Thursday, January 30, 2014

Friendly City isn't the friendliest city, but close according to Rand McNally

The Friendly City isn't the Friendliest City, but darn close.

Randy McNally announced its Best of the Road winners Thursday, which included six categories of the Best Small Towns. For Friendliest City, Bradenton was named a runner up. The winner was Kewanee, Ill., located east of Davenport, Iowa.

Bradenton also joined runner-ups Macon, Ga., Murray, Ky., and Keokuk, Iowa. While Bradenton's been nicknamed The Friendly City since the 1930s, it didn't help the votes.

The winners were determined by votes and social media engagement, and because Bradenton was a finalist, had to enter a video, which you can see above, as well as an essay. Here's an excerpt proclaiming the friendliness:

Friendliness even colors the city’s approach to arts and culture. Named the #2 small city for arts in America byAmericanStyle Magazine, Bradenton is home to the Village of the Arts, an eclectic community of artists living and working together in a downtown neighborhood. Here, visitors can immerse themselves in a world of creativity, tour working studios, and even chat about inspiration and technique with an artist over a glass of sweet tea. Bradenton is also home to a potpourri of thriving galleries, art centers, theater troupes and a full calendar of musical performances, including the Bradenton Blues Festival.

The friendly approach to life transcends fun times though. Mayor Wayne Poston reports that much business in Bradenton is still accomplished with a simple handshake. In addition, the community comes together to enthusiastically serve those in need. Residents built more than 100 homes for Habitat for Humanity, and volunteer at local food banks. The city is also home to Southeastern Guide Dogs, an organization that brings new hope to the visually impaired. 

Bradenton, Florida has been “The Friendly City” for generations. Residents are still offering a warm welcome to visitors today.
The contest was sponsored by RV club Good Sam and, and focused on cities that have a population of 150,000 or less and could only be in the lower 48 (sorry Hawaii and Alaska). Voting ended Sept. 3.

The Bradenton Herald reported about the contest in July when the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau tried to push out the vote:
Bradenton was entered last year in the contest, but did not win. This year, Rand McNally sent her an email notice reminding her to enter Bradenton in the contest. The visitor's bureau enlisted the help of the City of Bradenton to get the word out. Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston said it was a easy decision to make. "It would be a natural for us to win with our Friendly City slogan," said Poston. "We want to make sure people get out and vote." 

Another Gulf Coast city also received accolades. Punta Gorda was named runner-up for Most Beautiful city, losing out to Jefferson City, Mo. The only other Florida city recognized in the contest was Merritt Island, a runner-up for Geocaching.

(h/t to Realize Bradenton)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Jimmy John's drive-thru now open in Bradenton

Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches is now open at 5300 Manatee Ave. W in Bradenton. (Photo by Charles Schelle/Bradenton Herald)

Those freaky fast subs at Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwich Shop are going turbo now that a drive-thru opened today in West Bradenton.

The 1,336-square-foot restaurant, 5300 Manatee Ave. W, is the first Jimmy John's standalone shop and drive-thru in the Manatee-Sarasota area. It also has outdoor seating. The parcel used to be Patrick's Salon.

Owner and general manager Tom Vehema, who also runs the Cortez Road store with James Briles, shared with me in September his excitement for the new shop:
"A drive-thru adds a whole different dynamic to this franchise being freaky fast, making 30-second sandwiches," Vehema said. "Throwing our sandwiches into the mix, it's a whole different scene." 
The new shop will have 19 seats inside, a 16-seat patio, and offer delivery in a three- to five-minute area as well. Since the first Jimmy John's opened in 1983 in Charleston, Ill., the company has built more than 1,600 restaurants.

Contact Jimmy John's at 941-896-8811. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to midnight seven days a week and delivery begins at 10 a.m.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Bradenton ranked No. 3 Best Small City for retirement

Downtown Bradenton Photo by Charles Schelle/Bradenton Herald
Another listicle, another ranking: Real estate brokerage blog Movato caught our attention by ranking Bradenton as the No. 3 Best Small City to Retire In.

(Sorry, Sarasota. You're No. 6.)

Bradenton was tied for third with Lakewood, Ohio, near Cleveland, and here's what Movato had to say about the Friendly City:

The first of three Florida cities in our top 10, Bradenton offers the third-largest number of retiree amenities of any city we looked at–and also ranked third overall in terms of amenities per capita. It did particularly well when it came to shopping, dining, and healthcare, although arts & entertainment options weren’t too shabby either. When it came to cost of living, Bradenton ranked 52nd, and dipped to 122nd in terms of crime. On the upside, it placed 11th overall where weather is concerned. With the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport located eight miles from the city’s center, it also tied for 14th in terms of travel.

Bradenton has a lot to be proud about, so good for the city, and Sarasota, too.

At the same time, I lament posting links to listicles, but we're all a sucker for them because we like to be validated or at times, vindicated (and they're easy picking for a quick blog post).  They're useful for promoting an area and for local bragging rights, too.

For example, I'm sure Bradenton officials will highlight that Movato notes Sarasota didn't rank higher because it ranked near last, 137th for crime, and 70th for cost of living.

Movato assembled some categories to make this list, including cost of living, crime rate, average summer temperature and air quality, distance to nearest airport and retiree amenities per capita like senior centers, and adult education.

It's interesting that Movato used average summer temperature. I'd think that would be a killer considering how the humidity creates a heat index that rivals the seventh circle of hell. Wouldn't the average winter temperature be more beneficial?

Take the rankings for what they're worth, but there's not much to complain about living here.

Siesta Key's Sea Spray Resort named TripAdvisor Top Bargain

Siesta Key's Sea Spray Resort is receiving national recognition for offering good deals.

The resort ranked seventh on TripAdvisor's Top U.S. Bargain Hotels, on the travel site's 12th annual Travelers' Choice awards.

No Manatee County resorts or hotels made this list, but two other Tampa Bay hotels received nods including Holiday Inn Express Crystal River at No. 12 and Gulf Tides Inn in St. Pete Beach for best bargains.

“We’re excited to recognize the world’s best properties, based on the opinions of those who know them best – the millions of travelers around the globe who come to TripAdvisor to share their experiences,” said Barbara Messing, chief marketing officer for TripAdvisor. “For those seeking inspiration for their 2014 travel planning, this list of spectacular accommodations that received 2014 Travelers’ Choice awards is a perfect place to start.

The average price for a bargain hotel on TripAdvisor's list was $91. An in-season rate in April at Sea Spray, the first available dates for booking through Expedia, ranged from $195 to $209 depending on the day and room.

Along with Bargain Hotels, TripAdvisor released rankings for other hotel categories, but the three mentioned above were the only Tampa Bay hotels to be recognized. One other Florida hotel worth mentioning is Florida's Resort Orlando, which was named Best Hotel for Families in the U.S.

Find the rest of the winners at

Is there a hotel or resort in Manatee County that should have made this list? Weigh in below.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Funniest Snowbird Travel Joke You'll Ever Hear...Ever

SRQ airport's president Rick Piccolo has a sense of humor about airport operations and travel and knows what folks go through to get to sunny Sarasota and Bradenton to get away from winter storms up north.

Given that another wave of snow is hitting the northeast today delaying travel in Bradenton-Sarasota, Piccolo told probably one of the funniest icebreakers and jokes on travel at a Kiwanis meeting on Tuesday. It sounds too good to be true.

Here's the transcript:

"There was a Minneapolis couple that had come to Sarasota for their honeymoon, and they had decided to come back during a very icy winter and decided to stay in the same hotel they visited 20 years prior.
So, because of their hectic schedules, the husband was coming down the day before the wife, flew into SRQ, and checked into the hotel. There was a computer in the hotel room, so he decided to send an email off to his wife that he had made it safely.
However, he had left off one letter out of her email address accidentally, hit the send button and ended up showing up at a widow's email inbox in Houston who had just came back from a funeral for her husband, who was a minister. She had decided to check her emails to make sure if there were any  messages of condolences from friends and relatives.
She went into the room to open the emails, let out a scream, and her son ran in. The widow was laying on the floor passed out. 
This is what was on the screen:
Subject: I've Arrived
To my loving wife:
I know you're surprised to hear from me. They have computers here now, and you're allowed to send email to your loved ones.
I just arrived and have been checked in, and I see everything has been prepared for your arrival tomorrow.
I'm looking forward to seeing you then. I hope your journey is as uneventful as my journey.
P.S. It sure is freaking hot down here!
That's certainly one way to remember a vacation...whether it's true or not. This joke actually has a long history, and its versions are available on myth-busting site Even though it's not original, it's still funny.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Darwin's named a top 18 brew pub in USA Today

Chef Darwin Santa Maria (Courtesy Photo)
Darwin's on 4th in Sarasota is getting some national love for its brew pub, offering Bradentonians a bit of a tease of what will soon be here.

The Peruvian restaurant and microbrewery, 1525 Fourth St., Sarasota, made a top 18 list of the "best brew pubs/taprooms for food quality" nationwide.'s Joe Tucker ranked the best for USA Today's Travel section this week, and only included breweries that served food.

"Unlike traditional restaurants, these are social establishments that are places to relax, sample the local flavors and enjoy some conversation," Tucker told USA Today.

Chef and owner Darwin Santa Maria was honored for the recognition of his Andes-influenced beer and dishes.

"I am extremely happy and so proud of the entire Darwin's team for this accomplishment," Santa Maria said. "I also want to offer my congratulations to Cigar City in Tampa and Funky Buddha in Oakland Park for making the list for their beer quality. Please support your local Florida breweries!"

Darwin's is bringing a brewery and lounge to 803 17th Ave. W, across from McKechnie Field this spring. The 6,000-square-foot building is a 15-barrel brewery that includes a tasting room, beer garden, and performance area for local bands. The brewery will offer canning, kegging and growlers of its beers. While the Bradenton location won't feature the food menu from Darwin's in Sarasota, it does plan to hold food truck rallies there.

Read more here:

Read more here:

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Motorworks Brewing opens Tuesday to Facebook Fans

The exterior of Motorworks Brewing at 1014 Ninth St. W. in Bradenton. The brewery plans to open Tuesday. PAUL VIDELA/Bradenton Herald

Read more here:
Bradenton's first modern brewery is finally opening, but the brewed beers won't be quite ready.

Motorworks Brewing, 1014 9th St. W, announced on Facebook Wednesday that the brewery is opening its brewery starting Tuesday, Jan. 22, for Facebook fans from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m:

Be among the first to sample Motorworks beer, plus 25 guest taps, an extensive bottle selection, and local spirits. Mingle with the owners and brewers while enjoying video games inside and corn hole, a putting green, or bocce ball outside in our huge beer garden.

Let's not kid ourselves though. Anyone who knows about this opening will be walking through the doors, and if the admission is clicking Like on Motorworks' Facebook page, then that's both a clever social media push and an easy way to not feel guilty about showing up without being a Facebook fan.

After that, the brewery is open 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. to the general public. Once this place is humming, customers can expect to hear some live music in the tap room, too.

As you read from Motorworks' announcement, they'll have plenty of beer and liquor available, but you can't buy the beer that they brew yet, so samples are being passed out. The brewing can't be done until the equipment is all in place to do mass brewing, and according to the state Department of Business and Professional Regulations, the brewing license hasn't been granted yet. 

This week the brewery is awaiting 90 bbl fermenters that are 20-foot-tall stainless steel tanks. They're so big that owners Denise and Frank Tschida hired Tom Winkler PE to cut open 8 to 12 feet through concrete floors. 

The tanks are being imported and were at customs in Miami on Wednesday, said spokeswoman and brewery vice president Ann Altman and are expected to be installed within the week.
Once the large tanks arrive this week, the fun isn't over. Workers will use a gantry-style system to actually lift the tanks, pass them through an opening on the second floor back wall, and lower them into place. 

The brewery is welcome news to not only the approximately 20 employees that will have probably the most exciting job (other than a reporter's), but folks around the Village of the Arts are giddy about what this brewery could do for the neighborhood. Motorworks' first partnership with the village is figuring out a food partnership with neighboring Charisma Cafe.