Find history and beauty at this museum dedicated to the retelling of central Florida's pioneer past.
Kids don’t realize how good they have it these days. Honestly, even as an adult, I’m not sure I appreciate my comfortable life the way I should either.
On one warm, breezy March afternoon, I faced this realization head-on while answering my children’s questions in the Overstreet House at the Pioneer Florida Museum & Village with, “Well, you see those things under the bed that look like bowls? If they had to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, they used that.” My kids looked at me with horror and that’s when I knew this lesson would stick. They always remember the weird stuff.
The museum is about a mile north of downtown Dade City in west-central Florida. Though they hold many events throughout the year, most of them in the cooler months, I believe the best time to visit is during the week when it's not crowded. It’s so much easier to take your time and notice the little details.
C.C. Smith General Store
There are over a dozen buildings at the pioneer village. One of my favorites – because I can’t choose just one – is the C.C. Smith General Store. From the moment I enter the store, built in 1927, I feel transported back in time. There are price lists for what food and other goods would have cost when the store was open. The layout includes old-fashioned coffee grinders and scales, a cash register with raised keys, and a post office along the right wall.
It's easy to imagine taking a trip to the local general store to get without the hassle of steeping into a big-box stores of today.
The Trilby Depot, built in 1896 by the H.B. Plant Railroad System, was a popular stop for passengers along what was once a bustling rail yard. Train memorabilia, antique lights, railroad tools, and a morse code machine complete with chart, fill the interior of the depot. During special events, the museum opens a small room at the back of the depot where a volunteer operates multiple trains. This depot is true to its historic form. Even today, you can see the rooms where the railroad company separated waiting passengers by the color of their skin.
A 1913 H.K. Porter steam engine sits on a piece of railroad directly in front of the museum. The steam engine is accessible to those guests who can climb several steps to see the coal chamber and ring the steam engine's bell.
The Main Building
A walking the path through a variety of Florida-friendly flowers and plants leads to the main building where visitors are greeted by a giant alligator (no need to fear, it’s stuffed).
The main building houses a wide variety of historical artifacts related to the Seminole Wars, Civil War, World War I, and World War II, a room full of beautiful quilts on display, as well as a First Ladies of Florida doll collection.
One of my favorite parts of this building is the doctor’s office, packed with old medical tools, medicine bottles, a wheelchair, and a dental chair.
Like many museums, this one has an quaint gift shop with cane syrup, books, and other souvenirs to commemorate your visit to the museum.
I have to start this section by saying why the Overstreet House tops my list as one of the best buildings to visit at the museum. I have visited many pioneer sites in Florida, and few of them allowed visitors to go up the stairs.
If you’re wondering what in the world I’m referring to, it’s this – many museums block off the upstairs portion of the houses, especially for self-guided tours. But not here.
In this beautiful two-story, 1860s farmhouse, visitors may access both the first and second story to experience what it would have felt like to live in a farmhouse during this era. There’s a fully stocked kitchen, sitting room, and dining room on the lower floor. The museum has furnished the upstairs rooms, which contain antique sewing machines, children’s toys, and the aforementioned chamber pots.
A visit to the museum wouldn’t be complete without a stroll through the Lacoochee School House, the Methodist Church, and the Blanton Packing House, where visitors get a taste of Florida’s historic orange industry (not literally; the oranges in the packing house are plastic and I don’t recommend eating them).
I can only scratch the surface of all the great things to see and do at this museum in one post. So here are a few things to keep in mind when coming to visit the museum:
Best Time to Visit
The museum’s buildings are spread out across their 21-acre property. If you visit during the summer months, expect to get your sweat on. Likewise, if the chance of rain is high for the day you plan to visit, either bring an umbrella, or wait for the sun to return (it won’t take long).
How to Get There
Address: 15602 Pioneer Museum Road, Dade City, Florida 33523
From Tampa: Go North on I-75 to Exit 285 (State Road 52). Continue on SR 52 heading East.
From Orlando: Take FL-50 West toward Clermont. Turn left on US-Hwy 301 heading South.
What to Bring
The sun is pretty intense in central throughout most of the year, making sunscreen a must. You’ll also want to bring a camera and wear comfortable shoes. The terrain is not difficult, but the ground here is uneven in some places.
The Pioneer Florida Museum & Village is ADA accessible. Trained service animals are allowed. No pets. For information on Guided Tours, call their office at 352-567-0262. The museum is closed Sundays and Mondays. For the most up-to-date information, you can check out the museum’s website here: https://www.pioneerfloridamuseum.org/
After visiting the museum, you’ll definitely want to check out downtown Dade City to see some adorable locally owned shops and restaurants.
Looking for other fun, low-key things to do in the area? Check out these 3 Charming Small Towns in West Central Florida!
Have you visited the Pioneer Florida Museum & Village before? Do you plan to go? If so, please drop a comment below!