National Parks usually get all the hype, but in addition to the 63 national parks there are hundreds of national memorials, monuments, and seashores. Florida is home to 11 national park sites, and I recently visited De Soto National Memorial in Bradenton, Florida. I wasn’t sure what to expect or how long it would take me to visit, but I was pleasantly surprised at all there is to do and see at this national site.
- Physical Address: 8300 De Soto Memorial Highway Bradenton, FL 34209
- Visitor Center Hours: 9 AM to 5 PM daily
5 things to do at De Soto National Memorial Visitor Center
The first 5 things I have listed are all the things you can do at the visitor center during your visit. I would recommend starting your visit at the visitor center. More details are included below.
- Take your picture by the park sign
- Say hello to a park ranger and pick up a map
- Stamp your national park passport book
- Watch an informational video at the visitor center
- Buy a souvenir at the gift shop
3 things to do at De Soto National Memorial outdoors
The last 3 things on the list are all outside within the boundaries of the national memorial. Once you have learned a little history head outside to explore the rest of the National Memorial.
- Enjoy a picnic lunch at the picnic tables
- Take a walk on the short or long trail
- Visit Camp Uzita
How long do you need to visit De Soto National Memorial?
It depends if you are planning to do all 8 things on this list, but I would recommend at least an hour up to about half a day. That should give you plenty of time to fully explore the national memorial. A multi-day trip is definitely unnecessary for the size of this memorial.
When should I visit De Soto National Memorial?
This is a memorial that can be visited year-round, but to enjoy the trail avoiding the middle of summer is preferable. If you want to take advantage of the Cap Uzita’s program presentations or demonstrations plan your visit between Mid-December to Mid-April.
How much does it cost to visit De Soto National Memorial?
One of the best things about this national park site is it is completely free to visit!
8 things to do at De Soto National Memorial
Check out the list below to start planning your visit!
1. Take your picture by the park sign
One of my favorite park activities is taking my picture by the park entrance signs. It’s a fun thing to do and it’s a great keepsake to save all your pictures to look back at all the national park sites you have visited. This is a quick thing you can check off your list and if you don’t want to take a picture at the entrance there is also a sign along the long loop trail, pictured below.
2. Say hello to a park ranger and pick up a map
The visitor center should be your first stop once you park your car. You can find informational brochures as well as a map of the site to plan the rest of your visit. There will also be a park ranger at the visitor center. The rangers are often a wealth of knowledge and can provide additional tips to make the most out of your visit. The visitor center is open from 9 AM to 5 PM daily. Be sure to stop by and say hello!
3. Stamp your national park passport book
This is another quick thing to check off your list. If you have a national park passport book, be sure to collect your stamp. If you don’t already have one, consider buying one at the gift shop. This is a relatively cheap souvenir that you can buy once and continue to use at all your park visits. The stamps for each national park site are typically located at the visitor center and are free to use! The classic edition is only $12.95 and can also be bought online here.
4. Watch an informational video at the visitor center
De Soto National Memorial exists due to the historic events led by Hernando de Soto’s army in 1539. Learn more about the historic events that unfolded over this four-year long journey. Hernando De Soto in America film plays inside the visitor center and there is ample seating as well as air conditioning. If you would prefer to explore the hiking trail and outdoor grounds first, this is the perfect spot to cool off afterwards!
5. Buy a souvenir at the gift shop
While this is not a must-do by any means, there is a small gift shop located inside the visitor center. Feel free to browse the gift shop to see if anything catches your eye or pick up your favorite souvenir if you like to collect a certain type of item from each place you visit such as a hiking pin or magnet.
6. Enjoy a picnic lunch at the picnic tables
Consider packing a picnic lunch if you plan to visit De Soto National Memorial around midday. There are a few picnic tables located outside the visitor center where you can enjoy a quick bite. There is no food or beverages available for purchase at De Soto National Memorial.
7. Take a walk on the short or long trail
This was one of my favorite activities while visiting De Soto National Memorial! The short trail is approximately 0.5 miles, and the long trail is 1 mile. I opted for the long trail and enjoyed my walk along the sandy shell path. Despite it being a relatively short trail, the path is diverse with boardwalks, shoreline, and dense trees. It was a peaceful and beautiful trail to experience!
8. Visit Camp Uzita
Across from the visitor center you can visit Camp Uzita. Informational signs and plaques are available to learn more of the history of this camp built to resemble De Soto’s bae camp at the Indian village of Uzita. For an enriched experience, visit between mid-December through mid-April for park ranger led demonstrations. I would recommend checking the park website for the most up to date information on this.
Final Thoughts on De Soto National Memorial
While a site such as De Soto National Memorial doesn’t get near the hype as many of the large and more popular national park sites, it is still worth a visit! I would recommend visiting this site as well as nearby Robinson Preserve. The north entrance to Robinson Preserve is only 5 minutes away and provides access to hiking and biking trails, a kayak launch, and much more!
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The information above was accurate at the time of publishing to the best of the author’s knowledge. Information will be verified and updated periodically. If you are planning to visit De Soto National Memorial, I recommend verifying the most current information with the National Park Service website.