Hundred and fifty or so illuminated parade entries filled with beads, speakers blasting music and other fun stuff will be rolling through Bradenton on Saturday during the annual DeSoto Heritage Festival Grand Parade, which is expected to attract 200,000 attendees. By Friday, all the good spots for watching the parade along Manatee Avenue will be claimed thanks to Bradenton’s tradition of allowing people to put their plastic chairs down in prime bead-grabbing zones about a week in advance. That’s OK. The real fun happens downtown, which becomes a rocking block party before, during and after the parade makes its way through. Advice from someone who has lived and partied plenty in downtown Bradenton? Make a day of it. Here’s how.
101 Riverfront Drive #120, Bradenton; 896-9660 or yachtseagrille.com
Start DeSoto Day off right with a cold draft beer or mixed drink and a ridiculously good Reuben filled with hearty slices of slow-cooked, smoked corned beef.
452 3rd Ave. W., Bradenton; realizebradenton.com
Enjoy the gorgeous views of the Manatee River, watch the young athletes do amazing things at the skate park and think about what we might eat and drink next at Pier 22.
1200 1st Ave. W., Bradenton; 748-8087; pier22dining.com
Continue enjoying gorgeous views of the Manatee River while sipping, say, a $4 mojito and noshing on the $5 and $6 sushi rolls or something else off the generous happy hour menu available 3-7 p.m. daily.
McCabe's Irish Pub
302 Old Main St., Bradenton; 896-3126
The parade starts in a couple hours, how about getting crazy with an Irish Car Bomb? For the record, that’s a half pint of Guinness plus a shot glass filled with Baileys Irish Cream and Jameson Irish Whiskey, all chugged at once.
Old Main Pub
313 Old Main St., Bradenton; 748-7795
Feel like another “bomb”? Of course you do! And the bartenders at the Old Main Pub are skilled purveyors of these deliciously dangerous drinks that come in myriad flavors.
The Lost Kangaroo
406 Old Main St., Bradenton; 747-8114; lostkangaroo.com
Let’s take a break from the booze for a bit and relax with a breezy, slightly citrusy craft beer like the hard-to-find High Road Ale inspired by Bradenton band Have Gun, Will Travel.
Fav's Italian Cucina
419 Old Main St., Bradenton; 708-3287; favsitaliancucina.com
Before the parade starts we should really fill our stomachs again with something flavorsome and filling like Fav’s Italian sub on homemade bread or the made-from-scratch Stromboli – both pair nicely with the restaurant’s economy-priced bottles of Chianti.
Cork’s Cigar Bar
424 Old Main St., Bradenton; 744-2589; corkscigarbar.com.
While waiting to see if the parade is getting close, sip on a Scotch or cognac while puffing on a nice stogie.
O'Brick's Irish Pub & Martini Bar
427 Old Main St., Bradenton; 896-8860; obricks.com
Are people screaming for beads yet? Whatever, let’s have one of these martinis called “Steve’s Vesper” and munch on some of Mike Carter's Original Wings.
Pub Eighty Eight
436 Old Main St., Bradenton; 896-8877
Here’s a great spot to get a drink while watching the parade roll down Manatee Avenue.
Double Barrel Tavern
450 Old Main St., Bradenton; 745-8433; the-distillery.com
Here’s an even closer spot – formerly called The Distillery Tavern but still with the same affable owner Paul Kotlarczyk – to get a drink while watching the parade roll down Manatee Avenue. Plus, they serve pizza by the slice.
The B’Towne Coffee Co.
440 Old Main St., Bradenton; 745-3100; btownecoffee.com
OK, parade is over. Time to call a cab? Or do we have coffee and sandwiches while we catch our second wind?
DESOTO HERITAGE FESTIVAL GRAND PARADE
Starting at Manatee High School, the parade route travels west on Ninth Avenue, north along 39th Street West to Manatee Avenue and then turns east toward downtown Bradenton to Ninth Street West.
6:30 p.m.-10 p.m. Saturday; 747-1998; desotohq.com