We have a major bias here but, well, it's very much earned. Anna Maria deserves to be named one of the "America's Prettiest Towns" -- by none other than Forbes, the business publication known for spotlighting billionairies and corporations that rake in the wealth.
The Forbes website features Anna Maria City Pier, an iconic Old Florida fishing spot with a charming restaurant and wonderous views of Tampa Bay, the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and wildlife -- dolphins, pelicans and other seabirds.
This is the beginning of the Forbes citation of Anna Maria: "Just south of Tampa, Anna Maria is a Gulf Coast beach town that has managed to avoid the sort of overdevelopment that plagues similar areas nearby -- so it retains a certain small-town coastal Florida charm. With a high proportion of residences being second homes or vacation homes, Anna Maria tends to be much quieter as well."
Well, we beg to differ. Quiet?
Not according to some year-round residents up in arms about vacationers and -- uh-hem -- day-trippers who want to enjoy paradise, too.
But that's another story, one we'll let readers address on Sunday on the Opinion page.
We will say this: Anna Maria is a wonderous place -- to visit a day, a week, a month or a lifetime. Pine Avenue, the Anna Maria City Pier, the Rod and Reel Pier, Bean Point, Bayfront Park, what's not to enjoy?
Yes, crowds come. To paradise, for a very good reason. We should all be so lucky as to live there.
So, which cities are ahead of Anna Maria? New Iberia, Louisiana and Camden, Maine are one and two with Anna Maria at No. 3. Maine might be nice a couple of months out of the year but unless you enjoy cross-country skiing, ice fishing and snow-shoeing, well, forget it. If you like McIlhenny Tabasco, you'll love New Iberia -- the home to the factory that produces that great spice. (Yes, we're big fans of that.)
Oh, and straight out of Forbes about New Iberia, there are "some great plantation homes (you can tour the exquisite Rip Van Winkle Gardens), and some lovely little diners where people still speak Cajun," says Andrew Evans, National Geographic Traveler's Digital Nomad.
Great homes, cool diners, we're booking a trip now. After another stay on AMI.