When: December 20th 2013- January 4th 2014
Where: Northern area of Anna Maria Island
Weather: First few days were in the 30’s and sunny. Most days were sunny but cooler (~15°C)
Anna Maria Island
This small island is very pretty and relaxing. The beaches are great (see below) for wheelchair users. The Island is very much tropical feeling, with the city (Sarasota) a short drive away. The airport (Sarasota Intl) is about 40 minutes away, and Tampa Bay Intl is approximately an hour by drive.
Van Rental: We decided to rent a van to get around for the two weeks. The van was new and in great condition. The price was also pretty reasonable for an accessible one. I was able to fit one large electric chair along with a smaller indoor one. The trunk space was actually quite large.
We rented a house for the five of us. It has three bedrooms, 3 baths and very reasonably priced. It was not as nice as other places that we have rented before, but the location was fairly good.
The front door: There is a step to get into the front door, but we found a ramp in the garage that we used (garage not accessible).
Kitchen and Living room: The kitchen was large, but basic in terms of utensils and cooking basics. We had to purchase things like sugar. The living room was large and had a big screen tv (on demand and DVD player included). The wifi was very fast as well.
Laundry room: The washer and drawer were located in the garage, where there was a step down (about 3/4 of a foot)
First Bedroom: This was deemed the “kids room” as there were bunk beds. I only slept on the bottom bunk for one night because the bed frame was a bit crooked (it could convert to a couch) and I banged my head on the above bunk. If you were a bit shorter, I’m sure it would have been fine. Also, as a light sleeper, I was woken up every time someone above me moved. There was a full closet in this room.
First bathroom: This bathroom was pretty tight for an electric wheelchair. It had to be backed out in order for the door to be closed. It did also have a tub, which I used with my shower seat.
Master Bedroom Suite: This part of the house had a its own door and hallway that could be shut for privacy. The room is large and spacious, with a walk in closet and a separate entrance to the patio (step)
The bathroom was spacious and has a shower stall, with a step.
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Third bedroom: This room was on the opposite side of the house. I used this one and had my attendant put a mattress on the floor.
Bathroom: Note; this bathroom was NOT accessible. The doorway was tiny! If you are able to walk, it would be usable. There is a shower with a small step to get in.
Patio: The doors from the living room to the patio had a very little lip and were perfect for wheelchairs. There are two doors that can be opened simultaneously. The patio is well maintained, and has a spot that a wheelchair can get off onto the grass. You can wheel to the dock (too much of a step to get on) and look over the canal. It felt very private and secluded.
There is a walkway that takes you to the front of the house.
The Local Area
This house did not have too many things to do within close walking distance. You could walk to the Pier, but that would take quite a long time (we did do it though). If you don’t feel like taking the car, you can take a free Trolley. It is completely wheelchair accessible and even has tie downs.
The sand on Anna Maria Island is quite compact. I was able to wheel along it, making sure I did not do any tight turns. If I got stuck I would have someone push behind me. The beach is not very wide, so you can get pretty close to the water. Here are some locations that I suggest you can sit at:
1) 78th Street – Close to the house (Sea Horse and Gulf Dr – Left side of the island)
This was in the same area, one street below the one above (cannot remember exactly which street). There was a shaded covering to sit under.
2) 25th Street and Gulf Dr (left side of island)
This is my favourite spot. It is however, far away from the house. It is a parking lot that overlooks the ocean. It is perfect because I don’t have to worry about getting stuck in the sand, and I am very close to the ocean.
3) Tortuga Inn– 1325 Gulf Drive N
Now I know that this is “technically” a private beach. But who really is going to kick us out?! It has a great ramp onto the sand, and even a covered veranda with tables and chairs. I believe it’s only used for weddings. We were going to sit at it on a later day, but never got a chance since it was too cold.
This area has boutiques, restaurants and a long pier and beach. The Pier was smooth, but could be freezing if there was a breeze.
We then went to a restaurant named the Waterfront. It was delicious! They had a bar inside that you could sit at whilst waiting for your table.
Accessible Washroom: There was a private washroom behind Relish café.
Old City jail: This was a quick tourist spot along the street. You could walk in the jail and look at a lagoon. There was an old fashioned house, but I’m not sure if you can go inside. We must have been there when it was closed.
Sandbar Restaurant: It can be very hard to get a table without a reservation. Even then they book up quickly. Do not eat in the dining hall during busy times. It was so loud with the crowd that you couldn’t even here anyone at your own table talk. I had the mussels (over done) and the stuffed mahi mahi (very good. The curried rice was gross). My dad had the steak and said it was way too salty. I would try and sit on the deck if it is warm out. The view is very pretty, as it overlooks the ocean.
Southern area of Island
There is a roundabout area at the Southern part of the island with shops and restaurants. The shopping is interesting to poke around in.
In a previous year we had eaten at Bridge Street Bistro. It can be very busy, so book reservations. We ate on Christmas day, and the food was not that good and staff were overwhelmed due to the holiday. Perhaps on other days it would be better? The bottom floor is a bar area. There is an elevator that leads to the dining room.
This was my favourite activity we did in Sarasota. The museum is a full day activity, as there is a museum, gardens, art gallery and an old mansion. Sarasota was home to the Ringling family, who owned a traveling circus.
Note: The price for a student ticket is significantly cheaper than an adult ticket. So don’t forget your student card if you have one!
Museum: There was so much to look at! There were many displays and plaques with lots of information. Very interesting. There was even a large theatre sized room with a miniature sized circus made from clay. It took a man 50 years to create and build.
Gardens: The gardens were well paved, with the exception of the Rose Garden. There was a small lip to get onto the gravel. I did not get stuck.
Art Gallery: The Ringling Family were prominent art collectors. The art gallery is constantly being updated with temporary exhibits. The gardens in the middle were also very nice. Ramps were built into the scenery, which can make them a bit hard to find.
Mansion: This house was beautiful. I would pay the extra money to be given a tour and history of the house. There wasn’t much info given if you weren’t on the tour.
Accessible washroom: There was a private accessible washroom in the house, only meant for wheelchair users.
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
The Botanical Gardens were absolutely gorgeous. The grounds are very large and accessible. There is a tea shop, indoor garden, lecture hall, Marie Selby house, children’s play ground and boardwalk along the ocean.
Mote Marine Aquarium
This aquarium was very educational since it is also a research station. Therefore, it isn’t very “flashy”. I personally liked it, but the rest of my family found it a bit boring. It does not take very long to go through it. I would try and see the scheduled shows, but they can get a bit crowded and therefore hard to see.
I loved the manatees. They are not common in zoos, and they seemed very playful.
Tijuana Flats: This is a delicious Mexican restaurant. The portions are huge for really good prices and the food is made fresh. I would try the enchiladas and nachos.
1) I always love a good Marshalls. I could spend hours here and spend only a bit of money on so many purchases.
2) Ellenton Outlets: There are many outlets here and most stores have pretty good discounts. This is an outdoor mall. I have not been to the washrooms here, as they can become busy and overcrowded.
3) St.Armand’s Circle: This is high end boutique shopping. It is worth an interesting look around. Parking is terrible at any time. There is a store dedicated to just hot sauces and salsas. The salsas are delicious!
4) Thrift shopping: I did not get to do any here, but I would try out:
Walk along Bradenton’s Boardwalk
This is an afternoon activity. You can leisurely walk along the ocean and look at sculptures and a skate park. There are a few restaurants in the area.