At the beginning of each new year I get this itch. Flying to a new place reenergizes me, and after the hustle and bustle of the holidays, by January I’m pretty tired! The snow, cold and lack of sunshine (we all need Vitamin D – right?) can just be downright depressing. At the beginning of each year, Neal and I make a list of places we hope to travel to so we can budget and plan. Being intentional is what has allowed us to see so many beautiful spots each year. We make it a point to book a warm, sunny trip every January and kickstart our wanderlust bug! We got the RBC Visa Infinite Avion credit card last year (in December) and started collecting points ever since we took a little road trip to Old Quebec (remember this?). I’m not one to collect pointless travel reward points, I love having a travel card that benefits my love for travel and allows me to earn even more points on travel related purchases, so you’re only adding to more experiences! Neal and I really love quick trips because we can do them more often (see the RBC Air Travel Redemption Schedule to find out how many points you need). If you are like me, travel inspires you and gives you energy – I personally love to get away at least every two months so this card has been amazing and I love that it will allow us to explore more inÂ 2018! Whenever you purchase hotels, rental cars etc. for tavel on the RBC Visa Infinite Avion credit card, you gain more points to put towards future trips (so you never feel like you have to hoard points). There are so many airlines you can choose from to redeem points, and we used our points recently to head to Sarasota (via Tampa).
One of my best girls, Sarah Tucker, who I met through the blogosphere 8 years ago invited us down to get some sunshine in her beautiful state of Florida and we couldn’t pass up the offer. I love visiting friends in an area they’re very familiar with, because you get a totally different travel perspective. Neal and I love experiencing the daily life of different places and cultures, so getting local insight to the best restaurants, beaches, etc. makes a short trip so worth it because you don’t waste time getting lost! Sarah knew we wanted to get some cool shoots done, check out local spots to eat, shop a little and see the best beaches in the USA and she did not disappoint! Here’s what we did in Sarasota, Florida…
This was actually on the way back from the airport in Tampa, which we stopped off to grab a quick bite. Inside is a hall of different artisans, pop up boutiques, a book store and restaurants. It was so very charming!
THE RINGLING MUSEUM OF ART
The Ringling houses so many gorgeous pieces of art inside, but I spent more time out on the grounds which amazed me! On one side, you have the main museum which is painted vibrant pink, and resembles a courtyard from a European palace,Â and then there are the stunning banyan trees and rose gardens everywhere. The other side we walked to looked like it was straight out of Morocco! It made for some fun photoshoots.Â If you’re into the The Greatest Showman, I’d highly recommend visiting the Ringling Circus Museum!
ARTISAN CHEESE COMPANY
Sarah knows we love cheese (and she has a strong affinity with it as well), so she took us to the best spot for lunch! Neal had an amazing taco, and we had the grilled cheese with soup and salad. It was beyond delish! We may have also indulged in a charcuterie board with imported cheese, because we clearly could not get enough cheese in our lives! So yummy.
ANNA MARIA ISLAND BEACH TOWN
I have heard Siesta Key has been named the #1 beach in the USA, but I’m not really into really crowded, majorly tourist spots. Again, we love the local perspective and that the next best thing? Anna Maria Island beaches! The sand was so white, and the water was the perfect turquoise blue, I really thought I was in the caribbean!
On Anna Maria Island, there are so many cute little shops, restaurants and bars as well to enjoy. We went to Poppo’s Tacos (I had the spicy beef *drooling*) and then also picked up a box from The Donut Experiment (we had a fun donut tasting party later at night with the kiddos at Sarah’s house). Pink & Navy was a cute boutique on the strip where you could find a cute gift, love the thankful sign on the outside, it pulled me right in.
POPPO’S TACOS EXCITEMENT
DELICIOUS DONUTS FROM THE DONUT EXPERIMENTÂ
The donuts come out hot and fresh every time – so good!
LONGBOAT KEY (BEER CAN BEACH)
Another local gem – Sarah took us to Longboat Key and found us this super private beach (or what felt like it, since we practically had it to ourselves). There’s all of this beautiful driftwood everywhere, and the water, again was so serene and blue. We went to Publix (a grocery store) and got their famous “pub subs” and had a picnic on the beach with Sarah, and her youngest son Wesley. We saw two dolphins while hanging out on the beach and it made my entire day!
The banyan trees in Bradenton were one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen! I found it so unique because these type of trees are commonly found on the East, in countries like India.Â They look like trees illustrated out of a storybook. We took some cool shots under here, and the sun was dancing through the leaves on to the ground â€” it was the prettiest sight.
DE SOTO NATIONAL MEMORIAL PARK
We went here on our last night to take some family photos of Sarah, her husband and two sweet boys at sunset…
Neal and I also got some shots I absolutely love and have to print immediately! It was such a peaceful place. The water was so calm and the sky was like a painting of soft indigo, lilac and rose. A lot of locals bring their dogs for a walk here (which I loved seeing, hello huge dog lover) but what made this place extra unique was the large cross that stands tall above the entire park. It was put there to honour the twelve original priests and friars who sailed with Hernando De Soto ( spanish explorer who led the first expedition to Florida) and accompanied him on his expedition to the United States.
If you’re visiting Sarasota, Florida, those would definitely be my top spots and I’m so thankful to our friends, Sarah and JB Tucker for hosting and showing us around their beautiful area. We did some fun Target runs, barbecuing, fishing on the dock, jumping on the trampoline with the kiddos and so much more! It was a fruitful week that made us feel so rested and loved on! The best part of visiting with good friends.
Thank You to RBC Avion for partnering on this post. All opinions are my own.