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Destination: East County

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  • | 4:00 a.m. July 2, 2013
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Eastern Manatee County may not have beaches or famous museums, but it has plenty of local flavor, winding rivers and parks in which to relax with your family. Consider these options for spending your summer days and nights:

1. Tom Bennett Park
400 Cypress Creek Blvd., Bradenton
The East County may not have beaches, but this quaint park, named after the local businessman who previously owned the property, is a great stop to start for a relaxing morning. Guests can hike or bike along 1.2 miles of trails or start a game of sand volleyball. Families with children also can enjoy a unique web-inspired playground.
Areas for fishing, playing soccer or having a picnic in the shade also are available.

2. Mixon Fruit Farms
2525 27th St. E., Bradenton
Mixon Fruit Farms owners Bill and Janet Mixon have turned this longtime family-owned citrus grove into a destination of its own. A gift shop offers unique items, as well as Mixon-grown citrus, Mixon-labeled wine and other treats. Guests can stop in its café area for lunch and the grove’s orange-swirl ice cream.
Patrons also can catch a tram tour through the groves and an on-site wildlife rescue.

3. Linger Lodge Restaurant & Campground
7205 85th St. Court E., Bradenton
The sound of a doorbell ringing alerts restaurant staff when new patrons enter this unique local eatery.
With a scenic view of the Braden River, this site first was home to a fish camp in the 1940s. East County resident Frank Gamsky opened the Linger Lodge Restaurant and RV Resort in the late 1960s.
The restaurant, now under different ownership, shows off the creative handiwork of Gamsky, a taxidermist. Over the years, the restaurant has earned several national “shout-outs,” including being named one of the “Top Five Weirdest Restaurants in America” by Al Roker.
Its more unique menu offerings include fried green tomatoes, alligator ribs, gator stew and frog legs. Other menu favorites are fried catfish and the lodge’s award-winning gumbo.
Patrons still can take a look at the lodge’s famous — and fake — “road kill menu,” which features delicacies such as “chunk of skunk.”

4. Jiggs Landing
6106 63rd St. E., (Braden River Road) Bradenton
While at Linger Lodge, consider grabbing a dessert to go, before heading to this quaint little spot along the Braden River. With fishing piers, picnic pavilions and even a small playground, there’s plenty of things to do as you watch the sun set.

• Geocaching
Manatee County now offers a “GeoTour,” which takes geocachers through county parks and preserves to see the area’s native habitat. Before heading out, individuals can print a geocaching passport from

You can find other caches while you are exploring, by accessing

New to geocaching? All you need is a cellular phone with GPS capabilities and coordinates of treasures to be found.

• Play Ball!
The Bradenton Mauraders bring America’s favorite pastime to the East County. This month, the local baseball team has games July 6-8; July 17-24; and July 29-31.

Gas needed:
1/8 a tank

Total mileage:
17 miles

Total trip time: 
8 hours

Total cost:



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