Can you name a small town where antiques, a beautiful historical district, strawberries and trains meet and attract throngs of local visitors? The answer is Plant City, Florida. This town of about 34,000 is located just off I-4 between Tampa and Lakeland and is a mecca for locals because of its many attractions.
Named after railroad and hotel magnate Henry B. Plant, the present town dates back to the mid-1800s where it was built on a native American city named Ichepucksassa, Eventually, it changed its name to Cork and then, after Plant brought the South Florida Railroad through town in 1884 and connected it with the wider world, the town incorporated as Plant City in 1885.
Long a regional agricultural center, it was known for cotton until strawberries put the town on the map and the railroad brought the berries to hungry markets far and wide. It deserves its title as the winter strawberry capital of the world because almost three quarters of winter strawberries consumed worldwide are grown in and around Plant City. Florida’s largest strawberry grower, Wishnatzki Farms, is a major local grower. The town also draws big-name entertainers and large crowds to its huge early spring Strawberry Festival.
Plant City is very cognizant of its heritage and has an active and successful preservation movement. The city’s quaint and walkable downtown area is filled with antique shops, restaurants, murals and parks. The city also holds frequent vintage car shows and other events downtown, making it a bustling place year-round. The city’s many beautiful old homes are also preserved in a historical district adjacent to downtown.
Since two busy railroads bisect the town and cross in the middle, rail enthusiasts have gathered there for a long time and the town responded by preserving its old railroad station and building a railroad museum and train viewing platform in the center of town.
Before You Go, Check out
Plant City can be easily reached by highway and air, train and cruise ship connections are nearby.
- By train, Amtrak trains run through town on the New York to Miami route but do not stop. The nearest stations are Lakeland and Tampa.
- By air, Tampa International (TPA) is 31 miles away and Orlando International (MCO ) is 63 miles distant. Both offer frequent international and domestic connections.
- By car, Plant City is located on State Route 39, just off I-4, 25 miles east of Tampa, 13 miles west of Lakeland and 62 miles from Orlando.
- The nearest cruise port is Tampa. Port Canaveral is 107 miles away.
Must-Sees For A Short Trip:
- Check out the restored train station and viewing platform for a taste of the town’s rail history.
- Have lunch at the restored Whistle Stop Café.
- Walk around downtown and visit the shops.
If You Only Have Two or Three Days:
Recommended for a slightly longer stay are:
- A drive through the historical district north of downtown to see the beautiful old homes.
- Visiting a you-pick strawberry farm during the growing season.
- Exploring the nearby Dinosaur World theme park.
If You Have Several Days, enjoy:
- A visit to Tampa for museums, restaurants, Ybor City and Busch Gardens
- Exploring Orlando’s theme parks.
- A visit to Florida Southern University in Lakeland to see the Frank Lloyd Wright buildings on campus.
Ginny O’s Tips For Dressing The Simply Smart Travel Way For Plant City.
Dress for your visit informally and appropriate for the season. Wear comfortable walking shoes and don’t worry about dressing up.
This Destination At A Glance
Over 50 Advantage: A walkable downtown, quaint cafes and a lot of antiques make this a senior mecca.
Mobility Level: There are no special impediments to getting around, although the town lacks a public transit system. The terrain is flat and shops are automobile-accessible.
When To Go: Year round. Summers are hot and humid but crowds are less. Winter (especially early March, during the Strawberry Festival) brings great weather and throngs of visitors.
Where To Stay: There are some chain hotels at the !-4 exit and many more hotel options in Lakeland and Tampa..
Special Travel Interests: Antiques, restored buildings, and strawberries.