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The famous Spanish explorer, Hernando De Soto first explored the site of Bradenton in 1539, but it wasn't until 1842 that it was established as a town. It was named after Dr Joseph Braden, an early settler with a house like a fortress that the locals would take refuge in when the Seminole Indians attacked with their arrows flying. Located on a turquoise coastline with a laid-back beach vibe, Bradenton has a rich American native history.
Sitting on the Manatee River there is a one-stop history spot, the South Florida Museum, where you can take in all the historical facts that you can absorb. You can then head to the Bishop Planetarium and Parker Manatee Aquarium to get the full picture. This is where you will find the oldest manatee (aka sea cow) probably in the world, Snooty, born in 1948. He was the first recorded captive manatee birth and is the official mascot and most famous resident of Bradenton.
For the arty types, this will be a treat as you can visit a working artists' community at the "Village of Arts". This amazing village is where you can stroll around galleries, studios and take time out in some cute small restaurants. It is the largest arts district on the Gulf Coast. Take a walk around the DeSoto National Memorial Park or do the River Walk. The Manatee Village Historical Park is a collection of restored historical buildings including a courthouse, a one-room schoolhouse and a general store to give you a better understanding of the pioneering past. Make sure you get to the bustling historical fishing community of Cortez and hang out with some of the fishermen mending their nets on the wooden docks amidst rustic bungalows and fish houses. It's possible to take in a show at the Manatee Performing Arts Center or a game of basketball.
The must do is of course the pristine beaches - perfect for a solitary meander or watching a sunset show playing on the water - as Bradenton overlooks the Gulf of Mexico. If you are looking for seclusion then head to Anna Maria Island and its Bayfront Park where more than 1,000 feet of sand fringes the Tampa Bay. A surfer's paradise can be found at Holmes Beach where the wide expanse of sand will guarantee some personal space. Cortez Beach is undeveloped and a gem to find, whilst at Coquina Beach you will be overshadowed by towering Australian pine trees.
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