Away We Go || SARASOTA, FLORIDA

We spent the first week of January in Sarasota, Florida for my cousin's beautiful wedding. While we were in the area, we got to explore and go on a ton of day trips! Here's some of our adventures! 

Sarasota

Right before you get into Sarasota, there's a magical place of retail therapy called the University Town Center or UTC. There was basically 4 or 5 huge malls on each corner of the intersection, and it was all brightly lit up still for Christmas time. We spent so much time here, because it was so huge and had EVERYTHING we could possibly need. 

We found a ton of vegan options in Sarasota, but our favorite, by far, was Fresh Kitchen. To this day, I continually tweet at them to get them to bring a Fresh Kitchen to Baltimore. I have dreams about this place. I've even done everything that I can to recreate the meal we had there. If you're in Sarasota, please eat here.

For my fellow Orioles fans, we drove by Ed Smith Stadium where the Orioles have their Spring Training! It was so exciting to be so far away from home, and yet feel so happy when I saw that orange and black logo! We didn't have any time to go to the stadium during the week but we drove by and it looks like a must do- especially when the O's are there, training! 

Bradenton

This is where home base was for us. It's a cute, little residential area where our rental house was located. It was so quaint and we were right next to an elementary school, so everyone was always out, riding their bikes, running or walking their dogs. 

Anna Maria Island

Whenever I come back to this area, I'm going to stay on Anna Maria Island. It is seriously SO cute. It is the quaintest little beach town and everything is painted in pastel colors. You can rent beach bikes or kayaks and I cannot wait to go back. We went with my brothers to one of the beaches there and it was so much fun! Plus, I got to touch the Gulf of Mexico for the first time! 

St. Armand's

After my cousin's wedding, we headed to St. Armand's for some post-wedding drinks. St. Armand's is basically a little circle of restaurants, bars and shops. It's an island and it's a great place to go if you're looking for something to do in Sarasota. We went into La Melinche, for margaritas and chips. We walked in the door at 7:00 PM exactly, right when happy hour was ending. The manager was so nice that she honored the happy hour price for our first round. Everyone here seemed so nice! It was a great way to end an awesome day! 

Manatee Beach

We went to Manatee Beach on Anna Maria Island at sunset so Brandon could take some pictures and we could soak in the last bit of Florida sunshine before having to wake up early and leave the next day. I was reluctant to go because of how exhausted I was, but I am so glad I went because look at this sunset! 

Tampa Bay + Ybor City

We were about an hour south of Tampa, so we decided to check it out before the rest of my family got in town. To be honest, Tampa was a bit of a let down. There wasn't a whole lot to do or see, at least on a quick day trip. We drove through the University of Tampa campus, which was ABSOLUTELY gorgeous. Brandon had vacationed in Tampa before and didn't really remember anything super fun to do or see, so we decided to check out historic Ybor City. 

I had never heard of Ybor City before but apparently, it was founded in the 1800's by cigar manufacturers, and still thrives on it's cigar business today. As we walked down the street, you could see people rolling cigars in the windows of their stores, and restaurants provided cigar holders to its patrons. It was pretty interesting to see! 

We wandered over to the Tampa Bay Brewing Company. There were so many great breweries and bars that I wanted to try, but we decided to head to this part town. There weren't many gluten-free options so I got a black bean burger off the bun and a cider. This picture looks so appetizing, doesn't it? 

The coolest thing I saw in Ybor City was wild roosters. As an animal fanatic, I love interacting with animals, but I did not expect to see wild roosters, just roaming. They were SO beautiful, and there were SO many! 

While I was admiring these majestic roosters, and waiting for Brandon to come out of the bathroom, I accidentally stepped on a fire ant mound. Totally didn't know those were a thing. I didn't realize what was happening until I looked down and saw about 15 ants crawling up my legs. I hate bugs and those suckers hurt! I probably looked crazy to everyone else, because I started jumping and freaking out to get them off. Brandon finally came to my rescue and reassured me I was super brave. How do you Floridians handle so many weird bugs in your state?! Props to you. 

DeSoto Memorial Park

This place was seriously amazing. It was right at the end of our street and it was this amazing. De Soto explored most of the southern United States, but he also killed a lot of indigenous people while he was at it. So I'm not too sure about the political sides of things, but this park was awesome. There is so much history and they have huts set up so you can see what it looked like back in the day. My little brothers, Brandon and I decided to hike the trail, which is so gorgeous and takes you along the beach!