There’s no shortage of things to do in Bradenton, Florida. After all, the Bradenton/Sarasota area garners worldwide praise for its beaches, natural beauty, and arts and culture. Most of the time, it’s simply a matter of choosing what you’re in the mood for on a given day.
Here are 5 things to do in the Bradenton area that Florida Culture recommends.
1. Beach it out. OK—a recommendation to go to the beach in our area is low-hanging fruit, as that’s probably what drew you here in the first place. Still, try the beach at various times of the day for different vibes. Early morning is great for a walk and shelling, midday is ideal for swimming and people-watching, and the evening draws sunset lovers and picture-snappers from across the globe.
Venture out to try the various beaches around Bradenton and Bradenton Beach. Coquina Beach and the Manatee public beach have lifeguards (and some shade at Coquina), so they’re ideal if you have kids. However, there are other beach enclaves that have their own feel. Bean Point on Anna Maria Island and Beer Can Island (popular with boaters) are also great. Tip: As our beaches become more well-known, the traffic to reach them has gotten more congested year-round—not just in season. Plan your trip to reach earlier in the day, if you can. Or, stay near the beach so you only have a short walk.
2. Stroll down downtown Bradenton’s Riverwalk. Riverwalk offers a scenic 1.5-mile view along the Manatee River in downtown Bradenton. Check out boats, a playground, public art, and the downtown Bradenton library, or South Florida Museum, among other sights. Once that walking tires you out, mosey on over to Main Street for a bite at O’Bricks or any of the restaurants or bars in this growing downtown area. Tip: From October to May on Saturdays, downtown Bradenton hosts its farmers’ market.
3. Find a beach alternative at De Soto National Memorial. Everyone has a favorite local park, and this is ours. De Soto National Memorial in West Bradenton is part of the National Park Service and offers history, spectacular views, and even something for Fido. The park is named for Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto, who landed in the Tampa Bay area in 1539. You can discover more about the area’s history at the visitors’ center or via the historic demonstrations that take place there. However, if you’re hankering more for sun and views, take advantage of the park’s several trails, many of them offering peaceful views of Tampa Bay. Some visitors to De Soto visit as an alternative to the popular beaches and make a day of it as the park has a few sandy areas. De Soto is a big hit with dog lovers, so Fido can be part of your beach day.
4. Get an arts education at Village of the Arts. Located near downtown Bradenton, this funky, colorful area features unique art galleries, stores, and eateries. It was created in 1999 by a nonprofit group as a community where artists could live and set up shop. If you’re looking for an interactive arts experience, this is the place to check out. On the first Friday and Saturday of each month, the Village of the Arts hosts an Artwalk event, where residents and store owners plan special activities for visitors. Don’t miss Bird Rock Taco Shack for tacos of all kinds (including vegan and vegetarian options) and nearby Motorworks Brewery, which is adjacent to Village of the Arts.
5. Dine out. In the mood for seafood? Italian? Farm to table? Yup, Bradenton’s got it. There are too many great places to eat in town to name here, but we’ll share a small sampling. Near the beach, you’ve got the Beach House Restaurant in Bradenton Beach and The Sandbar, both of which offer Florida-caught seafood and farm-to-table dishes (the same company owns Mar Vista in Longboat Key). EnRich Bistro in West Bradenton is owned by a local family and serves gourmet and locally-sourced meals. Ortygia in the Village of the Arts serves delicious Italian dishes.
Have a favorite activity in Bradenton, Florida? Tell us in the comments. Who knows?! We may have a part 2 article to share other ideas!