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Spotlight on:
Dade City

Kumquat festivals, a colorful past and a spectacular zoo put this county seat on the Sunshine State map

A hidden gem in central Florida, this county seat boasts having a "proud heritage, promising future." As the only city in Pasco County with a historical district, the Dade City invariably charms visitors with unique architecture of the commercial buildings and elegant homes. This delightfully quiet community boasts an inviting small-town atmosphere that welcomes visitors with each and every visit.

Tourists come from afar to relish in the countless antique stores and delicious restaurants, all the while embracing the deep roots of the town, most evident in the grand historic architecture throughout its downtown area. While visiting, you'll want to swing by the Hugh Embry Library, Crescent Theatre and Pasco County Courthouse for a quick look. This quaint town also features immense outdoor beauty, marked by its gently rolling hills, impeccable views, and sparkling lakes.

Come for the nationally acclaimed Kumquat Festival or one of the many smaller festivals and parades that exhibit the intensely felt civic pride. The area surrounding Dade City is a large producer of the scrumptiously tart kumquat fruit and this annual festival brings out the whole town.

Embrace the history of Dade City and visit the old location for the community, a few miles west of where the current Dade City is. The name of the community was Fort Dade from the 1870s until about the mid-1880s, when the population shifted closer to the where the railroad was placed. The famous Hugh Embry Library was founded in 1904, a first for Dade City. It all began in the home of the 25-year-old Hugh Embry, an avid book lover. His home is now the site of the U.S. Post Office, with many subsequent buildings used as the library following in its wake. The current library is 7,200 square feet and proudly opened in 1991 after several restorations. Another historically significant tidbit about Dade City is the prisoner-of-war camp that operated here, during World War II, from 1942 to 1946. The area where German soldiers were held prisoner following their capture from North Africa, is now the site of the Pyracantha Park Civic Center.

Wild in Florida
Dade City's Wild Things is a fantastic zoo and natural botanicalal gardens with more than 200 animals on exhibit, including panthers, lions, leopards and many more. The zoo boasts thrilling options including tiger and alligator exhibits, an exhilarating zip line, sunken jungle tours and jungle safari rides. You can experience an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have hands-on encounters with various animals in the gorgeous garden area.

Just north of Tampa Bay, enjoy a guided safari on a famous working game preserve. Giraffe Ranch is one of the most popular attractions near Dade City. Specializing in exotic species, domestic cattle and horses, the ranch lets you experience a brilliant scene straight from Africa, including huge live oaks and open grasslands. Wetlands, lush pastures and native orchids provide visitors with excellent panoramic views. This 47-acre space also happen to be a roost for the local population of more than 200 sand hill cranes.

Giraffe Ranch offers safari expeditions via 4-wheel-drive tour vehicles. You can enjoy views of the animals from the comfort of the stadium seating, complete with shade canopies. Another option for the more adventurous is the camelback expedition, which features exotic animals from places such as Australia, Asia, Africa and the Americas. You have the opportunity to feed the giraffes, pet the camels, and even come nose to nose with a rhino. The nicest thing about Giraffe Ranch is that it's not an overcrowded theme park or a cramped zoo. The animals here have room to roam freely in this authentic working ranch and wildlife preserve.

Pasco History
The fun continues at the Pioneer Florida Museum and Village, where Florida's history is lovingly preserved and exhibited for all to enjoy. The museum recalls the arduous yet simple life, work and struggles of the area's first settlers. Through fascinating exhibits devoted to the Overstreet House (built before the Civil War), one-room schoolhouse, Trilby train depot, train engine and a Methodist church, the displays reflect an era when values were simple and the labor intense. For these people, craftsmanship was of utmost importance.

From building their homes and making furniture, to churning butter and cooking on a wood-burning stove, these men and women did many of their everyday tasks with simple primitive equipment. Venture inside Overstreet House or one of the other seven historically significant buildings that have been moved from the surrounding areas in Pasco County for the inside scoop on the history of this beautiful region. Don't miss the cane syrup mill and the working mule located on the museum grounds.

For More Information:
Pasco County
800-842-1873
www.visitpasco.net

Florida Department of Tourism
888-735-2872
www.visitflorida.com