Bradenton lies on Florida’s west coast, and to the south of Tampa Bay. It’s located on the Manatee River, named for the marine animals that live in the area. When you book a stay at one of numerous Bradenton vacation rentals, you’re placed within a stone’s throw of the city’s top swimming spots and historic sites. You and your family can also hike the local nature preserves, and explore the city’s culture. Here are some of the top things to do in Bradenton with your kids.

1. Go to Manatee Village Historical Park

Manatee Village Historical Park is a collection of historical buildings that illustrate Bradenton’s heritage. Take the kids to the 1860-era courthouse and the old one-room schoolhouse, built in 1908. They’re bound to love Old Cabbage Head, the 1913 steam engine. Stop at the Whistle Stop Gift Shop for some souvenirs and snacks before heading back to your vacation rental.

2. Stroll the Riverwalk

Take the kids for a walk along the Manatee River. The 1.5-mile trail offers outdoor living rooms, a day dock, fishing pier, and skate park. Relax in the outdoor living rooms, and breathe in your scenic surroundings while the kids play in the Family Fun Zone and Splash Pad, the perfect place to cool off on a hot day. While you’re at the Riverwalk, fly a kite at the Regatta Plaza, or play a game of tag on the Flex or Great lawns. Better yet, add some education into your vacation with a stop at the Tidal Discovery Zone. Here your kids can get a close-up look at the river ecosystem.

3. Visit the Robinson Nature Preserve

If you want more nature in your life, the Robinson Nature Preserve offers 487 acres. Here you can kayak, hike, fish, and view wildlife. There’s an observation tower that’s perfect for spying out birds or some of the shy animals. The kayak and canoe launch takes you to the Blueways Trails, internal waterways that cover three miles. You can explore the mangrove swamp at your leisure. Take along a picnic lunch, and stop at one of the many pavilions for a family meal.

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4. Go Kayaking

There are many places to go kayaking in the Bradenton area. You can explore the inlets and coves of Manatee River with the kids, or make your way through Perico Bayou to Palma Sola Bay. If you didn’t bring kayaks of your own, stop at Bradenton Boat Rental or Sunset Boat Rental for all your needs. You can find classic kayaks or opt for water skis for fun at Tampa Bay or the Gulf of Mexico.

5. Go Zip Lining

Once you’re done for the day with the water, look up for your next adventure. Bradenton has zip lines and aerial courses for the entire family. The Tree Umph! Adventure Course boasts zip lines, net climbing walls, and swings.

6. Go Horseback Riding

If you’re looking to open up your children to new experiences, try horseback riding. C Ponies Beach Horseback Rides lies on the Palma Sola Bay, which is positioned across from the Robinson Preserve. At C Ponies, you not only get to ride horses, but the guides teach you how to do a few simple tricks to heighten your experience. Visitors get to swim with horses, as well as go horse surfing or horse skiing. Another option is Born to Ride, located on the Braden River. This service takes you through state parks, combining beautiful scenery with beautiful horses.

7. Go Swimming

With warm Gulf of Mexico waters just a quick drive across either Cortez Road or I-64, swimming should definitely be on your itinerary. Bradenton Beach offers plenty of sand, water, and fun. Truly relax as the kids play in the waves. Rouse yourself long enough to stop at The Beach House for some good food, or get a cool treat at Tyler’s Homemade Ice Cream. If you opt for a vacation rental on Palma Sola Bay, you can swim right from your back yard.

8. Go on an Eco Tour

Take to the water in a different way with eco tours. Here you not only get to enjoy a boat or kayak ride, but you get to view the world around you up-close. Climb onto a boat at Sarasota Bay Explorers and go on a nature safari. There’s also a sea life encounter cruise where you get to handle marine life, such as seahorses or see a puffer fish. Get even closer to the water at Almost Heaven Kayak Adventures and Shan-T Native Kayak Tours. You can glide between mangrove trees and swim with manatees.

9. Visit Village of the Arts

Encourage your child’s creative side at the Village of the Arts, which is a community of historic homes interspersed with eclectic outdoor art projects, art studios, and art galleries. The bright colors are sure to enchant your children almost as much as the tasty treats from the local bakeries.

10. Visit the South Florida Museum

Add science and history to your vacation by visiting the South Florida Museum. The museum includes an aquarium and planetarium, perfect for the entire family. First, stop at the aquarium and view the manatees. The three resident manatees live in a 60,000-gallon tank. In the planetarium, you and the kids can discover the universe. The digital full-dome theater shows images of space.

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