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Unique Things to do in Bradenton Florida

by Pankaj Upreti
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THINGS TO DO IN BRADENTON FLORIDA

Bradenton is a city in Manatee County in the US state of Florida
Bradenton | Photo Credit – Lenny DiFranza

Bradenton is a city in Manatee County in the US state of Florida. The city is heavily dependent on tourism and the agricultural industry. It is situated at Interstate 75 between Tampa and St. Petersburg, FL to the north and Sarasota, Florida to the south. It’s one of the principal cities in the North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton Statistical Metropolitan Area in Florida. Located along the west coast bordering the Gulf of Mexico on the map, it overlooks the Manatee River in the south of Tampa. 

Bradenton, Florida is surrounded by both fresh and saltwater bodies. Bradenton, FL is home to many Florida beaches that are lined with Australian Pine along the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. Mainland Bradenton is separated from the outer barrier islands of Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key by the Intracoastal Waterway. Downtown Bradenton where many of the city’s offices and government buildings are located in the northwest area of the city.

WHAT IS BRADENTON KNOWN FOR?

The friendly city of the sunshine state is known for having a diverse of attractions, fun things to do, and both outdoor activities and indoor recreation. It is a small city that has a big culture. It is the place that attracts tourists with its Old Florida history, beautiful architecture, green parks, and nature reserves. Bradenton, FL has a warm and welcoming ambiance.

HOW DANGEROUS IS BRADENTON FLORIDA?

The chance of becoming a victim of either violent or property crime in Bradenton, FL is 1 in 29. The city is known to have a record of petty thefts and crime, but by following immediate safety protocols, it will not be a con, for the most part, Bradecern for tourists to fall prey to this as the city hosts a lot of tourists every year.

Bradenton has a significantly higher crime rate than Sarasota, FL. During night time, avoid traveling into neighborhoods near Old 301, Palmetto, and Central Bradenton as these areas tend to have a higher concentration of crime. Stick to the wealthier West Bradenton and Lakewood Ranch. Always keep a map of the city handy.

As always, don’t walk around by yourself late at night or carry around expensive objects or large amounts of cash. Driving is normally pretty safe. Another thing that tourists should keep in mind is that they must actively follow Covid-19 pandemic guidelines and protocols issued by the government and various organizations that they’ll be visiting. Check out the official pandemic updates from the city’s municipality here.

WHAT IS THERE TO DO IN BRADENTON, FL?

Explore Old Florida’s history in things like museums, parks and preserves including Lake Manatee State Park, Robinson Nature Preserve. Visiting its vibrant Downtown, there are a lot of fun things that travelers can do here like enjoy live music, indulge in food and shop.

Bradenton is home to Florida’s sweetest attraction on the banks of Manatee River in the form of Mixon Fruit Farms. Below is the list of things to do in Bradenton, FL that’ll make you pack your bags for your trip to Bradenton.

EMERSON POINT PRESERVE

Emerson Point Preserve | Photo Credit – Carol VanHook

Emerson Point Preserve is a 365-acre preserve in Manatee County. It is located at the mouth of the Manatee River between Snead Island and Palmetto. Emerson Point Preserve is known for showcasing Florida’s native flora and fauna communities along with prehistoric and historic sites. The preserve has something for everyone. From alligators, mangroves, beaches, boardwalks to sailboard launch, it is full of attraction.

The attractions here include historical sites like the Native American Portavant Temple Mound, an observation tower, and a welcome/ranger station. The observation tower is the place that you must visit to enjoy spectacular panoramic views of Terra Ceia Bay, Tampa Bay, and Sunshine Skyway Bridge. The visitor center offers information for visitors via numerous exhibits and infographics. 

The preserve also has many multi-use trails where activities like hiking, jogging, mountain biking, and board walking can be done. These trails traverse through the preserve. There are also two small picnic shelters, a large ten-table picnic shelter, and a canoe/kayak launch site. Admission to the preserve is free of cost. People like to do things like birdwatching, wildlife photography, and observation here.

ROBINSON NATURE PRESERVE

Fiddler Crab is a resident of the Robinson Nature Preserve | Photo Credit – Distinguished Reflections

Robinson Preserve is 487 acres of land featuring things like coastal saltern, marsh, and mangrove habitat. Here visitors can observe a variety of rare wildlife like roseate spoonbills, wood storks, white pelicans, bald eagles, and least terns in their natural environment.

There is a 40-foot tall observation tower for a view of four counties and five water bodies. Visitors can also check out various exhibits about the wildlife at the Valentine House Visitor’s Center. Things like 3 miles of paved trail, 5 miles of the shell, and coastal trails host many recreation activities. 3 miles of blueways present a chance to navigate through mangrove tunnels, marshes, and more. There are a lot of things that every type of tourist can do here.

Additional things offered here include platforms, picnic areas, and a visitors center.

DE SOTO NATIONAL MEMORIAL PARK

De Soto National Memorial Park | Photo Credit – Boston Public Library

The De Soto National Memorial in Manatee County is one of the top things to visit that memorializes the landing of Hernando de Soto in the Tampa Bay area. In 1539, Hernando de Soto and an army of over 600 soldiers kickstarted the European expeditions to what is now known as the southern USA.

Located 5 miles west of Bradenton, the memorial is a 26-acre beautiful natural landscape where the visitors can witness the flowing out of the Manatee River into Tampa Bay, along with a 3,000 feet coastline. It hosts many activities including kayaking, canoeing, nature and hiking trails, picnicking, camping, fishing, and birdwatching.

Eighty percent of the area of the memorial is a mangrove swamp. It is managed by the National Park Service and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Visitors can relive what De Soto saw by attending living history demonstrations and walking the nature trail through a Florida coastal landscape. This landscape is similar to the one encountered by the explorers almost five hundred years ago. Visitors can also try on a piece of armor.

Exhibits at the visitor center include historic armor, 16th-century weapons, and period artifacts. There is also a theater that features a movie called Hernando de Soto in America. It is about the DeSoto Expedition and the area’s Native American population. The De Soto memorial also has a bookstore.

The living history camp is called Camp Uzita. This living history camp is operated in the cooler months from December through April. The season of the camp ends with a re-enactment of DeSoto’s landing on the beaches of Tampa Bay.

Other park activities include nature trails and guided trail walks, fishing, bird watching, and picnicking. Park admission is free.

FLORIDA MARITIME MUSEUM

Florida Maritime Museum (FMM) is a Manatee County Clerk of Circuit Courts-sponsored museum. It is located within the historic fishing village of Cortez, Florida. The museum’s aim is to spread awareness about the stories of Florida’s maritime history. It has an area of 4 acres and is housed in a 1912 schoolhouse building in the 95-acre (38 ha) Cortez Nature Preserve at 4415 119th Street West.

Apart from maritime history, it also showcases the significance of the regional commercial fishing industry through numerous exhibits. These exhibits feature historical artifacts, photographs, instruments, boat models, tools, and a collection of shells from the Gulf Coast. There is also a library for researchers with diaries, books, periodicals, plans, ship logs, records, and letters as well as numerous archival materials about maritime subjects and the Gulf Coast. 

There is also a folk school that teaches traditional Florida skills. It also features a large collection of curated shells from the Gulf of Mexico and miniature ships. Many of the models on display at the Florida Maritime Museum are miniature versions of real ships that played a role in Florida’s maritime history. Other attractions include the 1890 Burton Store, Robert Sailor’s Secret Garden, and Butterfly Garden, a wood cistern, and the Pillsbury Boat Shop, etc.

Hence, Florida Maritime Museum is a must-visit place for visitors with inquisitive minds. Visit their website to know more about their collections, library, programs, and events before your visit.

MANATEE VILLAGE HISTORICAL PARK

It is an open-air outdoor museum in Bradenton, Florida at the Manatee Avenue East. Designated as a National Historic Site, the park is aimed at preserving the pioneer heritage of Manatee County’s founding period of 1840-1918. It has an array of preserved and replica structures representative of the founding period, including the 1903 Wiggins General Store, the Fogarty Boatworks, the 1912 Stephens House, a smokehouse, a sugar cane mill, a barn, the 1887 Methodist church, the 1908 schoolhouse, the 1860 courthouse, a Cow Hunter’s bunkhouse, and a steam engine.

There are 14 preserved structures here. The other attractions include a schoolhouse and cemetery, a pavilion, a children’s play area known as Junior Junction, etc.

The park also offers educational programs to the public, including school field trips, group tours, guest speakers, and hosting several events sound the year. Other amenities provided by the park include restrooms, water fountains, two dog-friendly clean-up stations, and a wheelchair lift to the second floor of the Wiggins Store, picnic tables shaded by large oak trees, and free parking.

PALMA SOLA BOTANICAL PARK

Palma Sola Botanical Garden | Photo Credit – Carol VanHook

Located at 9800 17th Avenue N.W., Bradenton, Palma Sola Botanical Park is a botanical garden that features an array of rare palms, fruits, and flowering trees. The park also has attractions like three lakes with bridges, a butterfly garden, a gazebo for hosting weddings, a children’s playground, and a pavilion. It is open to the public daily. Admission is free of cost.

This 10-acre park was established in 1990 for the public to enjoy some green oasis in the city of Bradenton, Florida. The park also features the Galleria and Baden buildings. Many educational and orientation programs and workshops are also offered here. The gardens can also be rented for special personal and corporate events and functions, such as weddings, and are open to the public daily all year round.

VILLAGE OF THE ARTS

Glued toys at a Village of the Arts | Photo Credit – psyberartist

Located at the center of the Sarasota-Bradenton area, the Village of the Arts is a quirky and vibrant artists community in Downtown Bradenton, FL, at 14th Street West, Route 41/9th Street West, and 16th Avenue West. It is approximately 50 miles south of Tampa and 14 miles north of Sarasota, Florida. The village has over 100 residential homes, restaurants, cafes, art galleries, studios, and workshops.

The 36 acres of this artists’ region is the humble abode of many artists who live and work here. These homes are aesthetically restored cottages dating back to the 1920s and 1930s. This is one of the top destinations for art lovers to enjoy art walks in Bradenton, FL.

These cottages have been repaired, renovated, decorated, and painted in bright colors to compliment the already artsy vibe of the village. The artists-in-residence here produce works that are shown and sold in one of the many art galleries in the village. This artistic place also has many attractions and things to see and do.

From admiring the beautiful and unusual architecture in art walks, visiting art galleries, studios, and workshops to dining out or sipping coffee in sidewalk coffee shops, or strolling through the streets and soaking up the vibrant atmosphere, there are a lot of top things to do here. 

Artists from diverse artistic mediums including goldsmiths, painters, fashion and custom clothing designers, antique curator and their restorators, sculptor, photographers, potters, etc. live here. Music instructors and performance artists doing live music and performances can be easily found here. Many artisans accept commissions, i.e., work as ordered and designed by a patron/customer.

SOUTH FLORIDA MUSEUM

Bradenton - South Florida Museum
South Florida Museum | Photo Credit – Jared

The South Florida Museum, now known as Bishop Museum of Science and Nature, is a natural history museum that is dedicated to the history of Florida’s Gulf Coast. Located in Bradenton, Florida, it has numerous exhibits of artifacts to showcase the state’s interesting history from the prehistoric to the present. 

The museum is more popularly known for its interactive permanent and temporary exhibits. From fossils showcasing Florida’s earliest marine and mammal inhabitants to artifacts highlighting the Paleo-Indian, Archaic, and pre-Columbian cultures. It is also home to the Bishop Planetarium and the Parker Manatee Rehabilitation Museum. The planetarium is all digital. It offers several educational programs, classes, and workshops for guests of all ages.

The Parker Manatee Rehabilitation Habitat was the former home of Snooty, the oldest known manatee in the world.

IMG ACADEMY

IMG Academy is a sports training destination in Bradenton, Florida. It offers sports experience across eight sports. There are also many camp programs on a year-round basis. The academy is also a host site for a variety of sports events.

MANATEE COUNTY GOLF COURSE

One of the other most popular things to do in Bradenton
Manatee County | Photo Credit- Manatee County Parks &

One of the other most popular things to do in Bradenton, Florida is to enjoy some quality golfing experience. Manatee County Golf Course is located in West Bradenton. Being the closest golf course and range to the island communities of Longboat Key, Holmes Beach, and Anna Maria Island, and also Sarasota, it is quite popular among the visitors.

It offers a scenic yet challenging course that keeps the visitors entertained.

BRADENTON BEACH

Bradenton and Sarasota, FL, Bradenton Beach
BRADENTON BEACH | Photo Credit – psyberartist

A brief drive from Bradenton and Sarasota, FL, Bradenton Beach is a small town. Located on Anna Maria Island off the Gulf Coast, the town features fishing piers, panoramic sandy beaches lined with shops, restaurants, etc. 

Pine Avenue at the Northern end of the island, is a quirky shopping destination. Here, you’ll find French-milled soaps, specialty olive oils, handmade clothing, and small art galleries. Pine Avenue also is home to the Anna Maria Island Historical Museum, Artspace Studios, and Gallery, a list of hotels and lodges.

Beach Bums is the company that rents bikes, jet skis, kayaks, and paddle-boards for exploring the beach and the surrounding area.

HOLMES BEACH

Holmes Beach | Photo Credit – Sam

Holmes Beach is a city on Anna Maria Island in Manatee County, Florida, United States. It is part of the Bradenton–Sarasota–Venice Metropolitan Statistical Area. The city occupies the central part of Anna Maria Island and is one of three municipalities on the island. Just like the other three municipalities, Holmes Beach features three miles of idyllic white, sandy beaches and an endless amount of sea-green water. 

In this small, quaint town, you will find your perfect vacation rental accommodation. Whether you prefer outdoor activities, quiet time, or fun in the sun with friends, there are plenty of things to do here. There is also a diverse range of restaurants, bars and retail outlets along with some local historical culture, parks, and wildlife to enjoy with.

LAKEWOOD RANCH

Lakewood Ranch is located in southeastern Manatee County and northeastern Sarasota County, Florida, United States. It comprises 17 villages that offer a variety of lifestyles to explore. From town-homes, single family homes and luxury estates, Lakewood Ranch communities share living space with dramatic landscapes of forest and wetland preserves full of native wildlife.

Recreational facilities include Lakewood Ranch Country Club and Athletic Center, 54 holes of championship golf, the Sarasota Cricket Club, nine world-class polo fields, and a variety of community parks, lakes, and nature preserves.

PIRATE CITY

Pirate City along with LECOM park is the site of minor league and spring training activities for the Pittsburgh Pirates of the National League. The complex is located at 1701 27th St E, Bradenton, Florida. Pirate City serves as the site of the Pirates spring training workouts, while nearby LECOM Park is the site of the team’s home spring training games. 

The Pittsburgh Pirate practice sessions are free and open to the public at Pirate City. Pirate City is a unique place because of the close proximity between the work-out fields and the fans. It’s also a place in which you can “feel” baseball history while you watch the beginnings of another new year of baseball.

Get up and close with your favorite sports persons here while catching up on some chilled craft beer and snacks.

Please also read about things to do in Florida.


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