Bradenton, originally spelled “Bradentown,” was named for Dr. Joseph Braden, whose fort-like house was a refuge for early settlers during Indian attacks. The town was first explored by Hernando De Soto in the mid-16th century, but wasn’t officially established until 1842. After navigating political upheaval in his native country of Spain, De Soto was granted a chance to conquer and govern a portion of the New World.
After claiming his title of Governor in Havana, De Soto set sail on an expedition that would claim everything from him. He ended up in a city on the west coast of Florida. The U.S. National Park Service’s landmark, The DeSoto National Memorial, is thought to be the landing sight of De Soto’s expedition on the west coast of Florida. It wasn’t until nearly three centuries after in 1903 that the town became settled and incorporated.
Part of the Bradenton-Sarasota-Venice-Florida metropolitan statistical area, Bradenton is a principal city in the county of Manatee. Nicknamed “The Friendly City,” Bradenton offers year-round sunshine, leisure sport activities for all ages, and a Florida Heritage Festival each spring. Filled with museums, restaurants, and shops, downtown Bradenton is easily walkable and thoroughly enjoyable.
Bradenton is also home to the Village of the Arts, a renovated neighborhood that allows residents both live and work in their homes. The village has evolved to include studios, galleries, restaurants, and other small businesses. The Village of the Arts is the largest arts district on the Gulf Coast.
Bradenton has a goldmine of activities for the whole family. From aerial adventure parks to world class museums, aquariums, and nature preserves, there’s something for everyone to do. Fish for grouper or Mahi Mahi on your own or with a guide. Stroll the downtown waterfront, practice your golf swing, go canoeing, or head to the beach. Kick off your shoes and relax as the ocean breeze calms your senses and the sun dips down over the water.
A to Z Rentals
Forget the baby gear? Never fear! A to Z Rentals is here. Rent everything from strollers and cribs to umbrellas and cabanas. Have them delivered right to your door, or pick them up. With A to Z rentals, you’ll have everything you need to enjoy your time at the beach.
Bradenton’s active nightlife doesn’t mean the kids have to go to bed. There are street parties with vendors and music and walkthrough arts and crafts shops where artisans can be found hard at work. You can also take a full moon kayak tour, bathing this tropical landscaped paradise in a new light.
Main Street Live
When the sun goes down at the beach, the party continues. Bradenton has a vibrant nightlife, some of which is sponsored by the City. Main Street Live is a street party on Old Main Street in downtown Bradenton. The party is from 5p.m. to midnight. Vendors line the streets and musicians play throughout the night.
Village of the Arts
Want to see artists and crafters at their craft? Take an ArtWalk in the Village of the Arts on the first Friday of the month from 6-9:30p.m.
The Loaded Barrel Tavern
A local hangout spot, is indeed loaded with all your libation needs. Enjoy smooth craft beers, absinth, and then hand tossed pizza to help you absorb those hearty drinks. The Tavern also opens early Saturday morning at 9 a.m. for your Bloody Mary fix.
The Bradenton area lends itself to a quieter nightlife than Siesta Key or Sarasota. The picturesque sunsets perfectly close out the day and usher in the night. The vintage atmosphere in an urban setting, the sounds of a steel-pan band, and dancing on four different main streets give downtown Bradenton a different feel. Its atmosphere is like bringing the tranquil day at the beach into the night with a casual vibe, street parties, open air, tiki bars, delicious food, irresistible drinks, and loads of fun.
Both a historical landmark and casual fine dining location, Pier 22 offers a glimpse into the history of Bradenton. Though it has changed hands a few times since it was built in 1928, the significance and architecture of Pier’s building remains largely unchanged thanks to its current owners. The building, which now boasts a fine dining restaurant, a ballroom, and offices, was originally dedicated to 21 Manatee County young men who died in WWI. From the second floor restaurant, sweeping views of the Manatee River, historic ambiance, exceptional service, and the highest quality ingredients, Pier 22 brings guests from near and far to partake in one of the finest dining experiences.
Arts & Eats Restaurant & Gallery
Inspired by the Village of the Arts, two Greenwich Village transplants sought after their dream of combing food, art, and music. This resulted in a transformation of a bungalow into Arts & Eats Restaurant & Gallery, which offers “affordable elegance,” an eye popping entrance, and ethnic flavors such as Indian curry, crepes with pineapple chutney, and homemade garlic goat cheese ravioli to tantalize the taste buds. It’s no wonder Arts & Eats is an Open Table Diner’s Choice. Located in a casual spot with original art on the walls and nightly live music, this is a great place to share a meal with family and friends.
The Shake Pit
A Manatee must, The Shake Pit is a cozy, walk-up restaurant whose main attraction is ice cream. But they also have staple American food: burgers, fries, and hotdogs. Even the pickiest eater can’t go wrong here.
For award winning food and ambience, visit Derek’s, whose focus on rustic, coastal cuisine is an attraction for the foodie crowd and whose food is pleasing to every palate. With an ever-changing menu drawing from a mix of culinary styles, Derek’s ensures all your senses will be on high alert to see what new concoction Chef Derek will think up next. While many restaurants boast a private party room, Derek’s has gone a step further to cater to the power lunch and business crowd with a media room for meetings and private parties.
Attractions – Places to See
Sunshine Skyway Bridge
While you might not normally consider a bridge an attraction, the Bob Graham Sunshine Skyway Bridge, more commonly known as the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, is an exception. Spanning across Tampa Bay, Florida, the bridge is 21,877 feet long (or a little over four miles). Due to its height, continuous length, modern design, and warm weather location, the Sunshine Skyway Bridge is a popular automobile commercial filming area and was voted #3 in the Travel Channel’s special, “The Top 10 Bridges in the World.”
The South Florida Museum
The South Florida Museum has something to suit everyone’s taste. As the largest natural and cultural history museum on Florida’s gulf coast, the South Florida Museum offers history from the prehistoric to the present day, as well as astronomy, paleontology, and archaeology exhibits. The Bishop Planetarium, part of the museum, includes educational programs for children and adults so they can experience immersive virtual journeys through the cosmos. Your trip to the museum wouldn’t be complete without a visit to “Snooty” the Manatee. Snooty is the world’s oldest manatee in captivity. He’s also the official mascot of the South Florida Museum’s Manatee Aquarium, where you can learn about manatees’ habitats, nutrition, and physiology through educational presentations. While the manatees are the main attraction, there’s also a touch tank where kids of all ages can interact with marine life including crabs and urchins.
Manatee Village Historical Park
Rich with history, the Manatee Village Historical Park is an open-air museum complex that captures life of the early 20th century in Bradenton. It includes a general store, boat works, pioneer farmhouse, smokehouse, sugarcane mill, barn, church, school, courthouse, cow hunter’s bunkhouse, and steam engine.
Village of the Arts
The Village of the Arts is a uniquely restored artist-in-residence community with both local artists and Florida residents located in Bradenton. It covers 36 acres and contains over 100 homes, art galleries, studios, workshops, and restaurants. Some of the homes here are over 100 years old. Visit this community to see artists, crafters, and goldsmiths altering books, oil-painting, quilting, making fashion and custom clothing, sculpting, taking photographs, weaving, woodcarving, cutting and polishing stone work, metal working, and much more.
Cortez Fishing Village
One of the last remaining fishing villages in Manatee County on Sarasota Bay is Cortez Fishing Village. Connected by causeways to the mainland near Bradenton, Cortez offers additional dining at their tiki bars and fresh seafood fare.
This historic, continuously-working waterfront is close to fishing piers, beaches, and shops. It’s the place to go for jet skiing, kayaking, and parasailing. For more maritime fun, visit the Florida Maritime Museum located on the grounds of the Cortez Nature Preserve and view displays of the Banks Shell collection, ship models, historic boats, and a butterfly garden.
From high flying attractions like the Sunshine Skyway Bridge to restored homes and living history museums, there’s something for everyone to see. Visit Bradenton today and leave with an enhanced experience of one of Florida’s most historic cities.
Things to Do – Activities
Robinson Preserve, a 487-acre preserve, is perfect for the outdoor enthusiast, supplying activities such as hiking, nature trails, kayaking, canoeing trails, rollerblading, managed fishing, wildlife viewing areas, environmental education, and an observation tower. Robinson Preserve welcomes camping groups, families, and Fido, too.
For fresh, locally-grown deliciousness, go berry picking at O’Brien Family Farms and learn about the agricultural heritage of the area. This farm has been in operation since the 1940s and offers not only the fruits and vegetables they’ve picked, but produce you can pick as well. You can pick your own strawberries, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, celery, and carrots.
Farm Animal Petting Zoo
Pick your produce and pet the farm animals at Hunsader Farms. This family-friendly activity is great for kids of all ages. You can pet and feed deer, emus, bunnies, goats, pigs, geese, sheep, roosters, mini donkeys, mini horses, cows, llamas, peacocks, chickens, turkey, ducks, and exotic birds at the Hunsader Farm Petting Zoo. Pick your own tomatoes, Florida sweet onions, squash, corn, cantaloupe, and watermelon. If you’re here in October, check out the Pumpkin Festival.
Swing from the Treetops
Seeking your inner Tarzan? Check out the TreeUmph Adventure Course, southwest Florida’s first treetop obstacle course! The whole family can have fun on this great team and esteem-building ropes course. It’s an adventure that offers five progressive courses for a full day of fun. Test your balance on their wobbly bridges and swinging logs, walk across foot bridges and climb hanging nets, or let out a primal yell as you swing from Tarzan ropes and ziplines.
Ride a Horse
It’s one thing to ride horses on the beach, it’s another to swim or surf with them. That’s right: Bradenton is the birthplace of “horse surfing”—something unique to only the state of Florida. There’s a company out of Miami whose stables are in Bradenton and they offer horse surfing, swimming with horses, and of course, standard horseback riding, all part of the BeachHorse Experience™. Ages three and up can horse surf, which entails a short ride on the beach to get used to the horse and meet a guide. Then horse and rider go into the water and at a certain level, the rider stands up on the horse as one would on a surfboard to test their balance. If that’s a bit much for you, you can swim with the horses and maybe see a dolphin or two.
All Good Things
Though only eight miles long, Siesta Key is jam-packed with things to do and places to see for everyone in the family. Looking for kid-friendly activities? We’ve got them! Want to let out that inner child? No problem. Some of the best experiences here are the hidden gems off the beaten path, and Siesta Key and Bradenton provide this. Take a break from the beach, head to Bradenton, and experience Florida from the exotic mangrove tunnels to the treetops.
Bradenton is truly an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise with self-guided and chartered fishing, kayaking, and canoeing tours. These tours are fun, informative, and an exciting way to experience the area’s natural ecosystem. Immersive entertainment allows kids of all ages to pet farm animals at working farms, hold and behold marine life in their natural habitats, affect the outcomes of decisions through interactive play, and bask in the beauty of native flora and fauna.
Let your wild child loose as you swing through the treetops on an expansive obstacle course, which will test your nerve, skill, and level of adventure. Whether you want to kick back, relax, and not move a muscle or you want to experience new and exciting activities, foods, and get a feel for local beach life, there are plenty things to do in Bradenton area.