Perched on the Gulf Coast is the beautiful city of Bradenton, also known as “the friendly city.”
The city is named after Dr. Joseph Braden, a physician and native Virginian who provided refuge in his home during the Indian uprisings.
Bradenton is home to world-class facilities, beaches, and museums that showcase the city’s rich culture.
It also houses several tributes to Hernando de Soto, a Spanish conquistador and one of the first to arrive at Bradenton with his crew.
Bradenton is a family-friendly city that offers a wide range of activities that people from all walks of life can enjoy一whether you’re looking for adventure-filled trips or something relaxing.
But with the many attractions and activities you can check out in Bradenton, it can be hard to come up with a definitive list of things to do, especially when you’re staying there for just a few days.
So, to help you out, here are 15 of the best things to do in Bradenton, Florida:
Explore Florida’s Waterways at the Robinson Preserve
From disturbed farmland to coastal wetland habitat, the Robinson Preserve has come a long way to become one of Bradenton’s most prized tourist spots一and also one of the best places to embark on a kayaking journey!
Near the preserve’s entrance is a kayak and canoeing launch that lets tourists explore Manatee County’s waterways.
Manatee County’s blueways go on for about 75 miles, passing through seven paddling trails.
Preserved mangroves and tidal marsh decorate the waters, adding to the enchanted scene that spans across Robinson Preserve’s entire 682 acres of land.
You can go on a three-mile trip starting from the Manatee River, passing through Perico Bayou, and ending at Palma Sola Bay.
You can also go on a five-mile round trip starting from the preserve’s waters going to Palma Sola Bay and Back.
Swing a Club at River Run Golf Links
Golfers can’t possibly leave Bradenton without taking a swing at one of the Gulf Coast’s most popular municipal golf courses.
Enjoy the area’s excellent course design, strategic routing plan, and admirable turf types across 6,393 yards.
River Run is located at 1801 27th street and has been operating for over 25 years.
River Run prides itself with an 18-hole, 70-par layout, sitting on the banks of the Braden River.
If you’re planning on staying in Bradenton for a while, you can even join some of River Run’s seasonal golf leagues and tournament groups.
Catch the Sea Turtles at Coquina Beach
Lay down your beach towels and umbrellas and soak in the sun’s warmth at Coquina Beach.
Located at 2650 Gulf Drive, Coquina Beach is a popular destination where you can dive into crystal clear waters and relax on the white sand.
If you’re visiting the beach sometime between May and October, you can even catch the beach’s sea turtle visitors paddling their way across the fine sand.
Picnic tables are provided within the vicinity, so you can bring your own food and drinks to the beach.
Or, you could also grab a bite at the Coquina Beach Cafe and enjoy other nearby amenities at the Coquina Gulfside Park.
Tour the Village of the Arts
From restaurants and bakeries to studios and hobby centers, everything about the Village of the Arts is indeed a work of art.
Art enthusiasts are in for a real treat with the village’s aesthetic bungalows, rainbow-colored sculptures, and other art pieces across various genres.
Contemporary paintings fill the streets while upcycled glass work adorn the plants scattered throughout the village.
Aside from visual art, the village also lets tourists appreciate the healing arts.
Acupuncture, yoga, and village movement art shops are open during certain days of the week, and you can also catch some live music if you’re planning to visit the village on the first Friday night or Saturday afternoon of the month.
Go on an Excursion at De Soto National Memorial
Take a break from the busy streets of Bradenton and immerse yourself in various activities at De Soto National Memorial.
Named after the Spanish conquistador and explorer Hernando de Soto, the national park offers various recreational activities all year round.
You can take a walk along the park’s scenic trails, or you can try the free fishing clinic hosted by the park’s staff.
The clinic is a family-friendly activity that lets you learn about the fundamentals of fishing, where you’ll get to test your skills in the waters around the park.
You can also relive the 16th century in Camp Uzita, where you’ll catch living history programs and demonstrations from December to mid-April.
Take a close look at the process of blacksmithing, archery contests, and hear the sound of the arquebus一an old long gun that resembles a rifle.
You’ll also get the chance to learn about 16th century European and native American cultures and even try wearing European armor for the ultimate experience.
Attend the De Soto Heritage Festival Grand Parade
If you’re planning to visit Bradenton sometime in April, you can’t possibly leave the city without attending the De Soto Heritage Festival Grand Parade.
The celebration stands as one of the largest and oldest parades in Southwest Florida, with over 150 floats gracing the event.
People flood the area parading a myriad of colors and costumes to commemorate one of Bradenton's most important historical events.
As a tribute to the Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto and his arrival at Bradenton, the floats would feature de Soto look-alikes together with his queen and princess.
The grand parade kicks off at Manatee High School and ends on Manatee Avenue for a total distance of 2.5 miles.
Discover the Roots of Manatee County at the Manatee Village Historical Park
From March to April, the Manatee Village Historical Park hosts a village site tour to entertain tourists with Manatee County’s rich culture.
Established in 1976, the park is home to various historical and replica buildings built by the county’s early settlers.
Go back in time as you walk around and appreciate the simple architecture of houses and churches, and get a glimpse of the early train system that was used by the county’s pioneers.
Listen to the various stories about the county from tour guides, such as “Tales from Old Manatee,” “Perils of Pioneering,” “The Promised Land,” and “Symbolizing the Dead.”
Although the tour doesn’t require an admission fee, you might want to book a slot at an earlier date since slots are limited.
See the Dolphins with Coastline Dolphin & Snorkeling Excursions
Swimming with the dolphins is an experience you shouldn’t miss out on.
Coastline Dolphin & Snorkeling Excursions offers amazing trips that can get you up close and personal with dolphins and manatees.
You can also catch a glimpse of underwater ruins and find local marine life via snorkeling activities.
After which, you might want to stay a while and soak up the sun by hanging out on the sandbar.
The company offers two, three, and four-hour excursions in the Anna Maria Islands and Egmont Key areas.
Watch the Sunset at Bridge Street on Anna Maria Island
Cap off your day-long adventure at Bradenton by watching the sunset at Bridge Street.
The historic drawbridge was built to access Anna Maria Island from Bradenton, while the bridge’s southern side served as a fishing pier.
Prior to the bridge’s construction, Anna Maria Island was only accessible through a short boat ride.
Boutique-style shops and restaurants can be seen from the bridge一reminders of the simple lifestyle back in the day before high-rise condos and towering apartments engulfed the city.
Marvel at the reflection of the sun glistening on the emerald waters before it sets, or you can also witness the golden hour overlooking Tampa Bay.
Check Out the Annual Manatee Pride Festival
Since 2016, the city has been celebrating a Pride Festival at Downtown Bradenton every September.
Hosted by Also Youth, the festival also acts as a fundraiser for the LGBTQIA+ community in Manatee County.
Founded in 1992, Also Youth was an organization initially from Sarasota, which then extended its support to Bradenton.
Beginning at noon, the festivities feature live entertainment and a day filled with music, food, and drinks.
Drag queens own the streets with their artistic makeup and stylish outfits while booths for crafts and snacks occupy the Bradenton Riverwalk Pavilion.
Sit Back and Relax at Bennett Park
Exploring Bradenton isn’t just about visiting museums and hiking in nature preserves.
Sometimes, the best way to appreciate your trip is by simply taking a step back and lying on the grass.
Purchased by Manatee County in 2003, Bennett Park is a combination of recreational and conservation areas across its 200-acre lot.
Located near I-75, Bennett Park is a great place to relax, dine, and admire the scenic view of lush green trees, nature trails, and the wonders of wildlife.
The park also offers recreational facilities such as playgrounds, soccer fields, and sand volleyball courts.
Cool Off at the Riverwalk Splash Pad
What better way to cool off other than hanging out at the Riverwalk Splash Pad?
The Riverwalk Splash Pad is a popular attraction at the Family Fun Zone at Riverwalk.
Kids can surely enjoy their vacation to Bradenton even under the heat by wading into the refreshing waters.
You can also take a nap under the trees surrounding the Splash Pad or even let your dog run free across the open area.
Keep in mind, however, that the Splash Pad is typically closed during the Bradenton Blues Fest, so you might want to check your calendar before heading over there.
Enroll in Art Classes at ArtCenter Manatee
If you’re looking to let your creative juices flow while traveling in Bradenton, you might want to check out ArtCenter Manatee.
Situated in downtown Bradenton, the visual art center is the ultimate haven for aesthetes.
Unleash your creativity by enrolling in painting, drawing, jewelry design, pottery, and photography workshops.
A frequent recipient of the Best Art Gallery Award by the Herald Tribune and Bradenton Herald, the art center showcases three galleries with different art pieces from local and national artists every month.
It also doubles as a learning center with five classrooms handling approximately 3,000 students every year.
Take a Stroll Down Bradenton Riverwalk
Sometimes, capturing the best experiences from your trip won’t require you to go on extreme adventures or hour-long drives.
Sometimes, all it really takes is a quiet walk.
Spanning a total of 1.5 miles, Bradenton Riverwalk is a great space where you can check out all of downtown’s showpieces.
The Bradenton Riverwalk sits along the banks of the Manatee River, providing a picturesque view of crystal waters and blue skies.
The Riverwalk covers various recreational areas一from outdoor living rooms and skate parks to amphitheaters and discovery zones.
Anglers can also hang out by the fishing pier and try their luck catching Manatee’s native fishes, such as snooks, redfishes, and trout.
Visit The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature
Located at 201 10th street is Florida’s largest natural history museum on the gulf coast.
The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature is home to a collection of various exhibits that showcase prehistoric artifacts, fossils of Florida’s earliest animal inhabitants, and the state’s incredible biodiversity.
Dive into the wonders of the natural sciences with a glimpse of the Paleo-Indian, Archaic, and pre-contact cultures on the first floor and a preview of Bradenton’s maritime history, government, and culture on the second floor.
You’ll also find the Environmental Hall on the second floor, which aims to educate tourists about Florida’s environment and ecology.
The Bishop’s Parker Manatee Rehabilitation Habitat is another popular attraction where you can find rescued manatees enjoying their temporary home.
The rehabilitation facility resembles the manatees’ real-life habitat to help them stimulate their environment in the wild.
Tourists are welcome to experience above and underwater viewing as they learn more about the anatomy and life history of manatees in the exhibit.
The Bishop also prides itself with a digital, full-dome planetarium theater featuring a Digistar 6 dual projection system.
The sky’s far from the limit as you take off into the cosmos and check out the latest astronomical discoveries from the dome.
Bradenton is a perfect city for those who love the great outdoors.
It’s also a great vacay spot for history buffs and art enthusiasts, thanks to the many cultural facilities and art sectors the city has to offer.
And if you’re only planning to visit for a couple of days, you might want to reconsider prolonging your stay because a few days won’t be enough to get the best out of the city.
So, mark your calendar and book a trip to Bradenton today!
See also: Best Restaurants in Bradenton, FL