"Old Florida Charm” and so much more in Bradenton.
This week we explore the Bradenton Area of Florida’s west coast and discover the calm natural world of Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key. The white sand beaches, parks, restaurants and resorts all bask in warm sunshine - set against the lush Florida landscape and the shimmering Gulf of Mexico. But while you may come for the beach, don’t miss out on the area’s many unique cultural attractions and activities.
Explore quaint towns with authentic “old Florida” charm. You can meet local artists in the vibrant community of Bradenton’s the Village of the Arts – with over thirty-five artists living and working together, the Village is Florida’s largest art community. Monthly artwalks fill the streets with art lovers looking for affordable fine art, jewelry, ceramics, designer wear and collectibles of all kinds. You’ll also find many special events, an inviting bookstore and gourmet cafes and restaurants.
In fact, the Bradenton Area is home to a wealth of independent restaurants, all boasting fresh foods and unique dining experiences. You can meet the local farmers and growers as well. A visit to Dakin Dairy Farm is not only fun; it’s good for you and a great place to take the family. You’ll learn about the health benefits of milk and watch the cows in action. Kids can ride the cow train or hay ride and pet fuzzy farm animals. Mixon Fruit Farms is famous for its plump, juicy citrus, its gift shop and Groveside Café. Visitors can take a ride on the Orange Blossom Express through the groves past the Children’s Magical Maze and Wildlife Rescue, where the family will delight in an interactive show with rescued Florida animals, reptiles and birds. And don’t miss the homemade orange swirl ice cream!
The Bradenton Area also has two world-class wineries: Bunker Hill Winery is a "GREEN" Environmentally Responsible Winery and offers complimentary tours and tastings of their handcrafted wines. They grow their own Muscadine grapes, rent out a peaceful cottage on property and even have a resident ghost! Rosa Fiorelli Winery has a 10-acre Muscadine vineyard and their wines have won more than 100 awards. Tours include your choice of an authentic Italian lunch and wine in a complimentary souvenir glass to take home. They also offer complimentary tastings.
If you love animals the Bradenton area has opportunities to meet all kinds of creatures in all kinds of ways! You are quite likely to simply come across dolphins playing off shore. The Bear Show at Bearadise Ranch was established in 1926 to educate and generate public awareness for habitat preservation and conservation for all bear species. These talented creatures are featured in movies, commercials and festivals. However, when the bears aren’t working they live at beautiful Bearadise Ranch, a natural habitat facility. And you can witness the beauty and grace of The Original Lipizzan Stallions of Austria at Herrmann’s Lipizzan Stallion Farm. Colonel Hermann, whose ancestors aided in the rescue of these animals, maintains a 200-acre ranch in the Bradenton Area.
A unique activity in the Bradenton area is “horse surfing” along Palma Sola Causeway. BeachHorse is the only horseback riding stable in Florida that offers horseback riding on the beach and swimming with horses. The adventure begins with a sunset horseback ride along the beach of the Palma Sola Bay. From there, the horses will glide into the salt water and swim. Thrill-seekers also have the opportunity to try “horse skiing” and “horse surfing”. Believe it not, it’s fun for the whole family... riders can be as young as 3 years old.
Bradenton’s South Florida Museum is home to the oldest manatee living “happily” in captivity - Snooty, who turned 63 years old in July! In addition to Snooty, the museum is the largest natural and cultural history museum on Florida’s Gulf Coast. The museum interprets the region from the Pleistocene to the present. Highlights include fossil evidence of Florida’s earliest mammals and marine species. Also check out the Bishop Planetarium.
Every March for more than 40 years, a very popular rite of spring has taken place on Florida’s Gulf Coast - the Pittsburgh Pirates arrive in Bradenton to play their spring training games. And the Bradenton Area is well-known for hosting numerous regional and national sporting events year round, including world-class rowing and soccer.
But perhaps the most unique “sport” is to be found at "People at Play, the Heavy Equipment Experience" - a new concept in adventure travel. If you have always had a hankering to put on a hard hat and harness the power of an enormous CAT excavator, bulldozer or skid steer loader – here is your chance. Anyone 18 years and older can be a heavy equipment operator for a day and tackle an obstacle course on its 21-acre construction site (aka construction playground).
Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key Trip Showcase
Photo credits:Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and:-
- Fly to Florida with Air Canada. Air Canada offers the only daily non-stop service between Toronto and Tampa, with convenient connecting service from Montreal. And Air Canada resumes direct Montreal to Tampa service on December 14, 2012 with service three times per week. Effective October 28th, Air Canada will resume its seasonal service from Toronto to Sarasota Bradenton International Airport, with two flights weekly on Saturday and Sunday.
- Stay at the Cedars Tennis Resort on Longboat Key. Cedars Tennis Resort is a luxury vacation rental resort on Longboat Key. It offers world-class facilities, magnificent beaches and tropical sunsets. Guests enjoy an unforgettable Florida Vacation in spacious town homes perfect for families and couples. A junior Olympic swimming pool with Tiki bar, fitness centre, fishing pier, bicycle and kayak rentals, provide activities to suit every mood. Cycle or stroll along beach pathways or explore the property’s gorgeous landscaped grounds and walkways.
The newly renovated clubhouse features a restaurant with full bar for a casual dining experience. And the acclaimed tennis program - with some of the area’s best HarTru tennis courts, USTA tournaments, a kids tennis camp and pro shop - attracts players from all over the world.
- Enjoy a sunset cruise on the Kathleen D Catamaran. Kathleen D Charters are the perfect way to explore Florida’s Sun Coast offering public and private charter sailings. They operate Sailing Catamarans for up to 6 passengers - perfect for families and intimate group sailing - and they also operate a 49 Passenger Classic Power Launch. Enjoy a sightseeing tour or a sunset dinner cruise!
- Between Beach Bums’ Green Transport Rentals and the Island Trolley System, you can enjoy your Anna Maria experience without ever using a car! Anna Maria Island is very bike friendly and it is often said that the best way to travel Anna Maria is by pedal power. Many of the local roads have bike paths and local shops and restaurants have racks in front to store bikes. Rent a bike at Beach Bums and it comes with a lock, basket, helmet and a light.
- Enjoy a concert with the Anna Maria Island Concert Chorus & Orchestra (AMICO). Known informally as "the gem of the Island" AMICCO is the centerpiece of the Bay Area's extraordinary cultural life. Against a background of laid back old Florida, Anna Maria has produced an accomplished Chorus and Orchestra, which year after year thrills and amazes audiences. AMICCO is made up of professional and volunteer musicians (many of them retired professionals) who love to make music together. Its repertoire is chosen from the beloved Classics, Opera and signature American music.
Waterfront restaurant, Village of Artists - Bradenton, South Florida Museum, Bikes parked at pier : Vanessa Rogers
Bareback riding in Palma Sola Bay, Anna Maria Island Beach Bums : Tom Shelby
Townhouse accommodation - Cedars Tennis Resort