Hernando DeSoto, the Spanish explorer, landed on the banks of the Manatee River at Bradenton in 1539 and traveled 4,000 miles throughout the southwest in search of “The City of Gold.” He did not find gold here of course, and the region was unclaimed until an explorer named Josiah Gates came to the area in 1842. He named it Manatee, after the gentle sea cows seen so frequently in the waterways. It later became Bradenton, named after Joseph Braden, an early settler. By the 1920ís, Manatee County was being discovered as both a vacation spot and a retirement location. Soon baseball found the Gulf coast to be an ideal location for its spring training. Today Bradenton is the spring training home of the Pittsburgh Pirates as well as several college teams.
Bradenton is located on the Gulf coast of Florida, about 45 miles south of the Tampa ñ
St. Petersburg metropolitan area. By boat, it is just eight miles south of Tampa Bay, and a short distance inland on the mile-wide Manatee River. The cultural center of downtown includes South Florida Museum, Bishop Planetarium, Manatee County Main Library, the Art League of Manatee, City Yacht Basin, and Riverfront Theater. It is a community rich in history, with a somewhat laid-back lifestyle. The area has enjoyed steady growth through the years and today is a blend of retirees, growing young families, and business professionals. Bradenton is a city of 50,000 and is the county seat of Manatee County. Its location provides easy access to culture-rich Sarasota, or to the Tampa-St. Petersburg area. http://www.cityofbradenton.com/
Manatee County is comprised of six distinctive communities: Bradenton and Palmetto, which are the largest, face each other across the Manatee River. Anna Maria, Holmes Beach, and Bradenton Beach are all located on Anna Maria Island. This scenic island is 7 miles in length, beginning just south of Tampa Bay and extending south to Sarasota Bay. Longboat Key is the next island heading south and stretches 10.8 miles along the outside of Sarasota Bay. It offers numerous upscale amenities for both residents and its many seasonal visitors.
The great attraction for this area comes from itís scenic villages with a flavor of old Florida, from the laid back lifestyle in many locations, and from the nearly 150 miles of beautiful sand beaches. It also comes from the many recreational and cultural opportunities throughout the region.
Arts and Culture
Art, music and theater all have strong community support. The Manatee County Cultural Alliance promotes the areaís cultural resources and publishes an events calendar, and the Art League of Manatee County provides access to several galleries, classroom space, and exhibition and learning opportunities in the visual arts for artists of every skill level.
Manatee County also hosts numerous festivals including heritage festivals, the Anna Maria Island Festival of Fine Arts, Palmetto Winter Craft Fair, the Manatee County Fair, a seafood festival, holiday festivities, and much more. There is almost always a special event in progress.
South Florida Museum in downtown Bradenton displays Floridaís history from prehistoric times to the present. It features life-sized casts of Ice Age Mammals of 12,000 years ago, realistic dioramas, fossil exhibits, and artifacts. The museum also features Parker Manatee Aquarium, home of the oldest manatee in captivity. http://www.southfloridamuseum.org/
Riverfront Theatre is home to the Manatee Players. Live productions are also presented at the Island Playhouse on Anna Maria Island. The Manatee Ballet also enjoys a loyal following.
Sarasota Orchestra (the new Florida West Coast Symphony) performs more than 100 concerts a year, including a six-concert Masterworks Series held in Neel Auditorium at Manatee Community College. http://www.sarasotaorchestra.org/ The Sarasota Pops Orchestra also offers four local concerts each year.
Longboat Key Art Center, on the north end the island, provides studios for instruction and varied mediums of art exhibits. The Center has nearly 1,000 members and a talented faculty.
The Florida Gulf Coast Railroad Museum, in nearby Parrish, captures the role of railroads in the growth and development of the area. http://www.frrm.org/
The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art is the largest museum/university complex in the nation. Donated to the state at the time of the Great Depression, the Museum, which includes 21 galleries of internationally recognized European and American art, is considered the most significant cultural asset of the state. The 66-acre complex also features Ringlingís Circus Museum and his mansion on the waterfront. http://www.ringling.org
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens was recently named one of America’s Top Ten Botanical Gardens. http://www.selby.org
Mote Marine Laboratory is one of the top three visitor attractions in the area. It also runs an extensive number of educational programs. http://www.mote.org/)
Manatee Countyís 23 city and county parks offer many activities, including tennis, basketball, racquetball, softball, volleyball, biking, hiking, camping, canoeing, fishing, swimming, shelling, fitness, open play areas, nature trails, and even flag football. The Parks and Recreation Department also coordinates the Gulf Coast Senior Games. http://www.co.manatee.fl.us/
There is an abundance of outdoor activities. Foremost for many are the miles and miles of sand beaches. There are eight boat ramps and over 30 marinas with miles of inland waterways, bayous, and bays to explore. There is offshore fishing and a choice of two local fishing piers, or the mile and a half long old Skyway Bridge on Tampa Bay. There are more than 30 golf courses in the area, including finely groomed championship layouts
The Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team begins spring training at McKechnie Field in late February. You can see their training or exhibition games at McKechnie Field (http://www.baseballpilgrimages.com/spring/bradenton.html). Outstanding college teams train here as well. Or, you can go to nearby Sarasota to watch the Cincinnati Reds. Less than 30 minutes north is Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Football, hockey and soccer fans can enjoy their professional sport in nearby Tampa.
Nearby Myakka River State Park is one of Florida’s oldest and largest state parks with 45 square miles of wetlands, prairies, hammocks and pinelands. The river and its two shallow lakes offer excellent birding, canoeing, fishing and wildlife observation. A seven-mile scenic drive winds through shady oak-palm hammocks and along the shore of Upper Myakka Lake. Over 39 miles of hiking and biking trails and miles of dirt roads provide access to the remote interior. http://www.myakkariver.org/
Manatee Technical Institute in Bradenton offers two-year program certifications. Their largest programs are Health Professions and Related Sciences, Personal and Miscellaneous Services, Construction Trades, Mechanics and Repairers, and Computer and Information Sciences. http://www.manateetechnicalinstitute.org/
State College of Florida , located in Bradenton, offers associate in arts, science and associate in applied science degrees and one-year certificate programs. It also offers skills upgrade courses, workforce development and adult education classes. http://www.scf.edu/pages/1.asp
On nearby Longboat Key, Longboat Center for the Arts offers art classes in a variety of media, and The Education Center offers continuing education in more than 100 areas. http://www.ringling.edu/LBKCA.877.0.html
The University of South Florida Sarasota/Manatee campus in Sarasota serves 2,500 students and offers 29 accredited degree programs and courses in 40 degree programs. http://www.usf.edu/default/
Ringling School of Art and Design enrolls both full- and part-time students who intend to become professionals in the visual programs leading to a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. It also offers courses, lectures, exhibitions and other art-related services to the local community, including continuing education. http://www.ringling.edu/
New College is a highly competitive liberal arts college with 650 students and 60 full time faculty offering over 30 arts and science disciplines. http://www.ncf.edu/
The Parks and Recreation Department coordinates the Gulf Coast Senior Games. http://www.co.manatee.fl.us/
In Sarasota is the Senior Academy of the University of South Florida Sarasota/Manatee. Its mission is to promote a continuous peer teaching/learning experience with opportunities for Senior Academy members to “return to their college days.” Members can use the university library, lunch at the student union, purchase books and software at the campus bookstore at student discount prices, select fields of study, and to become “professors” if they wish to lead a study group.
Blake Medical Center is a 383-bed acute care, full service medical center. http://www.blakemedicalcenter.com/
Manatee Memorial Hospital is a 491-bed acute care hospital. http://www.manateememorial.com/
A number of the major carriers and half dozen commuter-type airlines serve Sarasota Bradenton International Airport. http://www.srq-airport.com/
Tampa International Airport, located less than an hour away is served by most major airlines. http://www.tampaairport.com/
Bradenton Herald – http://www.bradenton.com/mld/bradenton/
Chamber of Commerce
State Aging Agency
Sarasota – 13 miles
St. Petersburg – 23 miles
Tampa – 46 miles
Venice – 36 miles
Fort Myers – 94 miles