When is the Anna Maria Island High Season? That depends on who you ask. For the rental industry, most tourists come in winter, between Thanksgiving and Easter. Rates go up towards the end of November and down about the beginning of May.
But times are changing and the “shoulder” seasons are extending into all of November and after April. Summer is also the busiest time for day visitors, who escape the inland heat for the cooler beaches and water activities and bring their kids who are out of school. Longer daylight hours attract after-work beachgoers. However, these visitors don’t have an impact on the rental real estate market as much as they do on the restaurant and bar trade.
As a year-round resident, who endures the high humidity and storms of summer, my respect for the wisdom of the snowbirds grows every year. From October through May, there are many days that are just about perfect. The people who come here during that period avoid a lot of discomfort and worry. They don’t have to worry about whether they are in a structure that will withstand the high winds of summer hurricanes. They don’t have to postpone a walk for fear of being struck by lightning, as often is the case in summer. The good news for those of us who stay here year-round is that high tourist season does not fill the entire period from October through May, so we get to enjoy many days that are near perfect, without crowds.
The busiest time of year seems to be around Presidents’ Day, the third Monday in February. Schools are on break and warmer weather brings out the winter hibernators. Travel can be brought to a standstill for hours as cars search for parking spots and bridge openings stop traffic flowing. Congestion is increasing each year as more people discover Anna Maria Island and try to squeeze onto a finite space.
One sign that High Season has arrived on Anna Maria Island is that it becomes more difficult to cross the street as a pedestrian. You have to wait for a break in the traffic. If you are at a pedestrian cross walk, you have to wonder whether the cars in both directions will stop for you. One car might stop and wave to cross, while another car coming from the opposite direction seems to accelerate. It’s confusing, and I prefer the old-fashioned situation in which pedestrians just wait for a break in the traffic. I’m sure that’s safer.
Another sign that the busy season is upon us is that it takes longer to find a parking space at Publix. Then, inside, it takes longer to get through the crowded aisles and check-out lanes. But Publix does such a good job of keeping the shelves well-stocked, and trying to open extra check-out lanes. So the overall experience is still very pleasant.
There often is a wait at restaurants during the High Season. I like to think of this as a good time to try new places, which haven’t been discovered yet.
All in all, the benefits of Anna Maria Island’s busy season far outweigh any of the inconveniences. Many of the seasonal residents and guests are as devoted to this island as the year-round residents. They add an interesting component to the population, and we can thank them for supporting the local businesses and cultural amenities, which we then get to enjoy, too.
And, let’s face it—it’s really not all that crowded!