Photo by Melissa Lyttle

10 Reasons Why You Should Visit Bradenton, Florida

Atlas Obscura

From a towering mastodon skeleton to a funky art village and a serene riverwalk, here are supercool stops in the Friendly City.

Photo by Melissa Lyttle

Hugging the Manatee River, just south of Tampa Bay, Bradenton is a central Florida destination brimming with soul. At the annual Downtown Bradenton Public Market, peruse the goods of nearly 100 vendors and pick up beach-themed art, local coffee, gifts, jewelry, clothes, and much more. Equally diverse is one of the Bradenton area’s hippest neighborhoods, the vibrant Village of the Arts, home to nearly 20 funky art galleries, plus top-notch restaurants serving southern soul food and more.

A sustainability-minded vintage shop and an authentic Italian café known for its fresh-from-the-garden pesto and daily baked breads are worthy draws, as is the Carnegie Library, with its packed corridors of historic county papers and artifacts. History buffs will also love to travel back in time at the Manatee Village Historical Park, with over 15 distinctive historical and replica sites, including a steam engine, general store, and blacksmith shop. And the sacred Native American burial grounds and countless encounters with Florida’s diverse wildlife inspires awe at the 365-acre Emerson Point Preserve.

With its impressive variety of sites to see, places to eat, and things to do, Bradenton’s reputation as the Friendly City is equally welcoming. Here are 10 destinations to get you started on your next visit to the Bradenton area.


Photo credit Melissa Lyttle

1. Bradenton Public Market

When a potpourri of purveyors sets up their tents downtown, it’s markettime in Bradenton. Kids carry cotton candy under a canopy of oaks, and the smell of kettle corn fills the streets at the weekly Bradenton Public Market.

Every Saturday from October through May, Old Main Street is transformed into a massive diverse marketplace featuring nearly 100 full-time vendors from local farmers and artisans to chefs and jewelers and other craftspeople. 

A husband-and-wife pottery duo sell their hand-crafted shrubs with fresh fruit, raw cane sugar, and raw apple cider vinegar, while a mother and her two daughters offer beach-themed art – mermaids, frogs, and octopuses  – made with resin and other materials.

Stop for a Nutella-topped waffle or cup of local coffee at one of the many food trucks. Other goods range from all-natural dog treats and house plants to crocheted toys, handmade jewelry, fresh produce and meats, clothing, Caribbean-inspired hot sauce, and lots more. 

Each week, the market also offers a long roster of local musicians and seasonal celebrations, like trick-or-treating and face painting for Halloween. 

Downtown Bradenton Public Market is held on Saturdays, October through May, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.


Photo credit Melissa Lyttle

2. Segunda Vida

Sustainability is at the heart of this Bradenton second-hand shop. Spanish for “second life,” Segunda Vida is on a mission to create new purpose for discarded objects in an effort to reduce waste. 

At their retail store, founders Ashley Ciferno and Oscar Almazan sell second-hand and vintage items, from books, records, and jeans, to toys and tons of other tchotkes. The many creative recycled, upcycled, and handmade pieces of art and furniture are also worth a look. Even the building itself, a simply framed structure painted a vibrant teal, lived a former life as a gas station. 

The shop also plays host to a variety of workshops, classes, and community swaps. Segunda Vida is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.


Photo credit Melissa Lyttle

3. Riverwalk Art Tour

Bradenton’s stunning Riverwalk stretches from 15th Street West to 2nd Street East beyond the DeSoto Bridge along the Manatee River. Though the path is packed with activities, like a skatepark and beach volleyball, there’s another draw to the route: art.

The 7-foot bronze “Open Heart Icon,” was created by actor and artist Jane Seymour in 2019. The sculpture’s two interlaced hearts symbolizes the philosophy that an open heart lets love in. 

Don Brandes’s 2012 painting, “Spring Training,” pays homage to the city’s heritage as a baseball city. Since 1923, the site that’s now known as LECOM Park, has been host to both major and minor league teams, and the Pittsburgh Pirates have used the park for spring training since 1969. 

Find a moment of tranquility between two “Sound Dishes,” vertical stainless steel installations that create an acoustic space for reflection. In all, there are eight works of art along the Riverwalk Art Tour.

The full version of this story can be found at Atlas Obscura.

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