10 weekend events near Bradenton: Sarasota Film Fest, free Riverwalk concert and more

·14 min read
The Downtown Bradenton Public Market (formerly the Bradenton Farmers Market) is a Saturday morning staple. (Bradenton Herald file photo)

Another March weekend is here, spring is in the air, and there’s plenty of local fun on tap to help you enjoy it.

Highlights this weekend include the opening of the Sarasota Film Festival and the kick off of Realized Bradenton’s Music in the Park concert series on the Bradenton Riverwalk.

Still need plans? We’ve got you covered.

Here’s a hand-picked guide to fun times around Bradenton and Sarasota this weekend, March 24-26.

Sarasota Film Festival

The 25th annual Sarasota Film Festival opens this weekend with a curated line-up of independent and outside-the-box film, from international movies to local and regional projects.

This year’s festival features a mix of in-person and virtual screenings of narrative, documentary and short film. Venues include Burns Court Cinema, Sarasota Municipal Auditorium and CineBistro Siesta Key.

Public talks featuring filmmakers and actors are another highlight of the festival. The 2023 event will welcome Roma Downey and The Indigo Girls.

Music in the Park

Realize Bradenton’s annual outdoor concert series is back. Music in the Park will bring free, live concerts to Rossi Park on the Bradenton Riverwalk for seven weeks this spring.

Up first is Tampa Bay’s I-Ruption Reggae Band.

Guests are encouraged to bring blankets and chairs. Dogs on leashes are also welcome.

Music in the Park 2023 lineup:

March 24: I-Ruption Reggae Band (Caribbean)

March 31: Glass Onion Beatles Band (Beatles cover act)

April 7: Eric Von Band (country)

April 14: Kettle of Fish (blues rock)

April 21: Dual Exhaust (blues, country, rock)

April 28: Bri Rivera (Latin fusion, blues, funk rock)

May 5: Combo Fusion (Variety dance, Latin)

  • Details: 6-8 p.m. Friday. March 24-May 5. Rossi Park on the Bradenton Riverwalk, 452 Third Ave. W., Bradenton. Free.

  • Info: realizebradenton.com

Parrish Chili Cook Off & Family Festival

The 11th annual Parrish Chili Cook Off & Family Festival will bring tasty eats and entertainment to the grounds of the Florida Railroad Museum this Saturday.

A Heritage Day Parade will kick off the festival from 10-11 a.m. At 11 a.m., local chili cookers will show what they’ve got; samples are included in the price of entry. Also enjoy arts, craft and food vendors, a kid’s zone and live music.

The railroad museum will offer special train rides during the event ($5 for kids, $7 for adults).

The festival benefits the Parrish Foundation, a nonprofit that serves the Parrish community.

  • Details: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday. Florida Railroad Museum, 12210 83rd St. E., Parrish. $10.

  • Info: parrishchili.com

Bradenton Spring Festival

The Humane Society of Manatee County will host the Bradenton Spring Festival this Saturday at Caddy’s of Bradenton on the Manatee River.

The event includes a DJ, food and beverages, a race course for pooches, pet photos, face painting, games, raffle prizes, adoption opportunities and more.

A vendor village will be on site.

My Hometown Fest

My Hometown Fest will offer food, craft beer and live music this Saturday at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota.

The price of entry includes free samples from local food vendors as well as beer and spirits. TheDivebombers, Kettle of Fish and Mylon Shamble will perform.

The festival benefits the Sertoma Club of Greater Sarasota and the Sertoma Kids Speech and Language Center, two local organizations that serve children and adults with speech, language and hearing challenges.

  • Details: Noon-5 p.m. Saturday. Nathan Benderson Park, 5851 Nathan Benderson Circle, Sarasota. $25-$35.

  • Info: myhometownfest.com

Sarasota County Fair

The Sarasota County Fair has all the bases covered for family fun. Find midway rides, live music and shows, food, exhibits featuring live animals and more.

Arts, crafts, horticulture and culinary skills will also be on display.

The event is celebrating its 87th season in 2023.

  • Details: March 17-26. Sarasota Fairgrounds, 3000 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota. General admission: Adults: $12. Kids 6-12: $7. Kids 5 and under: free. Seniors 55 and up: $6. Online discounts available. Ride armbands: $20-$30.

  • Info: sarasotafair.com

Starry night astronomy at Robinson Preserve

“Join us for an astronomical extravaganza in the Robinson Preserve Expansion,” an event preview says.

“Dozens of local astronomers will be set up in the Robinson Preserve Expansion, with telescopes at the ready. Be sure to bring a sense of wonder and exploration and view the skies through high-powered telescopes. Learn how to identify these heavenly bodies, and how you can stargaze at home too.”

The event is lead by local astronomy group Suncoast Stargazers.

Pirates & Orioles spring training

It’s ball park season in Bradenton and Sarasota as Major League Baseball’s Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles continue spring training this weekend.

Catch the two teams go head-to-head at LECOM Park on Saturday, with a post-game fireworks show to follow.

The Orioles will be at home at Ed Smith Stadium on Sunday to host the Philadelphia Phillies.

  • Details: The Pirates play in Bradenton at 1:05 p.m. Thursday and 6:05 p.m. on Friday. LECOM Park, 1611 Ninth St. W., Bradenton. The Orioles play in Sarasota at 6:05 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 1:05 p.m. Sunday. $19-$45.

  • Info: mlb.com/pirates

Live blues and brunch

Good food and good tunes are in store on Sunday at Mattison’s Riverwalk Grille on the Bradenton Riverwalk.

The Bradenton Blues Brunch will feature a live performance from a blues act and a chef-crafted menu of brunch delights.

This month’s talent is local blues powerhouse and past Bradenton Blues Festival act, Doug Deming and the Jewel Tones.

The event is a partnership between the restaurant, Realize Bradenton and the Bradenton Blues Fest.

  • Details: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday. Mattison’s Riverwalk Grille, Downtown Bradenton, 101 Riverfront Blvd. #120, Bradenton. Reservations recommended.

  • Info: 941-896-9660. mattisons.com

Performing arts and shows

The Island Players present “The 39 Steps”: “Get ready for non-stop laughs in this zany adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller,” a show preview says. “Four actors play more than 150 characters as our hero and heroine race across England and Scotland to stop and international gang of dangerous spies.”

  • Details: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday. Jan. 12-29. $25 at box office; $27 online.

  • Info: theislandplayers.org

“Reel Music” at Florida Studio Theatre: “Featuring songs from black & white films and movie musicals to ‘Casablanca’ andThe Greatest Showman,’ ‘Reel Music’ highlights the movies that helped create the soundtrack to the last century.”

  • Details: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Through June 25. Playing at Florida Studio Theatre’s John C. Court Cabaret, 1265 First St., Sarasota. $34.

  • Info: floridastudiotheatre.org

West Coast Black Theatre Troupe presents “Dreamgirls”: An inspirational journey through American pop music, ‘Dreamgirls’ chronicles one fictional Motown group’s rise from obscurity to superstardom. The musical explores themes of ambition, hope and betrayal, all set in the glamorous and competitive world of the music industry.”

  • Details: 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Feb. 22-April 9. Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, 1012 N. Orange Ave., Sarasota. Adults: $50. Students and active military: $20-$48.

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

Al Ernst at McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre: Locally-based funny man Al Ernst is a Carnival Cruise Line “Entertainer of the Year” and a regular on Sirius/XM radio’s Blue Collar Network..

  • 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-time 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 recommended).

Shazam! Fury of the Gods (PG-13): 8 p.m.

Godzilla vs. Kong (PG-13): 10:15 p.m.

  • 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