In 1539, the Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto sailed in from the Gulf of Mexico to the mouth of the Manatee River determined to find gold. Though he was unsuccessful in his quest, what he found was no less valuable: a lush, moss-draped coastal landscape rich in natural resources, a portion of which would later become the town of Bradenton.
In the spirit of De Soto’s expedition, venture out from any of our charming vacation rentals in Bradenton to encounter the city’s centuries-old history beside modern day attractions – and discover a new favorite destination along the way!
Where is Bradenton, Florida?
Located on the southwest end of Tampa Bay, Bradenton lies between the mid-size cities of Tampa and Sarasota on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Bradenton is the Manatee county seat, a county which also includes Sarasota and Venice. With a population of 54,000 year-round residents, it’s smaller and more suburban than its neighbors to the north and south.
Family Activities in Bradenton, FL
Bradenton is a town where new and old collide in a fun mix anyone can appreciate. One such example is the long-running De Soto Heritage Festival, which celebrates the town’s Spanish-influenced past with activities like a road race, a seafood festival, a bottle boat regatta, and a parade with participants dressed up as Spanish conquistadors.
History is also on display at the De Soto National Memorial, a site commemorating the 1539 expedition with guided kayak tours near the mouth of the Manatee River and historical demonstrations in a recreated sixteenth-century native village. But Bradenton’s Spanish ties aren’t only in the past – in fact, much of its mission-style buildings reflect the modern day architectural aesthetics of its sister city, Barcarrota, Spain.
For a scenic stroll close to your vacation rental, head downtown to the Riverwalk. A one-and-a-half mile path along the Manatee River featuring parks and botanical gardens, a public boat dock, an amphitheater, a fishing pier, a family-fun zone with a splash pad (sure to be a hit with your kids!), a tidal marsh preserve, beach volleyball courts, and more, the Riverwalk has something for everyone!
Other fun daytime diversions include strolling through the eclectic art-centric community at Village of the Arts (only a short stroll from the Riverwalk), soaking up sun rays on Bradenton Beach, cheering for home runs at a Marauders minor league baseball game, and touring the gorgeous mansion at Gamble Plantation Historic State Park.
Outdoor Adventures in Bradenton, FL
With a handful of nearby state parks, coastal preserves, and barrier islands, Bradenton offers many opportunities to explore the great outdoors. One great place to start is the Robinson Preserve, a 600-acre coastal salt marsh where you can meander along a bridge pathway under lush coastal canopy, snap photos of nesting egrets, and even reel in mackerel and other aquatic species to batter, bake, or fry later on in your vacation rental!
Continue your outdoor exploration at Palma Sola Botanical Park, 10 acres of palm gardens and tranquil lakes that are home to herons, turtles, raccoons, snakes, alligators, and other animals. The environmentally sensitive 100-acre preserve at Cortez Fishing Village is also worth a visit to see a shining example of conservation and successful resistance against commercial development interests.
Day Trips from Bradenton, FL
A stay in one of our vacation rentals isn’t just a front-row ticket to Bradenton’s most exciting attractions--it’s the convenience of a home base with unequaled access to all the best of Tampa Bay, also. Sports enthusiasts will love the options available in Tampa, which has teams in the NBA, NFL, and NHL. The arenas for all of these teams are within 60 miles of our vacation rentals, making a weekday trip into town for a game entirely possible.
If beach time is on your mind, take your pick from a handful just a short drive away, including Sarasota’s award-winning Siesta Key Beach, playful Madeira Beach, and upscale Clearwater Beach.
If you’ve brought along kids, take them for a day of amusement park fun they won’t soon forget at Busch Gardens, about 50 miles north in Tampa. Or take them to spot alligators, snakes, turtles, and other native wildlife at Myakka River State Park (about 32 miles south).
A charming city chock full of fascinating history, one-of-a-kind attractions, and year-round tropical temperatures, Bradenton is a fun-filled destination with options for every age. Experience it all with an unforgettable stay in one of our comfortable vacation rentals!
Photo Credit: Jim Mullhaupt via Flickr