’Tis the season to breathe in the sea air.
Every year during Thanksgiving Week — since 2014 — about 10 members of a local family pack their bags for the short trip from Bradenton to Tortuga Beach Resort in Bradenton Beach, where they celebrate the birthday of their patriarch, who turns 102 this year.
“Isn’t that nice?” said Barbara Baker, general manager and co-owner of Anna Maria Island Resorts, which operates Tortuga Beach.
Thanksgiving and Christmas already are special holidays for many people. Celebrating them at the beach adds to the memories. Lori Calderone, manager of Anna Maria Motel in Anna Maria, says prospects are good for this holiday season.
“We’re busy the majority of the time,” Calderone said. “Really, our only slow month anymore on the island is pretty much September,” when Hurricane Irma struck this year. “My November, December and January are looking pretty good.”
Anna Maria Motel boasts nine units. Like banquet halls in some larger venues, each guest room is named after a species of fish. There’s something for everyone. The studios, one-bedroom units and sole two-bedroom unit sleep from two to six. Each unit has a full kitchen.
Calderone says her property is full during Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“They come back every year,” she said. “They bring their families. A lot of them cook on the grills.”
While families are cooking turkeys and ham on the grills at the Anna Maria Motel, the best thing that people can do at the four Anna Maria Island Resorts properties “is nothing,” co-owner David Teitelbaum says in a promotional video.
AMIR consists of Tortuga, Tradewinds, SeaSide and Tropic Isle beach resorts, all in Bradenton Beach. Room sizes and costs vary, from 350-square-foot studios to a 3,000-square-foot penthouse, with many one-bedroom units that sleep four and two-bedroom units that sleep six. Each of the properties was offering a four-night special at press-time.
“We have families that return every year and congregate,” Baker said. Most of the two-bedroom units at Tortuga already are rented for Thanksgiving and Christmas “because that is the kind of visitors that we have during this time of the year.” Baker still has some vacancies at other resorts.
While accommodating people in all seasons, the resorts also connect with families for the cycle of life, Baker said.
“We do have a lot of people who get married here and come back for those anniversaries,” she said. “Then they bring their families during the holidays.”
The Anna Maria Motel and Anna Maria Island Resorts both reflect the family-oriented approach promoted by the island hoteliers and the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Elliott Falcione, executive director of the BACVB, says October will be a down month this year compared to last, based on perception after Hurricane Irma struck in September. But area tourism is expected to pick back up again in November and December.
“Because it’s a couples-family destination, we do see families coming down and enjoying their holidays in our area,” Falcione said, “especially around Christmas.”