Florida Strawberry Festival is a “Must-See” event in Central Florida
Where else can you get mounds and mounds of fresh-picked strawberries, an awesome world-famous strawberry shortcake, midway rides, concerts, old-fashioned candy, unique burger creations and any food you can imagine fried or “on a stick”? The Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City, Florida of course. If this is one of those events that for the longest time you’ve been telling your friends and family “we should go someday” then #MakeSomedayHappen and GO! This is what goEpicurista is all about! It is currently going on until Sunday March 9th in Plant City, Florida.
Why am I telling you to go? Because it was an incredibly fun day shared with my family and friends.
The first time I went to the Florida Strawberry Festival was in 2007 with my sister, Carolyn. We loved going to fun events together as long as there was food involved, and was there ever! We had a blast watching the little pigs races and eating our way around the festival fairgrounds, sampling all sorts of goodies and fair foods you don’t normally get the chance to eat. We didn’t even have time to go to the concerts or on any of the midway rides, the food and the strawberries were enough to make this foodie happy with a full day of fun.
We had such a great time that I got a group of friends and neighbors together, packed up in a van and drove the 50 minute ride from Orlando to Plant City down I-4. Not a bad ride until you get to Plant City exit 19 and then the line of cars can be pretty long as it seems everyone in the world is headed in the same direction: towards the strawberries. I recommend going early in the morning when it opens at 10am as the lines get longer as the day progresses. When you arrive you can find parking easily on the streets or in the designated parking areas. Admission is $10 per adult and $5 per child 6-12 years old. You can purchase tickets online here or at the ticket window. Participating Publix stores are also offering discounted tickets at $8 per adult and $4 per child.
Here are my Top 9 Reasons to Visit the Florida Strawberry Festival:
1. The Strawberries:
What did you think would be reason #1? Of course it’s the strawberries. The Florida Strawberry Festival, ranked among the Top 40 Fairs in North America, celebrates the harvest and the 2,800+ farmers in Hillsborough County that have worked hard all season for us to enjoy their ripe and luscious fruits and vegetables. Did you know that there are over 10,000 acres of strawberries planted in the area? That’s a lot of strawberries for shortcakes, pies, milkshakes, dipping in chocolate and eating by the handfuls. These fresh-picked berries are everywhere so make sure you pick up a flat or two to bring home. Plus strawberries are full of antioxidants so the health benefits will help balance out all the crazy fair foods you are bound to enjoy.
2. The Strawberry Shortcake:
You can’t go to the Florida Strawberry Festival without having the world-famous Strawberry Shortcake. This one is made with a thick slice of pound cake, topped with strawberries and heaping mounds of whipped cream. I prefer the fresh strawberries instead of the strawberries in sugar so ask if they have this option available. If shortcake is not your thing (which I honestly can’t imagine why, but I don’t judge!), then you can sample deliciously thick milkshakes, healthy smoothies, crepes or decadent strawberries dipped in chocolate.
3. The Crazy Fair Food:
My first advice for anyone going to the Florida Strawberry Festival is “go hungry!” The food choices are plentiful and while strawberries are incredibly healthy and good for you, this is not the day to watch your diet. This is a day where you try as many crazy foods on a stick and deep-fried as you can find. It seems you can put anything on a stick: chicken, steak, ribs, pickles, cheesecake and even butter! Some of my favorite foods were the fresh squeezed lemonade, thin-cut potato chips, the fried green tomatoes, the fried Oreos and the Doughnut hamburger, a concoction made of a full cheeseburger with meat patty, cheese, lettuce and tomato sandwiched between Krispy Kreme Donuts. No, I don’t want to know how many calories that was. Yes, it was really good and totally worth it! My recommendation is always to share with your friends and spread the calories around. This way you get to try as many different dishes as possible without overdoing it.
4. The Candy Store:
The best part of the day was getting to spend it with friends doing things we don’t normally do. The Florida Strawberry Festival is a great event to include the kids and my friend’s boys had a blast, especially in the candy store. Here you can find all the old-fashioned candy you remember from when you were a kid, from gum balls, lollipops, laffy taffy, caramels, chocolates, and more, you will find any candy your sugar-loving heart desires. My basket was full of caramels! A word of caution, candy here can get very expensive when you give kids a basket and tell them to pick whatever they want, or when you give me a basket and don’t give me at time limit for shopping! The candy is $3.99 per half-pound and those pounds add up fast (no pun intended to the pounds that they add to your waistline too!). $50 worth of candy later, we were ready to zip through the fair on a BIG sugar high.
5. The Pig Races:
This was one of the most fun activities you could watch. Little piggies racing around a track with a promise of Oreos at the end. It’s kind of like childhood! (“good girl, here’s a cookie!”) These are so popular that the stands fill up quick and you are usually at standing room only in the back. The kids were able to watch sitting on shoulders. Lucky little ones!
6. The Entertainment:
Enjoy headline concerts from popular country stars of yesterday and today at 3:30pm and 7:30pm each day on the Wish Farms Soundstage. 3,000 tickets are provided for free (yes I said FREE!) each day on a first-come, first-seated basis. Reserved seats are available for $15 and up depending on the show which is a bargain! There are also several free shows by local and regional talent each day as well as celebrity appearances from TV personalities. And it wouldn’t be a food festival if it didn’t have an eating contest where you will see those brave souls with the toughest stomachs battle it out for fame and glory (and maybe a small prize) eating corn dogs, strawberry shortcake or mashed potatoes! Check out the schedule of events.
7. The Small Town Feeling:
The Florida Strawberry Festival is a slice of Americana. This is where I am reminded that there are farms here in Florida. How often we forget where our food comes from when we only shop at the grocery store. Going to the Strawberry Festival is like being in a small town, where the Strawberry Queen and Princesses reign supreme and people in the community all come together to celebrate the harvest. This is like how you see Small Town USA in movies such as Footloose (minus the crazy preacher and the no-dancing rule) or like Hope Floats or Doc Hollywood. It’s easy to forget that in Central Florida, once you leave the Disney area, you have all of these quaint little towns with great people making a living the old-fashioned way, from the land. Do I sound nostalgic? Yes, but isn’t that what traveling and exploring is all about? It’s about finding pockets of culture different from your own. At the Florida Strawberry Festival you will find the Neighborhood Village showcasing homemade and handcrafted items from folks in the community. If you’re interested in quilts, cake-decorating, baking, food preservation, jewelry & beading, needlepoint scrap-booking and more, you must check out the Neighborhood Village.
8. The Midway Rides & Games:
The Florida Strawberry Festival is a fair, and all fairs must have midway rides. Is that a rule? I don’t know but it sure seems like it. Here you will find all those crazy ones that flip you around together with your tamer ones like the Ferris Wheel. There is something for everyone! And if you ever wanted a big green stuffed animal, you can get it here too. For about a bazillion tries! Don’t do the math to figure out you just paid over $50 bucks for a stuffed animal you could have gotten at Walmart for a third of the price, it will ruin the fun! Special entertainment values are offered on certain days where you can purchase a wristband to ride most rides for one low price. During the week you will find the Ride-A-Thon Days and Friday and Saturday nights are Moonlight Magic from 10:00pm-2:00am and Sundays are Pepsi Family Days where guests can bring a specially marked Pepsi can to receive $5 off the $25 wristband and ride all day. That is a great deal!
9. The Fresh Produce:
Even before you enter the Festival grounds you will see different vendors with not just fresh-picked strawberries but all sorts of beautiful fruits and vegetables. Keep them in mind and pick some up to take home at the end of the day. #EatLocal and support our local farmers.
For whatever reasons you choose to go to the Florida Strawberry Festival, the main thing is just go! Don’t put it off to “someday”. The memories I have of going to the Festival with my sister and sharing a strawberry shortcake and cheesecake on a stick are priceless. And of course, I will never forget laughing with my friends at our $50 candy collection and all the crazy foods we ate. These are memories I will cherish forever. Go and celebrate life and make your Florida Strawberry Festival memories. It’s more than just strawberries, I promise!
For all Florida Strawberry Festival Information, visit their website.
You may wonder why there are only Top 9 reasons on my list in this world of Top 10 lists? Because I don’t know everything and you may have your own great reasons to add to the list that I want to hear about. I like to be open to recommendations so please share them in the comments below. What are your favorite memories of the Florida Strawberry Festival?