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By Amanda Gray

Known as the Friendly City, Bradenton, Florida, offers a small-town charm with big city quality culture, arts, and community. With hot spot St. Petersburg nearby, it can be easy to overlook the activities available in Bradenton. While there’s no dispute that the larger cities surrounding Bradenton have much to offer, you can skip the drive and get to know the area better simply by staying local. Along the way, you might just discover new ways to enjoy this thriving and inviting community. The best part: by staying near, you’ll be able to double the fun by fitting in more than one activity per day.

Start the day on your feet by taking in the walkable Village of the Arts, also known as VOTA, live-work community. The streets and shops that make up this eclectic neighborhood are home to the artists producing the visual media featured in many of the galleries. If you’re looking for something off the beaten path, the roads, shops, and restaurants that sprinkle this neighborhood will delight you. Plan for a few leisure hours here to stroll amongst galleries where you can often interact with the artists themselves. The art installations that you will come across are not just indoors, so prepare to view yards, walkways, and houses that are works of art by their own design.

Play ball…or simply spend an evening under the lights cheering on The Bradenton Marauders, the minor league team that is a major must-see! Whether or not you’re a baseball fan, there’s a lot to love about this small-town team with big talent. Just like most major league ballparks around the country, you’ll find theme nights, concerts, and events integrated into the roster. From fireworks nights to fan-favorite Star Wars Nights, there’s something for everyone in your group to enjoy. Most games start at 6:30 p.m., making this the perfect night out at LECOM Park, the training facility for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Swing and sway to the music while in Bradenton where you’ll easily find a steady playlist of island music at any given bar on any given day. Chances are, if you’re venturing out for food and drink, you’ll be treated to live music without even having to seek it out. But if music is the main course, you’ll naturally want to make plans to ensure you’re catching the best show possible – from the venue to the band. If you’re seeking a laid-back, classic Florida vibe, head to Woody’s River Roo, situated on the Manatee River. At Woody’s, you can even arrive via boat and enjoy the sounds onboard. Woody’s boasts Florida charm when it comes to food and atmosphere and in its variety of genres when it comes to their live acts throughout the week. Looking for more of a brunch than happy hour or night out? Mattison’s City Grill on Bradenton Riverwalk hosts a monthly Blues Brunch where you can enjoy a melodic morning followed by a stroll along the river.

Reward your inner foodie by dining locally! While enjoying freshly caught seafood is part of the day-to-day culture here, and you should absolutely indulge, you can also expect some truly unique cuisine that pushes the boundaries of traditional oceanfront communities. If you’ve dedicated a day to venture into VOTA, make a reservation at Ortygia. Feast on a Sicilian-inspired menu in this hidden gem of a restaurant that offers dining inside a quaint cottage or outside on the garden patio. Larger groups looking for wide open space to socialize and imbibe should head to Motorworks or 3 Keys Brewery. Both offer outdoor dining, live music, and locally brewed beers. The food scene in the Friendly City continues to expand, so be encouraged to explore and venture past your go-to to give a new place a try.

These suggestions are meant to help inspire you to explore Bradenton for all its charm, hospitality, and beauty. These days, almost every corner of town offers a unique experience and, if you look for it, you’ll more than likely be treated to a memorable time while staying within city limits.

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