Arcadia, Florida is a town of about 7,600 people located in the Florida Heartland.
This part of Florida is cattle country, although citrus and watermelons are important also.
Cowboys are seen everywhere in Arcadia and the surrounding farms and villages. These are not drug store cowboys; they are the real thing.
Some historians say that a Reverend Hendry named the town in honor of Arcadia Albritton, a daughter of pioneer settlers who baked him a birthday cake.
In the 1880's Arcadia was the county seat of a very large county - DeSoto County - that would eventually be divided into several smaller ones.
Charlotte, Hardee, Glades and Highlands Counties were broken out of DeSoto County, with Arcadia remaining the County Seat of DeSoto County.
These lands, and those of neighboring Polk County, are in the heart of south central and southwest Florida had some of the most extensive cattle ranching operations in the state.
On Thanksgiving Day 1905 Arcadia was nearly destroyed by a huge fire that burned down most of the business district. Most of the older buildings in town are dated from the years after that event.
In World War One, Arcadia was home to Carlstrom Field.
It has quite a history through the years. It was used for pilot training during World War One, along with nearby Dorr Field, and closed by 1923.
The buildings were sold off or torn down by 1926 and the land was leased to area farmers and ranchers. Then, it was activated again in 1941 for training World War Two pilots, with brand new buildings, and run by Embry-Riddle Academy.
In addition to US pilots, Embry-Riddle was also contracted to train the Royal Air Force out of this spot, from 1941-1943.
Closing in 1945, it was sold to the State and a psychiatric hospital was opened in 1947, until its closing in 2002.
After that the old base served as the Desoto County Juvenile Correctional Complex, which was a juvenile facility for girls. That closed in 2011 due to budget cuts and is now privately owned.
A few of the old buildings used for pilot training are still standing, and a plaque on the administration building memorializes the old Carlstrom Field.
You can still see the outlines of the old airfields on aerial photographs of the area.
Arcadia is a Florida Main Street community, and downtown Arcadia has been developed into a pleasant location with at least 25 antique shops, many restaurants and mini-parks.
While Arcadia City Center is only 4 square miles, it manages to honor its history, draw antique lovers from all over, and offer something for all interests.
The city's historic district is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Antique lovers throughout the state recognize Arcadia as the best places to come when looking for old treasures.
You can take a walking tour any day, but on the fourth Saturday of each month the downtown streets are turned into a festival where vendors sell you art, produce, and other things.
The city of Arcadia was voted to hold the "Best Rodeo" by Florida Monthly Magazine. Most prominent of these is Arcadia All-Florida Championship Rodeo, an annual event held in March.
Run by the non-profit organization, Arcadia All-Florida Championship Rodeo, Inc., it has grown from its early local pioneer days in 1928 to a national sport drawing athletes from around the country.
Events include bareback, steer wrestling, barrel racing and bull-riding. Cowboys from all over the United States enter this competition each year.
Winners look forward to heading to the National finals in Las Vegas.
The annual Watermelon Festival is held each May during harvest season. The celebration includes parades, car shows, music, and other events.
Peace River Campground is unusual as it's family-owned, with 160 acres of land including a mile of riverfront, has a small store for amenities and organized activities for the whole family.
Peace River Charters offers private and public swamp boat and airboat tours and canoe tours, horseback tours and canoe rentals for those who want to venture off alone.
Canoe Outpost is the oldest and largest paddlesport outfitter in Florida and is available along Peace River, just behind the campground. You can rent canoes, kayaks and full camping supplies including tents and sleeping bags.
Arcadia also has a municipal golf course, open for visitors. In addition to the course, it has a practice facility, a driving range and offers clinics and lessons, all with very affordable prices.
When you're in Arcadia, swing west a little and visit Solomon's Castle in the tiny community of Ona. The castle is one of Florida's most unusual tourist attractions.
Arcadia Antique Fair, W Oak St, Arcadia, FL 34266, (863) 993-5105. A treasure trove for antique lovers, the fair is held every fourth Saturday of the month. Shop for unique vintage finds and relics from yesteryears. The atmosphere is vibrant, and you'll enjoy the friendly banter with local vendors.
Peace River Charters, 2998 NW Hwy 70, Arcadia, FL 34266, (863) 444-0693. Explore the hidden beauty of the Peace River on a thrilling airboat tour. Admire the rich wildlife, including alligators, birds, and turtles in their natural habitat. It’s truly one of the interesting things to do in Arcadia, Florida.
The Patterson House, 401 W Hickory St, Arcadia, FL 34266, (863) 494-9311. Step back in time and visit this stunning historical residence. Built in the early 1900s during Florida's boom period, this home offers a glimpse into the region's past.
Arcadia Opera House, 106 W. Hickory St., Arcadia, FL 34266, (863) 494-0114. An iconic landmark rich in history and culture, the theater features intriguing exhibits. You'll learn about Florida's fascinating past through well-crafted displays.
Joshua Citrus, 4135 SE County Rd 760, Arcadia, FL 34266, (863) 494-6166. Experience the sweet and tangy delights at this long-standing family citrus farm. Taste freshly squeezed orange juice or pick your own fruit. This is Florida at its authentic best.
Nav-A-Gator Grill, 9700 Southwest Riverview Cir, Lake Suzy, FL 34269, (941) 627-3474. Just a short drive from Arcadia, this place delivers an exceptional dining experience. With a scenic waterfront location and mouthwatering seafood, it's a favorite among locals and visitors alike.
DeSoto County Fair, 100 Heard St, Arcadia, FL 34266, (863) 993-2941. If you're in town during the fair, you're in for a real treat. Featuring fun rides, agriculture exhibits, live music, and tasty food, it's a celebration of community spirit and Florida's farming legacy.
Fishing and Kayaking in Peace River, (863) 494-6884. The calm, clear waters of the Peace River beckon for a rejuvenating day of fishing and kayaking. With numerous species to catch and breathtaking wildlife to admire, it's a haven for outdoor enthusiasts.
Morgan Park, 2885 SE Strawberry Terrace, Arcadia, FL 34266, (863) 494-2776. A hidden gem with great walking trails and picnic spots. Serene and well-maintained, Morgan Park makes an ideal spot for a leisurely afternoon.
Floating on Peace River, Near Riverside RV Resort, 9770 SW County Rd 769, Arcadia, FL 34269. Make your day memorable by floating down the peaceful Peace River. Rent a tube, sit back, relax and enjoy the comforting murmur of the river as it takes you on a journey.
Horseback Riding at Peace River Adventure, 5100 SE State Rd 31, Arcadia, FL 34266, (941) 875-5164. Saddle up and experience the scenic beauty of Arcadia from the back of a horse. No prior experience is needed, making it a fabulous adventure for beginners.
Gatorama, 6180 US-27, Palmdale, FL 33944, (863) 675-0623. A little further away from Arcadia, Gatorama offers a close encounter with Florida's most famous inhabitants - alligators and crocodiles. Witness exciting live feedings and hold baby gators!
Lettuce Lake, (863) 494-6884. Just a few minutes away from Arcadia, Lettuce Lake is a fishing paradise. The serene surroundings make it a perfect spot to unwind while casting a line for some bass.
TreeUmph Adventure Course, 21805 E State Rd 70, Bradenton, FL 34202, (941) 322-2130. Get your adrenaline pumping at this adventure course. Climb, zip, swing, and challenge yourself amidst a beautiful forest setting.
Arcadia All Florida Championship Rodeo, 124 Heard St, Arcadia, FL 34266, (863) 494-2014. For the ultimate rodeo experience, the All Florida Championship Rodeo is a must-see. Along with traditional rodeo events, the festival features live music, food vendors, and fun family activities. A good place to visit for a taste of authentic Florida culture.
Mary Margaret's Tea and Biscuit, 10 N Polk Ave, Arcadia, FL 34266, (863) 494-0615. Step into a world of Victorian elegance and charm. Enjoy a cup of tea along with delicious homemade biscuits in this delightful spot reminiscent of a bygone era.
Crowley Museum and Nature Center, 16405 Myakka Rd, Sarasota, FL 34240, (941) 322-1000. A drive from Arcadia, nonetheless, the center provides a fun and educational outing. With miles of trails, a pioneer history museum, and hands-on exhibits, it's a unique sanctuary embracing Florida's natural and cultural history.