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When a family of five wanted to go on a kayak tour, they assumed their daughter with Down's syndrome couldn't come along. But Shan-T co-owner Michelle Thorpe assured them she could, and invited her along in her own tandem kayak. Once on the water, the girl immediately took charge, joyfully taking over paddling. Michelle and her husband Mark had always searched for a way to conduct fun, physical, outdoor activities that would accommodate people with special needs, including their daughter with Asperger's and their niece who is autistic. Taking advantage of the therapeutic nature of the area's calm waters, Shan-T provides a way for just about everyone to commune with nature. The couple operates their tours intimately, using no more than 15 boats per group so that wilderness smells and the sounds of lapping waves are prevalent throughout their adventures.

The pair leads their tours through secluded, often shallow waterways and wildlife-rich areas aboard ocean-style kayaks with open tops for easy boarding and egress. They sometimes allow participants to use the boats as standup paddleboards on which participants can stretch their legs or reach up to scratch head itches with overhanging branches. On each tour, guides stress the fragility of the local ecosystem, highlighting issues such as baby fish growing up inside discarded soda cans and dolphins consuming floating plastic bags. In response, participants often pick up any refuse they see, with tours in the past becoming scavenger hunts to help clean the secluded waterways and to see who can find the most Gene Simmons solo albums. On many of these trips, kayakers have encountered manatees up close, sometimes when they brush up against the boats to scratch their backs and bellies.

Braden River Shore Boat Ramp
Bradenton,
FL
US

Saturn 5’s intergalactic theme seeps into every corner of its 20,000-square-foot fun center, which encompasses an 18-hole mini-golf course illuminated by black lights, a laser-tag arena, a 400-square-foot bouncy obstacle course, an arcade with more than 70 games, and a billiards room. The indoor mini-golf course takes after its fresh-air counterparts with diminutive greens and obstacles, but it replaces the sun with black lights that illuminate holes lined in green, red, and blue. A rainbow of hues also embellishes the behemoth bounce house, where kids careen down slides and scramble around cushy pillars to get to meshed-in areas for jumping.

At the arcade, the perimeter of an air-hockey table glows a space-age green, and retro pinball machines exude a vintage air akin to the black-and-white makeup worn by ‘50s-era TV stars. In the billiards room, a 40-inch TV and an 80-inch projection screen are emblazoned with the day's games, which can be watched atop bar stools with snacks, beer, and wine from the concession bar.

303 301 Blvd W
Bradenton,
FL
US

If you part the branches of Mixon Fruit Farms? citrus trees, you might spy an unusual sight: Burmese pythons, an alligator, a crocodile, and African land tortoises basking in the sunlight, surrounded by cages of roosting falcons.

The farm that began in 1939 as a 20-acre roadside fruit stand has stayed true to citrus farmer Willy Mixon?s vision of showcasing the region?s natural splendor. But in addition to an extra 50 acres of fruit trees, the farm has expanded its focus to include a wildlife refuge, where rescue volunteers nurse injured animals back to health and educate visitors on native and exotic species. The farm also hosts an on-site tropical garden along with dazzling koi ponds, and has a magical maze open to kids of all ages.

Along with daily tours of the grove and sanctuary, Mixon Fruit Farms also spotlights Florida?s bounty with citrus-infused ice cream and salads at Groveside Caf?. Homemade fudge and orange juice also populate the 14,000-square-foot gift shop

2525 27th St E
Bradenton,
FL
US

Property Location
When you stay at Holiday Inn Express & Suites Bradenton East-Lakewood Ranch in Bradenton, you'll be close to University Park Country Club. This hotel is within the region of Sarasota International Convention Center and Greens of Manatee Golf Club.

Rooms
Make yourself at home in one of the guestrooms featuring refrigerators and LCD televisions. Complimentary wired and wireless Internet access is available. Conveniences include complimentary newspapers and microwaves, as well as phones with free local calls.

Rec, Spa, Premium Amenities
DonÂ’t miss out on the many recreational opportunities, including an outdoor pool, a spa tub, and a fitness facility.

Dining
A complimentary continental breakfast is served daily.

Business, Other Amenities
Featured amenities include a 24-hour business center, audiovisual equipment, and express check-out. Event facilities at this hotel consist of conference/meeting rooms and small meeting rooms. Free parking is available onsite.

5464 Lena Road
Bradenton,
FL
US

After founding The Golf Boot Camp in California and Washington state in the ‘90s, Cathy Schmidt has since set up two locations in Florida—one at Timber Creek Golf Club in 2009 and more recently at Terra Ceia Bay Golf Club in 2012. At all of the locations, Cathy helps students improve their swings by leveraging a two-decade career, including stints on various professional tours and a certification as a LPGA Class A instructor.

Whether an individual lesson or a three-day intensive golf boot camp, all of The Golf Boot Camp's programs begin with an on-course evaluation to assess each student’s swing habits and allergies to fairway landing zones. Lessons utilize V1 video technology to capture every movement of the swing, using the data to provide corrective feedback that fits each golfer's unique physical capabilities. The goal of lessons is to satisfy five key components: a steady head, weight forward, flat left wrist (or right wrist for lefties), correct sweet-spot path, and control over the clubface.

4550 Timber Lane
Bradenton,
FL
US

Florida has long been a source of fascination for scientists and explorers, who have searched the Sunshine State for everything from fossilized mammals to gold. The state's natural riches are rivaled only by the cultures that have sprung up around them, and both are on full display at South Florida Museum.

The museum's first floor starts at the very beginning, with fossil evidence of Florida's earliest marine and mammal inhabitants. These fossils eventually make way for archaeological material from cultures that predate European contact. Special exhibits often fill out the museum with unique artifacts ranging from prehistoric artifacts to Penny Hardaway's fossilized high tops. As if that weren't enough, the museum also shares a campus with the Bishop Planetarium and the Parker Manatee Aquarium, where guests can observe and learn about the beloved sea cow. And the museum is also home to Snooty, the world's oldest known manatee.

201 10th St W
Bradenton,
FL
US