Unless you are visiting someone that lives here not to many people have Plant City on their radar of places to see in Florida. Yes, there is of course what Plant City is mostly known for, strawberry farms and the annual Strawberry Festival which does draw a crowd as it stages performances by some big names in County Music. However, Plant City’s hidden jewel is it’s downtown historic district and it is certainly worth an afternoon visit.
The Plant City Historic District is a piece of old downtown Americana revolved around their rich train history and their love for it. Named after railroad developer and tycoon Henry B. Plant, Plant city’s small downtown area is both quaint and full of treasures. The old time train theme is everywhere here and it is combined with the modern day train that runs right through the historic downtown. There is even a viewing platform at the old train depot where you can watch the trains of today pass by.
Combining the vintage with the modern while still keeping the old time charm has been well done in this train depot downtown of yesteryear. Walking through this very walking friendly downtown area, are antique shops and stores to find unique collectibles all mixed in among modern day businesses and great restaurants. Parking is plentiful and free, something you don’t often find in a downtown area.
By far the downtown’s central attraction is The Robert W. Willaford Railroad Museum. Built in 1909 the The Plant City Union Depot now is the home of a sizable collection of railroad memorabilia and in the depot’s yard you will find a completely restored 1963 Air Line Caboose and a 1942 Whitcomb Locomotive.
Admission to the Robert W. Willaford Railroad museum is absolutely free which makes this a nice economical outing for families. (donations however, are always welcome). Hours to the museum are Tuesday – Friday from 12 – 4 pm and Saturdays 10 AM – 4 PM. The museum is closed Sunday and Monday.
After your visit to the railroad museum you have to stop by the Whistle Stop Cafe’ for a bite to eat. In the olden days the building was once a pharmacy/drug store with an old fashion soda fountain. Today it keeps it’s old fashion soda fountain charm with a railroad twist. The building itself sits along the railroad track and is decorated with the town’s railroad history in mind. Filled with railroad nostalgia, friendly service, great food and even Piano music!! Soups, salads, sandwiches and delicious deserts are on the menu all while enjoying the sounds of a real life piano man.
Historic Downtown plant city is about 26 miles east of Tampa and 73 miles south west of Orlando and while you may not have come to Florida to visit Plant City, if you are a railroad buff or even just like trains, you may want to put a visit here on your radar.
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Categories: West Centeral