There are so many things for kids to do in the Sarasota/Bradenton area. We are going to break down the top 10 we think your kids will love.
1. Sarasota Jungle Gardens
Feed the flamingos at this 10-acre wildlife mecca, where the pink Florida birds literally eat out of the palm of your hand. More than 150 animals, including birds of prey, primates and alligators also call this lush habitat home.
Go face-to-face with a lion, tiger, liger, bear, camel, lemur or monkey. These sweet, rescued creatures are part of the “Animals in Action” adventure at Big Cat Habitat. There is even a petting zoo.
3. Sarasota Children’s Garden
Whimsy is the word at this two-acre garden, where fairy gardens of lore come to life and a kid-sized Black Pearl ship awaits imaginative pirates. Enroll in an arts and crafts class, have a birthday party at the Caterpillar Cottage or simply watch the butterflies flutter. Tip: Let the little ones play dress up in their favorite costumes (think sparkly wings and antennae) for a truly imaginative afternoon.
4. Bradenton Riverwalk
The 1.5-mile Bradenton Riverwalk along the Manatee River has it all, from an amphitheater and fishing pier to a skate park and family fun zone with two playgrounds. Tip: Bring a volleyball, stake out one of the courts, start a game, work up a sweat and end the night with a low-key bag dinner by the water.
Pet a stingray and spy on a jellyfish before sailing off with the Sarasota Bay Explorers, a group that operates guided nautical eco-tours and nature safaris directly from Mote. Next door, Save Our Seabirds is filled with rescued Florida birds. Tip: From February to May, catch a free Sarasota Ski-A-Rees water show on a Sunday afternoon at the adjacent ski stadium.
In the wildlife refuge at this Bradenton farm, a plethora of birds, animals and reptiles are rehabilitated before being released back into nature. Meet the inhabitants, and then feed the koi in the farm’s garden pond, take a tram tour of the orchards, and scoop up an orange-vanilla ice cream cone. Tip: Check out their events calendar online for news about Mixon’s various family-friendly festivals and Concerts in the Grove.
7. Siesta Beach
A Sunday sunset drum circle is an obvious must, but in the afternoon, consider renting recreational beach gear from a local company like Siesta Sports Rentals. Snorkels, fins, chairs, umbrellas and boogie boards are among the family-friendly equipment options. Tip: Look for the hair wrap kiosk near the concession stand and get a lasting souvenir for your kiddo’s salty mane.
8. Payne Park
At this circus-themed red, yellow and blue playground in downtown Sarasota, push the toddlers on swings, let the preschoolers whiz down slides and cool off by the misting rings, and watch the teens climb rock walls and do half-pipes at the skate park. Tip: Take a family bike ride along the park’s half-mile, tree-lined trail before heading to Main Street for some frozen yogurt.
AMF Bradenton Lanes has undergone a major makeover and will reopen as Bowlero. Bowlero Bradenton is the New York-based corporation’s fifth location in Florida, and will offer signature blacklight bowling, an interactive arcade as well as many food and beverage options. Bowlero Corporation, formerly known as Bowlmor AMF, also owned and operated AMF Bradenton Lanes.
The newly revamped, 59,000-square-foot-venue has been transformed from a fluorescent-lit alley into a “sleek, warm, and intimate environment that brings bowling to an entirely new level,” reads the email from Bowlero. “Boasting a retro-inspired design with intricate details like vintage light fixtures, rich Herringbone-patterned floors, and dramatic wall graphics, Bowlero provides a truly stunning departure from the traditional alley setting.” There is something for everyone in the family.
Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex is a 115,000 square feet “igloo-like” complex state-of-the-art facility on the Florida Gulf Coast offering recreational and entertainment activities for all ages! The complex features two NHL size ice rinks, a 13,500 sq/ft indoor roller/ball hockey rink, gym, fitness studio, dance studio, off ice training gym, Sports Academy, conference rooms, birthday party rooms, pro shop, massage therapy and concession area.