Looking for the best things to do in Bradenton FL?
Bradenton may not be the first place that people think of when they plan a visit to Florida. But with so many great activities for visitors, it should certainly be high on the list! This city on the Gulf in Southwest Florida is sandwiched between the more popular tourist destinations of Sarasota and Tampa.
Because of its proximity to both, it is very easy to plan a visit there via either air or land. The following is a list of 20 of the best activities and attractions to tick off during a visit to Bradenton.
20 Best and Unique Things to do in Bradenton Florida You Can’t Miss
FOOD, DRINK & SHOPPING IN BRADENTON
1. The Beergarden at Motorworks Brewing
The first microbrewery in Bradenton, Motorworks was founded in 2014 and is located just south of the downtown business district.
The building that houses the brewery is nearly a century old and was previously an auto dealership and service center for the Hudson Motor Company. Motorworks has created Florida’s largest beer garden where they host weekly movie nights, outdoor concerts, and plenty of yard games to entertain customers. The outdoor area is also dog-friendly.
While they don’t have a kitchen of their own, the brewery has partnered with several area food trucks that appear on a rotating schedule. The stars of the show are the beers that are produced on site, which have won a litany of awards.
Motorworks keeps nearly 30 of their beers on tap, along with a wide selection of canned brews. The bar also sells wine, cocktails, and non-alcoholic selections for customers who aren’t into beer.
2. Tour the Fiorelli Winery
The Fiorelli Winery and its vineyards can be found just east of Bradenton. Open from Thursday to Sunday, the Winery gives visitors the chance to reserve a spot in one of their tasting sessions.
For a small fee, you’ll have the opportunity to taste several of their creations. While only muscadine grapes are grown in the vineyard, Fiorelli’s wine makers import several other types of juice in order to make a variety of wines that range from very dry to super sweet.
With the picturesque vineyard as a backdrop, the Winery is a popular venue for weddings and other special events.
3. Freshest Fish at Star Fish Company
The StarFish Company has been around for nearly 100 years, first starting as a wholesale market supplying seafood to local restaurants. One of the most unique activities in the area.
The retail shop opened in the 1960s, and they eventually opened their own restaurant in 1996. Located near Cortez Beach, the Star Fish Company’s restaurant gives its customers a classic dockside experience as well as some amazing food.
The menu features Florida coastal standards like grouper, mullet and Gulf Shrimp. Most of the seafood items are caught by local fisherman just offshore in nearby waters and can also be purchased either whole or by the pound in their retail market. Don’t forget the key lime pie for dessert!
4. Have a Guinness at Clancy’s Sports Bar & Grill
If you can imagine the combination of Caribbean Tiki bar and Irish pub, the result would be Clancy’s Sports Bar & Grill.
For over 20 years, this popular Bradenton spot has been serving up large portions of cheap pub favorites including Shepard’s Pie and Corned Beef & Cabbage. Diners can also build their own burgers and pizzas, and pair them with a cold draft Guinness or other beverage of choice.
Clancy’s has drink specials during happy hour every weekday afternoon, and they keep patrons entertained with games like trivia, poker and bingo.
For St. Patrick’s Day, Clancy’s holds a huge outdoor celebration underneath a tent with live music, drink specials, and lots of Irish cheer!
To show their commitment to the community, Clancy’s also hosts the Shamrock Shiver Charity Plunge each New Year’s Day, where hundreds of locals and visitors alike brave the chilly winter waters to raise funds for less fortunate children in Manatee County.
5. Take the Tram at Mixon Fruit Farms
If you’ve ever been curious about how oranges are grown, the tour at Mixon Fruit Farms will answer that question and more. The hour-long tram ride through an actual orange grove is packed with information about the farming of citrus and other tropical fruits.
Another feature of the farm is their Wildlife Refuge area, where visitors can view and learn about native Florida animals that are being cared for and rehabilitated. And of course visitors to the farm will have the chance to purchase fresh fruits, juices and even wines that can be carried home or shipped to most areas of the world.
Complimentary wine sampling is available at the Wine Counter, and you can even buy a glass to take along on the tour. If you’re needing a bite to eat during your visit, the Farm has the on-site Groveside Café that serves breakfast and lunch during the Farm’s business hours.
6. Bargain Shopping at Red Barn Flea Market
With over 600 vendor booths selling practically anything and everything, there truly is something for everyone at the Red Barn Flea Market.
Located on the east side of Bradenton, this 20 acre behemoth of a property is a popular stop for bargain hunters. In addition to souvenirs, handmade and second-hand items, there are stalls that sell fresh produce, and ready to eat foods.
Some of the most interesting booths are those designated for garage sale items. You never know what treasures you might find that someone else no longer needs! Since 80,000 square feet of the Market is air conditioned, this is a great place to go and hide from the intense Florida summer sun.
Be sure to check out all 10 of the murals around the property that were created by local artists.
BEACHES & ISLANDS NEAR BRADENTON
7. Spend a Day on Anna Maria Island
At the far west end of Bradenton is the causeway that leads to Anna Maria Island. The island is the epicenter for the town’s tourism, and is jam packed with bars, restaurants and plenty of shopping options.
The 7 miles long island is technically comprised of 3 separate towns – Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach and Anna Maria.
One of the favorite dining hotspots is the Ugly Grouper, with a seafood centric menu and eclectic décor. Dining at the Grouper is completely outdoors, and there’s often a wait to get a table.
For a more upscale dining option you might want to check out the Beach House. The menu at this waterfront dining locale features sustainably and locally sourced ingredients which can all be enjoyed alongside views of the Gulf of Mexico.
If you are looking for shopping options, the island has an abundance of boutiques with items that fit almost any budget. Being right on the Gulf coast, there are several beach areas on the Island as well.
Perhaps the most impressive of these is Bean Point Beach, located on the northern tip of the island. Known for its white sands and incredible sunsets, Bean Point is something of a hidden gem that is well worth taking the time and effort to find.
8. The Market at Coquina Beach
At the Southern end of Anna Maria Island you’ll find Coquina Beach, one of the best shelling beaches in Florida. This very popular gulf side beach is a favorite of many tourists and locals alike because of its many amenities.
The park offers beach goers a picnic area, a playground, and a paved multi-purpose trail. To the delight of many, dolphins are often sighted swimming just offshore.
Parking is free and there are public restrooms, including showers, available for rinsing off after a day of playing in the saltwater.
The café at the beach park is open for breakfast and lunch, and sells tropical cocktails for customers to enjoy while they dine.
The Coquina Beach Market is held twice a week during the busy winter season. This outdoor market is a haven for souvenir hunters who want to take a hand-crafted item home with them as a reminder of their trip. Vendors at the market sell arts and crafts, food items, pottery, photography and much more.
9. Ride the Real BeachHorses
Since 2008, the Real Beachhorses have been providing adventurous tourists with the opportunity to ride horseback on the beach as well as in the waters of Bradenton’s Palma Sola Bay.
Each rider is paired with a horse as well as a guide to ensure that nothing goes awry. During the ride, there is the option to take the horse into the water so that the rider experiences what it is like to be astride of a horse as it swims.
The rides times are scheduled to take place during periods of low tide so there is always sandy beach areas to ride on. The horses used during the thrill ride are mostly rescued animals and they vary in size from small ponies to larger draft horses.
Each one is a Certified Beach Horse, so they are trained around and used to being in water. If swimming with horses isn’t enough to satisfy your need for thrills, the company that operates the tours also offers a wide array of adventure tours all around Southwest Florida.
10. Sunsets at Cortez Beach
If you want a low key yet beautiful place to set up to watch the sun set, Cortez Beach may be the answer. Located in the Bradenton Beach area on Anna Maria Island, Cortez is often much less crowded than some of the other beach areas.
This classic Old Florida style beach is undeveloped, which means there are very few amenities available other than the natural sand and surf.
The simple beauty of Cortez Beach makes it an ideal spot to set out a blanket or some chairs and enjoy the display of light as the sun sets down into the water. Just across the causeway from the beach you will find the Florida Maritime Museum, which houses a completely free tribute to the history and impact that the commercial fishing industry has had on the development of the Gulf Coast.
Exhibits there include a collection of local shells, a display about nautical navigation and boat building, and even a small library of books on various maritime topics.
FUN & GAMES IN BRADENTON
11. Adult Sports Camp at IMG Academy
Why should the kids get to have all the fun? At IMG Academy, there are sports camps for adults of all ages and skill levels.
Whether you are a golfer, tennis player, or just looking to improve general performance, IMG has a camp for you. Packages vary in length and include options for both day campers as well as all-inclusive overnight camps for those who want to be completely immersed in their training.
IMG is a world-renowned training facility where Olympians, collegiate and professional athletes go in order to hone their skills and get a leg up on their competitors.
The boarding school at IMG houses over 1000 students from over 70 countries, and the on-site Legacy Hotel offers luxurious accommodations for visitors or for those are taking part in one of the camps.
12. Explore the Riverwalk Path
The town of Bradenton is located at the mouth of where the Manatee River meets the Gulf of Mexico. Overlooking the river and just adjacent to downtown is a 1.5 mile long park known as the Riverwalk.
The entire length of the pedestrian path is on the edge of the water and is a popular place for walkers, runners and cyclists to get some exercise while they see the sights. All along the way, there are separate recreational areas like a skate park, a splash pad, an amphitheater, and even an outdoor living room complete with concrete furniture.
There are several restaurants located on and near the path, including Corwin’s Ice Cream and Smoothie shop. Beyond the items in its name, Corwin’s also sells frozen yogurt, old fashioned candies and pastries.
Attached to the Riverwalk is a fishing pier and a free day dock where boaters can tie up for the day while they go and explore all that downtown Bradenton has to offer.
One of the best things to do in Bradenton at night, around sunset.
13. Break Stuff at SMASHED
If you’ve ever been frustrated to the point where you just want to break something, then SMASHED is the place for you!
This unique entertainment venue allows customers to use baseball bats, golf clubs and crowbars to take their anxieties out on various objects in a safe environment. SMASHED was founded in 2020 in response to the frustrations that many felt during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Founders wanted to give people an outlet where they could vent those feelings in a very physical way. The club offers either solo or group sessions, and when more people are involved there are more objects available to break.
Some of the sacrificial items are plates, bottles and glassware, and each participant gets to smash one larger electronic item like a television or printer. Safety equipment such as goggles and gloves are provided to ensure that no injuries occur.
14. Climb Trees at Robinson Preserve
In the northwest corner of Bradenton is a 682 acre natural area known as Robinson Preserve. This public recreation area is open year-round from sunrise to sunset and is an ideal spot for outdoor activities.
The park has 7.5 miles of paved and unpaved trails for biking, hiking or general exploration, as well as 2.5 miles of waterways which are perfect for paddlers to enjoy. Kayak storage pods are available on-site for regular park users, and are rented annually.
There are two separate parking areas for the preserve – one at the north entrance and the other at the south. The north entrance is closest to the Observation Tower and the paths that lead right alongside Tampa Bay.
Parking at the south entrance gives easy access to the NEST multi purpose building and the Canopy Zone, a unique wooden structure which gives energetic visitors a chance to climb, crawl, and slide around the treetops.
CULTURE AND THINGS TO DO IN BRADENTON WITH KIDS
15. Time Travel at the Manatee Village Historical Park
Bradenton was first established in the late 1800s, and a few of the original buildings have survived. Two of these are located in the area known as Manatee Village Historical Park.
The park stands in the middle of what used to be Manatee Village, before it became part of the city of Bradenton.
The surviving structures are a historical church building from 1887 and the original village courthouse. The park was established in 1976, and for decades the historical society’s volunteers have been educating its visitors on the history and heritage of the region.
The self-guided tours of the village are free, and there are rotating temporary exhibits about various aspects of the area’s origins. Visitors to the park are greeted by “Old Cabbage Head”, an actual steam engine from 1913 which is located next to the parking area.
16. Explore the Village of the Arts
Just south of the downtown area is the Village of the Arts, where dozens of artists and their galleries are located.
Many of the galleries are open to the public on certain days for viewing and shopping. There are also many public and private events where the artists can showcase their work in person. From paintings and sculptures to folk art and more, there is no end to the creativity of the creators who take up residence there.
The district covers 32 city blocks, and strolling through all those galleries can work up quite a hunger. At Cottonmouth Soul Food at the north end of the district, you’ll find an array of comfort foods like Gulf Shrimp and Cheesy Grits, Buttermilk Biscuits, and a Meatloafburger.
Then there is Ortygia Italian Restaurant on the opposite end, which promises authentic Sicilian, French & Mediterranean fusion-style cuisine, all made from mostly organic and locally sourced ingredients.
17. Planetarium at Bishop Museum of Science & Nature
Adjacent to the Downtown Riverwalk Park is the Bishop Museum of Science and Nature. This museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, and is the largest on Florida’s Gulf Coast.
Besides a rotating cast of temporary exhibits on subjects like Dinosaurs or the Science of Beer, the museum also has a full-sized planetarium and a manatee rehabilitation habitat.
For those with an active body as well as an active mind, there are yoga classes held in both the museum’s backyard universe and in the manatee habitat. During Spring and Summer the Bishop hosts science day camps for youngsters.
A great rainy day activity in Bradenton.
18. See 16th Century Life at Desoto National Memorial
At the origin of the Manatee River you can find the Desoto National Memorial property. This memorial was established in 1948, over 400 years after Hernando Desoto began his expedition of Florida and the southeastern United States.
Desoto’s actions during his exploration for gold were controversial, but the impact of his visit was long lasting. The Memorial park in Northwest Bradenton conducts living history demonstrations in its recreation of a 16th century native village as well as showcasing informational displays and films in the visitors center.
While the park is open year round, some of the programs such as guided kayak and fishing tours of the surrounding waters are only offered seasonally. Entrance to the park as well as participation in any of the events and programs is completely free, making it one of the best free things to do in Bradenton.
19. Cruise the Bay with AMI Dolphin Tours
Located in the Holmes Beach area of Anna Maria Island, AMI Dolphin Tours is a great option for those who want to get out on the water.
These 1.5-2 hour tours take riders up and down the Anna Maria coastline in search of dolphins, sea turtles, manatees and more. Besides the public and private dolphin tours that they are named for, AMI also has options for sunset cruises and snorkeling adventures
If you prefer to be the captain of your own boat, the company offers pontoon rentals by the half or full day. Pontoons seat up to 12 people and come equipped with a sunshade, an anchor and a ladder so it’s easy to pull into an inlet and take a swim.
Be aware that at least one person in the party will need to have a valid boater certification in order to rent a vessel.
20. Pirates Training at LECOM Park
Since 1969, the Pittsburgh Pirates have been holding their Spring Training sessions in Bradenton, Florida. The current location for training is LECOM Park, a modern field with a historic mission style look.
The park was built in 1923 and stood for 70 years before it was finally updated for the first time in 1993. An additional renovation was completed in 2008, which added lights to the field for the first time ever.
Through both renovations, the interior areas were updated while the exterior was allowed to keep its original historical architecture.
LECOM is also the home to the Bradenton Marauders minor league team. There are seats for up to 7500 fans to come and watch a game, and for other events such as concerts or festivals, the standing room raises capacity to 9000.
As you can see, there are quite a few amazing activities to keep you occupied during a visit to Bradenton, and this list just begins to scratch the surface! So, what are you waiting for? Start planning your trip today!
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