If you’re a sucker for a city surrounded by majestic bodies of water, you’re in for a treat in Bradenton, which is home to more than 20 miles of pristine beaches along the Intracoastal Waterway and the Manatee River. Popular aqua-centric activities include fishing off the Sunshine Skyway Bridge or in Cortez Fishing Village, checking out the slapstick shenanigans of the sea creatures at the Parker Manatee Aquarium, and swimming, jet skiing, or riding the waves along the shores of Bradenton Beach or Ana Maria Island. Obviously, Bradenton is a popular destination for tourists (loud shirts and floppy hats will inevitably give their identities away), so hopefully you don’t mind sharing the streets with snowbirds and vacationers.
If you’re in the mood, however, to have some fun away from the beach, you can always take in the architectural sites of the Braden Castle Park Historic District, try your luck at one of the many top-notch golf courses in the area, or visit the multi-purpose South Florida Museum. Another Bradenton must-see is the funky Village of the Arts colony, whose 200 homes and 36 acres play host to a mish-mash of art galleries, studios, workshops, and cafes.
When the mood to whoop it up night owl-style strikes, meanwhile, you’ll be glad to know Bradenton is home of a vibrant nightlife scene that includes a mixture of jazz and blues bars, corner pubs, sports bars, and beachside watering holes.
Paying for Paradise
Obviously, tourism is the driving force of the local economy, and many residents bring home the bacon by working for one of the city’s countless tourist traps. However, tourism isn’t the only breadwinner, as numerous other large corporations – mostly notably Tropicana O.J., Champs sporting goods, and Bealls department store – are headquartered within city limits. Numerous other companies have set up shop in downtown Bradenton or in the Financial Center skyscraper, while the various business opportunities in Sarasota and Tampa Bay are located just 10 and 30 miles away, respectively. In other words, you shouldn’t have a problem bucking up each month for that super sweet apartment you’re just itching to move into.
The Lay of the Land
Bradenton is generally safe, although, like any city, it has its iffy areas, including some of the neighborhoods on either side of Old 301 Hwy and near Palmetto. Numerous apartments and lofts in the $1000 range have sprung up in recent years in the eclectic, coveted downtown area. Meanwhile, the city’s eastern half, especially the Lakewood Ranch area, continues to see its population swell with new homeowners and leasers, as well. Generally, the most modern homes and apartments are situated on the east side, whereas the more historic and colorful properties are located near the waterfront in West Bradenton. It’s hard to go wrong with either area, but we still recommend scouting out a neighborhood in advance to see if you’re comfortable with its vibes before pursuing a lease there.
Of all the city’s charms, perhaps affordability is its most alluring. Studios can be found in abundance for less than $700 and even spacious (1000-plus square foot) multi-BR apartments are available for about a grand. Lots of affordable senior housing is available as well, and many units offer both short and long-term leasing options. Pet-friendly rentals can be tough to come by if your four-legged friend is tipping the scale at more than 25 pounds (with 50 lbs. being the absolute limit), so if your roommate is a Great Dane or a saltwater alligator, you’ll find your renting options are extremely limited.
Unlike property managers in many cities, who require non-refundable security deposits equal to the first month’s rent, most landlords in Bradenton require a modest ($300-$400 in many cases), refundable up-front payment only. Just keep your new paradise pimp pad in tip-top shape, mark down even the most seemingly insignificant blemishes on your move-in checklist, and you shouldn’t have a problem getting your money back when your lease expires.
Finally, remember that Bradenton is a renter’s market (roughly 14% of all housing units are currently unoccupied). Be picky when searching for your new homestead, as waiting lists are pretty much unheard of and vacancies are a year-round reality at most apartment complexes. If you feel like the amenities at a location don’t measure up to the price tag placed on them, shrug it off and move along to the next place on your list. Somewhere in Bradenton, there’s a perfect apartment just waiting for someone like you call it home…
Bumming Around Bradenton
The easiest way to live comfortably in Bradenton is with your own set of wheels, although many residents are able to rely solely on the Manatee County Area Transit buses – which hit up all the major shopping, tourist, and business destinations – to get around. Several apartments (especially in the downtown area), fortunately, are located within walking distance of an MCAT stop, making having one’s own vehicle a luxury rather than a necessity for many tenants.
So welcome to Manatee County, best of luck, and happy hunting!
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