15 Best Things to Do in Dade City, FL

Dade City, FL
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Florida has always been a destination of surprises.

Tucked in its small cities are unique sights equally picturesque as the beach destinations and summer activities along its coasts.

A perfect example is the small and unassuming town of Dade City, the county seat of Pasco County, located on the west central coast of the state.

This charming city in Tampa Bay Area is home to 7,393 residents as of 2021.

Dade City is a walkable town offering many spots worthy of your vacation time.

You’ll find exceptional places to learn about history, relax and commune with nature, and try amazing activities that you can only experience in this quaint town.

These best things to do in Dade City, Florida, will surely add meaningful experiences during your visit.

Taste Treats at Annual Kumquat Festival

Kumquat ice cream stand at the Annual Kumquat Festival
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Kumquat Festival is an iconic affair in Dade City, celebrating the town’s rich culture and history.

Established in 1996 by the Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce, the Kumquat Festival is the biggest in eastern Pasco County.

Kumquat is a small tart citrus fruit usually eaten with its skin.

A slice of kumquat pie at the Annual Kumquat Festival
Linda White Wolf / Shutterstock.com

During this homegrown occasion, thousands of visitors flock to Downtown Dade City to taste kumquat treats such as pies, cookies, ice creams, smoothies, and others.

You can also try kumquat salsa and marmalade.

Dade City’s neighboring town St. Joseph is known as the kumquat capital of the world.

Kumquat bags for sale at the Annual Kumquat Festival
Candleabracadabra, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Buy at Antiques On the Main Street

Antique collectors will rejoice when they visit Downtown Dade City for its lines of antique and memorabilia shops.

One of the most popular stores is Antiques On the Main Street, located at 7th Street, which has been a go-to vintage store for the past 16 years.

This delightful store showcases primitive finds exclusive to the area.

The owner and staff are well-versed in each rustic item’s story–from old furniture such as a pie cabinet and wooden barrels to accessories and Christmas decorations.

The shop has all you need for an added vintage look on your home, and you’ll get lost for hours scanning through hundreds of limited finds.

Eat Like a Local at A Matter of Taste

Your trip to Dade City will not be complete if you won’t get to dine in one of its popular eateries.

A Matter of Taste is a 30-year-old local restaurant serving a diverse gastronomic selection that makes up the cultural and culinary heritage of the Tampa Bay Area.

Established in 1990, the eatery features a range of entrees and appetizers injected with Cuban, Italian, Greek, and Spanish traditions.

Every serving is made only from fresh ingredients, which makes it a favorite eatery in the city.

When you go here, don’t forget to try their fried green tomatoes or fresh fried mushrooms for the appetizer.

Their Pineapple Boat, a house specialty of California Chicken Salad and fresh pineapple served in a half-pineapple fruit cut, is also a must-try!

Join the Safari Tour at Giraffe Ranch

A tall giraffe at Giraffe Ranch
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Do you ever wonder how it feels to stand close to giraffes and feed them?

Or do you want to interact with camels and zebras?

If you want to try a safari experience, then Giraffe Ranch at Mickler Road is the top option in the city.

This wildlife park has offered private safari tours for the past 20 years.

The expansive wildlife preserve lets you get up close and personal with friendly giraffes and other faunas, such as rhinoceros and pigmy hippos.

It is also a habitat for endangered species that are under conservation programs.

Your guide will share knowledge about their way of life and habitat, giving you an idea of how these animals live and survive.

Go around the 47-acre rolling countryside via a 4-wheel drive as exotic animals welcome you to their sanctuary.

Giant live oaks, lush pastures, wetlands, and native orchids cover the ranch, mirroring an African safari right in the heart of Florida.

Ride the Zipline at Treehoppers Aerial Adventure Park

Dade City is home to the largest aerial adventure park in Central Florida, offering several zipline spots for all ages.

Located just north of Tampa, Treehoppers Aerial Adventure Park at Saint Joe Road has provided a challenging yet fun and enjoyable experience for thrill-seekers since 2015.

Trees in the park are designed with platforms and interconnected with cables, wood, ziplines, and rope, forming challenges in different levels and elements.

While the park offers ten courses depending on your capability, all visitors will equally have a fun experience while being close to nature.

Friendly and well-trained park staff are present on all platforms.

They will guide you and ensure that you are equipped with a safety harness before your jump from one platform to another.

Explore Scream-A-Geddon Horror Park

Want more freaky adventure in Dade City?

Residents and tourists have something to look forward to during the fall—the famous Scream-A-Geddon Horror Park, an installation of six haunted houses at Saint Joe Road.

Opened in 2015, horror enthusiasts design the park with the help of local actors to scare every visitor with its frightening asylums, prison cells, and other unique set designs.

Each house is designed with different themes, and each has its chilling narrative.

The terrifying park is complete with zombies, demons, and clowns that will surely make your hair rise.

After roaming around the action-packed houses, you can also check out a hayride and a Zombie paintball.

Book a Haunted History Tour at Dade City Heritage Museum

Building sign of Dade City Heritage Museum
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Visiting a city’s museum will always be one of the incredible ways to learn about its history.

But if you like to inject a creepy experience into your itinerary, you should book a haunted history tour at Dade City Heritage Museum.

The 90-minute tour starts at the U.S. HWY 98 Bypass museum, which was initially the Atlantic Coastline Train Depot built in 1912.

Your group will then proceed on a walking tour around town, with your guide telling tales of Victorian funeral practices and spooky paranormal narratives that will leave you with goosebumps.

You’ll also hear chilling crime stories that happened in specific locations and local folklore that makes up for a freaky tour.

Play at Lake Jovita Golf & Country Club

One of Florida’s best golf courses since 1999, Lake Jovita Golf & Country Club is an 18-hole golf course set in a vast land of rolling hills.

Located at Lake Jovita Boulevard, this expansive 263-acre golf course is a 20-minute drive away from North Tampa.

On a sunny day, practice your skills in its well-manicured fairways surrounded by lush pastures and wetlands.

Its front nine is known to have one of the most challenging opening holes in the state.

On the other hand, the back nine has a downhill set-up, requiring a precise tee shot for a more skilled golfer.

Admire Architecture at Pasco County Courthouse

Front view of Pasco County Courthouse's exterior
Holly_Smith / Shutterstock.com

While Dade City does not have skyscrapers, it does not fall short when it comes to extraordinary structures.

Check out Pasco County Courthouse at Meridian Avenue for its inspiring architecture that every visitor must see.

Built in 1909, this historic site is an enthralling structure that features a Classic Revival style designed by notable architect E.C. Hosford.

Exterior of Pasco County Courthouse
Lynn B / Shutterstock.com

In 2006, the place was included in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places list.

Aside from admiring its facade, you can tour inside its chambers to learn more about the county’s government, giving you more perspective of the place.

Pick Fresh Fruits at Ergle Christmas Tree Farm

Ergle Christmas Tree Farm has hosted great family activities since it opened its doors to visitors in 1987.

This family-owned farm at Treiman Boulevard is not only known for selling trees perfect for Christmas but also a fun destination to pick fresh fruits.

Walk along its fields of hydroponically grown strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries, and fill your baskets with freshly picked fruits.

A guide will share details of how these fruits are grown, with tales of how the farm started.

Additionally, being a Christmas tree shopping haven with 20,000 sq ft greenhouses, this 30-year-old farm grows Cedar, Sand Pine, and Carolina Sapphire.

The trees are all available potted or pre-cut.

You can also buy Christmas cacti and fresh wreaths if you prefer smaller purchases.

Catch a Race at Dade City Raceway

Are you fond of thrilling experiences that pump up your adrenaline?

Catch an exciting race at Dade City Raceway and see off-road dirt bike racers tackle muddy trails and rough terrain.

Join the crowds as your cheer on motocross racers at Pasco County Fairgrounds, showing off their skills in the 100-acre land of clay and sand track.

It provides a variety of jumps, drops, and turns at different levels of difficulty, giving every racer a challenging yet adrenaline-pumping ride.

Dade City Raceway has been giving audiences the adrenaline rush since 1979, with motocross schools, annual competitions, and various on-ground events open not only for locals but also visitors of the town.

Walk Along Hardy Trail

Wildflower along Hardy Trail
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A multi-use recreational trail, Hardy Trail spans 1.6 km that features a lovely path of nature.

Named after local philanthropist and humanitarian Roy and Martha Hardy, this trail, built in 2008, is a favorite walking site to commune with nature for its plenty of trees shading every hiker.

From Church Avenue to Lock Street, this trail is a perfect spot for walking with your family and your pets.

Rest stop bench along Hardy Trail
Tupelo the typo fixer, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As you walk, you’ll also love the sounds of birds chirping from the skies and the scent of fresh air.

Shaded benches are also available at specific stops along the trail, giving you time to rest and appreciate the greenery surrounding the pathway.

Signages at Hardy Trail's starting point
Tupelo the typo fixer, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Glide Along Florida’s Waterways at Kachunga Airboat Adventures

Kachunga Airboat Adventures is a local private airboat charter that has offered an off-the-beaten tour of Florida’s beauty from Dade City for over 35 years.

Jumping into the airboat takes you up close and personal with wild alligators, spot snakes, turtles, and different species in Florida’s ecosystem through backcountry waterways.

Choose between a half-day or full-day tour of the Florida coast, where you’ll get to see dolphins swimming by your boat or through the Withlacoochee River surrounded by lush forests.

Don’t forget to grab your camera and binoculars as you glide through the waters because the river is also an incredible spot for birdwatching.

Tour Around Pioneer Florida Museum and Village

Florida is rich in history and culture, and you can learn more about this at Pioneer Florida Museum and Village, located at Pioneer Museum Road, north of downtown Dade City.

Established in 1960, the 21-acre property consists of a schoolhouse, train depot, church, and houses that exhibit the way of living of Florida Pioneer Man.

Numerous displays show the way of living for the first settlers in the state, including how they built their houses and plowed their farms.

Antique household and kitchen items and farm equipment are on display, giving a better perspective on the early years of pioneer locals in Florida.

The open-air museum also features restored buildings, such as the 1864 Overstreet House, that showcase early living for women.

The house shows interesting antique items for cooking, churning butter, weaving, and household work.

Watch Movies at Joy-Lan Drive-In & Swap Shop

Marquee of Joy-Lan Drive-In
DanTD, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Spend a romantic date in your car while watching the latest movies at Joy-Lan Drive-In & Swap Shop.

Since its establishment in 1950, the drive-in movie house has served the locals of Dade City with a great movie experience.

It is one of the oldest drive-in theatres in Florida, operating for more than 70 years.

The grounds of Joy-Lan Drive-In
DanTD, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Located at U.S. Highway 301, the entertainment area shows first-run movies with double features for five nights a week. You can listen from your car’s F.M. radio or speakers across the theatre.

You also have the option to stay inside your car or bring lawn chairs and sit beside your vehicle.

A snack bar is inside the vicinity for when you want something to munch on as you watch the latest movie offering.

Final Thoughts

Dade City features a refreshing side of Florida not known to many.

You’ll love the town’s exclusive tourist sites even without sunny beach spots.

It boasts exceptional antique shops that sell unique Old-World finds, frightening haunted and historical walks, and tasty culinary experiences, all against the backdrop of scenic backcountry destinations.

With all these things to look forward to in Dade City, you’ll surely enjoy everything the town offers.

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