Tucked along the western curl of Florida -- framed to the tidal turns of the Gulf of Mexico -- is Bradenton. This charming city boasts incomparable views and an uncommon history; its collection of beaches and intricate waterways were discovered first by Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto (who was questing for gold and mythology throughout the wetlands of America). Decades saw the area languish in anonymity, until 1903 allowed it to achieve both its name and its incorporation.
It has since risen to become one of the state's most popular family destinations. The wealth of available vacation rentals -- which provide luxury, privacy and easy access to all local activities -- and the many things to do in Bradenton with kids make the reasons obvious.
Discover the waves on Longboat Key. This barrier island is nestled just beyond Bradenton's boundaries, resting in the Gulf. Parents and children alike will delight in the 17 square miles of pristine coastline. Spend the day surfing, sailing and picnicking. The Key is open throughout the year and no permits are required to travel there. Ferry services are provided.
South Florida Museum Complex
Explore the past at the South Florida Museum Complex. Wander from the comfort of your vacation home, which is certain to provide modern elegance, and seek history. The South Florida Museum Complex charts the formation of the state, offering one-of-a-kind exhibits and activities. Find dinosaur fossils, Seminole artifacts and an entire gallery dedicated to the legendary Montague Tallant (who pioneered the field of archaeology).
Be amazed by the 60,000 gallons of water housed within the adjacent Parker Manatee Aquarium , and visit the Bishop Planetarium , which was renovated in 2010 and features a full digital dome theater. The museum is open all year. Reservations aren't required.
Palma Sola Botanical Park
Centered within Bradenton is Palma Sola Botanical Park. Founded in 1990, this 10 acre preserve is certain to amaze. Travel through carefully cultivated pathways, indulging in the scents of exotic plants and trees. Children will adore the many playgrounds and butterfly gardens, as well as the educational programs that discuss conversation and animal husbandry. The Palma Sola Botanical Park is open each day from morning until dusk. Donations are suggested.
Ray's Canoe Hideaway
Seek out Bradenton's waterways with Ray's Canoe Hideaway. This rental establishment (which offers kayaks, pedal boats and, of course, canoes) will excite the entire family. Spend the day searching the Manatee River. Discover local wildlife, like the endangered Gopher Tortoise or the Zebra Longwing . Navigate the slow swells, and pass by the city's landmarks, such as Fort Hammer and the Rye Preservation .
Half and full day retreats are available, with professional guides ready to lead you through the waves. Ray's Canoe Hideaway is open from dawn until dusk. Reservations are needed. All skill levels can participate, though, making this one of the best things to do in Bradenton with kids.
Manatee Village Historical Park
Adventures await at Manatee Village Historical Park. This collection of interactive attractions allows you and your children to journey back to the 19th century. Enter the Fogarty Boatworks and learn of river transportation. Find local treasures at Wiggins General Store . The Settlers House offers period details and Gothic architecture. Ride along the acres in Old Cabbage Head , a restored steam engine. Your family will enjoy the day. The Manatee Village Historical Park is open sporadically throughout the year, therefore, reservations are highly recommended.
Florida provides an experience like no other. With many things to do in Bradenton with kids and the amenities of vacation rentals, it's a holiday for all.