Founded in 1886, Arcadia, Florida had approximately 7,600 residents at the last census.
It is the county seat of DeSoto County, located inland from the Gulf of Mexico, on the south-central part of the state’s west coast.
Arcadia is about an hour’s drive east of Sarasota and an hour’s drive north of Fort Myers. While it’s close to many wonderful beaches, the area is generally more associated with cattle ranches and the Florida Prairies than sand and surf.
Here are 15 things to do in and around Arcadia, Florida.
1. Morgan Park
Located north of the Peace River on Florida Route 70, Morgan Park consists of nearly 250 acres of preserved natural areas filled with amenities and activity options that are free to visit.
A paved trail runs the length of the park and is suitable for strollers and those using wheelchairs.
Dogs are allowed in the park as long as they are on a leash and cleaned up afterwards, and trails meander through saw palmetto and scenic rivers. Considering the park’s proximity to large urban centers, a variety of animals and stunning natural landscapes can often be seen.
2. Slim’s BBQ & Grill
The southern part of Florida’s Atlantic coast is often associated with luxury retail centers, exclusive resorts, and high-priced fusion cuisine, but there are still plenty of affordable family dining venues that serve hearty meals at reasonable prices.
Located on South Brevard Avenue in Arcadia, Slim’s BBQ & Grill has been a locally owned family business for nearly six years.
Their menu includes a variety of barbecue options, including ribs, brisket, and chicken with several sauces. They also have great steaks, salads and desserts, including the perennial favorite key lime pie and cheesecake made with Florida citrus.
3. DeSoto County Courthouse
The DeSoto County Courthouse was built in the early 20th century and is one of the best-preserved Revival buildings in the area.
While the iconic red brick courthouse is no longer in use, it is adjacent to the one currently used in the heart of the Arcadia Historic District on East Oak Street. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1984.
Located in a quaint and walkable area close to businesses, restaurants and shops, it’s the perfect place for a buffet afternoon hike before dinner or happy hour.
4. Arcadia Peace River Charter
The Peace River flows through downtown Arcadia and is one of the area’s main attractions for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
For those who would rather experience the great outdoors but let others handle all the little details, booking a trip with Arcadia Peace River Charters will be a smart choice.
They offer private and bus tours with knowledgeable local captains and guides, and charters often include the chance to see plenty of wildlife while learning about the history, culture, and ecology of the area.
Sunset tours are also available, and charter flights can be tailored to guests’ age and interests.
5. Watermelon Festival
Watermelons have always been a mainstay of Florida agriculture, and the DeSoto County Watermelon Festival is an annual event that draws crowds from far and wide.
The festival takes place in May, and the weather in Florida is picturesque. It takes place at Veterans Park along the Peace River.
In addition to a truckload of delicious watermelons and other delicacies, the festival features beauty pageants, boating competitions, live entertainment, and the wildly popular watermelon seed spit contest.
Previous guests have likened the festival to a mini-state fair with tons of food, exhibits and activities to keep everyone satisfied and entertained for hours.
6. DeSoto County Fairgrounds
No matter where you find yourself in the country, county fairs are an annual event that almost always includes lots of great activities, great food, and an all-around family-friendly vibe, and they’re often less expensive than many other attractions.
DeSoto County takes place well into January, when the weather is generally pleasant and mild. It’s a week-long event, which means you can visit multiple times.
The fair includes many livestock events, beauty pageants, live music, and even bull riding. Since most suppliers are local, most of the money spent on site will stay in the community.
7. Platt Branch Wildlife and Environmental Area Trail
The Platko Wildlife and Environmental Area Trail is a popular natural escape destination for those who like to get away from the crowds and experience the great outdoors.
Comprised of grassy scrub, pine forests, and seasonally filled and drained wetlands, the trails meander through a variety of environments that are home to a variety of Florida wildlife.
Turtles, snakes and foxes are common species, along with a variety of birds – from raptors and woodpeckers to waterfowl and wading birds.
The most popular trail is a 5-mile loop that usually takes an hour to complete. Many tourists bring drinks and snacks, and have picnics along the way.
8. Arcadia Peace River Campground
While the summer weather around Arcadia can be very hot, humid and oppressive, it is perfect for the outdoors most of the year. Arcadia Peace River Campground would be a great choice for those who prefer the breeze and stars to the expensive hotel and buffet breakfasts.
Nearly 80 acres of grounds are located along the scenic Peace River, and popular nearby activities include kayaking, fishing, biking and bird watching.
Open to campers and RVs, the park’s amenities include ample showers and bathrooms, built-in BBQ grills. Bicycles and golf carts are also available for rent.
9. Arcadia Municipal Golf Course
Arcadia Municipal Golf Course is open year-round except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Many savvy local golfers consider it one of the best values in the area.
It is open most days from 7am to 9pm and features 18 scenic holes approximately 6,100 yards from the blue tee.
Typically a round is completed in three to four hours, and there are a variety of tees available for children, seniors and women who prefer to play on the red tee.
It’s a par 71 course with Bermuda grass and a variety of sand and water hazards to keep even the most seasoned golfer on their toes.
10. Myaka River State Park
Florida is home to a variety of state and national parks. For many travelers to the Sunshine State, they are where they choose to spend most of their time.
They’re usually inexpensive and offer guests lots of fun, educational, and calorie-burning activities. Myaka River State Park is one of the most popular parks for those in the Arcadia area.
One of the largest parks in the region, Myakka River State Park consists of nearly 60 square miles of undeveloped land, a diverse environment and a variety of wildlife.
Cycling, fishing and kayaking are popular park activities, and guided tour options are also available.
11. Warm Mineral Spring
Standing for long periods of time in the often brutal Florida sun does weaken some travelers’ stamina. For those in need of some natural remedies, there’s no better place than the warm mineral springs of nearby North Harbor.
The natural hot springs gushing to the surface contain more than 20 minerals that are said to soothe skin, muscles and bones, leaving bathers with an overall feeling of calm.
Surrounded by lush trees, the spring is an alligator-free environment unlike many of Florida’s natural recreation sites.
Hot springs attract many foreign tourists, so you might feel like you’ve been transported to a spa in Eastern Europe.
12. Catania Winery
Although Florida is not as traditional a wine region as California’s Napa Valley, it has undergone a phenomenal renaissance over the past few decades and now boasts an astonishing array of vineyards and wineries producing award-winning wines product.
Located in Englewood, Florida, Catania’s Winery has been producing wine for 3 years and is one of the oldest producers in the state.
The winery is a favorite stop for traveling wine lovers, especially known for its full-bodied reds and light, fruity whites.
The winery’s gift shop is a great place to stock up before heading home, and they also have an impressive selection of olive oils.
13. Port Charlotte Beach Park
Arcadia isn’t a beach town, but it’s close enough to many beaches to make day trips to the coast a popular activity.
Port Charles Beach Park is conveniently located on Harbor Avenue near Port Charlotte.
The park is open daily from 6am to 9pm. Besides swimming and sunbathing, fishing, snorkeling, kayaking and beach volleyball are also popular activities.
Parks and beaches are also close to several shopping and dining attractions. Many tourists choose to leave for a few afternoons when the sun is at their hottest, and return between noon and early evening.
14. Charlotte County Cultural Center
The Charlotte County Cultural Center is housed in a historic building that is 5 years old.
It has undergone some major upgrades, including state-of-the-art lighting and sound, but it still retains its original charm.
Over the years, the center has hosted big names in live entertainment such as The Amazing Kreskin and Brenda Lee.
Many performances are locally produced; their activities range from contemporary and classical music to comedy, guest speakers and musicians. Check out the events calendar on their website for a schedule of your visit.
15. Sebring International Speedway
Since the early ’50s, Sebring International Speedway has hosted the annual road race, the oldest of its kind in the country.
Before it became a runway, the land was an old Army Air Corps bomber crew training facility called Hendricks Field. Now, it’s the site of a grueling 12-hour race that tests the endurance of man and machine.
During the games held in the third week of March, the town is full of fans, vendors and entertainment. Even for those who aren’t fans of racing, this is a great event that should really be experienced.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Arcadia, FL (FL)
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