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By Kendra Gemma

While we live where others vacation, that doesn’t necessarily mean we know all the tourist spots, especially if we’re entertaining relatives whose interests are different from ours. If you have summer visitors coming and you’re not sure where to take them, don’t stress. We have some ideas for you.

Art Aficionados

We’re blessed with creative souls who chose to make their homes here, so there’s no shortage of places where your art-loving visitors will want to spend time. ArtCenter Manatee is a must-see. Its three galleries showcase exhibits that change monthly, and the LiveArtfully Market sells unique souvenirs. Would your guests prefer to make their own keepsake? The center’s Nights Out: Creative Fun for Everyone! workshops give everyone a chance to be a crafter or artist for a few hours. Projects have included painted wine glasses and candle baskets.

Village of the Arts qualifies as an experience in and of itself. Made up of brightly painted historic cottages, the live-work community is home to artist studios, galleries, one-of-a-kind shops, and restaurants. If your schedule aligns, plan to attend an art walk the first Friday night or Saturday afternoon of the month. Listen to live music, enjoy food and, of course, browse all the indie art.

Photo: Village of the Arts | Matt Marriott, Bradenton Area Visitors Bureau

Located nearby, downtown Bradenton’s Island Gallery and Studios is an artist cooperative featuring a variety of works, including paintings, mixed media pieces, and photography. The featured artist changes every month, so check the website to see whose work will be displayed while your visitor is in town. You might have a chance to meet the featured artist, as well.

Nature Lovers

Are your visitors outdoorsy? Treat them to an adventure as serene or as daring as they would like.

For a truly memorable experience, invite your visitors to join you on a horseback ride with C Ponies. It’s not just any equestrian outing. The rescued horses swim in Palma Sola Bay carrying their riders on their backs. Sea life, including manatees and stingrays, may make appearances while you and your guests sit atop the horses. Another way to get out on the water, if a more traditional one, is a kayaking excursion. Several local outfitters offer kayak rentals and guided tours through the mangroves or on the bay.

Robinson Preserve is one of the destinations where you can kayak or canoe. The Manatee County park has 2.5 miles of blueways that weave through mangrove tunnels and marshes. Do your visitors prefer to stay on land? Hike more than five miles of trails or bike 2.5 miles of paved paths in the 679-acre preserve. With picnic pavilions on-premises, Robinson Preserve could be a daylong activity. The adrenaline junkies among your guests will jump at the chance to zipline and overcome more than 120 obstacles through the forest at TreeUmph Adventures. If you have at least 10 people in your party, book a group outing a few weeks in advance.

Photo: Kayaking | Ian Wilson-Navarro, Bradenton Area Visitors Bureau

Families with Young Children

When you don’t have little ones at home, knowing how to entertain them can be a challenge. Of course, a day at the beach or the pool almost always does the trick. But if everyone needs a break from the sun – or if it’s stormy – you’ll want to have an indoor activity or two in mind.

The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature is always a family favorite, with manatees and a planetarium to educate and entertain all ages. The youngest of your visitors might also enjoy Tales under the Tree story time every Saturday and Sunday at 3 p.m. Besides hearing a science- or nature-related book being read to them, they’ll also do a fun craft or play a game connected to the story.

For older kids or ones who have a lot of energy, try an indoor facility that offers a range of activities. At DEFY Bradenton and Altitude Trampoline Park, you’ll find everything from extreme dodgeball and basketball to tumbling on trampolines and special sections just for kids 6 and under.

Photo: Robinson Preserve | Bradenton Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

History Buffs

Did you know that Manatee County has a past that reaches back centuries? If your visitors enjoy learning about history, there are plenty of opportunities for them to discover stories about the area’s rich heritage.

Manatee Village Historical Park encompasses seven vintage buildings and five replicas, along with a 1913 locomotive. The county’s oldest cemetery, dating back to 1850, is on the premises. Visitors can also view exhibits covering life in Manatee County between 1840 and 1918. It’s open Monday through Friday and the second and fourth Saturdays of every month.

Similar to Manatee Village Historical Park, Palmetto Historical Park also contains several buildings. Some date back more than a century, including a post office from 1880, while others are faithful recreations, like the Heritage Chapel. The Manatee County Agricultural Museum is also on the grounds.

One of the last fishing villages on the Gulf Coast of Florida, Cortez has a long history that’s hundreds, if not thousands, of years old. Feed your curiosity about the village’s past at the Cortez Cultural Center, which focuses on families who inhabited the area in the 1880s and goes through the 1980s. Then dine on fresh seafood at one of the village’s restaurants.

If your guests have an interest in the pre-Civil War South, they might want to tour Gamble Plantation State Park. The plantation is the oldest building in the county and the only surviving plantation house in South Florida.

Create an itinerary from one or more of these groupings to keep your guests entertained and educated while they’re visiting you. You might discover some new places you’ll want to go back to even after your loved ones have gone home.

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