At this time of year, my weekly grocery list almost always includes a pint or two of gorgeous Florida-grown strawberries. After all, the “Winter Strawberry Capital of the World,” Plant City, is just a hop and a skip from the gleaming towers of downtown Tampa. And one of the best ways I know to enjoy those little red gems is with a visit to the Florida Strawberry Festival, a world-renowned celebration of all things strawberry that just happens to be right here in our own backyard.
This year’s Festival gets “growing” on Thursday, March 3 and runs through Sunday, March 13.
Midway, Music and More
If your family loves rides, you’ll want to hit the Belle City Midway. There are wristband and family days featuring special prices to let you spin, drop, glide and ride until you’re dizzy. My son wasn’t quite ready for the “big” rides on the Midway the last couple of years, so we were thankful for the SunnyBell Kiddie Korral. Here you’ll find your choice of 29 rides that are just right for the little ones – and for less-adventurous moms, too!
One of the biggest stories coming out of the Florida Strawberry Festival every year is the impressive lineup of headline musical acts that take the stage daily. This year, I think they’ve achieved some kind of musical nirvana with artists like Big & Rich, The Band Perry, Charley Pride, Donny & Marie, and – be still my heart – Cheap Trick! Sorry, my inner 15-year-old just died a little with this one.
Tickets for the headline shows start at $15 and go all the way up to $55 to see the legendary Donny & Marie. There’s also lots of free entertainment happening at stages around the Festival grounds, though, so you can still get your toes tappin’ and your hands clappin’ if you’re not planning to hit the headliners.
The kids will also love to see the pig races, pose for a picture with Festival mascot Mr. Berry, and check out “Maximus G.”
Eat It Up
All right, time to get down to business. This is a strawberry festival, after all, so what’s the scoop on those sweet, sweet berries?
We’ll start with the strawberry gold standard: strawberry shortcake. There are three spots to get your shortcake fix. All of them serve up the creamy, cakey, strawberry-licious treat, but our go-to is the St. Clement Catholic Church booth, where you can build your own shortcake masterpiece. My ideal mix is decidedly heavy on the whipped cream.
But our culinary strawberry adventure doesn’t end there. We’re talking strawberry milkshakes, chocolate dipped strawberries, strawberry cobbler, strawberry crepes, strawberry pizza and strawberry…hamburgers. Wait, what? (Note to self: need to try that!)
If you just can’t get enough of the berry, you can pick up a jar of strawberry jam or even a pint or two (or more!) to take home. These are berries at their just-picked best, the perfect souvenir of your visit.
And of course, you’ll find all your favorite deep-fried fair food and carnival delights at booths all over the Festival grounds.
The Florida Strawberry Festival is located at 303 N. Lemon Street in Plant City. From Tampa/St. Petersburg, take I-4 East to Exit 19/Thonotosassa Rd. Follow the signs to the Festival grounds. The website offers an alternate route using SR 60 to avoid some of the traffic backups that can occur on I-4. Parking is available on the Festival grounds or at private lots nearby.
You can download the Festival’s mobile app for maps and schedules at your fingertips.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to fire up a little Cheap Trick while I scarf some strawberries and whipped cream. Awww, yeah!