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Seeing sights, by trolley
With riding and some walking, visitors soak up some Dade City history and culture.
By BARBARA L. FREDRICKSEN
Published June 15, 2007
The Dade City Trolley Tour is an open-air old-fashioned trolley that winds around through Dade City pointing out historical homes, buildings and places.
[Times photo: Zach Boyden-Holmes]
[Times photo: Zach Boyden-Holmes]
The Trolley Tour runs Tuesday through Saturday and starts at the kiosk on Meridian Avenue (left), about a block west of the historic courthouse.
Twenty-five years ago, visitors to Dade City quickly found that, once you'd eaten at the scrumptious Lunch on Limoges and browsed through the attached clothing and gift shop, there wasn't much more to see or do.
My, my, how times have changed.
Thanks to tireless efforts by dedicated volunteers, the county and Dade City Main Street Inc., a trip to Dade City today could easily turn into a two or three-day stay, with so many interesting places to see and so many wonderful places to shop and eat that one day will hardly do it.
Now, thanks in great part to entrepreneur Jim Guedry, Dade City has added the touch that puts this lovely little town on par with other popular tourist destinations.
It's a three-hour "Old Time Florida" trolley tour around downtown and the recently refurbished orange processing plant-turned-business park. The tour, narrated by guide Becki Smith, introduces visitors to the history and culture of this lovingly restored and revitalized town.
Besides being a pleasant ride, it lets visitors spot what they would like to explore later that day or some other time: the historic courthouse, dozens of downtown shops selling gifts, collectibles, antiques and clothing, the Pioneer Florida Museum, and a wide variety of unusual restaurants.
If you're pressed for time, you can take just the Dade City Trolley Tour or the Citrus History Tour, each one a little more than an hour long, and still see and learn a lot.
The Trolley Tour runs Tuesday through Saturday and starts at the kiosk on Meridian Avenue, about a block west of the historic courthouse.
It's open air, so wear something cool and take some sunscreen in the summer.
The best views are from the middle and back seats (the high driver's seat up front obstructs the best sightlines). A semicircle is left open by the chair lift for wheelchairs, which can be strapped down so they don't roll.
The trolley holds 24 people and has two video screens overhead that show old black and white photos of what Dade City looked like in the early days, many of them timed to coincide with a stop before the building as it looks today.
If you're taking the trolley tour only, you are taken back to the starting point. If you're doing the whole tour, you take a break at the Citrus Country Grove gift shop, then continue through the gates of the Dade City Business Center and do the Citrus History Tour before going back to the kiosk.
If you're only doing the Citrus History Tour, you can board a 24-seat tram at the gift shop on U.S. 301 just south of the big water tower.
The history tour includes a walk (wheelchair access available) through a gift fruit processing plant, with four big-screen video shows along the way in case the workers aren't there to demonstrate how it works in person, a ride through a new orange grove and also through the nearby Pioneer Florida Museum, which deserves a half-day itself.
The topper is a stop at the small museum, which has a re-creation of a 1940s-style soda fountain with Coca-Cola memorabilia, a small antique car museum, a local history museum and a 24-seat theater with plush seats and a first-rate, 15-minute film on the history of Dade City, especially its ties to the citrus industry.
A downtown map available at most stores shows where the 30-plus antique, gift and specialty shops are located and points out a baker's dozen neat places to eat (see accompanying story). Most of the stores open at 9 or 10 a.m. and close at 5 or 6 p.m.
Dade City is a terrific walking city, with public rest rooms available off Church Avenue and Eighth Street by the Chamber of Commerce and benches here and there to rest. Make a point of meandering through Dade City Hardware, which recalls a bygone era and has some neat gift items to boot.
If you go
Dade City Trolley Tour
Leaves from 37752 Meridian Ave., Dade City (one block west of the historic courthouse). Rest rooms and free parking available.
9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday (Tour is approximately 1 hour, 20 minutes long)
$9 adults; $8 seniors; $5 children. Reservations (352) 518-0060. Group rates available for 12 or more, all plus tax.
Citrus History Tour
Leaves from Citrus Country Gift Shop, 14950 U.S. 301, Dade City (rest rooms and free parking available)
11 a.m. and 2 and 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday (Tour is approximately 1 hour, 35 minutes)