Bradenton, located about 15 miles north of Sarasota and often referred to in conjunction with its neighbor as the "Bradenton/Sarasota" area, is a beach-oriented community on the west coast of Florida. Bradenton's city lines are blended with its neighbor to the south, as both cities share the coast line and many residents of both cities commute between the two for work and shopping. Apart from official delineations on the roadside, the Bradenton/Sarasota community is typically considered one in the same and both communities benefit from the associations.
Although downtown Bradenton is considered the physical center of town, much of the small business community is located outside of downtown in many different suburban areas. Bradenton's growth in recent years has contributed significantly to the expansion of housing communities up to 20 miles around the center of the city.
The beach lies west of downtown on Anna Maria Island and is home to a myriad of restaurants and tourist oriented businesses, like surf and ice-cream shops. While the culture on the island is generally tourism based, many residents of the island have carved out their own niches to the north and south of popular beaches like Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach in an effort to maintain a quiet island lifestyle. These local hangouts lay claim to some of the best seafood in Florida.
To the east of downtown is a growing community called Lakewood Ranch. Close to the interstate, Lakewood Ranch is home to a new middle class who migrated northward from Sarasota as home prices rose before the recession. Over the last decade, Lakewood Ranch has built its own micro-city just outside the traditional Bradenton city bounds, complete with schools, hospitals, and shopping centers.
Finally, to the south of the city, is Sarasota. Sarasota is home to many arts and cultural centers, mostly notably Mote Marine Aquarium and the Ringling College of Art and Design. This cultural haven of Florida has attracted residents to Sarasota's beaches and to Long Boat Key, a wealthier island community located just off the coast of Sarasota and connected to Anna Maria Island.
Bradenton's laid-back lifestyle is emphasized by its distinct lack of high-rise buildings and salty air for miles inland. Although the city is expanding at a rapid pace, Bradenton strives to retain the beach community reputation and has managed to keep home prices relatively low compared to its coastal neighbors.
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