A Complete Travel Guide: Things to Do in Bradenton, Florida
After visiting Sarasota for years and then moving to Sarasota in 2021 we quickly started trying to find unique things to do near Sarasota. Bradenton was one that was immediately moved to the top of the list. Although we had visited a few Bradenton attractions prior to moving to Sarasota, we had yet to explore the city’s main highlights.
Considering Bradenton is so close to Sarasota, they often get grouped together by tourists. But to us, Bradenton has a bit more of a locals feel than Sarasota. In this guide, you’ll find more information about Bradenton and many unique things to do in Bradenton, Florida that you should add to your list for at least a day or weekend trip!
Where is Bradenton?
Bradenton is a city just south of Tampa and north of Sarasota. It is well known for its beautiful beaches, unique local art scene, and outdoor activities.
When is the Best Time to Visit Bradenton, Florida?
Similar to Sarasota, Bradenton is located on the Gulf of Mexico which keeps the weather and temperature terrific year-round. The yearly average temperature is 82ºF. While there is really no “bad” time to visit Bradenton, June through September are often the hottest and most humid months. It’s also good to keep in mind that this is also the rainy season so be prepared for it to rain heavily for a while at some point each day and hurricane season is also this time lasting until November 30.
The mildest temperatures in Bradenton are from December-February. The weather is much milder and temperatures are usually in the 70s during the day and 50s at night (although this varies by the year). The downside of visiting during this time is that it’s also the most popular time to visit making the crowds heavier and at times, traffic a bit unbearable. If you’d like to visit with fewer crows I recommend Late-February, Late-April-May, or early November.
Where to Stay in Bradenton, Florida
If you are visiting Bradenton and aren’t staying in Sarasota there are a number of great places to stay in Bradenton. Here are a few favorites and others that are highly reviewed!
Hampton Inn & Suites Downtown Bradenton: If you want to stay somewhere in the Bradenton historic district and downtown then the Hampton Inn & Suites Downtown Bradenton is in the perfect location. It’s close to the Bradenton Riverwalk and South Florida Museum making it within walking distance from a number of places you’ll find in this Bradenton itinerary. The Hampton Inn has a number of different rooms at different price points making it a great hotel for families, couples, solo travelers, and more. You can also upgrade to one of their suites for a balcony view of the city and marina. Another perk of this hotel is free parking which is a rarity these days!
Courtyard Sarasota University Park/Lakewood Ranch: If you want to stay in a hotel that is centrally located to Bradenton and Sarasota then our top pick would be the Courtyard by Sarasota UTC. We stayed here when we were in the process of moving to Sarasota and it’s a great spot for traveling between both Bradenton and Sarasota and right next to the University Town Center Mall and Plaza making it accessible to a variety of places to eat, shop and entertain yourself!
Things to Do in Bradenton, Florida
Visit the Beaches on Longboat Key
While Sarasota has Siesta Key Beach, Bradenton has a number of great beaches too! In fact, I almost hate to tell you about them because they are often far less busy than the beaches in Sarasota and have more parking. Many of the beaches you’ll find in Bradenton are alongside Longboat Key. While there are a lot of private beaches, the public beaches are
Here are the beaches we recommend in Bradenton:
- Coquina Beach: This is our favorite beach in the Sarasota/Bradenton area. I love it so much I almost hate to include it for fear it will get busier but there are no “local” beaches anymore so I’m not about to keep it from you!
- Cortez Beach is just up the road from Coquina Beach and although smaller it’s still a nice beach to visit!
- Manatee Beach is located further north towards Anna Maria Island in the Holmes Beach area.
Explore the Village of the Arts
The Village of the Arts is definitely one of the most unique things to do in Bradenton. But before I tell you about this experience, allow me to tell you a little bit about its history. In 1999 the Artists Guild of Manatee was formed as a non-profit organization whose mission was to build a community of artists where they could live and work. Over the past two decades, the Guild and the residents of the Village have worked together to make Village of the Arts a place where people could enjoy art from a new perspective.
Within the Village of the Arts, you’ll find a whimsical neighborhood of 20th-century colorful bungalows that are art themselves. Although you can visit the Village of the Arts at any time, I recommend visiting during one of their monthly art walks if possible! During the art walks, you can visit the galleries and art studios inside these quirky homes. We loved viewing the art studios, but if you find something you like, a lot of the art is available for purchase too! If you visit outside one of the Art Walk dates, be sure to check the VOTA calendar to see what galleries are open.
Location: 1227 12th St W, Bradenton // MAP
Take A Tour at Mixon Fruit Farms
If you’ve ever been interested in learning about Florida citrus fruits then consider taking a ride on the Orange Blossom Tram at Mixon Fruit Farms. On this one-hour tour, you’ll learn about Florida citrus and other tropical fruits as you ride through a working orange grove.
In addition to the farm tour, at the end you’ll also get to stop at their Wildlife Rescue Center and learn about their currently rescued Florida reptiles, birds, and other animals. The mission of the Florida Wildlife Care & Education Center is to provide shelter for orphaned and injured animals, rehabilitate them and release them back into the wild. For those that can’t be rehabilitated, they are found a permanent place to live. When you visit, you can learn more about Florida wildlife!
Once you’ve finished the tram tour stop by the Grove Stand and gift shop to enjoy a free glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice, grapefruit juice, or lemonade that is made from the fruits from the farm. You can also watch juice being made in the packinghouse area. I also recommend trying one of the orange swirl ice cream cones, it’s so refreshing and yummy!
For more free samples be sure to stop by the wine sampling counter to try a selection of award-winning Florida wines. Some are even made with Mixon oranges!
In the gift shop, you can purchase unique Floridan souvenirs, local honey, marmalades, salsas, fresh fruit, and more. If you’re hungry, they also have a small cafe that serves sandwiches, soups, salads, and other lunch items.
TIP: Make sure you book ahead and call ahead to verify your departure time. Book your tram tour.
Location: 2525 27th St E, Bradenton // MAP
Hours: TRAM TOURS: May-October: Tuesday-Saturday 11am & 1pm, November-April: Tuesday-Saturday 11am, 1pm, & 3pm
Cost: $12/adults, $6/children (ages 3-12), children under 3 free
Manatee Village Historical Park
The Manatee Village Historical Park is a living museum that shares the history of Manatee County from 1840-1918, a time before electricity and automobiles in this Florida town. Within the park, you’ll find 14 different buildings and sites that each tell their own story. Some of these sites include historic homes, a general store that provided a place for early pioneers to get their groceries, and a Turpentine Still which was vital for caulking sailing vessels during a time when naval stores were Florida’s second-largest industry.
TIPS: Visit the Manatee Village Historical Park website or download the Clio or Florida Walking Stories Apps for free guided walking tours to use during your visit.
Location: 1404 Manatee Ave E, Bradenton // MAP
Hours: Monday-Friday 9am-4pm, 2nd & 4th Saturdays of the month, Closed 1st & 3rd Saturdays and Sunday
Cost: Free to visit
Visit The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature
The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature is the largest natural history museum on the gulf coast of Florida. Most of the time when we visit science museums we feel they are mostly catered to kids, but in my opinion, I think the Bishop Museum of Science and Nature is great for all ages!
There are a number of exhibits you can enjoy at the Bishop Museum including:
- Archeological Exhibit: Walks visitors through the Paleo-Indian, Archaic, and pre-contact cultures while exploring fossil evidence from Florida’s earliest animals and early gulf coast Florida.
- River Heritage Hall: Explore culture, geography, economics, and geometry with a focus in maritime local history.
- Environmental Hall: Contains educational experiences about Florida’s natural environment and biodiversity from past, present, and the potential future.
- Mosaic Backyard Universe: This backyard-inspired adventure with a treehouse in the center of the room is a perfect space for kids to enjoy science and nature!
- DinoVenture: DinoVenture is the newest exhibit at the Bishop Museum! Here you can travel back in time and meet 30 lifelike dinosaurs from the Jurassic and Cretaceuos periods. One cool fact about DinoVenture is that all of the animals in this exhibit were created by Don Lessem, one of the advisors for Jurassic Park.
- The Parker Manatee Rehabilitation Habitat: The newly renovated manatee habitat is perhaps my favorite exhibit at the Bishop Museum. This manatee habitat is a stage 2 rehab facility that holds rescued manatees that have been injured, abandoned, or sick. Since this is a rehab facility there aren’t always manatees in their care, so be sure to check online before you go.
Location: 201 10th St W, Bradenton // MAP
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10am-5pm Tuesday through Saturday, Sunday 12pm-5pm, Closed Mondays
Cost: Adults (18-64) $23.95, Seniors (65+) $21.95, Youth (12-17) and College Students (with ID) $17.95, Children (5-11) $14.95, Pre-K (2-4) $8.95, Children younger than 2 FREE
Stroll the Path on the Bradenton Riverwalk
The Bradenton Riverwalk is located in downtown Bradenton. It is an outdoor gathering space that overlooks the Manatee River alongside a 1.5-mile park. Some of the amenities you’ll find on the riverwalk are a beach volleyball court, public fishing pier, a tidal discovery zone, a splash pad for kids, a skate park, the Mosaic Amphitheater, and a lawn or covered “outdoor living room” spaces perfect for picnics or relaxing.
The Regatta Plaza within the Bradenton Riverwalk area is home to many local special events like kite flying, drum circles, boat race viewing, and outdoor music shows. You can also enjoy the seasonal Downtown Bradenton Public Market. The Public Market is where you can purchase fresh produce, art, music, and other activities alongside Old Main Street!
Location: 452 3rd Ave W, Bradenton // MAP
Hours: Open 24 hours
Visit ArtCenter Manatee
ArtCenter Manatee was founded in 1937 as a premier center for art and art education. Within the space, you’ll find three galleries with exhibits that change monthly and feature local, regional, and nationally recognized artists. There are also five classrooms and an art library for educational resources.
In fact, they host over 400 day, evening, and weekend art classes and workshops for adults year-round! These workshops include a variety of mediums such as painting, drawing, pastels, pottery, jewelry designing, photography, and more. If you are considering a visit check and see if there are any classes you might be interested in attending before making your visit!
Location: 209 9th St W, Bradenton // MAP
Hours: Tuesday-Thursday 9am-6pm, Friday-Monday 9am-5pm, Closed Sunday
Cost: Exhibits are free to visit, classes vary in cost.
See A Show at the Manatee Performing Arts Center
The art scene in Bradenton bleeds into even more mediums including performing arts and if you’re lucky you can catch a show at Manatee Performing Arts Center. This performing arts center features a number of shows year-round including Broadway musical favorites and timeless plays. Some of their recent and upcoming productions include Grease, Little Women, Cinderella, Chaplin: The Musical, and more.
Location: 502 3rd Ave W, Bradenton // MAP
Explore Downtown Bradenton
I’ve included a number of Downtown Bradenton attractions in this guide but I think encompassing the area as a whole is also worth mentioning. Downtown Bradenton has a lot of local history, public art, and places to shop and eat!
One fun thing to do in Downtown Bradenton is to use the Walk Bradenton website which uses your GPS location to show you where to walk downtown, guided walking tours you can take, and information about the storefronts, restaurants, and history of the area. It’s very simple to use and might introduce a number of lovely new places!
Location // MAP
READ MORE: The Best Things to Do in Sarasota, Florida
Enjoy A Drink at A Local Craft Brewery
In our opinion, Bradenton has some of the best brewery options in the area outside of St. Petersburg and there are also some great outdoor spaces at a number of these breweries to enjoy too. Here are our favorites!
Breweries in Bradenton
- Good Liquid Brewing Co. currently has two brewery locations one in Lakewood Ranch and the other in Bradenton with a third about to open in Sarasota! Their Bradenton location was the first and has over 20 beers on tap (including some gluten-free options), a great outdoor space, and outdoor and indoor games. At their Lakewood Ranch location, you’ll find a full menu so you can enjoy some food while drinking your flight! // MAP
- Motorworks Brewing is Bradenton’s first craft brewery and is located in a former Hudson Motors dealership (hence the name). In addition to having great beer and a number of rotating food trucks, they also have the largest beer garden in Florida that is centered around a gorgeous 150+ year-old oak tree. It’s a great place to enjoy an evening with friends or make new ones around one of the many lawn games they have available while listening to one of their weekly bands or artists, or while sitting by the jumbo projection screen they use for movies and sports. // MAP
- 3 Keys Brewing has a great outdoor patio, spacious tables inside, a full-service menu, and weekly events. But perhaps one of my favorite things at 3 Keys Brewing is their Mug Club which allows guests to get special discounts and invitations to events. While the Mug Club is catered to locals I think it’s really neat seeing all of the different mugs on the wall created by a local artist and each representing a person’s interests or personality. // MAP
- Big Top Brewer’s Collective is a flagship location of Big Top Brewery in Sarasota. It was originally Naughty Monk Brewery before it changed hands. Although we never visited Naughty Monk Brewery before it changed hands, we were excited to see that Big Top kept a number of the Naughty Monk beers so we could still try them. Of course, you can also enjoy your Big Top Brewery favorites here too so it’s the best of both worlds! // MAP
- 3 Car Garage Brewing has a number of small-batch craft beers on tap and available in growlers. Although I think many craft breweries have a number of interesting flavors used in their beers, 3 Car Garage may take the cake on some of them! While you’ll find many with tropical flavors (we are in Florida after all) you can also find some very intriguing seasonal beers like Ninny Muggins which is a peppermint chocolate ale. // MAP
Take A Distillery Tour at Loaded Cannon Distillery
The Loaded Cannon Distillery opened in Bradenton in 2017 and hit the ground running immediately. They have won a number of awards like the best-flavored vodka in North America and as one of USA Today’s top new distilleries. Although you can simply just visit the tasting room, Loaded Cannon Distillery also offers tours where you can learn more about their small-scale distillation through the production area, fermentation room, botting area, and then enjoy a tasting of three of their spirits! What they have available varies by day and seasonality but they offer a wide variety of spirits including gin, whiskey, bourbon, rum, and limoncello.
Location: 3115 Lakewood Ranch Blvd Suite 110, Bradenton // MAP
Hours: Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday 12pm-6pm, Friday & Saturday 12pm-8pm, Closed Mondays & Tuesdays, tours are every half hour and on the hour with the last tour at 5pm on Wed through Sunday.
Cost: 3 tastings are free, $5 flights (includes shot glass and five 1/2 oz tastings), $15 tour (includes tour, shot glass with 5 tastings, & $5 towards bottle purchase)
Palma Sola Botanical Park
Palma Sola Botanical Park is a 10-acre botanical park that is free to visit in Bradenton. Although it is much smaller than Selby Gardens, there is something here that you won’t find elsewhere, a large variety of rare fruits! Not too long ago, Palma Sola Botanical Park was at risk for closing due to a lack of funding. But was saved once a long-time member suggested a partnership with the Manatee Rare Fruit Council.
Manatee Rare Fruit Council realized that the location of Palma Sola was perfect for fruiting plants and trees due to its location near Tampa Bay which is hardly ever subject to freezing temperatures so they permanently placed an exhibit of fruiting plants and trees available for viewing by visitors.
Location: 9800 17th Ave NW, Bradenton // MAP
Cost: Free to visit
Walk the Trails or Ride Bikes at Robinson Nature Preserve
Since moving to Florida we’ve really been missing our mountain bike trails back in Arkansas. But one trail that we really love to ride is located in Bradenton! The Robinson Nature Preserve consists of 682 acres of preserved mangrove, tidal marsh, and former agricultural lands that have been transformed into a coastal wetland habitat.
Within the Robinson Preserve you’ll find paved and off-road biking and walking trails, a 2.5K rubberized pedestrian-only trail, kayak launches and trails, picnic spaces, and educational and event spaces. One of these spaces includes the new NEST and canopy zone.
Kayaking in the Robinson Nature Preserve
The kayak launch is located at the entrance of the Robinson Preserve and follows a network of 3 miles of internal trails that connect to the Manatee River, Perico Bayou, and Palma Sola Bay.
New to the Robinson Preserve expansion is the NEST, which also stands for the Mosaic Center for Nature, Exploration, Science and Technology. This space serves as a multipurpose space hosting hands-on programs for all ages and is available to rent for special events.
Learn and Check-Out the Views at De Soto National Memorial Park
De Soto National Memorial Park is named after Hernando de Soto, a conquistador from Spain who lived during the 1500s. At the age of 14, he enlisted in an expedition in search of the “New World” and ended up in Panama working alongside Alviar Nunez de Balboa where he quickly climbed ranks.
After traveling under the power of other conquistadors, De Soto wanted to have an expedition of his own (aka he wanted power). He petitioned King Charles V of Spain to grant him permission to colonize and rule the land known as La Florida. King Charles V accepted and thus began De Soto’s journey through Cuba and La Florida. De Soto National Memorial Park is one of the places that De Soto landed on his quest for “gold and glory”, thus why the park is named after him.
Let me continue this by saying, De Soto was not a good person. Once he enlisted in his New World expedition he spent the rest of his life assisting and leading expeditions in colonizing many island nations and countries in Central and South America. He also made a large part of his fortune by selling enslaved people. He and his expedition members were also widely responsible for murdering many Native people whether it be by altercations or disease.
In no way do I believe he should be glorified so why am I including it on my list of things to do in Bradenton? Because I believe learning about the true events behind such places is important. When visiting this National Memorial Park you can also learn a little more about the Native people that lived in this area and walk the path within the forests and mangroves that once provided food, shelter, and protection long before De Soto’s destruction.
Location: 75th St NW, Bradenton // MAP
Hours: 9am-5pm daily
Cost: Free to visit
Go Shopping at University Town Center
While University Town Center (UTC) is technically located on the border of Sarasota and Bradenton it’s still one of the top things to do in Bradenton if you enjoy shopping areas. You can find a number of upscale clothing, home goods, specialty shops, and restaurants.
Besides the shopping and dining areas, UTC also has a number of events that take place throughout the year. I personally love driving through here during the winter holiday months when they have all of the pretty lights around the palm trees and holiday music playing!
Location: 257 N Cattlemen Rd, Sarasota // MAP
Hours: Sunday 11am-6pm, Monday-Saturday 10am-9pm
I hope that this list of things to do in Bradenton, Florida has at least piqued your interest! Let us know if you happen to visit any of these spots and keep checking back as we continue to add to our list!