Don’t come to Plant City often? Don’t worry — there are plenty of things for you to see and do when you’re not at the festival.
If it weren’t for the Florida Strawberry Festival, some of you may not set foot in Plant City. Many people don’t even know exactly where it is on a map. That’s OK! You’re here now and you’re set to enjoy our town’s crown jewel of an event.
Just know that the festival isn’t the only thing Plant City has to offer. Whether you want to go sightseeing in nature, shopping, dining or somewhere fun for the whole family, Plant City has something for you. The Observer staff lives, works and plays here and can help any of you readers from out of town find something to do when you’re not enjoying the festival.
One of the best parks in Florida lies right here in Plant City. If you’re wiling to go for a short drive make sure to spend a few hours with your loved ones at Edward Medard Park and Reservoir, 6140 Turkey Creek Road. Once a phosphate mine, Medard is full of hidden alcoves, serene lakes and even a swath of trees that appear to be straight out of a fantasy novel.
People come from all over just to walk among the hills filled with trees that are famous for their projecting roots. The roots weave in and out, crossing with one another and forming a complex form of living art that you won’t soon forget. The park itself is approximately 1,300 acres and it has miles of walking trails, a camps site and a 700-acre reservoir that is regularly stocked with many different fish including bass and catfish. The entry fee is $2 per vehicle with a $5 fee for the boat launch. For more information, call 813-757-3802.
The annual J. Seward Johnson sculptures are brought to town each year by the Arts Council of Plant City in partnership with the City of Plant City, Unity in the Community Inc. and the Plant City Photo Archives & History Center. They are still on display throughout the downtown core and you can go snap some unique photos if you’re willing to go on a short walk. The statues are at the following locations: “No Hands” at Bruton Memorial Library, ”Allow Me” at City Hall (South Entrance), ”Nice to See You” at The Greater Plant City Chamber of Commerce, ”Big Sister” at McCall Park (by Inspire! Quilting & Sewing), ”Cat Nap” at Plant City Photo Archives & History Center, ”Forever Marilyn” at McCall Park (by Whistle Stop Gourmet Coffee & Eatery), ”Wine, Food and Thou” at Collins Street and Reynolds Street, ”Sidewalk Concert” at Palmer Street and Reynolds Street (by the corner store), ”Embracing Peace” at The Robert W. Willaford Railroad Museum and “No Way” at Village Green Park.
While you’re downtown, don’t pass up the opportunity to pick up some unique goodies to take home. Your first stop should be Roots Cellars, 303 S. Collins St. This one-of-a-kind establishment offers high-quality retail wine, beers and “doodads.” But without question, its greatest asset comes in its staff and their dedication toward making sure everyone who walks through its doors finds the perfect wine for their palate. After all, it’s not every day you can say a sommelier helped you pick out the wine you are serving at dinner.
The Florida heat is no joke, so make sure you stay hydrated throughout your shopping spree by popping into Krazy Kup for a refreshing iced coffee or tea. Its oat milk lattes are out of this world and the baristas are brimming with creative drink concoctions if you want to try something new.
Across the street is Tub Treats, a specialty bath accessory store that will have you filling your bathroom with handmade bath bombs, soaps and candles before you know what came over you. The items are absolutely gorgeous and smell like heaven. There are prepackaged gift baskets available as well that are sure to be a big hit at the next party you attend.
One door down is The Kandy Shoppe, a candy store that will singlehandedly woo anyone off their strict diets. Whether you want a box of assorted truffles, a bag of dark chocolate-coated espresso beans or even sour worms, this store has something straight out of a Wonka fever dream.
If you aren’t strawberried out yet, there is one more stop you have to make before you leave town. Head to the new Fancy Farms Market, 5204 Drane Field Road, to get one more taste of traditional Plant City treats. The market is the latest chapter in the long history of Fancy Farms, a strawberry farm that has deep roots in the community.
Fancy Farms, which was founded by Carl and Dee Dee Grooms, embodies everything Plant City holds dear. The Grooms are renowned for their strong character, devotion toward their family, love of their community and heart for the strawberry industry. When you pull up to the market you’ll more than likely meet a Grooms — more often than not it will be Kristi, Carl and Dee Dee’s daughter — and you can take away a piece of the family legacy. Strawberries are available for purchase as are a variety of other produce items.
You can also purchase strawberry desserts that will make your mouth water for days as you reminisce on the memory of that first bite. Milkshakes, shortcakes, strawberry bread and strawberry cookies are all coming out of the kitchen and are made from Dee Dee’s personal recipes. As you enjoy your shake and cookies you can sit in the shade with your family and gaze out on a strawberry field.
If you take I-4 eastbound to get here and westbound to go back home, let’s get the obvious thing out of the way. There’s no way you can’t see the giant dinosaurs on the north side of the interstate. That’s Dinosaur World, if you didn’t already know, and it’s a great place to take the kids. You can see huge, realistic statues of dinos and other prehistoric critters, learn a lot and take home some swag from the gift shop. What’s not to like about Jurassic Park, but safe for humans? It’s at 5145 Harvey Tew Road, right off of the interstate, and you can get more info at dinosaurworld.com/florida or by calling 813-717-9865.
If walking around Plant City’s little slice of ancient history works up an appetite, Keel Farms is right up the road. It’s a good place to grab a bite to eat, drink locally made cider, beer and fruit wine, catch live music and relax in a huge outdoor patio. Visit them at 5202 Thonotosassa Road.
If you’re staying in one of our hotels for some time and want to eat out without going to a big chain restaurant, we’ve got you covered.
This is the home of the original Fred’s Market and Johnson Barbecue restaurants and both are extremely popular. Fred’s breakfast, in particular, is revered here for good reason. You also can’t go wrong starting your morning downtown with a big, hearty breakfast at Brick House or gourmet coffee, freshly made pastries and lighter eats at Krazy Kup.
You can’t go wrong staying downtown for lunch. On the block of Collins and East Reynolds streets you can get healthy wraps, sandwiches, soups, salads and more at The Corner Store, and after you’re done eating you can shop in its market. Tacos Piki is a fine place to spend Taco Tuesday, but any day is good for their tacos. Norma’s also knows how to put together a tasty taco, but the thing you really have to try there is the Cuban Style Bowl (and don’t be shy with the green sauce). Just keep in mind that many of downtown Plant City’s restaurants and other small businesses are closed on Mondays.
If you’re not eating dinner at the festival, there are a few local places that have never steered me wrong. If you love Mexican food as much as I do, check out Mi Casa on Thonotosassa Road just before the interstate on-ramp. At the other end of that plaza is 1916 Irish Pub, which has my favorite burger in town. And if you drive a little further south of the festival grounds on Alexander Street, you’ll eventually wind up at Wasabi. We have three Japanese food options in town but this is the only one where you can sit down and get the traditional tableside hibachi experience — and it’s very good.