Bradenton is the county seat of Manatee County, Florida, which faces the Gulf of Mexico rather than the Atlantic Ocean. The town has a population of slightly over 50,000, giving tourists staying in vacation rentals in Bradenton a hint of small-town flavor, but the large metropolitan area surrounding Bradenton means that visitors also have a full range of cultural events and amenities to choose from.
The Village of the Arts
One of the most interesting features of Bradenton life is the Village of the Arts, a renovated area just south of the downtown corridor. Here, zoning laws have been developed specifically so that residents can not just live in their homes, but also work in them as well. As a result, many homes in the Village have been put to use as live-in art studios and galleries while others host small restaurant venues and other businesses. The Village of the Arts was once a dilapidated area of the city but now is a vital and vibrant part of its life and culture, forming a large arts district that is the envy of other Gulf Coast communities.
The Manatee Players
The performing arts are also prominent in Bradenton. The Manatee Players are a local dramatic performance group who put on regular plays at the Riverfront Theatre in the city. They have won first place several times at the Florida Theater Conference and currently hold a first place ribbon from the larger American Association of Community Theatre organization.
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