Imagine what it’s like to drink milk fresh from a cow, taste sweet honey from local bees, or sip wine where the grape was grown… or to sink your teeth into a just-picked peach or an ear of corn so juicy and tender that its delicious even raw. Learn from farmers how cheese is made, and from vintners how grapes are processed. Meet magnificent horses and bears. You can do it all here, in Manatee County. With even more agricultural attractions than beautiful beaches, our county overflows with country charm. Simply head inland. Here are some great places to start:
Holy cow, a visit to Dakin Dairy is not only fun; it’s good for you! Learn about the health benefits of milk, visit the farm market (Saturdays, year-round); take a cow train or hay ride, pet fuzzy farm animals. Scheduled farm tours resume this Halloween.
Manatee County boasts not one, but two world-class wineries. Bunker Hill Winery is environmentally-friendly and offers complimentary tours and tastings of their handcrafted wines. They grow their own Muscadine grapes, rent out a peaceful cottage on property and have a resident ghost!
Rosa Fiorelli Winery has a ten-acre Muscadine vineyard; their wines have won more than 100 awards. Tours include your choice of an authentic Italian lunch – and wine in a complimentary souvenir glass to take home. They also offer free tastings.
Fresh is Best
Mixon’s Fruit Farm is famous for its plump, juicy citrus, its gift shop and Groveside Café. Ride the Orange Blossom Express through the groves past the Children’s Magical Maze and Wildlife Rescue, where the family will delight in an interactive show with rescued Florida animals, reptiles and birds.
The kids will also get a kick out of King Farm Myakka, with its sheep, horses and cows roaming around and monthly events in season. A large open-air market presents a wonderful array of fresh produce, and blueberries are yours for the picking. King Farm is open from mid-October through mid-June.
Bear it All
Catch the Bear Show at Bearadise Ranch; these talented creatures are featured in movies, commercials and festivals. Trained with respect and affection, they’re encouraged to express their loveable personalities. Johnny Welde founded the ranch to conserve and preserve all bear species.
Seize the opportunity to witness the beauty and grace of The Original Lipizzan Stallions of Austria at Herrmann’s Lipizzan Stallion Farm. Shows resume this fall, but you can visit year-round on Saturdays.
Once you’ve experienced our great agricultural outdoors, take the family indoors – to The Manatee County Agricultural Museum. Located in Palmetto, it features five rooms of exhibits, special programs and tours and a terrific array of children’s activities including storybooks about farming, vegetable puzzles and mazes and citrus tic-tac-toe for hands-on learning.
This article was brought to you by the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. To plan your trip to Florida’s Gulf Islands, visit http://www.annamariaisland-longboatkey.com.