by Lisa Meyers McClintick
Rising elegantly from downtown Bradenton, the Hampton Inn & Suites resuscitated a longtime landmark and became the only historic hotel in Manatee and Sarasota counties with its opening in November 2013. About 10 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico’s sugar-sand beaches, the 119 guestrooms offer suites with balconies that overlook the Manatee River and the downtown area of Bradenton.
The hotel’s Spanish-influenced white exterior and red-tiled roof blend nicely with the South Florida Museum and Bishop Planetarium across the street, which is the city’s biggest attraction for families, along with the Bradenton Riverwalk a few blocks away. Also expect fever-pitch excitement with the crack of a bat less than a mile away at historic McKechnie Field, home of Pittsburgh Pirates’ spring training and Bradenton’s Minor League Marauders. There’s also a historic Main Street for dining and a nearby Arts Village with colorful home galleries open on weekends.
The hotel itself offers familiar comforts from Hilton’s Hampton brand, including fresh cookies at check-in and around-the-clock fruit-infused ice water; hot cocoa and coffee; LCD flat-screen TV’s; modern, colorful rooms; and a fitness center. What makes this location stand out, however, is the history.
The $21-million renovation saved glimpses of the seven-story hotel’s original 1926 detailing. In the lobby, painted flowers decorate wooden ceiling beams; the black-and-white stone floor looks striking against red-dominated dÃ©cor; and original light fixtures and windows keep it light and airy. The outside pool isn’t large, but offers a place to cool off and splash away some energy. A half-mile stroll to the riverfront splash pad and modern playground offers another alternative.
Mornings start nicely with hot and cold breakfast items, such as made-fresh waffles with fruit and yogurt, in a cheerful dining room bathed in the warm sunshine that brings so many snowbirds and other travelers to this South Florida community.
Hampton Inn and Suites are found across North and Central America and provide free hot breakfasts at all of its locations. Many locations feature pools, and children often stay free, making the chain a good one for families. Read more about Hampton Inn and Suites.
Our Editor Loves
- Special packages for the South Florida Museum next door
- Views of the Manatee River and strolling Bradenton Riverwalk
- Walking to the baseball stadium or driving to beaches
- Horse Back Riding
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Free Breakfast
- Free Wi-Fi
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
The hotel has 119 guestrooms with a dozen styles and layouts with queen and king beds, pullouts and a few extras, such as whirlpools. If you favor high ceilings, request a room on the second floor, where the ballroom used to be. Corner rooms also are favored, especially the ones with views of the Manatee River or the units with balconies.
If you have more than two kids, ask for a studio suite, which is twice as large as standard rooms. Mom and dad can take the king bed, while kids share a pullout sofa and rollaway bed. Suites include a wet bar with a microwave and mini fridge. Rollaway beds are $10 per night. Another option is adjoining a king-bed room with a double-queen room.
Corner rooms tend to be the most popular with the extra windows and views -- especially on the seventh floor, where it's easiest to see the river.
Check in is at 3 p.m. with checkout at 11 a.m.
The best part of the rooms are the Hampton's trademark beds and bedding with fluffy duvets and pillows. Each room also includes a coffee maker, hairdryer, toiletries, lap table, free wi-fi, flatscreen TV, Office desk, lap table, USB charger on nightstand and an ironing board and iron.
We had never been to the Florida West Coast and decided to go check it out. We chanced booking this hotel and it was great. Free parking is always nice. It’s an old hotel remodeled. The room had a microwave and mini fridge which was convenient. The bedding was comfortable and the bed was okay. The staff were very friendly. They have free breakfast which had several options to choose from. It’s located within walking distance from lots of restaurants and bars. We ate at the pier overlooking the intercoastal which was just a few blocks over. During the day we drove to Anna Marie Island beach which was not a long drive at all and is so incredibly beautiful.
I've stayed here about 11 times and would happily return. The location is perfect - one block from Main Street's bars and restaurants. The staff is friendly and extremely helpful. The rooms were very clean and comfortable. I recommend rooms on the upper floors. Hoping to return next year!
If it's warm out, kids will want to cool off in the hotel's pool, ranging from three to five feet in depth and able to hold about 24 people. It's also the first saline pool in Manatee and Sarasota counties. Saline pools don't require as much chlorine as traditional pools, which can be easier for kids with sensitive skin. The pool is heated and open year-round from 8 am to 10 pm.
For a mid-afternoon break, you can grab complimentary hot chocolate or ice water and cookies from the check-in area or buy ice cream treats from the lobby market.
It's an easy walk across the street from the hotel to the city's top family attraction, South Florida Museum and Bishop Planetarium. Generations have grown up going to see its reigning star, Snooty, the oldest known manatee, who turned 65 in 2013. Museum exhibits stretch from prehistoric times to the 20th Century with cultural and natural history lessons. It's ideal for a rainy day or a break from the heat.
Save the best weather days for a trip to the beaches on Anna Maria Island (about 20 minutes away) or a game of Minor or Major League baseball at McKechnie Field about a mile away. Bradenton's Riverwalk with a splash pad, playground and a few outdoor interpretive exhibits also starts just two blocks from the hotel, following the Manatee River and offering a good place for kids to burn energy or to stroll little ones to sleep.
The hotel does not have an onsite restaurant, but serves a hot continental breakfast in a sunny, dining area. Among the choices may be scrambled eggs or omelets, breakfast sausage or potatoes, pastries, fresh fruit, yogurts, cereals, hot oatmeal and do-it-yourself Belgian waffles. To-go breakfast bags also are an option if you need to leave in a hurry or catch an early flight.
Ask for or upgrade to a room with a microwave and mini fridge to make small meals and snacks easier with hungry kids. The marketplace in the lobby also has some light microwaveable meals and snacks, such as Thai noodles, hummus and crackers, ice cream treats, granola bars and other extras for when the munchies hit.
For lunch and dinner, there are several casual pubs along Main Street in downtown. For an on-the-water option, The Riverhouse Reef & Grille on the far side of the Manatee River (across the Eighth Avenue bridge) serves seafood and American fare, plus some healthy kids meal options, activity sheets and heated patio seating for those who need to get the wiggles out.
For dining during a day at the beach, stop at Sandbar on Anna Maria Island, or grab a nostalgic ice cream treat at The Shake Pit on Manatee Avenue on the way back downtown.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Have a stroller handy for exploring the Riverwalk or for toting snacks and drinks to the playground, splash pad or baseball stadium.
Bring a few diving toys, floaties or a beach ball for the hotel's heated, outdoor saline pool.
Also ask about museum packages at the hotel, which includes two adult tickets with your reservation.
Check-in is at 3 p.m., with checkout at 11 a.m.
The Art of Smart Timing
Make reservations early for the peak season -- late-January through the end of April -- when northerners head south for the warmth and baseball fans flock to watch the Pittsburgh Pirates during spring training. March is expected to be the busiest month of the year.
Arrive as early as possible -- check in begins at 3 p.m. -- if you need a crib or rollaway. They're available on a first-come, first-served basis.
If you visit in the summer, look for family movies showing at the museum's planetarium. Also, don't miss the free, guided, hour-long tour through Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch, which tracks sea turtles as they arrive to lay their eggs in June and July.
The closest airport is in Sarasota, just 17 miles away, but you may be able to score better fares during peak winter months at Tampa International Airport, which is 43 miles away.
A rental car is recommended, especially for trips to the beach, but it's possible there could be shuttles from downtown to Anna Maria Island in the future. Once you're on the island, there is a free trolley that runs from Coquina Beach and Manatee Public Beach to the northern Public Pier.
For Mom and Dad
If you can get away for a date night, stroll to the marina about a block away and get a window table at Pier 22. The restaurant serves elegant seafood, sushi, Asian-influenced dishes and American meals overlooking the Manatee River. Another option: The eclectic Arts and Eats Restaurant and Gallery about a mile away in Bradenton's Village of the Arts neighborhood. Check the calendar for live music.