After producing stories about best waterfront restaurants, favorite burgers, tastiest chicken wings, best Cuban sandwiches, as well as overall sandwiches, our USA TODAY Network’s Florida Dining and Entertainment Team turned its attention to a list from another publication.
On Thursday, Nov. 16, Travel + Leisure published its selections for the world’s 50 Best Places to Travel in 2024. The famous travel magazine noted that more than 20 of its staffers created the list “that thoughtful, curious travelers should consider in 2024.”
The New York-based publication, which first debuted in 1971, chose destinations from across the globe including ones in Australia, France, Nepal and Istanbul. They picked places in the United States, as well, including a single spot in Florida.
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Anna Maria Island named one of the world’s 50 Best Places to Travel in 2024 by Travel + Leisure
Travel + Leisure divided its list of 50 Best Places into seven categories. These include For The Food and Drinks, For Big-City Thrills, and For Nature Lovers. Anna Maria Island, which is located in Manatee County on the west coast of Florida just south of Tampa Bay, tops the category titled For Beach Vibes.
Anna Maria Island is a narrow barrier island overlooking the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. It’s about seven miles long and located west of Bradenton, south of St. Petersburg and north of Sarasota. The island contains three, small cities. From north to south they are Anna Maria, Holmes Beach, and Bradenton Beach.
“Compared to some brand-name Florida destinations, this island south of Tampa Bay is way under the radar,” writes Jennifer Salerno Yong. “But it’s cultivated a loyal following, thanks to its no-high-rises shoreline, incredible sunsets, and small-town feel.”
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Anna Maria Island restaurant and hotels praised in story about 50 Best Places to Travel in 2024 by Travel + Leisure magazine
Anna Maria Island is praised by Travel + Leisure for being a laid-back vacation spot where visitors typically get around in golf carts or on bicycles. The author mentions the Holmes Beach resorts Joie Inn, and Mello on the Beach, which is described as offering “vibrant retro-style apartments on the Gulf of Mexico.” For restaurants, the magazine mentions The Doctor’s Office, also in Holmes Beach, and its garden dining area.
Travel + Leisure also makes note that Jeannie Pierola, a five-time James Beard Award semifinalist who grew up and launched her culinary career on Anna Maria Island before becoming famous for Tampa restaurants such as Edison: Food+Drink Lab, will soon be returning to the island with the opening of Bohemian restaurant in Holmes Beach. Travel + Leisure’s 220-word blurb about Anna Maria Island concludes by noting that getting to the island has become easier thanks to the new nonstop flights at Sarasota-Bradenton International.
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Anna Maria Island named one of The 20 Greatest Beach Towns in America by Thrillist
In February, Anna Maria Island landed on Thrillist’s list of The 20 Greatest Beach Towns in America. Thrillist noted “Anna Maria Island” in the story’s subhed, but the 200-word blurb focuses on the city of Anna Maria.
“The northernmost of three cozy beach towns on a seven-mile-long island, Anna Maria is packed with so much old-Florida charm—from its sun-faded architecture and ice cream shops to beachside seafood shacks—it’s essentially a 1950s time warp,” wrote Liz Newman, who was listed as Thrillist’s former Miami editor. “Outdoor adventurers will be happy with its array of paddle boarding and kayaking tours, plus snorkeling trips to nearby spots like Passage and Egmont Keys, where you can see stingrays, manatees, sharks, and dolphins.”
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Anna Maria Island named one of Most Charming Small Towns in Florida by Travel + Leisure magazine
Travel + Leisure previously wrote about Anna Maria Island in 2021. Citing the sugary sand beaches, a popular avenue for dining and shopping as well as a historic pier, the magazine named Anna Maria Island one of The Most Charming Small Towns in Florida.
Palm Beach, Cedar Key, Mount Dora, Florida Keys, Micanopy, Sanibel, Cypress Gardens, Cape Canaveral and Fernandina Beach were the other places on the magazine’s list of “10 of the best small towns in Florida with populations of 15,000 or less.”
“Considered one of the state’s best-kept secrets, Anna Maria Island is home to wide white-sand beaches lapped by emerald and sapphire seas,” reads the Travel + Leisure article published May 20, 2021. “While the Gulf Coast barrier island’s shores are wild, natural, and picture-perfect, visitors also love strolling Pine Avenue to check out the shops, galleries, and restaurants. The wooden Rod and Reel Pier, dating back to 1947, is another Instagram-worthy spot to visit.”
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Wade Tatangelo is Ticket Editor for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, and Florida Regional Dining and Entertainment Editor for the USA TODAY Network. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. He can be reached by email at [email protected]. Support local journalism by subscribing.