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Arts & Entertainment

Manatee County’s cultural community is bursting with life, from modern venues and an acclaimed art museum to theatrical, musical and dance troupes. Leading organizations as the Manatee County Cultural Alliance, ArtCenter Manatee, Manatee Players, the Artists Guild of Manatee, Village of the Arts and Palmetto Art Center ensure the area’s arts scene is well supported and continuously expanding.

Several significant entertainment venues, offering events and opportunities for rentals, are located throughout the county. The Municipal Auditorium in Bradenton and Manatee Convention Center in Palmetto are optimal for events, while art classes, exhibitions, workshops, lectures and other events are found at ArtCenter Manatee, Palmetto Art Center and the Longboat Key Center for the Arts.

The Neel Performing Arts Center at Manatee Community College seats nearly 840 for community events and productions, including the six-concert Masterworks Series. The modern Chamber Theatre houses the MCC student theatre company and is the temporary site of Studio 84 Productions. Sarasota’s Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall features a 1,736-seat facility welcoming a wide range of performances. Symphonies, dance companies, jazz performers and Broadway shows can all be seen here. The hall also offers educational and outreach programs to the area.

The Village of the Arts, Bradenton’s vibrant arts district, is the largest art community in Florida. It’s a collective group of artists of all disciplines who live and work in one district. Visitors take part in monthly ArtWalks, held the first weekend of each month, along with a year-round event calendar, exhibitions and gallery tours. It is also home to the Bradenton GeckoFest, which raises funds for art organizations and public schools.

There is no shortage of high-quality theatre. The award-winning Manatee Players delivers the best live theatre at Bradenton’s Riverfront Theatre. The popularity of their productions has led to the construction of the new Manatee Players Performing Arts Center, which will open soon.

The Powel Crosley Estate offers visitors productions of history’s greatest authors and playwrights, including Poe, Dickens and Shakespeare—all while providing stunning views of Sarasota Bay from this rustic 1920s mansion. Exceptional theatre is also found through Anna Maria Island’s Island Players Community Theater and the Asolo Repertory Theatre, a professional troupe that performs at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts.

Many music and dance companies travel through the county. The Sarasota Orchestra, the oldest continuously running orchestra in Florida, is located at downtown Sarasota’s Beatrice Friedman Symphony Center. Four resident chamber ensembles join the Sarasota Orchestra to give about 75 concerts per year. Musical classes, workshops and the renowned Youth Orchestra Program are offered via the Sarasota Orchestra.

Opera followers relish in the performances by the Sarasota Opera, while further entertainment can be heard through the 90-member Sarasota Pops Orchestra and the Anna Maria Island Community Chorus and Orchestra. The Sarasota Music Festival is recognized as one of the finest festivals in the U.S. It’s held for three weeks each June and showcases the chamber music of 40 internationally recognized artists and other performers.

Sarasota is acknowledged as the “Circus Capital of the World,” and is home to Circus Sarasota, a one-ring, five-star international circus. Dedicated to the legacy of John Ringling, the Circus offers family-friendly entertainment during winter and several events held throughout the year. Realize Bradenton links you to local arts, culture and heritage. Visit to be connected with attractions, events calendar, discounts and more.

There are many countywide festivals. A calendar of events includes the Manatee County Fair, located at the Manatee County Fairgrounds in Palmetto, along with treasured pastimes like the Cortez Seafood Festival, Anna Maria Island Art League’s Winterfest, Palmetto Winter Craft Fair, Art at the Ranch and the Kayak and Outdoor Festival.

Manatee Heritage Days kicks off spring with a month-long event, featuring historic walking tours, entertainment, arts and crafts and a grand parade. SpringFest is also a top event on Anna Maria Island, as are the annual Florida Heritage Festival and Riverfest in Bradenton, which highlight the greater area’s cultural diversity and European traditions.

Summer draws celebrations like the Independence Day celebration in Palmetto and the Wildlife Awareness Festival in observance of the birthday of the county’s mascot, Snooty. Fall brings Get Down Downtown on Old Main Street in Bradenton. Lakewood Ranch’s Music on Main and Village of the Arts’ ArtWalk ensure there’s always “something going on.” Finishing up the year is the Pumpkin Festival, the Manatee Festival of the Arts, Taste of Manatee and Art at the Ranch.

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