While it’s situated almost an hour away from the major city of Tampa, the small town of Dade City in Pasco County, Florida, is technically considered a suburb of the city. The small population and rural surroundings consisting of gently sloping hills and pastures make it the perfect destination for visitors who wish to base themselves away from the crowds while still being close to all the major attractions of the region.
The charming downtown area of Dade City is home to many restaurants, historic landmarks, unique boutique stores, and the ever-popular antique shops that the town is known for.
A number of attractions can be found in and around Dade City, and several popular festivals take place in the town throughout the year, including The Kumquat Festival and the Pioneer Days Festival.
Below are 14 of the Best Things to do in and around Dade City, Florida.
1. Giraffe Ranch
Yes, it’s possible to interact with giraffes outside of Africa; visitors to Dade City can do just that at the Giraffe Ranch. This wildlife preserve allows you an opportunity to feed giraffes. But, unlike a zoo, the animals roam freely in an environment similar to the one they are native to in Africa.
There are also opportunities to view other animals, including zebras and hippos. There are also vehicle safaris, camel expeditions, and segway rides available, with expert staff who tell you all there is to know about these exotic animals.
2. Dade City Heritage Museum
Visitors who are interested in learning more about the history and people of Dade City can start with a visit to the Dade City Heritage Museum. Exhibits and artifacts are on display, and knowledgeable staff share information and personal stories about living in the area.
3. Treehoppers Aerial Adventure Park
Ziplining is becoming a popular activity for adventure-minded, thrill-seeking people of all ages. Treehoppers Aerial Adventure Park in Dade City is the largest aerial park in Central Florida and offers a unique and exciting way to enjoy this activity. There are several dozen zip lines with rope bridges, various courses, and climbing challenges.
The elements of a traditional zipline are there, which means each run is separated by a platform before you move on to the next one. The unique thing with the ziplines in this park is that, through different challenges of varying levels, participants need to figure out how to get to the next platform. Trained staff are on-hand to ensure safety, and harnesses are supplied to every participant.
4. Big Storm Brewing Co.
With three locations, Odessa being the closest to Dade City, Big Storm Brewing Co. serves quality, award-winning craft beer. Carefully crafted using fresh, local ingredients, visitors can sample more than 20 creations in a relaxed environment.
With names like Tropic Pressure, Bay Beer, and Oktoberfest, there’s sure to be one that’ll become your favorite during your visit to the region. The Clearwater taproom also serves craft coffee and hand-crafted ice cream treats in a variety of flavors.
5. Steph’s Southern Soul Restaurant
Situated in Dade City, Steph’s Southern Soul Restaurant is a favorite dining establishment among locals and visitors alike. The friendly staff welcome every patron as if they were part of the family, and the fabulous food keeps them coming back.
Meals are served buffet-style, with many options to choose from, including fish, meatloaf, chicken, BBQ ribs, bread, and a wide assortment of vegetables. Soups and salads are also available. Scrumptious desserts are served after every meal and include timeless favorites such as key lime pie and strawberry shortcake.
6. Pioneer Florida Museum and Village
For many people, an important aspect of any trip is learning about the history of the place and the people. The Pioneer Florida Museum and Village is an open-air museum on a large plot of forested land in Dade City; it’s the perfect place to learn all there is to know about how the town came to be.
Upon arrival, you’ll take a step back into the past and see how the pioneering people lived day-to-day and how they shaped the town into what it is now. There are many restored buildings on-site, including a schoolhouse, train station, and church. A number of displays showcase various artefacts, including tools and household objects. Visitors will learn about how these pioneers did everyday things like building homes, farming, and making furniture. Guided tours are available.
7. Scream-A-Geddon Horror Park
Every fall, a group of local actors and horror enthusiasts get together to create a unique and frightening haunted house experience in Dade City. The best part about this experience is that it’s interactive, so you are part of the scary action.
There are six haunted houses on-site, each with its own theme – Monster Midway, Bedlam 3D Asylum, Blackpool Prison, and Dead Woods are a few of the experiences you can expect at the Scream-A-Geddon Horror Park. When the fear becomes too much to handle, you can take a break and enjoy a hayride, sit around a fire, or play a round of Zombie paintball.
8. Sweet Blossom Alpaca Farm
Visitors to Dade City can make an appointment to visit a working alpaca farm. Sweet Blossom Alpaca Farm takes pride in raising and working with these docile animals who roam freely on 15-acres of farmland.
During your visit, take a guided tour of the farm and learn about the animals, how they are raised, and take part in a feeding. Stick around and have lunch or dinner surrounded by the alpacas. While you’re there, browse the on-site shop, where you can purchase alpaca items such as hats and scarves.
9. Tampa Riverwalk
A perfect way to spend an afternoon or evening is with a stroll along the Tampa Riverwalk. At 2.6 miles long, this pedestrian walkway runs along the Hillsborough River and passes the downtown Arts District and waterfront areas of Tampa.
Along the way, you will see many parks, restaurants, hotels, playgrounds, museums, and shops. Various cultural events are held in this area throughout the year.
10. Busch Gardens
A day in Tampa is well-spent at Busch Gardens, a large park with an African theme and a wide variety of things to see and do. Dozens of thrilling rides for all ages are on site, including nine roller coasters and two water-based rides. Visitors can also enjoy a zoo area with more than 200 species of animals. Live entertainment and shows featuring top-notch performers take place throughout the day, and everything is family-friendly.
11. Adventure Island
Water parks are a common sight in Florida, but Adventure Island is one of the best. It’s situated right in Tampa across the street from Busch Gardens, so you can visit both parks on the same day on a day trip from Dade City. On-site, you’ll find several water slides, lazy rivers, and pools. Calypso Coaster, Key West Rapids, Endless Surf, Paradise Lagoon, and Splash Attack are just some of the attractions. There are several eateries to choose from when hunger strikes.
12. The Museum of Science & Industry
Visitors of all ages get a hands-on learning experience in science, industry, and technology when they spend a day wandering the many exhibits at The Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa. Some of the experiences at the museum include lying on a bed of nails and building a robot.
Many of the exhibits are permanent, while others change. The Sky Trail Ropes Course is another on-site attraction where visitors of all ages can climb a 36-foot-tall structure with several dozen different challenges. The Saunders Planetarium uses a projector to create a simulation of the night sky.
13. A Matter of Taste
A Matter of Taste is a long-standing eatery in Dade City with a wide range of options for every taste. The atmosphere is friendly and warm, and the menu mirrors the cultural diversity of the region. Everything is made from scratch with fresh ingredients. Greek, Cuban, Spanish, and locally-inspired dishes are served. Breakfast is available all day, and a limited selection of beer and wine is on-hand.
14. The Florida Aquarium
Situated in Tampa, The Florida Aquarium is a large aquarium showcasing more than 7,000 marine plants and animals from all over Florida and the rest of the world. While the aquarium’s primary mission is the conservation of delicate marine ecosystems while educating the public about their importance to the planet, the on-site exhibits provide a fun learning experience for all ages.
Some of these exhibits include reproductions of a beach, wetlands area, and coral reef. Journey to Madagascar, Waves of Wonder, and Moon Bay are some of the other exhibits you can explore.