When we checkout an event, I like to write the review as soon as possible. here it is the last day of the Florida Strawberry Festival, and I’m having a difficult time putting the review into words. (Unfortunately that probably means I’ll be posting on this much later.) That is usually a bad thing, but in this case it’s that we got a chance to see so much it’s just difficult to know where to start! Well I guess I’ll try to start from the beginning..
In early 2013, I heard a radio advertisement for the Florida Strawberry Festival and thought it would be a fun weekend trip. We planned to go last year, but the timing just didn’t work out. This year we planned ahead and had it on the calendar. Nothing was going to keep us from checking out the festivities. Again we heard all sorts of advertisements, saw some news broadcasts, and have been hearing about all the fun and excitement for more than a week now. We decided to go on the second Saturday of the event, and we weren’t disappointed!
Our target time to get to the festival grounds as noon or so, and with about a 2 hour trip to get there, we left around 10am. It was a nice drive, and locally Bike Week is in full swing, so it was a welcomed change of pace. We decided to take the toll roads, instead of I-4, so we were able to steer clear of Daytona Beach, Universal’s Mardi Gras Event, and even traffic from The Central Florida Fair. It was well worth the $5 or so worth of quarters. We plugged in the address into our phone and Siri was kind enough to get us to where we needed to go. More often than not, the festivals and fairs we check out tend to be in the middle of no where, or small towns. We were surprised to find that the Florida Strawberry Festival was almost right in the middle of a bustling city. We have no idea if free parking was available at the Florida Strawberry Festival, but we saw tons of people offering paid parking on their lawns or places of business immediately surrounding the festival grounds. Rather than drive around in traffic with a toddler, we decided to do private parking for $10 right outside gate 5. It seemed somewhat legit, as they lady was wearing a bright yellow vest and flagging down traffic for parking off the main road. We generally park in public areas for the expense as well as the fear of being towed off private property, but seemed like a nice area so we decided to pull in. (Don’t worry, when we got back our car was still there, and so were the same people). These folks probably either lived in the home we parked in or was hired by the home owners to make some extra cash.
We love to do reviews of fairs but have recently focused on smaller local festivals. The Florida Strawberry Festival is certainly not a small local festival, but a destination people all over the state attend. The week prior, I was discussing our weekend plans with some colleagues, and it seemed almost everyone has been to the festival at least once in their lives. It’s pretty well known, even on the East Coast of Florida. When we got to gate 5, we were given a free ticket for out toddler by the event staff, and paid $10 for each adult. We could have saved a few bucks by hitting up a Publix on the way over for discounted tickets, but since we weren’t familiar with the area, we decided the savings may not be worth it. Not including gas to get there, we were already at a total of $30 just to walk in the gate.
When we got in, the first thing we noticed was that most of the rides seemed to cater to little ones. Ride tickets cost $1 each and most rides were in the range of 3 to 5 tickets. I was surprised to find that there were no discounts for large ticket purchases. You could buy an entire sheet of tickets for $20 consisting of 20 tickets, so there was no incentive to buy lots of them. Our little guy is still really too small to enjoy the rides, and the Mrs. and I generally don’t do fair rides.. (It’s a long story involving my nemesis the Gravitron when I was a kid) So this year we didn’t pay for the rides, but considering a family of 4 though, with only the kids riding rides, at an average of 4 tickets each, the cost of the rides can escalate very quickly. The cost of 2 kids riding 5 rides is $40. Checkout the chart below to estimate your costs. Remember this is just an average, some rides are more, some less.
What else is there to do at the Florida Strawberry Festival? There is lots of food! Typical fair favorites are offered as well as deep-fried EVERYTHING! This is personally my favorite part of going to any fair or festival. The costs were about on par with other events. It will cost about $8 per dish without a drink so be sure to plan ahead. It’s a good idea to eat before you head over to the Florida Strawberry Festival, but if you’re going to be there all day, you may not be able to avoid the costs. My suggestion is to nibble throughout the day with the family. It will give you an opprotunity to sample a variety of foods, and hopefully keep the kiddos happy. We were able to bring in some bottles of water in a backpack, but I have come to find out that people don’t generally question it if you have a toddler. They probably don’t allow outside food and drinks as a general rule of thumb. One indulgence you will want to consider is the strawberry shortcake! It looked delicious, and it’s everywhere! We even saw a stand where you could make your own!
Ok so now that you know the costs involved what is there to do and see with just the general admission? Even if you don’t want to partake of the food or rides, there is still plenty to do and see. There are lots of exhibition and entertainment halls, throughout the festival grounds. Something that really stood out for me is that no matter where you were, you could hear music! It seemed like at every turn there was a music stage at the Florida Strawberry Festival. For many of the top name artists, you need to pay to see them in the arena like atmosphere, but there were so many local musicians that really added to a good time. It got very crowded around 4PM, and we had out little guy to contend with. Wet diapers and long lines at the bathrooms didn’t help much either. We decided to head out for the day, but we were very glad we went! It was certainly an experience that we won’t soon forget!
So how do you avid these previously mentioned aspects of the Florida Strawberry Festival? First, you may want to go during the week, I’m sure it is much less crowded. After we went, we heard from all sorts of friends that they quite often travel across the state just to checkout the annual festivities. If cost is the major concern for you, you may want to take the time to check out their annual calendar. They have one day a year where kids enter free, and have frequent discounted days for admission. As far as the ride go though, my suggestion is to use the fair as a teaching tool for your kids. Let them save up a bit of allowance or birthday money, and use the cost of the rides to illustrate opportunity cost. It will team them fiscal responsibility, and just might save Mom and Dad a few bucks in the process! I would say the Florida Strawberry Festival would make a great day trip for the family!
Florida Strawberry Festival Details:
Dates: Vary from year to year but generally it’s held in the middle of March.
Address: 303 Lemon St Plant City Fl 33563