10+ things to do in Bradenton this weekend: Blues Festival, boat parade, holiday events

The first weekend of December is here, and there’s plenty of local fun on tap to help you enjoy it.

The always popular Bradenton Blues Festival is back, and holiday events are getting into full swing.

Still need plans? We’ve got you covered.

Here’s a hand-picked guide to fun times around Bradenton and Sarasota this weekend, Dec. 2-4.

Bradenton Blues Festival

The Bradenton Blues Festival will bring big stars and rising talents in the blues world to Southwest Florida this weekend for two days of live music on the Bradenton Riverwalk.

The festival typically sells out in advance, but there are still some tickets left this year.

Here’s the 2022 lineup.

Friday will feature: Gabe Stillman Band (5–6 p.m.); Harper and Midwest Kind (6:20–7:20 p.m.); and Dikki Du & the Zydeco Krewe (7:40–8:40 p.m.)

Saturday’s lineup: Lady A (11 a.m.–noon); Dustin Arbuckle and the Damnations (12:20–1:20 p.m.); Nora Jean Wallace (1:40–2:40 p.m.); Albert Castiglia Band (3–4 p.m.); Mike Zito Band (4:10–5:10 p.m.); Blood Brothers (5:10–6 p.m.); and Ana Popovic (6:10– 7:30 p.m.).

The Blues Festival wraps on Sunday with a Blues Brunch at Mattison’s Riverwalk Grille featuring Dustin Arbuckle and the Damnations (11 a.m.-2 p.m.).

  • Details: Blues Fest opening night is 5-8:40 p.m. Dec. 2. $20. Blues Fest main concert is 11 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Dec. 3. $55. Combo admission to both days is $65, or $135 for a front-stage ticket. Bradenton Riverwalk Pavillion at Rossi Park, 452 Third Ave. W., Bradenton. Bradenton Blues Brunch is 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Dec. 4 at Mattison’s Riverwalk Grille, 101 Riverfront Blvd., Bradenton. Ticket price TBA.

  • Info: bradentonbluesfestival.org

The original Lady A will play 2022’s Bradenton Blues Fest. Here’s a look at the lineup

Christmas and holiday events

Bradenton Beach Marina’s third annual Holiday Boat Parade is Dec. 3. The parade will start near the Longboat Pass Bridge, and then the festive boats will float north up the Intracoastal waterway, ending at the Bradenton Beach Marina.

Recommended spots to view the parade are the Longboat Pass Bridge (6-6:30 p.m.) and Bradenton Beach City Pier (6:30-7 p.m.).

Beth and Tyler Zipperer portray basket weavers in Walk Through Bethlehem at Samoset First Baptist Church. The production is set for Dec. 2-3.
Beth and Tyler Zipperer portray basket weavers in Walk Through Bethlehem at Samoset First Baptist Church. The production is set for Dec. 2-3.

Walk Through Bethlehem: Samoset First Baptist Church is bringing back a community tradition for the first time since 2019. The church’s “Walk Through Bethlehem” event immerses visitors in a “live, dramatic, walk-through Christmas adventure that re-enacts what it might have been like the night Jesus was born.”

The event features over 100 actors, live animals, demonstrations and storytelling.

  • Details: 4:30-8:30 p.m. Dec. 3 and 4. Samoset First Baptist Church, 3200 15th St. E., Bradenton. Free; donations accepted.

  • Info: walkthroughbethlehemtour.com

St. Armands Circle Winter Spectacular: St. Armands Circle in Sarasota is transforming into a winter wonderland on the water this holiday season.

St. Armands Circle Winter Spectacular features an ice skating rink, rides, holiday activities and live entertainment. There are also light displays and a 60-foot Christmas tree to gaze upon.

Rides include the Polar Palm Express trackless train, a carousel and a gingerbread bounce house.

  • Details: 4-9 p.m. daily through Jan. 3; closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. General admission is $10 for ages 3 and up. Ice skating: $10 add-on. Crafting experience: $10-add on.

  • Info: winteronthecircle.com

Enchant St. Petersburg presented by the Hallmark Channel: The popular annual event at Tropicana Field returns with over 4 million lights.

There is ice skating, a Christmas Light Maze to a 100 foot tall tree, live entertainment, a shopping Village with vendors, crafts and food.

  • Details: Nov. 25 through Jan. 1. Tickets start at $35 for adults and $20 for children, kids free on select Wednesday nights. Discounts for seniors and military. Ice skating is an additional $18 per person. VIP passes and private event rentals available.

  • Info: https://enchantchristmas.com/st-petersburg-fl-tropicana-field

The Village of the Arts in Bradenton will host it’s monthly Art Walk on the first weekend of December with lots of opportunities to find unique gifts.

The shops of the live-work community display and sell a wide range of crafts and art styles. Live music and eats and drinks at Village restaurants and cafes are another reason to stop by.

Check villageofthearts.com/calendar for individual business hours during Art Walk.

  • Details: 6-9:30 p.m. Dec. 2 and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 3. Village of the Arts, downtown Bradenton.

  • Info: villageofthearts.com.

A Holiday Mega Market will bring more than 140 vendors to the Mall at University Town Center for two days in December.

Shop among crafters, artisans and regional businesses and enjoy food trucks, tree lightings and colorful light displays. Local dance studios will also perform.

  • Details: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Dec. 3 and 4. The Mall at University Town Center, 140 University Town Center Dr., Sarasota. Free parking and entry.

  • Info: mallatutc.com.

Yappy Hour at Motorworks

Motorworks Brewing’s monthly canine extravaganza happens this Sunday.

Dog owners are invited to sip craft beer and grab a bite from a food truck, shop from local pet supply vendors and let their leashed pets enjoy the beer garden.

Each month’s event benefits a local pet rescue organization and includes a silent auction and raffle items.

Brunch is available from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday, and there will also be live music to enjoy in the beer garden from 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

  • Details: 1-4 p.m. Sunday. Motorworks Brewing, 1014 Ninth St. W., Bradenton. No cover.

  • Info: motorworksbrewing.com

Sarasota Veg Fest

This food festival will promote vegan and vegetarian eating with a day of tasty plant-based eats at Sarasota’s Payne Park this Sunday.

The event includes food, product and service vendors, exhibits, educational talks and live music.

Performing arts and shows

State College of Florida presents “The Nutcracker Swings”: “Join the SCF Big Band, Guitar Ensemble and Jazz Combo for a hard swinging and cool stringing tribute to Tchaikovsky’s ‘Nutcracker,’” a show preview says. “Dance with sugar plum fairies, toy soldiers, and reindeer at this holiday jam session. Wear your best ugly sweater for a free egg nog after the show.”

“The Music Man” at Manatee Performing Arts Center: “In River City, Iowa, the town was promised a marching band by a salesman named Harold Hill. What they don’t know is that he is a con man who has no understanding of music. He plans to skip town after receiving money to buy the instruments, but the plan doesn’t go exactly as he expected when he meets the town’s librarian, Marian.”

  • Details: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. Through Dec. 18. Manatee Performing Arts Center, 502 3rd Ave W, Bradenton. $33.

  • Info: 941-748-5875. manateeperformingartscenter.com

West Coast Black Theatre Troupe presents “Black Nativity”: Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe will once again present its popular rendition of the Langston Hughes gospel musical “Black Nativity” this holiday season. “The music is combined with dance, poetry and narrative to deliver a message of joy, hope and liberation,” a show preview says.

  • Details: Nov. 30-Dec. 23. Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, 1012 N. Orange Ave., Sarasota. Adults: $50. Students and active military: $20.

  • Info: 941-366-1505. westcoastblacktheatre.org

“The Burdens” at Urbanite Theatre: “Siblings Mordy and Jane have a problem. Their dreadful, centenarian grandfather is an emotional and financial tax on the family, and he just won’t die. Scheming almost entirely via sarcastic and misspelled text messages, the siblings hatch an outrageous plan to relieve their family of their grandfather’s burden. Zany, twisted and inventive, this dark comedy reminds us it’s much easier to write what we could never say face to face.”

  • Details: 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. Extended through Dec. 4. Urbanite Theatre, 1487 Second Street, Sarasota. Ages 40 and up: $39. Under 40: $25. Students: $5.

  • Info: urbanitetheatre.com

Steve White at McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre: Comedian and actor Steve White is known for stand up comedy appearances on HBO and other television spots, plus appearances in numerous Spike Lee films.

  • Details: 7 p.m. Thursday, 6:30 and 8:50 p.m. Friday and Saturday. McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre, 1923 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota. $25.

  • Info: mccurdyscomedy.com

Farmers’ markets

Downtown Bradenton Public Market: This weekly market is a community gathering place that welcomes vendors offering fresh local produce, meat, pantry and home goods, packaged foods, plants, clothing, accessories and more.

Food, drink and dessert vendors make the market a great place to grab a tasty snack.

This year, the market is nearly doubling in size with plans to host about 100 vendors each week, including a core group of businesses and some rotating selections, organizers say.

The market also features live music performances from different regional artists each week. Kid’s activities, special events and cooking demonstrations add to the fun throughout the season.

The Farmers’ Market at Lakewood Ranch welcomes more than 90 regional vendors to Waterside Place each Sunday. Offerings include produce, meat and seafood, prepared foods and breads, crafts, jewelry, plants and pet treats. Live music from a rotation of local musicians and yoga sessions are another regular feature at the market.

Oneco Farmers Market is open seven days a week. The permanent market boasts more than 100 vendors in one location, including meats and seafood, fresh produce, sweets and treats. There are also restaurants and arts and crafts vendors to check out, and the market frequently hosts free community events.

  • Details: Open 7 a.m.-8 p.m. daily. Oneco Farmers Market, 5108 15th St. E., Bradenton.

  • Info: onecofarmersmarket.com

Sarasota Farmers Market brings vendors selling arts and crafts, goods and services, produce, food, plants and more to downtown Sarasota. There’s also live music to enjoy.

Newtown Sarasota Farmers Market offers local produce, fresh-baked goods and other items twice a week in the Newtown neighborhood. The market also hosts community gatherings including events for kids and food festivals.

  • Details: 10 a.m.-5p.m. Friday and Saturday. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park, 2523 Cocoanut Ave., Sarasota.

  • Info: newtownfarmersmarketsrq.org

Meadows Farmers Market: Started in Oct. 2021, the Meadows Farmers Market promises organic fruits and vegetables straight from local farmers. Other attractions include artisans, food vendors and live music. Events at the market include yoga, tai chi, wellness talks and holiday celebrations.

Red Barn Flea Market combines the best of a farmers market, a flea market and a food court in one stop. At Red Barn, you’ll find permanent storefronts, vendor booths, fresh produce, local food offerings, live entertainment and more.

Guide to Bradenton and Sarasota’s farmers markets with year-round produce and more

See a movie

Whether you’re interested in Hollywood blockbusters, independent film or an old-timey drive-in movie experience, there’s a theater nearby that can satisfy. Here are your local movie options:

Ruskin Family Drive-In: In operation since 1952, this drive-in plays new movies, classic flicks AND family favorites with showings Wed.-Sun.

There are two options for audio: bring a portable radio or leave your car radio turned on during the film. You can also bring folding chairs to set up outside of the vehicle (bug repellent is recommended if you go this route).

“Strange World” (PG): 7:30 p.m. Fri.-Sun.

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (PG-13): 9:15 p.m. Fri.-Sun.

  • Details: 5011 U.S. 41 N., Ruskin. Ages 9 and up: $7. Ages 5-8: $2. Cash only. $5 fee for bringing your own food. Alcohol not permitted.

  • Info: ruskinfamilydrivein.com

Sarasota Film Society: Sarasota Film Society’s Lakewood Ranch and Sarasota theaters are a great place to catch a weekend flick. Screenings include independent and art films as well as blockbusters. Check the society’s website for the current lineup of movies.

Some of the society’s movie offerings can be streamed virtually from home.

  • Details: Lakewood Ranch Cinemas, 10715 Rodeo Drive 8, Sarasota and Burns Court Cinemas, 506 Burns Lane, Sarasota. Online streaming available any time.

  • Info: filmsociety.org or 941-955-3456

Other Bradenton area movie theaters:

  • AMC Bradenton 20, 2507 53rd Ave. E., Bradenton. amctheatres.com. 941-752-3796

  • AMC Sarasota 12, 8201 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. amctheatres.com. 941-922-4900

  • CMX CinéBistro Siesta Key, 3501 S. Tamiami Trail #1100, Sarasota. cmxcinemas.com. 941-361-2456

  • Regal Oakmont, 4801 Cortez Rd. W., Bradenton. regmovies.com. 844-462-7342

  • Regal Hollywood, 1993 Main St., Sarasota. regmovies.com. 844-462-7342

Fun at the museum

The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature: Explore the past, present and future of the natural world with interactive displays and exhibits, stellar shows in the famed Planetarium, an indoor manatee habitat, the Mosaic Backyard Universe for kids and more at The Bishop in downtown Bradenton.

  • Details: Open Tue.-Sat. The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature, 201 10th St. W., Bradenton. Ages 18-64: $25. Ages 65 and up: $23. College students with ID: $19. Ages 5-17: $16. Ages 4 and under: Free with paying adult.

  • Info: bishopscience.org or 941-746-4131

Florida Maritime Museum: Florida Maritime Museum documents the age-old relationship between Floridians and the water. Visitors will find marine life displays, historical photos and documents, revolving exhibits and a gift shop.

On the second and fourth Saturday of each month, the museum hosts a “Music on the Porch” outdoor jam session. From 2-4 p.m., local pickers and players come together to share tunes and singalongs with the crowd.

Masks are currently required inside museum buildings.

  • Details: Open 9 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Florida Maritime Museum, 4415 119th St. W., Cortez. Free.

  • Info: floridamaritimemuseum.org or 941-708-6120

Manatee County Agricultural Museum: Explore Manatee County’s rich agricultural past and present at the Manatee County County Agricultural Museum. Permanent exhibits include displays of authentic farm tools and equipment and highlights of various crops and industries that have taken root in Manatee County over the decades. There’s also a revolving lineup of special exhibits to check out.

  • Details: Open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and on the first and third Saturday of each month. Manatee County Agricultural Museum, 1015 Sixth St. W., Palmetto. Free. Donations accepted.

  • Info: manateecountyagmuseum.com or 941-721-2034

Sarasota Art Museum: Operated by Ringling College of Art and Design, the Sarasota Art Museum displays revolving exhibits of contemporary artwork.

The museum is housed in the former Sarasota High School building and offers 15,000 square feet of gallery space to showcase paint, sculpture, photography, furniture making, experimental art and more.

Events at the museum include curator and artist talks, live jazz every second Thursday of the month and free entry and family fun on the second Sunday of each month.

Visitors can also enjoy a gift shop and a bistro.

  • Details: Museum open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. Sarasota Art Museum, 1001 South Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Ages 17 and up: $15. Ages 0-16: Free with paying adult. Veterans and active military: Free with ID.

  • Info: sarasotaartmuseum.org

The Ringling in Sarasota offers a treasure trove of fine art and architecture. See collections of European works from the Baroque period and modern and contemporary art; witness the colorful history of the big top in the Circus Museum; take a tour of the Ca’ d’Zan, a Mediterranean revival mansion; and stroll The Ringling’s 68 acres of waterfront grounds and gardens.

  • Details: Open daily from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota. Ages 6-17: $5. Ages 18 and up: $25. Ages 65 and up: $23. Ca’ d’Zan entry $10 extra. Admission to the Museum of Art and grounds is always free on Mondays.

  • Info: ringling.org or 941-359-5700

Everything you need to know about art and history museums in Bradenton and Sarasota