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Bradenton and Anna Maria Island
We just spent a week in Bradenton, FL, and we had a blast! We’d been to Bradenton before, but we’d never actually stayed there until this past week. We had more or less just passed through previously, on our way to Anna Maria Island. This year for our major summer vacation with the family, we decided to stay in Bradenton, and we don’t regret our decision. We found a great vacation house on VRBO. If you want to learn how to use VRBO to find great vacation rentals, just click the link. Our rental was very reasonably priced, and it was spacious, comfortable, and attractive. It wasn’t on a beach, but it was on a canal, and it had a private swimming pool. It was near supermarkets, shopping venues, Riverwalk, and lots of restaurants. It was about twelve miles from the beautiful Gulf beaches of Anna Maria Island, and it was about nine miles from the beaches of Palma Sola, Anna Maria Sound, and the intracoastal waterway. Since the house was only two miles or so from Interstate 75, it was a pretty easy drive for us. We live in South Georgia, just a block off I-75. On the drive to Bradenton, FL, we passed beautiful horse farms, orange groves, rivers, and gently rolling green hills.
Bradenton, Florida is located just south of Tampa and just north of Sarasota. A bridge from West Bradenton takes you to beautiful Anna Maria Island, where there are miles of spectacular white beaches and the blue-green water of the Gulf of Mexico. Bradenton is a great place to stay if you want to explore other nearby areas. Of course, Bradenton itself is pretty interesting! In fact, we’re actually thinking about relocating there.
I suppose the main thing we like about Bradenton is all the water. There’s water everywhere! In and near the city are rivers, canals, tidal creeks, bays, inlets, and sounds. There are lots of places where you can just pull over and cast a line. Or, if you prefer, you can fish from one of the piers, where you won’t even need a fishing license.
Something else that I like about Bradenton is that it’s a great mix of old and new. The city has a wide range of interesting architecture, from old southern homes to modern high-rise buildings. I always meet some interesting, friendly people in Bradenton and the surrounding area, too. I’ve talked with folks from all over the Unites States, along with visitors from Germany, England, France, Canada, and even Australia.
Things To Do In Bradenton, FL
Many of the things to do in Bradenton, FL are associated with water: swimming, boating, crabbing, jet skiing, parasailing, paddleboarding, and fishing. Local marinas rent pontoon boats, fishing boats, kayaks, and jet skis. You’ll see lots of folks taking advantage of all the waterways in boats and personal watercraft. Most of the local waters are calm, so boating is pretty easy and relaxing. If you don’t want to be your own captain, book passage on a sightseeing boat or on a manatee/dolphin sighting boat. You might even want to take a sunset cruise to watch the sky over the water light up with some amazing colors.
We love saltwater fishing, and Bradenton did not disappoint. In the numerous canals, we’ve caught redfish, snook, snapper, ladyfish, and huge alligator gar. The sounds and inlets with grass beds are great places to try your luck with speckled trout, reds, and snook. From some of the piers, you can catch grouper, king mackerel, cobia, Spanish mackerel, sheepshead, black drum, and sharks. When we fished sandy bottoms, we caught flounder. For an unforgettable fishing adventure, head north to the Sunshine Skyway fishing piers. The two piers are open 24/7, with restrooms and bait shops. From the Skyway piers, you’ll have a chance to haul in grouper, snapper, king mackerel, cobia, jacks, tarpon, sea bass, Spanish mackerel, bonita, and sharks. Be sure to take some heavy equipment with you, as some of your catch might be huge. You’ll also need a light rod and reel to catch bait – pinfish.
If you want the help of an expert fishing guide, book a fishing charter. Fishing charters in the area will take you to productive offshore, nearshore, or inshore fishing grounds, depending on what type of fishing trip you want and which fish species you want to target. The grass beds, the offshore wrecks, the tidal rivers, the mangroves, and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge are some of the favorite fishing spots.
If shopping is your bag, you won’t be disappointed with this part of Florida. You’ll find plenty of antique shops, gourmet foods, boutiques, outlet stores, and specialty shops. If you’re into flea markets and thrift stores, Bradenton is going to be tops with you. There are several thrift stores on Manatee Avenue alone. You won’t want to miss the Red Barn, either. It includes lots of permanent stores, and on the weekends, there are numerous vendors and a great farmer’s market. Shop in the air-conditioned barn for candles, apparel, cosmetics, shoes, handbags, leather goods, souvenirs, fishing gear, home décor, greeting cards, and lots more. We found some great bargains on our last trip, including cute ladies’ sundresses for just $5 each! If you prefer “posh” shopping, head to St. Armand’s Circle in Sarasota, where all the world’s most famous designers are represented.
History buffs will enjoy Bradenton, Florida and the surrounding area, too. You can visit Manatee Village Historical Park, the De Soto National Memorial, Florida Gulf Coast Railroad Museum, Cortez Historic Fishing Village, the Florida Maritime Museum, Madira Bickel Mound Archeological Site, Gamble Plantation, and the Manatee County Agricultural Museum.
If you’re anywhere in or near the area, you just have to experience the Bradenton Riverwalk. It’s located at the intersection of Manatee Avenue and U.S. Highway 41, behind Manatee Memorial Hospital. It runs along the banks of the Manatee River. There’s free parking, and most of the activities are free, too.
Riverwalk is a really neat place. It includes grassy areas, which are perfect spots for picnics. There are also paved walkways, benches, sandy volleyball courts, clay volleyball courts, outdoor living rooms,an amphitheater for bands and other live entertainment, works of art, a boat dock, a place to launch kayaks, and a fishing pier. The grandsons fished from the pier and caught grouper and black drum.
The grandkids also took advantage of the playground and skate park. They’d brought their skateboard with them, and they had a blast going up and down the concrete ramps. There were lots of other kids there enjoying the skate park, too, on bikes, skates, and scooters. The playground is cool, too, with slides, climbing equipment, and ring tunnels. Actually, there are two playgrounds – one for little kids and one for older kids. There’s also a water play area where visitors can cool off, but it was closed when we visited.
Riverwalk is fun, and it’s also educational. The Tidal Discovery Zone, the Butterfly Zone, and the Botanical Walk all offer some great learning opportunities. Memorials, including the Veterans Memorial and the First Responders Memorial help visitors remember the courage and self-sacrifice of those who have died while helping others and defending our nation.
All sorts of entertainment, classes, and educational programs are scheduled regularly at Bradenton Riverwalk. These include exercise classes, orchestras, blues bands, live theater, craft demonstrations, stargazing, history cruises, art exhibits, and special activities for kids.
Right next to Riverwalk are the Manatee Performing Arts Center, Art Center Manatee, and the South Florida Museum, which includes a planetarium and an aquarium, the Parker Manatee Aquarium. The Parker Aquarium consists of 60,000 gallons of water and adult manatees. The large marine mammals can be viewed below and above the water, and public education about the creatures is included. A special resident is Snooty, the world’s oldest manatee.
Bradenton for Kids
Kids will love playing on the Gulf beaches and swimming and snorkeling in the clear, calm water. They can also search for shells, sand dollars, and starfish. They might enjoy tossing out a line for fish or pulling in some blue crabs or stone crabs. Seeing dolphins and manatees up close is a big thrill for most kids, too. If you venture out onto one of the piers, you’ll have the chance to see a sea turtle, and you might be surprised at just how big those things can be!
Should the little ones need a break from the beach, or in case of bad weather, you can find lot of other ways to entertain the children. Outdoor activities include miniature golf, nearby horseback riding, petting zoos, and dolphin adventures. In inclement weather, take advantage of arcades, cinemas, museums, and toy stores. A short drive to Sarasota will take you to Circus Sarasota, the G. Whiz Science Museum, Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, Stardust Skate Center, and Sarasota Jungle Gardens. In Tampa, you can enjoy Busch Gardens, the Boing Jump Center, Lowry Park Zoo, Vertical Ventures Indoor Rock Climbing, The Florida Aquarium, and Adventure Island.
Bradenton, FL Restaurants
There are scores of restaurants in Bradenton, including national chains, locally owned eateries, and fast food places. Some of the chain restaurants include Chili’s, Bob Evans, Golden Corral, Sonny’s BBQ, Outback Steak House, IHOP, Texas Roadhouse, Hooter’s, Starbuck’s, Chuck E. Cheese’s, Cici’s Pizza, Boston Market, Red Lobster, Godfather’s Pizza, Domino’s Pizza, Applebee’s, Cracker Barrel, Carrabba’s, Bonefish Grill, Ruby Tuesday, FiveGuys Burgers, Atlanta Bread Company, Beef O’Brady’s, Denny’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Pizza Hut, Steak and Shake, and Olive Garden. Fast food eateries in Bradenton include Checkers, Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Dunkin’ Donuts, Firehouse Subs, Subway, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Chick-Fil-A, and Burger King. When it comes to locally owned restaurants, you’ll find an incredible range of cuisines: Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Korean, Vietnamese, Southwestern, Mexican, Peruvian, Venezuelan, Colombian, Cuban, Jamaican, Caribbean, German, French, Italian, Greek, Scottish, vegetarian, organic, Irish pubs, English pubs, sushi bars, steaks, barbecue, fresh seafood, delis, sandwich shops, bakeries, ice cream parlors, fine chocolates, burgers, and southern country dishes.
If you venture out of Bradenton and head to Anna Maria Island or Longboat Key, you’ll find even more restaurants. Several are beachfront, with outdoor seating on the sand. Live entertainment is often provided, too. On Anna Maria Island, I recommend the Sandbar and the Beach House Restaurant for waterfront dining. For good barbecue, check out Mr. Bones.
Bradenton, FL Vacations
We thoroughly enjoyed our Bradenton vacation! There was so much to do and see that we never got bored, and more importantly, neither did the grandkids. Bradenton is in the center of so many great locations that it’s the perfect spot for lodging. Within an hour or less, you can be in Tampa, Sarasota, Anna Maria Island, or Longboat Key. Even better, lodging in Bradenton is often less expensive than it is closer to the beaches. If, however, you find a Bradenton vacation home that’s on a canal and has a swimming pool, you’ll probably find that you might want to stay there in Bradenton more than you thought you would. That’s what we discovered. Hubby and I did make a couple of drives to the beach, but for the most part, we found that there was plenty I Bradenton to keep us entertained and happy!