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Focus on Manatee: Here’s how to become immersed in our community’s distinctive history

Have you ever spent time learning about your community’s history? Did you know that Manatee County residents live in an area with rich authentic history?

Our area has four unique historical locations that can be enjoyed at any time. These free museums offer a variety of ways to become immersed in our community’s distinctive history.

The sites, managed by the Clerk of Circuit Court’s Historical Resources, are the Florida Maritime Museum in Cortez, Manatee Village Historical Park in Bradenton, Palmetto Historical Park and the Manatee County Agricultural Museum, which share a beautiful location in Palmetto.

And with every passing year, these museums have more to offer locals and visitors alike.

The museums and offerings include:

Palmetto Historical Park
Palmetto Historical Park Bradenton Herald file photo

Palmetto Historical Park

Located at 515 10th Ave. W., the park includes the main building and crown jewel of the park — a 1913 Carnegie Library (be sure to ask about how they built the mandated “basement” in Florida), as well as five other historic and replica buildings.

Tours allow visitors to travel back in time to a historic post office, schoolhouse, residential home and church.

The Cypress House Military Museum presents the stories of local veterans and displays their uniforms, equipment and other memorabilia.

And they frequently partner with the Agricultural Museum for unique events such as the popular Christmas in the Park.

More info:

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Manatee County Agricultural Museum Bradenton Herald file photo

Manatee County Agricultural Museum

Located at 1015 Sixth St. W., this museum is dedicated to one of the oldest drivers of Florida’s economy — agriculture. It is located on the same campus as Palmetto Historical Park, so you’ll be able to experience both sites in one easy day.

Here, you’ll learn about Manatee County’s history with all things growing, farming and more. Their mission is to educate about Manatee County’s agricultural heritage and they are committed to supporting the local agriculture now and into the future.

They are also starting exciting initiatives such as Ag Night, a Halloween Social and more.

More info:

Florida Martime Museum Bradenton Herald file photo

Florida Maritime Museum

Located at 4415 119th St. W. in the fishing village of Cortez in a 1912 schoolhouse, the museum exists to collect, preserve and share traditional knowledge, cultural artifacts and personal stories specific to Florida’s fishing and maritime heritage.

The museum itself is a can’t-miss, but within its walls they also host the Florida Folk School, where you can learn traditional skills used by Florida’s oldest members of its maritime history.

Here you can learn painting with a fish, net minding, candle making, blacksmithing and more. The classes are fun and collaborative and will only leave you wanting to try them all.

More info:

Manatee Village Historical Park Bradenton Herald file photo

Manatee Village Historical Park

Located at 1404 Manatee Ave. E., this museum consists of 14 unique sites, including a Florida settler’s house from 1912, an 1887 church, a steam engine known as “Old Cabbage Head” and more.

Each building is furnished with period artifacts, and the Wiggins General Store features exhibits telling the story of Manatee County’s heritage.

Upcoming events include tours of the adjacent 1850 Manatee Burying Grounds (a unique experience led by torchlights by a costumed interpreter) and A Florida Cracker Christmas.

More info:

So the next time you’re looking for something different, take advantage of these historical locations right at your fingertips. All of the museums are free and open throughout the year.

Their offerings are constantly changing and growing, so be sure to check their websites and follow each location on social media.

Many events are family-friendly and are often centered around holidays, so plan to bring the whole family when you can.

And if you’ve already been to all of these parks and find yourself itching for more history in our area? Be sure to visit the Gamble Plantation in Ellenton, DeSoto National Memorial in Bradenton, Anna Maria Island Historical Society Museum in Anna Maria and The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature in downtown Bradenton.

Elliott Falcione is the executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and can be reached at or 941-729-9177, ext. 3940.

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