A Gallup survey ranking 26 U.S. communities found Bradenton
scored highest of all in the category of "emotional attachment'' as measured by social offerings, physical beauty and an open and welcoming nature. That friendly vibe particularly permeates the Village of the Arts, an enclave where bountiful whimsy expresses itself in the district's colorful cottages, studios, galleries, book stores and restaurants. Bradenton is also home to the headquarters of Beall's Department Stores
and Champs Sports
. Just to the west, mile-wide Anna Maria Island
is home to three laid-back island communities. Just to the east is Lakewood Ranch
, one of Florida's newest and hippest planned communities.