Much of Bradenton's historic charm can still be seen in town today, mostly in museums and restored historical landmarks. The South Florida Museum (with adjoining planetarium and aquarium) at 201 10th Street W is a good place to start. This place has displays and education exhibits detailing the natural history of the region and the earliest human settlements in Bradenton, which date back about 10,000 years to the Pleistocene Era. The city also celebrates its heritage through the events organized by the Hernando De Soto Society (offices at 910 3rd Avenue W), which puts on the De Soto Heritage Festival every year in remembrance of the Spanish explorer who first set foot on Florida almost 500 years ago. A memorial built in honor of the conquistador can be found at 3000 Seventh Street NW, commemorates his 1539 expedition into the Florida swamps.

A collection of restored buildings can be found at Manatee Village Historical Park (1404 Manatee Avenue E). Here, you will see the county's old courthouse, schoolhouse and general store. There is also a farmhouse, boat shop and steam engine on display. These date back to the early 1800s, when sugar plantations took up much of the land along the river.