtown with easy to access stores that make year-round shopping a pleasure. If you drive along University Parkway toward Interstate 75, you can't miss the new shopping centers popping up and even more are planned near the rowing facility at Nathan Benderson Park. Construction on the multi-million dollar mega-mall is slated to begin later this year.
Visiting the dozens of foodie favorites and shopping districts is part of what makes the Bradenton area such an unforgettable experience, and it might even be the reason so many of our visitors eventually become residents. Keep in mind, when we visit these new shops and eateries during the summer months, we're helping to maintain that year-round sustainability which is keeping people employed, creating new jobs and, most importantly, keeping the Bradenton Area a great place to live, work, play and visit. For additional ideas on beating the heat, visit our website at www.amilbk.com/things-to-do.
Elliott Falcione, executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, can be reached at Elliott.Falcione@BACVB.com or 941-729-9177, ext. 222.