Situated on the Manatee River, the city of Bradenton is a popular stop-off point with visitors to South Florida. Some 20 miles of beach attracts sun-seekers and water sports enthusiasts, while golfing fans come to enjoy the numerous high quality golf courses dotted in and around the city. Historic landmarks, some dating back to the mid-19th century, are in ample supply too, and many people also make the short trip to Anna Maria Island, a nearby barrier island connected to Bradenton by a causeway.
There are plenty of attractions and activities to keep visitors busy in Bradenton, including the Bishop Planetarium and Parker Manatee Aquarium. But to really get under the skin of the city, you’ll need to venture beyond the well-trodden tourist path and head to some of the city’s lesser known delights. Here are 7 of the best.
1. The Sea Hagg
Head a few miles west from Bradenton to the charming fishing village town of Cortez to discover one of Florida’s most quirky and much-loved retail outlets. Opened in 1998 by a lady called Jan Holman, The Sea Hagg houses an eclectic treasure trove of maritime-themed marvels, such as antique mermaids, pirates, sea hags, shells, fishing floats, fish nets, oars, lanterns, coins and buoys. It would be an almost impossible task to pick out the most unusual item for sale here, though the seashell-coated African fertility chair has to be a strong contender. The unique store also plays host to regular events including book signings, fishing festivals and even a pirate treasure show.
LOCATION 12304 Cortez Road West Cortez HOURS Mon-Fri 9.30am-5.30pm; Sat 10am-5pm Closed Sun
2. The Village of the Arts
At the heart of Bradenton’s cultural scene is this bustling artistic hub featuring a myriad of galleries, studios, restaurants and specialty shops, all housed in colourfully restored 1920s bungalows. Visitors will find an eclectic assortment of art, fashion, jewellery, music, wellness and literature. You can also find courses here in everything from yoga to knife-sharpening, as well as several award-winning restaurants to choose from. The village is open 7 days a week, all-year-round. Popular artwalks take place on the first Friday night and Saturday afternoon of every month, where you can enjoy live music, street food and indie art.
LOCATION 1017 12th Avenue West HOURS Mon-Sat 11am-4pm Closed Sun
3. Bradenton Area River Regatta
Anyone who has experienced the kind of genteel regatta typically held in the UK – usually featuring punts and straw hats – may be surprised by the sheer frenzy of this hugely popular River Regatta that takes place each year around the waterways of Bradenton and Palmetto. Now in its fourth year, the free-to-enter event is a high-octane showcase of speed on water, with world champions, record-breakers and electrifying performers demonstrating their talents aboard powerboats, jet skis and other pulsating aquatic vehicles. Speeds can often tip an incredible 120/mph, so blink and you might miss ’em As well as the water-based action, there’s also live stage music, food, fireworks and – new for 2018 – a giant ferris wheel offering jaw-dropping views of the skyline and waterfront.
LOCATION Waterways of Bradenton and Palmetto DATES 3 February 2018
4. Darwin Brewing Company and Taproom
At the centre of Florida’s craft beer scene is this buzzing brewery where visitors can discover the inner workings of the beer-making process, or simply kick back and enjoy some of the on-site produce in the adjoining taproom. Born out of a Latin American gastropub in 2012, the brewing operation expanded into its current location soon after, and has gained an impressive reputation across the region for its culinary-inspired ales and lagers evolved from native flavours of Florida and the Americas. The operation is overseen by Brewmaster Jorge Rosabal, who calls on his Cuban heritage and German brewing education to create unique recipes. Live music is available weekly, along with special events including an annual Oktoberfest celebration.
LOCATION 803 17th Avenue West HOURS Wed-Fri 4pm-10pm; Sat 12pm-11pm; Closed Sun-Tue
5. Red Barn Flea Market
More than 600 traditional flea market booths along with open-air farmers markets, garage sale booths and food courts draw an incredible 10,000 visitors to this famous Bradenton landmark every weekend. Here they can peruse a seemingly endless selection of home decor, jewellery, apparel, art murals, sporting goods, fresh produce and plenty more. For souvenirs and gifts to take back home from your Bradenton trip, there are few better places to head.
LOCATION 1707 1st Street HOURS Tues-Thurs 10am-4pm; Fri-Sun 8am-4pm; Closed Mon
6. 3 Keys Brewing and Eatery
Another staple of Bradenton’s craft brewery scene, 3 Keys combines exceptional home-brewed amber nectar with a sumptuous, original and varied food menu (with nothing fried in sight), plus weekly special events including live music and activities. If you’re here with the family, then fear not, as there’s plenty to keep the kids entertained while you sink a ‘couple’ (who are we kidding?) of pints. Modelled on the brewpubs of the US West Coast and northern Europe, the venue churns out a regular conveyor belt of new beers, meaning there’ll always be something novel for you to sample. Among the highlights are flavourful, light, fruity and low alcohol beers as well as traditional favourites such as IPAs, pale ales, stouts, dubbels, bocks, porters and wheat beers.
LOCATION 2505 Manatee Avenue East HOURS Mon-Thurs 12pm-10pm; Fri 12pm-12am; Sat 11am-12am; Sun 11am-10pm
7. The Lost Kangaroo Pub
If you’re missing your four-legged friend back home during your stay in Bradenton, then you can head to The Lost Kangaroo pub once a week to get some much-needed canine therapy. Every Thursday, the popular, family-owned pub allows dog owners to bring in their pets so they don’t miss out on the fun. Founded in 1989, as well as its dog-friendly policy, the cosy brick-walled venue is renowned for its impressive selection of craft beers while a large-screen television adorns the main room and shows regular live sports events.
LOCATION 406 12th Street West HOURS Mon-Fri 1pm-2.30am; Sat-Sun 12pm-2.30am