Florida misses some of the elements associated with the Christmas spirit, but for every thing that is lacking, there is something that more than makes up for it on Anna Maria Island. The fine white sand of our beaches is a great substitute for snow. Boat parades are as festive and full of holiday cheer as any parades or groups of carolers up north. On days we want to stay snugly at home, there often is real reason to light a fire, as temperatures can dip low enough to make that the perfect way to warm the house for just a few hours. When it’s time to head out to buy gifts, there is no shortage of good Christmas shopping, in all three of the island’s cities.
Anna Maria’s Pine Avenue, and Bradenton Beach’s Bridge Street, are picturesque main streets that become festivals of lights and good cheer during the holidays. Shops, boutiques and restaurants of all kinds beckon. These lovely shopping areas are ideal places to take visiting family and friends, for last minute presents and enjoyable meals and snacks along the way.
Holmes Beach has not yet become as tourist-oriented, in terms of providing a charming centralized street of shops that are easily accessible on foot. From the resident’s point of view, in some ways this is good. There is much to be said for what Holmes Beach does offer.
There still are many businesses that support the local community in a way that cute souvenir shops do not. It is wonderful that island residents and visitors have access to two hardware stores in Holmes Beach, and even to a lumber yard. While it may be difficult to find a Christmas gift at a lumber yard, both island hardware stores offer interesting gadgets and items for the home, which often make excellent useful gifts. It’s nice to consider buying Christmas gifts in such places, to help support their ability to continue serving the community throughout the year. And for decorations and stocking stuffers, Dollar Tree, Walgreens, and CVS provide plenty of choices.
Another slightly out-of-the-way and less obvious place to find lovely Christmas gifts is the Time Saver convenience store, because they offer some wonderful wines at very reasonable prices. The wines on the rack of six-dollar specials at the front of the store make for particularly affordable small gifts that still are very nice.
There also are some very well-established gift shops in Holmes Beach, the most popular of which may be the Sand Dollar. The imaginative managers change the displays there so often that it feels like a new place to explore with each visit. Nearby, Irene’s Resortwear and Mr. Roberts Resortwear continue to be popular traditional clothing stores for women and men.
Local art always makes excellent Christmas gifts, and shopping for it is a pleasure, too. Winterfest, held at the Holmes Beach municipal field every December as a fund raiser for the Anna Maria Island Art League, is a great place to spend a few hours looking at art, listening to live music and enjoying a meal from the offerings of the food court. Raffle tickets are a great way to support the Art League and the chances of winning a potential Christmas gift are good, since all the artists submit prize pieces.
The Studio at Gulf and Pine, in Anna Maria, is another fine place to buy the gift of art. Managers Tommy and Julie Fagen change the work on display every three weeks, and hold frequent receptions, which are perfect opportunities to meet the artists. The cooperative galleries of Island West and the Artists’ Guild of Anna Maria Island are both in central Holmes Beach, and feature the work of local artist members.
So, even though the weather outside is not frightful, the island is delightful as a place to get into the holiday spirit. There is something cozy about not leaving the island once you have arrived. And with our combination of galleries, colorful gift shops and more practical stores, it’s possible to create a Merry Christmas for everyone on the list without driving over the bridge.