Welcome home to Manatee County, one of Florida’s oldest and most established areas. Settled in the mid 1850s, Floridians dubbed the area “manatee” for the large, gentle aquatic creatures that roamed its fresh and salt waters—and the manatee is still Florida’s state animal to this day!

Our homeowners have the opportunity to select from some beautiful cities in Manatee County, FL—Bradenton (the largest), Palmetto, Lakewood Ranch, and Parrish—each with distinct communities of its own.

October - April is considered the “season” in Manatee County when Northerners come down to enjoy the mild winters of Florida. The beautiful weather can be enjoyed all year around when you call Bradenton, Parrish, Lakewood Ranch, or Palmetto home.

With communities built for families, deep Florida history, and a thriving economy, Manatee County is the ideal destination for settling down in your new home in Bradenton or other local cities. Not only will you find gorgeous homesites and communities to build your new home on, but the area also offers many beautiful places to explore. From the local parks, award-winning beaches, and historic places, to incredible shopping and dining options, there is so much to love about living here.

Here’s what local families have to say about living in Manatee County.

1. Family-Friendly Things to Do in Manatee County, FL

Manatee County is full of family-friendly activities and entertainment. Whether you have young kids who are eager to join local sports leagues, or teenagers that want to venture off to a day at the beach with their friends, there are always things to do in Manatee County for all ages.

Within 15-30 minutes’ driving distance are numerous attractions that will keep your kids entertained year-round. A favorite is DEFY Bradenton, a trampoline park with ninja adventure courses in the heart of Manatee County that frequently offers special rates and coupons. Those seeking adventure should also check out TreeUmph!, a local favorite for more extreme outdoor adventure courses.

Kelly H., a homeowner in Woodleaf Hammock by M/I Homes, says:

“We were drawn to Lakewood Ranch foremost for the schools, but the friendly communities were a plus. Lakewood Ranch is stock-full of diverse activities ranging from shops, restaurants, golf, parks, trails, close beaches, and so many more ways to get involved and meet people. What makes each community appealing to us is the fact that they set aside preserve ground and ponds for the wildlife. Finally, coming from the Midwest, you can't beat the weather!”

During the May - August months, you’ll love the wide array of programs to beat the summer doldrums and keep your kids entertained until school starts. You’ll find plenty of youth camps to choose from, offering everything from academics, art, cooking, theater, sports, photography, STEM, dance, and so much more.

Settle into a new home community in Bradenton with a dedicated events calendar for kids, and you’ll never hear “Mom, I’m bored!” again!

2. Manatee County Beaches

It’s tough to mention Manatee County, Florida without talking about its beautiful beaches. Manatee County is home to many beaches with our favorites being Anna Maria Island, Longboat Key, and Coquina Beach. These beaches offer an abundance of parking, lifeguards, restrooms, showers, picnic shelters, grills, and so much more.

M/I Homeowner Meaghan O. offers her perspective on this vibrant Florida area:

“My family and I moved here from Tampa a few years ago. We were drawn to the easy access to some of our favorite beaches. We go to our favorite restaurant, the Beach House, at least once a month! There is nothing better than an incredible meal, a nice cocktail, and a view of a colorful Bradenton sunset to end the day. If we can’t make it out to the beach we take a quick drive to Pinchers at Lakewood Ranch Main Street, where they offer some of the most delicious fresh fish around, and we can enjoy a round of putt-putt afterwards.”

Manatee County beaches come with a whole array of activities of their own. From sandcastle contests to yoga on the beach to volleyball tournaments and seafood festivals, you don’t have to love the water to enjoy a weekend near the ocean.

But if you do, you’re in luck! Water sports and activities abound with deep sea fishing charters leaving every weekend. Hop on a sunset cruise around Anna Maria Island or rent jet skis, kayaks, or paddle boards for a day adventure with the kids.

3. Old Florida History

Even though Manatee County is firmly entrenched in the modern day, glimpses of old Florida history are evident everywhere. Manatee Historic Village is a unique historical park with the mission to preserve and share the heritage of Manatee’s early days. Admission is free, and families can tour an old steam engine, a general store, a boat building shop, a blacksmith shop, and many more exhibits.

Numerous neighborhoods in Bradenton like Waves Creek, Point Pleasant, Riverview Boulevard, and Palma Sola Park retain their small-town charm and authenticity. Beautiful, unique homes offer up family stories, and residents are attached to embracing the culture of “old Bradenton.”

If you are a sucker for the surfing Santas and light-draped palm trees that frequent Florida holiday decorations, you’ll love spending time in Manatee County during the winter. During the holidays, these local destinations embrace bygone traditions and decorations such as “orange pomanders, which are citrus decorations from the Victorian period stuffed with cloves that were frequently shipped to Northern relatives,” reports the Herald-Tribune.

4. Thriving Local Manatee County Businesses

Some cities can get a bad reputation as an endless sea of chain restaurants and strip malls, but living in Manatee County, Florida offers your pick of thriving local businesses. If you love shopping local, you’ll love supporting the community and economy within your own neighborhood.

Head to Downtown Bradenton for local shopping and unique eateries. M/I Homes’ team favorites include Atria Bread & Coffee, Enrich Bistro, and Oak & Stone.

For the art lovers, Village of the Arts is a famous artist community overseen by the Artists Guild of Manatee, offering a wide variety of art galleries and studios, artisan boutiques, and restaurants and community venues. Colorful cottages full of beautiful paintings, sculptures, canvases, and more are also open with classes and group gatherings.

Katherine M., a millennial resident of Riverside Preserve in Manatee County, loves the local farmers markets:

“One of my favorite things to do in Manatee County is to go to the farmers market on a Sunday, whether it be the Downtown Bradenton option, or Downtown Lakewood Ranch, and stock up on some organic, locally grown produce, fish, and meat for the week. Many would think a great, fresh selection would be hundreds of miles away, but it’s less than a 15-minute drive from my house!”

For shopping, The Friendly City Flea Market is a curated market offering handmade artisan goods and products. It’s dedicated to fostering creativity in Bradenton by giving local vendors a thriving shopping destination to #ShopLocal.

If you’re a beer lover, Manatee County is surprisingly home to 7 local breweries that are distributed nationally. From Motorworks Brewing to JDubs Brewing to Naughy Monk, find brewery tours, to-go growlers, beer gardens, and a fun place to sit outside with your pet.

Delicious food and restaurants with fun bars and nightlife are well-known and well-loved, casting a distinct friendly atmosphere over the area where you’re guaranteed to see friends and neighbors on a day out. After all, Bradenton is referred to as “The Friendly City!”

5. Manatee County’s Job Market

You might be surprised that for a non-metropolitan city, Manatee County has a thriving job market with a low unemployment rate.

For the manufacturing field, demand has never been higher, with companies like Air Products, Tropicana, Nature’s Own, PepsiCo, and more consistently hiring. The construction sector in Manatee County has grown over the last several years as well.

Newer fields like healthcare, education, medical technologies are up and coming as well as the area continues to grow, making Manatee County a perfect destination for your family.

6. Exciting New Additions to This Florida County

Manatee County continues to grow in many exciting ways. A few notable additions under way and nearby to M/I Homes’ communities include the brand new Mote Marine Aquarium at the UTC, and Waterside Place, a waterfront town center in Lakewood Ranch.

Mote Marine Aquarium broke ground in November 2020 and will be an 110,000 square foot marine science education aquarium at the north end of the very popular Nathan Benderson Park. Once completed the aquarium is expected to have and economic impact of $28 million a year.

Brittany B., an M/I Homeowner at Hidden Creek, shares:

“We were most excited to move to Hidden Creek because we saw all the growth that was coming to the area. We knew it was not only a great investment, but also a truly special place to live. We are already surrounded by a ton of options for shopping, dining, and entertainment, but what caught our eye was the proposed Waterside Place in Lakewood Ranch, which we knew would be a perfect addition to the area and just a quick drive from our front door.”

According to lwrwaterside.com, “In the heart of the village is Waterside Place, a vibrant, lakefront town center planned for stylish shops, acclaimed restaurants and much more. Community events like concerts, festivals and farmers markets will be held in Waterside Park, an eight-acre peninsula. The Players Centre for Performing Arts, Sarasota’s oldest performing arts organization, is also making its home in a stunning new theater that will host nearly 400 performances a year.”

With growth comes opportunity, and now is the time to decide if Florida is a place you could make home. As locals we are partial to the area, but we think that this coastal town truly speaks for itself the moment you step foot on our white sandy beaches or gaze upon the sparkling Manatee River (which you can do from your backyard in Riverside Preserve).

We Know You’ll Love Your New Home in Manatee County, Florida

Purchasing a new home and living in Bradenton is an easy choice—a wonderful mix of old Florida built for modern-day families, you’ll love bouncing from your stable day job to fun nightlife, returning at the end of the day to a beautiful home.

Does living in Manatee County sound like a dream you want to make a reality? Take a look at our homes for sale in Manatee County, FL, and come live in paradise.



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Kari Rowell

Author

Kari Rowell is Internet Sales Manager for M/I Homes in Sarasota, Florida, and offers advice on a wide range of topics including finding the right home for any walk of life, finding the best weekend activities in the Sarasota metro area, and staying up to date on home design trends or tackling a DIY project. As both a Florida native AND an M/I homeowner herself, Kari is uniquely qualified to answer whatever questions you might have. When she's not finding helping homeowners with their dream home, she's spreading smiles and spending time with her husband and two adorable children, most likely while watching college football or relaxing at Sarasota's beautiful beaches.