Overlooking the Manatee River, south of Tampa, Bradenton is a sunny, friendly city that offers a plethora of attractions, activities, and outdoor recreation. Boasting a vibrant, Old Florida history with beautiful architecture, green parks, and nature reserves, Bradenton has a warm and welcoming ambiance that attracts tourists to enjoy its many sights and sounds. Explore the vibrant artists community of the Village of the Arts, which features an eclectic collection of colorfully restored 1920s and ‘30s cottages, and the bustling downtown area; stroll along the Riverwalk and soak up the scenic views; discover the history of Bradenton, Florida and Manatee County with a visit to the South Florida Museum; or head into nature at the Robinson Preserve, the Cortez fishing village, or the DeSoto National Memorial Park.
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1.Emerson Point Preserve
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Located at the tip of Snead Island in western Palmetto at the mouth of the Manatee River, Emerson Point Preserve is a 365-acre preserve that features stunning examples of Florida's wildlife and native plant communities as well as several prehistoric and historic sites. Historical sites include the Native American Portavant Temple Mound, and other attractions range from an observation tower with spectacular views of Terra Ceia Bay to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and a welcome/ranger station that offers information for visitors. There are several multi-use trails for hiking, mountain biking, and jogging and boardwalks wind around the preserve, along with two small picnic shelters, a large ten-table picnic shelter, and a canoe/kayak launch.
5801 17th St W, Palmetto, FL 34221, Phone: 941-742-5923
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2.Florida Maritime Museum
© Florida Maritime Museum
The Florida Maritime Museum (FMM) is dedicated to chronicling the story of Florida’s maritime history. Located on 4 acres of land in the historic fishing village of Cortez and housed in a 1912 schoolhouse building, the museum was established to showcase the significance of the regional commercial fishing industry and features an array of exhibits displaying historical artifacts, photographs, instruments, boat models, tools, and a collection of shells from the Gulf of Mexico. The museum also boasts a research library packed with diaries, books, periodicals, plans, ship logs, records, and letters as well as an array of archival material concerning maritime subjects.
4415 119th St W, Cortez, FL 34215, Phone: 941-708-6120
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3.Village of the Arts
© Village of the Arts
Set in the heart of the Sarasota-Bradenton area, the Village of the Arts is an eclectic and vibrant artists community that features over 100 homes, restaurants, cafés, art galleries, studios, and workshops. Spanning 36 acres, the Village of the Arts is home to many artists who live and work in beautifully restored cottages dating back to the 1920s and 1930s. The cottages have been lovingly renovated and repaired and painted in bright colors, which adds to the already artsy vibe, and the artists-in-residence produce works that are shown and sold in one of the many art galleries in the village. The quirky town offers an array of things to see and do, from admiring the beautiful and unusual architecture and visiting art galleries, studios, and workshops to dining out or sipping coffee in a sidewalk café, or strolling through the streets and soaking up the vibrant ambiance.
1017 12th Ave W, Bradenton, FL 34205
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4.De Soto National Memorial
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The De Soto National Memorial commemorates the landing of Hernando de Soto in 1539 and the subsequent exploration by Europeans of what is now the southern United States. Located in Manatee County, 5 miles west of Bradenton, the memorial is set on 26 acres of beautiful landscape where the Manatee River flows out into Tampa Bay, including 3,000 feet of coastline. Activities at the De Soto National Memorial include kayaking, canoeing, nature and hiking trails, picnicking, camping, fishing, and birdwatching.
8300 Desoto Memorial Hwy, Bradenton, FL 34209, Phone: 941-792-0458
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5.The Judah P. Benjamin Confederate Memorial
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The Judah P. Benjamin Confederate Memorial at Gamble Plantation Historic State Park, also known as the Gamble Plantation or the Gamble Mansion, is a Florida State Park in Ellenton. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Gamble Plantation Historic State Park is home to Florida Division United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) and features a variety of attractions. The park boasts a beautiful antebellum mansion built by Major Robert Gamble, the lovingly restored wooden-framed Victorian-style Patten House, built for George Patten in 1872, and 16 acres of the former sugarcane plantation, which once spanned 3,500 acres. The park also holds the Confederate Veterans Memorial Monument, which was erected in 1937, and a visitors center that offers a wealth of information on the park.
3708 Patten Ave, Ellenton, FL 34222, Phone: 941-723-4536
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6.Lake Manatee State Park
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Extending for 3 miles along the south shore of beautiful Lake Manatee, Lake Manatee State Park is a 556-acre state park that is situated 15 miles east of Bradenton and offers excellent freshwater fishing, boating, canoeing and kayaking, swimming and sunbathing, hiking, and picnicking. Created when a dam was built across the Manatee River in the mid-1960s, Lake Manatee State Park is a welcoming outdoor space that offers a variety of activities and attractions for the whole family to enjoy. The park’s natural habitats are made up mainly of sand pine scrub and pine flatwoods with some hardwood forests and depression marshes, and it boasts full camping facilities a short walk from the lake as well as a pretty picnic pavilion. A lakeshore beach is ideal for sunbathing and swimming, and there are modern restrooms with showers located near the beach.
20007 E State Road 64, Bradenton, FL 34212, Phone: 941-741-3028
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LECOM Park is the spring training ballpark of the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team. Built in 1923, LECOM Park was initially named the McKechnie Field, in honor of Pittsburgh native and Hall of Fame manager Bill McKechnie, and was later renamed LECOM Park after the sponsor, the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine. The ballpark has seen significant renovations and upgrades over the years to make it one of baseball's most exceptional facilities, with state-of-the-art features such as a 19,000-square-foot boardwalk running the length of the outfield, a boardwalk barbeque area, the LaPensee Plumbing, Pools & Air Party Deck, an enlarged fan plaza, expanded restroom facilities and new covered bleachers with 570 seats.
1611 9th Street West, Bradenton, FL 34205, Phone: 941-747-3031
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8.Manatee County Agricultural Museum
© Manatee County Agricultural Museum
Located in Palmetto Historical Park, the Manatee County Agricultural Museum is dedicated to highlighting the importance of agriculture in Manatee County and the significant role it has played in the development of the region. The museum features a variety of exhibits that focus on the primary commodities in the county, namely horticulture, livestock, citrus and vegetables, and commercial fishing, and showcases a range of farming equipment and tools, photographs, and documents that reflect the area’s rich heritage. The Manatee County Agricultural Museum is open Tuesday through Friday and on the first and third Saturdays of the month.
1015 6th St W, Palmetto, FL 34221, Phone: 941-721-2034
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9.Manatee Village Historical Park
© Manatee Village Historical Park
Manatee Village Historical Park is a unique collection of historical buildings, objects, and artifacts that highlight the aspects of life in Florida during the pioneering era. Historical buildings around the park include the Curator’s Corner, Wiggins General Store, Fogarty Boatworks, a blacksmith’s shop, the Settler’s House, the smokehouse and mill, the Potter Barn, an 1887 church, and an 1860 courthouse. There is also a schoolhouse and cemetery, a pavilion and picnic tables shaded by large oak trees, and a children’s play area known as Junior Junction. Other amenities at the Manatee Village Historical Park include modern restrooms, water fountains, two doggie clean-up stations, and a wheelchair lift to the second floor of the Wiggins Store.
1404 Manatee Avenue East, Bradenton, FL 34208, Phone: 941-749-7165
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10.Palma Sola Botanical Park
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Palma Sola Botanical Park is a 10-acre botanical park that is home to a large variety of flowering trees, rare palms, and fruit trees as well as a butterfly garden, a picnic pavilion and two gazebos for weddings, a children’s playground, and three lakes with bridges. Established in 1990 to save the Manatee County palm nursery and create a beautiful green space for the community to enjoy, Palma Sola Botanical Park also features the Galleria and Baden buildings and offers a variety of educational programs and workshops. The gardens can also be rented for special event and functions, such as weddings, and are open to the public daily all year round.
9800 17th Ave NW, Bradenton, FL 34209, Phone: 941-761-2866
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11.Passage Key National Wildlife Refuge
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Located offshore from St. Petersburg, the Passage Key National Wildlife Refuge is a 30-acre meandering barrier island and wildlife refuge. Established in 1905, the sanctuary once consisted of vast mangrove swamps and a freshwater lake and was home to several species of birds, including brown pelicans, black skimmers, laughing gulls, sandwich terns, oystercatchers, and royal terns. The island was unfortunately severely damaged by a hurricane in 1920, which destroyed most of it. Today, the Passage Key National Wildlife Refuge spans 36.37 acres and acts as a sanctuary and breeding ground for native birds, such as royal and sandwich terns; however, it has suffered substantial shoaling in recent years and is currently reduced to a small sandbar approximately 100 yards long at high tide.
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Overlooking the Manatee River, the Riverwalk is Bradenton’s showpiece and a beautiful outdoor space with an array of activities and attractions for the community to enjoy. Spanning 1.5 miles in downtown Bradenton, the ADA-accessible park features vast expanses of soft grass for picnicking, exercise classes and art shows, an award-winning skateboarding park, beach volleyball courts, and a day dock for boaters to dock their boats. The park is also home to the 400-seat Mosaic Amphitheater, which hosts live entertainment and performances, the Tidal Discovery Zone, shaded outdoor living rooms with comfortable seating, the Family Fun Zone with a colorful splash fountain and playgrounds, jungle gym and splash pad, a fishing pier, the dramatic and decorative Tower Plaza, and the Regatta Plaza.
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Located across the street from the Palma Sola Botanical Gardens in the Palma Sola area, the Robinson Preserve is a 487-acre preserve that features pristine coastal and wetland habitats. The preserve has undergone extensive transformation in recent years and now has a new waterway system to help restore tidal flow within the coastal habitats. The Robinson Preserve also boasts a variety of recreational opportunities, including hiking and mountain biking, nature trails, kayaking, canoeing, and launching sites, rollerblading, managed fishing, group camping, picnicking, wildlife viewing, and environmental education in a visitors center. The preserve also has an observation tower with breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes and wetlands and is open to the public year round.
1704 99th Street Northwest, Bradenton, FL 34209
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14.South Florida Museum
© South Florida Museum
The South Florida Museum is a natural history museum that is dedicated to the history of Florida's Gulf Coast with an array of exhibits highlighting the state’s exciting history from the prehistoric to the present. The most significant museum of its kind on the Florida Gulf Coast, the South Florida Museum features engaging permanent and temporary exhibits, including fossils highlighting Florida’s earliest marine and mammal inhabitants and archaeological materials from the Paleo-Indian, Archaic, and pre-Columbian cultures. The museum is also home to the All-Digital Bishop Planetarium and the Parker Manatee Rehabilitation Museum and offers several educational programs, classes, and workshops for visitors of all ages.
201 10th St W, Bradenton, FL 34205, Phone: 941-746-4131
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15.Sugar Cubed Pastry Lab
© Sugar Cubed Pastry Lab
Located in the heart of Downtown Bradenton, the Sugar Cubed Pastry Lab is a cozy neighborhood bakery and café that sells an array of mouthwatering, homemade treats. The bakery has a menu of delights that include breakfast pastries, muffins, Danishes, biscuits, scones, and a variety of cakes such as cheesecake, Key lime pie, chocolate cake, and more. There are also savory selections of quiche and flatbread pizza, and custom-made cakes and unique fruit bouquets can be ordered on request. The Sugar Cubed Pastry Lab is open Monday through Sunday for breakfast, lunch, and early dinner.
531 13th St. West, Bradenton, FL 34205, Phone: 941-251-4092
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16.TreeUmph Adventure Course
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TreeUmph! Adventure Course is an elevated outdoor adventure park that offers a fun day for the whole family. Set in a forest just outside of Bradenton, TreeUmph! Adventure Course features a variety of exciting and exhilarating adventures from climbing, swinging, and crawling along suspension bridges to zipline courses for all levels. TreeUmph! Adventure Course has two locations in Bradenton and Brooksville and caters to visitors of all ages and abilities, with a range of activities to suit everyone. Training is provided on how to move through the courses safely and efficiently and all safety equipment, including harnesses and helmets, are provided.
21805 E State Rd 70, Bradenton, FL 34202, Phone: 941-322-2130
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17.Naughty Monk Brewery
© Naughty Monk Brewery
Located in beautiful Lakewood Ranch, the Naughty Monk Brewery is a friendly and welcoming brewery and taproom that produces and serves a variety of beers on tap and by the bottle and offers a range of entertainment. The 8,600-square-foot brewery has beers on tap include strong dark ales, fruity ales, American and Belgian blonde beer, imperial milk stout, Belgian Trappist ale, and pumpkin/yam beer. The brewery does not serve food, also it does welcome restaurant deliveries, and it hosts various events throughout the week, ranging from trivia nights to live music. Onsite entertainment includes two Diamond pool tables, darts, cornhole, and a variety of other games.
2507 Lakewood Ranch Blvd, Bradenton, FL 34211, Phone: 941-708-2966
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18.Florida Railroad Museum
© Florida Railroad Museum
The Florida Railroad Museum is dedicated to showcasing the history of Florida’s railroad system. Located in Parrish, the museum operates a heritage railroad that offers round-trip excursions for tourists along 6 scenic miles of the former Seaboard Air Line Sarasota Subdivision between Parrish and Willow. Established in 1981 as the Florida Gulf Coast Railroad Museum with the vision of preserving railroad history, the Florida Railroad Museum is active in both Parish and Willow and is one of three official state railroad museums in the state. The Florida Railroad Museum is open Saturdays and Sundays all year round, and the train departs from Parrish at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm and lasts for about 1.5 hours for the round trip.
12210 83rd St E, Parrish, FL 34219, Phone: 941-776-0906
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© Back Alley
The Back Alley is a hip coffee shop, café, restaurant, and beach wine bar with a warm and welcoming vibe and a delightful collection of artistic gifts and eclectic treasures. The café boasts works by local artists, including paintings, photography, unique jewelry, handbags, and clothing as well as repurposed pieces of art and furniture. The coffee shop serves a variety of freshly brewed coffees, hot and cold espresso creations, island smoothies, and homemade frozen lemonade as well as a selection of craft beer and easy-drinking wines. A small menu of light meals and daytime bites is also available, such as croissants, bagels, and muffins. The Back Alley is open for breakfast, lunch, and drinks, 7 days a week.
108 Historical Bridge Street, Bradenton Beach, FL 34217, Phone: 224-209-1480
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20.Bradenton Farmer's Market
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Bradenton Farmer' Market is a community market and gathering place where locals and visitors come to enjoy fresh produce and homemade food, view local artworks, listen to great music, demonstrations by local chefs, and a variety of family activities. Located on Old Main Street just north of Manatee Avenue, the market is held every Saturday from the first weekend in October to the last week in May and features over 35 vendors who offer fresh locally grown fruits and vegetables, flowers and plants, fresh seafood and prepared foods, organic products, and artwork and handmade products from local artists and craftspeople. Parking is free on weekends, and dogs on leashes are welcome.
1015 Manatee Avenue West, Bradenton, FL 34205, Phone: 941-621-6471
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20 Best Things to Do in Bradenton, Florida
- Emerson Point Preserve, Photo: Courtesy of Lauren Parker - Fotolia.com
- Florida Maritime Museum, Photo: Florida Maritime Museum
- Village of the Arts, Photo: Village of the Arts
- De Soto National Memorial, Photo: Courtesy of fredlyfish4 - Fotolia.com
- The Judah P. Benjamin Confederate Memorial, Photo: Courtesy of spiritofamerica - Fotolia.com
- Lake Manatee State Park, Photo: Courtesy of tyler - Fotolia.com
- LECOM Park, Photo: Courtesy of mtsaride - Fotolia.com
- Manatee County Agricultural Museum, Photo: Manatee County Agricultural Museum
- Manatee Village Historical Park, Photo: Manatee Village Historical Park
- Palma Sola Botanical Park, Photo: Courtesy of Steve Carroll - Fotolia.com
- Passage Key National Wildlife Refuge, Photo: Courtesy of Olivier JULLY - Fotolia.com
- Riverwalk, Photo: Courtesy of crlocklear - Fotolia.com
- Robinson Preserve, Photo: Courtesy of Lauren Parker - Fotolia.com
- South Florida Museum, Photo: South Florida Museum
- Sugar Cubed Pastry Lab, Photo: Sugar Cubed Pastry Lab
- TreeUmph Adventure Course, Photo: Courtesy of lisovoy - Fotolia.com
- Naughty Monk Brewery, Photo: Naughty Monk Brewery
- Florida Railroad Museum, Photo: Florida Railroad Museum
- Back Alley, Photo: Back Alley
- Bradenton Farmer's Market, Photo: Courtesy of Marija - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of csfotoimages - Fotolia.com