Located in west-central Florida’s Manatee County, Palmetto is a city of 12,000 residents that’s ideally situated to give visitors a wide range of activity options.
Palmetto is close to Tampa, one of the state’s largest cities, and the Gulf Coast region is particularly known for its more laid-back vibe than many of its east coast cousins.
Fishing and relaxing on the beach are popular vacation pastimes, but there are also a number of historical and cultural attractions nearby as well, and a few world-class theme parks are just a short drive away.
Below are 15 things to do in Palmetto, Florida that rank high on many visitors’ to-do lists.
1. Blackstone Park
For sheer variety of recreation options, there’s no better place to visit for energetic travelers than Blackstone Park.
The park is open daily from sunrise to sunset and is conveniently located on 14th Avenue West near downtown.
Amenities include baseball and softball fields, racquetball courts, a soccer pitch, and a playground for the little ones.
There’s also a skate park that’s popular with the teen crowd. For those who’d rather eat onsite than leave and come back, there are food concessions as well.
The sports fields are often reserved for leagues, but most of them are open to the public when not in use.
2. Manatee County Fair
The Manatee County Fair is approaching its 100th year, which makes it one of the Sunshine State’s oldest.
Though it started small, it’s grown by leaps and bounds over the years. It’s now one of the region’s premier annual attractions and includes agricultural and livestock events, theme park-style rides and games, live entertainment, and lots of tasty food options.
The fair is held at the Manatee County Fairgrounds and takes place over 11 days from the middle to the end of January.
With so much to see and do, it’s worth checking out their website to make sure you don’t miss anything.
3. Independence Day Celebration
During Independence Day, small towns all over the country come to life with parades, festivals, and firework displays, and many of them have been going on continuously for generations.
Palmetto Bay Park is the venue for Palmetto’s 4th of July celebration, and though the fireworks don’t start until after 9:00 PM, it’s a full-day event that includes rides and games, arts and crafts, and plenty of great food.
Previous guests have commented that though the fireworks display was short, it packed a big bang, and was more impressive than they were expecting.
The event is free to the public, but evening parking tends to get scarce quickly, so consider arriving early if possible.
4. De Soto Seafood Festival
Rumor has it that when Hernando de Soto landed on the Florida coast in 1539, the first thing he said was, “When’s the Seafood Festival?”
It turns out that De Soto was a few centuries early, but every year since 1986, the town that bears the explorer’s name has been holding an event dedicated to the state’s fantastic seafood, and it takes place over three days in April.
The festival draws seafood lovers from all over the state and region, and by some estimations, there are more than 100,000 annual visitors.
It’s a great way to experience local culture, eat some great food, and support the community.
5. Boca Ciega Bay Sunset Cruise
Palmetto’s location on Florida’s western Gulf coast makes it the perfect place to take in a magnificent sunset or two. Though it’s possible to do it from land, there’s something special about watching the sunset over the horizon from the deck of a boat.
Boca Ciega Bay Sunset Cruises sail from Dolphin Landing in St. Petersburg and generally last about two hours.
Cruises include complimentary soft drinks; beer, wine, and cocktails are available as well for an additional cost.
Even during the summer months, the temperature on the water can be downright chilly, so take an extra sweater or sweatshirt just in case.
6. Calypso Breeze Tropical Party Buffet Cruise
Sunset cruises are great options for visitors looking to enjoy the state’s picturesque natural setting, but for those interested in more lively pursuits, the Calypso Breeze Tropical Party Buffet Cruise would be just the ticket.
Calypso Breeze cruises include buffet-style meals, great music, tasty drinks, and plenty of dancing.
Tours sail from Madeira Beach and take place aboard a 70-foot vessel with two enclosed and air-conditioned dining areas that are decorated in an island theme.
The buffet includes a huge variety of food, including soups, fruit, salads, and seafood, beef, and chicken dishes.
Alcohol is only available to those 21 and older, and children under two get in free but must be included when registering.
7. Outerlife Studios Escape Room
Escape rooms have caught-on in popularity in recent years, and though many travelers don’t consider them vacation activities, they’re the perfect way to experience something new and spend a few hours out of the elements.
Outerlife Studios is one of St. Petersburg’s most popular escape rooms. It offers several options with different themes that have been created to instill anxiety and excitement in participants.
Escape rooms are great double-date ideas, and they’re also fun for corporate events and wedding parties.
Reservations are suggested, especially on the weekends, so make yours well in advance of your visit if possible.
8. Emerson Point Preserve
Emerson Point Preserve is comprised of more than 360 acres on Snead Island set amidst the Manatee River.
The preserve’s land is about as pristine and undeveloped as you’re likely to find anywhere in the area. In addition to its natural beauty, the preserve is home to many historically significant sites as well.
Views of Boca Ciega Bay and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge make for amazing photo-ops, especially in the evening when the sun is slipping below the horizon.
The preserve’s multi-use trails are open to walkers, joggers, and bikers, and there’s a canoe and kayak launching slip and a number of covered seating areas.
9. Manatee County Agricultural Museum
Agriculture has always played a significant role in the history and development of Manatee County, and the Manatee County Agricultural Museum is the area’s premier attraction for those who’d like to learn about it.
The museum’s exhibits touch on citrus farming, livestock, and even commercial fishing, and include photographs, farm equipment, and first-hand accounts of those who settled in the area more than a century ago.
The museum is open from Tuesday through Friday, and on the first and third Saturdays of each month as well.
Admission is free, but most visitors leave a few dollars to help with the museum’s maintenance and upkeep.
10. Florida Maritime Museum
Like its agricultural past, Florida sports a long history of maritime commerce and exploration; it goes all the way back to the 16th century, when Spanish explorers first landed on the Atlantic coast.
The Florida Maritime Museum is located on 119th Street West in nearby Cortez, and the museum grounds include a historic schoolhouse building and an extensive collection of equipment, memorabilia, and artifacts relating to the area’s nautical past and history in general.
Items on display include ship’s logs, maps, newspapers, and boat replicas. Most guests end up staying more than an hour to take it all in.
11. Village of the Arts
Located on 12th Avenue in nearby Bradenton, Village of the Arts is a unique and eclectic community of artists that features, homes, galleries, studios, and many restaurants and coffee shops.
The village is spread over nearly 40 idyllic acres, and the homes are from the 20s and 30s and house visiting artists from all over the world.
Village of the Arts is the perfect place to spend a relaxing afternoon strolling, drinking coffee, and looking for a work of art that you won’t find elsewhere. For much of the year, there are live entertainment events and festivals and fairs as well.
12. Tampa Museum of Art
The Tampa Museum of Art was founded in 1979, and its works include both modern and contemporary pieces, as well as some that are centuries old.
The museum is housed in one of Tampa’s most architecturally unique buildings, located on West Gasparilla Plaza along the scenic shores of the Hillsborough River near the downtown area.
It’s convenient to see in conjunction with other nearby attractions. In addition to their permanent and temporary exhibits, the staff offer educational programs, workshops, and guest speakers throughout the year. During the cool winter months, they host outdoor shows and special events too.
13. Tampa Riverwalk
Not all of Florida’s popular attractions cost a small fortune to visit; the Tampa Riverwalk is one destination that’s free to visit, easy to get to, and offers visitors an array of exercise and activity options.
The Riverwalk’s paths mainly follow the Hillsborough River and include amazing views of both urban and natural areas. Along the way, there are waterfront parks, galleries, museums, restaurants, and even a few live entertainment venues.
The Riverwalk is particularly popular during the afternoon and evening hours, when the temperature and sun are dropping, and many bars and restaurants are offering happy hour specials.
14. Big Cat Rescue
Sometimes, even gargantuan, man-eating wildcats need a helping hand. When they do, they often end-up at Big Cat Rescue on Easy Street in Tampa.
Big Cat Rescue is dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating big cats that have been injured, orphaned, or abandoned. Their ultimate goal is to release as many of them back into the wild as possible.
The Rescue was founded in 1992 and is now home to more than 100 cats across a wide range of species – both native and exotic.
Guided tours are the only way to see the facility, so do a little searching online and make reservations prior to your visit.
15. The Glazer Children’s Museum
Located just down the street from the Tampa Museum of Art, The Glazer Children’s Museum includes dozens of distinct areas designed to engage and entertain inquisitive young minds.
Each area has its own theme, and altogether, there are more than 150 interactive exhibits that touch on engineering, animals, the natural world, history, and technology.
Regardless of the ages and interests of the children you’re traveling with, there will likely be something that fascinates them. During the summer months when schools are closed, the staff offer a number of special programs that include guided tours, field trips, and hands-on learning experiences.