Bradenton, the county seat of Manatee County, is brimming with historic attractions, sports events, state parks, and beautiful beaches. It’s equally popular with families, couples, and retirees looking for fun things to do in Bradenton during their stay in sunny southwest Florida. Here are just some of the must-do’s to look out for.
Historic Attractions in Bradenton
The DeSoto National Memorial is a great way to introduce the family to Florida history. This historic attraction includes indoor and outdoor exhibits celebrating the life of the Spanish Conquistador, Hernando De Soto and events are brought to life with colorful costumed interpreters. Join a ranger-led kayak tour, hike the trails, go fishing and boating and spot local wildlife at this living history site.
A stroll along Manatee Avenue will reveal several historic properties such as the 1860 Courthouse, the Iron Block Building, and Bradenton Bank and Trust within the free Manatee Village Historical Park. History buffs will particularly appreciate the restored schoolhouse, cracker-style homes, smokehouse, and church.
The Village of the Arts is a neighborhood of restored houses that are now used as studios, jewelry workshops, potteries, and galleries for artists to live and work. First Fridays in each month offer art walks, live music, and incredible food and should definitely be on your list of top things to do in Bradenton.
Bradenton Beaches and Watersports
Bradenton is surrounded by rivers and waterways including the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. Its main attraction is the beaches including family-friendly Coquina Beach and Bradenton Beach on Anna Maria Island which is a surfer’s paradise when conditions are right. It has a broad stretch of soft sand, warm Gulf waters, a fishing pier, showers, and a playground.
Manatee Public Beach stretches for 900 feet and has excellent amenities, volleyball, playgrounds, and free parking.
The Riverwalk overlooks the Manatee River estuary and offers beach and ocean views, waterfront restaurants, and shops. Further upriver, Lake Manatee State Park is prime for fishing and swimming with forested areas for hiking. One most unusual activity in Bradenton is the chance to ride and swim on horseback with BeachHorses.com.
The rivers and estuaries are ideal for watersports such as kayaking, canoeing, fishing, and standup paddleboarding. Boats and jet skis are a great way to explore the waterways and encounter Florida wildlife and birds.
Robinson Nature Preserve offers trails for walking and biking among a wetlands area that is teeming with wildlife and birds.
Family-Friendly Attractions in Bradenton
The South Florida Museum, Bishop Planetarium, and Parker Manatee Aquarium are a one-stop attraction with something for everyone. The aquarium was home to Snooty the manatee, the first ever recorded manatee born in captivity in 1948.
Families should include a tour of the orange groves at Mixon Fruit Farms where visitors can hop aboard the Orange Blossom Express for a truly Floridian experience. This one-hour fun tram ride takes visitors into the heart of the citrus groves and the onboard commentary gives you plenty of interesting facts and light-hearted trivia about the fruit you will see. The best time to visit Mixon Fruit Farms is in the citrus season which runs from November to early May, but the attraction is open for visitors all year round.
McKechnie Field is the place to catch a baseball game as it is home to the Marauders and is used for spring training for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The city also has an IMG Academy, which offers a variety of sports camps and customized sports training programs. Bradenton Motorsports Park hosts national races and weekly “Throwdown Thursdays” when anyone can race for just $10.
Golfers have a choice of places to tee off, including the challenging Esplanade Golf & Country Club and Manatee County Golf Course. The entire family can play miniature golf at Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf, which includes water hazards, feeding live alligators, and an arcade.
One final unforgettable attraction in Bradenton is Herrmanns’ Royal Lipizzan Stallions, which perform classical equestrian shows from December to April.
If you’re planning an extended stay in Bradenton or to visit nearby Anna Maria Island Adventure Away concierge service offers family fun activities including sunset cruises, fishing charters, custom private boating trips, Segway, jet ski and kayak tours, sailing and more! Their knowledge and expertise enable them to customize a creative itinerary of fun, engaging, and memorable vacation experiences for all ages.