Between Ashleigh and Joshua’s schoolwork, sports and our jobs, our days were spent flying from one activity to the next. And we weren’t spending any quality family time together.
“We’re suffering from Famnesia,” I told Chris one evening, with some dramatic flare.
“Famnesia,” I said again. “We hardly know each other anymore—I mean, what’s your name again? Before we know it, the kids will be in high school, off to college and then thinking about retirement.”
After laughing at me, Chris agreed a family vacation was in order. A few years ago, Chris and I had a romantic getaway in the Bradenton Area. Several times along the way we’d noted activities and sites the kids would’ve enjoyed there. Decision made. We booked a trip over the kids’ upcoming school break.
We checked into our hotel and drove to the historic Cortez Historic Fishing Village. We were instantly enveloped within the authentic maritime heritage of this timeless community—one of the last remaining fishing villages in Florida. We visited old fish houses and strolled down narrow neighborhood streets lined with tall palms and hundred-year-old cottages. Refurbished boats, nets and crab traps lay stacked in front yards, ready for the next fishing trip.
Down by the harbor we visited the Florida Maritime Museum, where residents’ passion about preserving their historic culture is on display through unique exhibits that include an expansive shell collection, boat models and nautical instruments. Located inside a renovated 1912 schoolhouse, the museum is also home to a Folk School that teaches heritage skills such as constructing a fishing rod and painting with a fish. Our family participated in a nautical knot-tying class, and we left giggling and singing a traditional sailor song we learned.
For dinner, we headed to the Swordfish & Tiki Bar to enjoy some of Florida’s freshest dock-to-table seafood. From our waterside seats, we admired the view of Florida mangrove islands and fishing vessels unloading their catches. Egrets perched nearby and pelicans floated past as we shared our meals including lobster macaroni, fresh grilled grouper and bacon-wrapped scallops.
We were all thrilled to discover it was a “crab racing” day. Apparently, the restaurant is a member of the National Association of Safe Crab Racing at Bars (NASCRAB). And every Tuesday evening the race is on! Chris, Ashleigh, Joshua and I each rented our own crab and cheered like maniacs as they raced against each other. We left with our cool “Swordfish” T-shirts, rolling our eyes as Joshua gloated over his win.
The next day we visited Mixon Fruit Farms. The smell of citrus wafted through the air as we boarded the Orange Blossom Tram for a tour through the fruit orchards. We saw where they harvested and processed lemons, oranges and grapefruits. And we even witnessed a tree that was grafted to grow three different types of citrus!
The tour included a visit with Wildlife Inc., an on-site shelter and rehabilitation center for orphaned and injured birds, animals and reptiles. During an interactive show, we met some of the animals up close—enjoying the rare opportunity to pet a skunk and chat with a vibrant Hyacinth Macaw. We even got to hold a baby crocodile and lemon-yellow python named Butter.
After lunch, we let loose, playing in Mixon’s Amazing Play Place. We took on the challenge of the garden maze, tried our hand at the three-hole putting green, and played with the giant chess set. Joshua and I laughed as Chris and Ashleigh challenged each other at the orange racing game, furiously working hand pumps to see who could push a “citrus” ball through the racecourse the fastest. We ended the visit happily lapping up delicious orange-and-vanilla swirl ice cream cones.
After an active morning biking around Anna Maria Island, we took a guided coastal island tour in kayaks. We witnessed colorful fish, naturally curious Florida manatees and bottlenose dolphins that put on quite the show, jumping out of the water and slapping their noses against the waves.
Of course, we also had well-spent hours on beach—we played catch, swam and catnapped, and even built a castle with the flawless white sand.
Our adventurous day wrapped up with dinner at the classic burger-n-shake joint, the Shake Pit. We poked our heads inside the tiny A-frame restaurant’s entrance, greeted with the sound of burgers sizzling on the grill. Hundreds of photographs and newspaper clippings papered the walls, and a collection of signatures filled the ceiling, giving a snapshot into the Bradenton Area’s past and present. We sat at a picnic table outside, perusing a menu that included classics such as juicy double-cheeseburgers, tuna melts and crinkle fries.
For dessert, we all naturally ordered milkshakes. The list of flavors was endless and you could combine them any way you wanted. The kids laughed as my face puckered in an unsuccessful attempt at sucking my thick peanut butter-and-caramel milkshake through a straw. I eventually gave up and dug in with my spoon. Joshua chose a funky coke-and-bubblegum combo, while Ashleigh went with a classy mocha milkshake. Chris was spooning in mouthfuls of his coconut-pineapple shake when he suddenly squeezed his eyes shut and gripped his head. We all looked at him curiously.
“Brain freeze!” He managed to squeak out, “Totally worth it!” We all laughed as he took another bite.
Between spoonfuls, I suggested we go around the table and do a tradition we hadn’t done in quite a while, where everyone shared a high and low from the trip.
“My low is I wish this trip had been longer!” Joshua said.
Ashleigh said, “My high was this entire vacation. I can’t even remember the last time we had this much fun! Can we do this again sometime?”
It looked like we’d found the perfect cure for our Famnesia.Discover endless ways of making your family vacation memorable in the Bradenton Area.