Bradenton FL Riverwalk - yachts and sailboats in the harbor

Twin Dolphin Marina near Historic Downtown Bradenton and the Riverwalk.  ©Dawn Damico

You may completely miss the Bradenton FL Riverwalk if you’re rushing off to Bradenton’s Gulf Islands and the beaches on Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key. Since I’m a beach lover myself, I wouldn’t blame you! However, when you’re ready to get off the sand, turn the car around and you’ll be treated to a local gem. The Riverwalk gives you a taste of riverfront living, Florida’s nature and wildlife, a beer pub or two, gourmet eats, public art, an impressive museum, and much more.

In this article, I’ll share a few things to do, eat, drink, and explore around Bradenton’s Riverwalk near Florida’s Gulf Coast, along the Manatee River. If you have already been here and think you’ve seen it all, I invite you to return. Bradenton has big plans for this little stretch of waterfront, and it’s exciting to watch their vision unfold. Let’s get started!

Bradenton Riverwalk to Anna Maria Island Ferry

large yacht docked near Pier 22 at Bradenton FL riverwalk as the sunsets

Traveling between Bradenton FL Riverwalk and Anna Maria Island is about to get easier. Stay updated about the water taxi that is set to open in November, 2023.  ©Dawn Damico

One of the first things you’ll notice between downtown Bradenton and Anna Maria Island is that you are one of many eager to see the sights! This means congestion, especially during fall and winter when people from the north flock to Florida beaches. The good news is that in 2023, The Gulf Island Ferry between the Riverwalk and Anna Maria Island may start to lessen the time you spend on the road. Yes, Bradenton, Florida, is getting a water taxi!

As of this writing, they hope to have the ferry in service by Thanksgiving. There have been a few delays, as would be expected for a new endeavor, so check current news to be sure the ferry is running when you plan to ride.

Bradenton officials reported that two 49-passenger catamarans will be available on weekends to start, with three water taxi stops: Anna Maria City Pier, the Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach, and the Bradenton Riverwalk. Tickets are required with an expected one-way pass to start at $8.

*see map below

Family Fun along Bradenton FL Riverwalk

Street art near the skate park at Bradenton FL Riverwalk

The Skate Park on the Bradenton FL Riverwalk is popular for kids of all ages…from the very young to young at heart.  ©Dawn Damico

Splash Pad at Rossi Park

Updates and improvements are always happening along the Riverwalk, like Rossi Park’s new no-need-to-water “ForeverLawn.” It’s more sustainable and durable, which is required for large events like the Bradenton Blues Festival. Rossi Park is a popular place for families with its playground equipment and splash pad, providing hours of “clean fun” all summer long.

Skate Park and Volleyball Court

Fun for the whole family! All ages can enjoy skating. When I was there, the youngest skater was outfitted with a helmet and pads and enjoying the obstacles on a scooter. If skateboards and scooters aren’t for you (although it’s still fun to watch!), grab a ball and head to the volleyball court.

Paddling on the River

Prefer to be on the water? There are several places to launch your kayak, canoe, or paddleboard onto the river, including two new launches at Bradenton’s Riverwalk East.

Fishing From the Riverwalk

Anglers can cast their lines from the Riverwalk Fishing Pier. With many fish varieties swimming in these waters, you’ll have a good day…even if you don’t catch a thing!

Public Art Along the Riverwalk

public art-heart sculpture by Jane Seymore, along Bradenton FL Riverwalk

Public art takes center stage along various sections of the Bradenton FL Riverwalk. This piece was created by acress and artist, Jane Seymour.  ©Dawn Damico

In addition to the educational opportunities along the Bradenton Riverwalk, you will enjoy public art sculptures along the trail, including the seven-foot Open Hearts Icon Monumental Sculpture designed by artist and actress Jane Seymour. Venture over to Bradenton Riverwalk East, and you’ll see some beautiful sculptures along the walkway by the platform.

Bradenton’s Riverwalk East

observation tower with three levels overlooking the Manatee river-Bradenton FL Riverwalk

Bradenton FL Riverwalk East extends the trail another mile, although it’s not connected yet. Be sure to experience the accessible Observation Platform…the view cannot be beat!  ©Dawn Damico

If it’s been a while since you’ve enjoyed the Riverwalk, there’s something new to see! The extension at Bradenton’s Riverwalk East brings more green space and recreational opportunities to the area while keeping environmental conservation a top goal. It will eventually connect Downtown Bradenton from west to east, extending to Manatee Mineral Springs Park. The distance of 3 miles each way opens up an excellent opportunity for walking, running, and biking along the river. 

As of this writing, the section by the park is open and completed, including the observation deck; however, it still needs to connect to the downtown section.

The Observation deck is 35 feet high and accessible for those with mobility challenges. Perched above the Manatee River, you will get a bird’s eye view of Bradenton’s beauty and the seemingly endless waterway and greenspace. It can get a little windy up there!

Art lovers and those looking for colorful inspiration will enjoy “The Singing River.” The sculpture, created by Artist Reinaldo Correa, will be installed in Mineral Springs Park in the Spring of 2024. Watch for that!

Observation Tower: Glazier-Gates Park and ShoreView Apartments near 1016 Third Avenue E. Bradenton, FL

*see map below

Manatee Mineral Springs Park

Mineral Springs Park along Bradenton FL Riverwalk east

Interpretive signs and a peaceful, beautiful setting along the Manatee River at Manatee Mineral Springs Park in Bradenton.  ©Dawn Damico

Manatee Mineral Springs Park (not to be confused with Manatee Springs State Park) is a small park with big views! It’s part of the Riverwalk project, and the city has done a beautiful job with the space and design. It’s peaceful here, and on a spring-like fall day, the birds were singing in the trees as clouds gathered above in the warm sunshine.

Rock beds are defined but were dry when I was there. I can imagine how it looks when they are full. The only bit of Mineral Springs left during my visit was through the working water pump that visitors can try out to see how water once flowed in the park. Still, this beautiful area connects directly to the boardwalk, so you can enjoy riverfront views and walk to the Observation deck nearby.

Location: 1312 Second Avenue E., Bradenton, FL

*see map below

Bishop Museum

downtown Bradenton FL

After spending the afternoon at the Bishop Museum,  you can take a short walk to downtown Bradenton for a bite to eat and enjoy the waterfront.  ©Dawn Damico

At The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature, your exploration takes you from the sea to the skies. The museum has two levels where you learn about the region from prehistoric times to the present. Fossils and skeletons from Florida’s Gulf Coast animal life, including an impressive mastodon at the entrance, and other displays feature habitats and mounted animals.

Permanent exhibits highlight the cultural heritage and environment. The Parker Manatee Rehabilitation Habitat gives you a glimpse at the critical work for these gentle giants, the Backyard Mosaic is an open space the little ones will love along with the extensive collection of Legos, and the Planetarium with its massive 5-foot full-dome theater brings the universe a little closer.

Ticket prices are reasonable, and if you are a museum lover, check out their reciprocal program for similar venues across North America; purchasing a membership may have perks you can use. Children 0-4 are free, and other programs and pricing make the experience accessible to everyone. Be sure to ask!

Village of the Arts

bradenton fl place to eat near riverwalk

Village of the Arts is a short drive up the road from the Bradenton FL waterfront, but you’ll feel as if you entered a completely differently neighborhood. Art enthusiasts will love it here!  ©Dawn Damico

When you drive into this community, you’ll wonder what you’ve stumbled upon! Colorful historic cottages line the streets, and vibrant paint decorates the sidewalk where this live-work neighborhood surprises you with award-winning restaurants that make you feel like you’re dining in your new best friend’s home, who happens to be a chef. Your artsy side (or wanna-be artsy side) will be delighted with studios dancing with color. Then, toss in some baked goods, specialty shops, and healing arts, and you’ll wonder which decade you are living in. The funky 60s or now! The Village of the Arts community has special events and art walks throughout the year, so check their calendar.

*see map below

Craft Breweries Near Bradenton Riverwalk

Black lab dog at the beach in Venice with golden sunset

The 150+ year old oak tree is not the only thing to love at Motorworks Brewery. Lots of seating inside and out, this could become a new place for you to gather with friends!  ©Dawn Damico

Motorworks Brewing

You cannot ignore the 150+-year-old oak tree in this dog-friendly, family-friendly taproom and beer garden in the former Hudson Motors dealership in Bradenton. It is located between the Riverwalk and LECOM Field, where the Pittsburgh Pirates have spring training in Florida. Motorworks Brewing was the first craft brewery in Bradenton. Live music, weekly events, games, TVs to enjoy sports, and food will keep you returning for more. Of course, craft beer, cocktails, a full bar, and wine. Bring your family and friends because there is plenty of seating inside and out. 

3 Keys Brewing and Gastrobrew

3 Keys Brewing boasts locally sourced, free-range beef and gourmet-style pub food to compliment their rotating selection of craft beers and ciders. Pet-friendly outdoor seating is available, and you can enjoy live music most weekends with a line-up of weekly events.

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Restaurants Near Bradenton FL Riverwalk

the Patio restaurant near pier 22

Waterfront Dining? Bradenton FL Riverwalk has you covered! Sunset views are amazing at the Patio at Pier 22.  ©Dawn Damico

While I haven’t tried all the restaurants near the Bradenton Riverwalk yet, you have several options, ranging from fine dining to casual. Let me know which ones you love during your next visit to Bradenton!

Pier 22

You’ll love the waterfront views from the outdoor patio or the elegant indoor dining area. Pier 22 has been a culinary destination for over 40 years.

Oak and Stone

My granddaughter gave their fries and chicken strips a thumbs up after an afternoon at the Bishop Museum. Oak and Stone is a pub-like atmosphere with great casual American style food and a rooftop bar with epic views of the Manatee River.

Jennings Downtown Provisions

A fun and casual spot, Jennings Downtown Provisions is loved for its outdoor seating, craft beers and wine selection, and dressed-up favorites like gourmet tacos, flatbreads, and salads.

Chateau 13 Restaurant and Wine Bar

Reservations are highly recommended at this hospitality hotspot that happens to serve great wine and food. You know you’re in for something special from the moment you open the door at Chateau 13.

Ortygia

When we dined here, we had the best seat in the house…right by the entry to the kitchen, so we could talk to the chef as he prepared meals for his guests. And “guest” is how you will feel in this family-style Sicilian restaurant in an actual home in the eclectic Village of the Arts. As a side note, the owners also lead small group tours to Italy!

Birdrock Taco Shack

I love the decor inside and out! Vegetarians will have their taste buds dancing at the Birdrock Taco Shack. Try the beet and goat cheese taco! Lots of space to hang out and enjoy a local drink before exploring the neighborhood.

Kefi Streetside Cafe

This local favorite serves Mediterranean-inspired coffee and food from their walk-up window on 6th Avenue West. Scroll through their Instagram feed, and you’ll run to get in line for one of their specialty toasts, pitas, or salads. And the coffee? Don’t get me started!

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Frequently Asked Questions about Bradenton FL Riverwalk

Black lab dog at the beach in Venice with golden sunset

Bradenton FL Riverwalk East is the newest section of the trail. It’s complete with a park and observation tower; however, not yet fully connected to the original section. Watch the planned improvements to downtown Bradenton unfold!  ©Dawn Damico

Where is Bradenton, Florida?

Bradenton is located in Manatee County on the Gulf Coast of Florida, Along the Manatee River. 

Is Bradenton Riverwalk Open?

As of this writing, the Riverwalk is open, including the new Bradenton Riverwalk East. The two sections are not connected yet although that is part of the master plan. You can get Bradenton Downtown Project Updates HERE.

Is Bradenton Riverwalk Safe?

The surrounding neighborhoods have reported that they use the Riverwalk several times a week, if not every night. The pathways are wide with ample lighting. 

How long is the Riverwalk in Bradenton?

The Bradenton FL Riverwalk is 1.5 miles long and will eventually be built out to be three miles each way. As of this writing, the extension at Bradenton Riverwalk East by the Manatee Mineral Springs Park is completed and open, adding about another mile to the trail; however, it’s not connected to the section closest to downtown yet. Learn more about Bradenton Parks.

What is the Best Hotel to Stay in / around Bradenton?

You’re in luck! There are so many hotels, Airbnb’s and campgrounds around Bradenton. Start your hotel search here.

Where is the Nearest Airport to Bradenton Florida?

The closest airport is Sarasota Bradenton International Airport (SRQ) in Sarasota Florida. 

Other nearby airports include:

Tampa International Airport (TPA): 45 Miles

St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport (PIE): 36 Miles

Orlando International Airport (MCO): 118 Miles

Southwest Florida International Airport, Fort Myers (RSW): 103 Miles

Punta Gorda Airport (PGD): 67 Miles

*see map below