You know our beaches rival those of the Caribbean. You know our seafood is fresher than fresh. But did you know we’re home to the “Greenest Little Main Street in America” and a leading institution for student-athletes?! Keep reading for more Bradenton Area fun facts and claims to fame that’ll make your next trip that much cooler.

manatee beach on an afternoon day with turquoise water and blue sky and a person on a paddleboard

1. Beach days are certifiably better here.

We take serious pride in our beaches and want everyone to be able to safely enjoy our soft, sugar-white sand and calm, clear turquoise waters. Six of our area beaches have received their Blue Wave Certification™, which means a better experience for you! To earn the designation, beaches must promote and embrace Blue Wave Ethics™ – things like cleaning up after yourself, using the beach for exercise, practicing water safety, conserving natural resources, and more principles that encourage healthy, sustainable use of the land. Check out these beaches and discover the difference: Anna Maria Beach, Coquina Beach, Cortez Beach, Holmes Beach, Manatee Beach, and Whitney Beach.

manatee in the parker manatee rehab aquarium at the bishop museum of science and nature

2. Mastodons, meteorites, and manatees live under one roof here.

Maybe you’ve heard of The Bishop Museum of Science & Nature in downtown Bradenton. It’s the largest natural history museum on Florida’s Gulf Coast, with wall-to-wall stories of the past. But – surprise! – it’s also a planetarium and a manatee rehabilitation center. With so much to explore, you can spend the whole day going back in time, blasting off into space, and learning all about Manatee County’s favorite sea creature up close and underwater.

father and daughter wearing high visibility vests and cleaning up the bradenton area

3. We’ve taken responsible travel to the next level.

Committed to keeping the Bradenton Area beautiful – from the islands to the mainland – we were the first Florida destination to partner with national nonprofit Leave No Trace. Together, with our Love It Like A Local initiative, we provide everyday ways that make it easy for everyone to do their part to help keep our beaches and waterways clean, conserve energy, protect wildlife, and support local businesses. Watch and learn how you can help protect our piece of paradise so future generations can experience the same natural wonders as we do today..

the gulf islands ferry, a 50-seater covered pontoon, on the water

4. There’s no reason to hop in the car if you don’t want to!

If you really want a relaxing getaway from the everyday, we make it easy to take a vacation from your vehicle, thanks to our many stress-free and eco-friendly forms of transportation. A free trolley runs up and down Anna Maria Island, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The Gulf Islands Ferry goes to and from downtown Bradenton to Anna Maria Island Wednesday–Sunday (be sure to download the free perks pass to get local discounts with your ferry ticket). And there are tons of places to rent bikes, golf carts, scooters, and more. Of course, our walkable towns are great for getting your steps in, too!

aerial view of IMG academy's football stadium at night

5. We help athletes everywhere bring their A game.

Bradenton is home to the IMG Academy, the world’s largest and most advanced multi-sport training and educational institution. This premier destination for academics and athletics provides boarding school, sports camps, coaching, and more services to help prepare student-athletes for college and beyond. They’ve got the stats to prove it too – with their athletes filling approximately 25% of all college freshman roster spots each year. Also on-site at IMG Academy is the first of Gatorade Sports Science Institute‘s satellite laboratories, where scientists conduct important research related to North American sports and hot weather conditions to help athletes optimize their health and performance.

blue and white painted cow sculpture in a yard in village of the arts

6. We’ve got the largest live-work art community in Florida.

Also in Bradenton, you’ll find the Village of the Arts – an eclectic community where artists live and work, sometimes in the same home! Thanks to the neighborhood’s legal commercial overlay, a rare mix of 49 businesses – everything from galleries and restaurants to bakeries and healing art centers – resides in colorfully restored historic cottages. Once a month, the close-knit community hosts an Art Walk during which visitors can meet the artists who live there, tour their studios, and see their work. The events feature fun themes, along with live music and local food.

exterior of green key west-style home building on Pine Avenue

7. You can visit the “The Greenest Little Main Street in America.”

Pine Ave on Anna Maria Island isn’t just a super cute spot to shop and dine. It’s a lesson in green building and sustainable living. As Florida’s first LEED Platinum and Net Zero Energy Retail Park, this popular stretch was designed with purpose. In addition to its energy-efficient construction, it boasts eco-conscious features like a community garden and seashell sidewalks, places to rent transportation that will help lower your carbon footprint, local restaurants serving sustainable, farm-to-table meals, and even a Blue Wave beach (see above) right at the end of the street.

working docks and boats at cortez fishing village

8. We’ve got the oldest working commercial fishing village in Florida.

Cortez is one of the last remaining commercial fishing village in Florida. It’s a small town with a big impact, supplying not just local restaurants, but also customers around the world with its sustainably caught seafood. A stroll through this quaint community or its free maritime museum will give you a firsthand look at what life used to look like for many Florida Gulf Coast towns, where fishing was the main industry. It’ll also give you a taste of the freshest Florida seafood you’ve ever had, so be sure to do some dockside dining!

exterior of anna maria oyster bar on the pier

9. Several local restaurants will cook the seafood you catch.

Want to do some fishing of your own while here? It’s no secret that there are tons of local charters with experienced captains who will help you reel in snook, redfish, trout, grouper, tarpon, and more. But what you may not know is that you can partake in one of Florida’s oldest culinary traditions known as “hook and cook.” Just bring your catch to a participating local seafood restaurant and they’ll prepare it to your liking. That way you can savor your hard work – no chef skills needed! Restaurants include: Mar Vista, Star Fish Company, Pier 22, Anna Maria Oyster Bar, Beach House Restaurant, and Sandbar.

aerial view of Anna Maria Island, where no high-rises are visible

10. You won’t find any high-rises on this island.

When we say we’re low-key and low-rise around here, we mean it! In fact, all buildings on Anna Maria Island must measure three stories or less. Just another way we’re preserving our small-town charm and protecting your view of our picturesque shores.