Rural History Museum

Rural History Museum

Reliving Rural Florida's History...

When to Visit

Interested in visiting? Come see us during one of our special events or the Florida State Fair in February.
Or contact us to schedule a tour.

Cracker Country is not open daily to the public.

Smithsonian Museum Day

Smithsonian Museum Day

September 22, 2018
10:00am-4:00pm

Experience rural Florida's history for FREE.

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Tall Tales of Old Florida

Tall Tales of Old Florida

October 20, 2018
6:30pm-10:00pm

Meet our story tellers who tell tales so wild that it will keep you on the edge of your seat!

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Christmas in the Country

Christmas in the Country

December 8, 2018
10:00am-4:00pm

Holiday crafts, hand-made goods, simple decorations of the past

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The Florida State Fair

The Florida State Fair

February 7- 18, 2019
Open until 6pm

Discover the Fun of the Florida State Fair.

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Schedule a Tour

Schedule a Tour

Contact us to schedule a guided group tour through the museum.

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Who are we?

About Us

Cracker Country is Tampa’s only living history museum and is located on the Florida State Fairgrounds. The museum holds a collection of 13 original buildings dating from 1870-1912 which were relocated from across the state of Florida. Our buildings range from public buildings like our Terry Store and Okahumpka Train Depot, to private buildings like our Carlton and Smith homes. Today, the historically furnished buildings recreate the lifestyles of the past, and costumed interpreters portray daily living as Florida pioneers.

Cracker Country focuses on providing educational opportunities for the public to learn about old Florida.

The term “cracker” dates at least as far back as Shakespeare, who coined it in the play King John. From the early 19th century it was used to describe the hardy, self-reliant and often poor pioneers who migrated from the north in search of a better life in the harsh Florida wilderness. Later, the term became associated with Florida’s rugged cattlemen.

Cattle, descended from stock left behind by the Spanish, roamed freely in the Florida woodlands. Cow hunters used whips to flush the cattle from the underbrush and drive them to ports for shipment north or to Cuba. Whips were not used to strike the cattle. They were popped in the air to make a “crack” sound to get the cattle moving. The sound traveled great distances, making the whip an essential communication tool between cowmen. A commonly used 120 mile cattle drive route across the south central part of the state is known today as the Florida Cracker Trail.

In 1977, Doyle E. Carlton, Jr., a member of the Florida State Fair Authority, along with his wife Mildred W. Carlton, felt the need for an exhibit to bring the rich history of early rural Florida to life. Their vision began in 1978, when the Carlton House was donated by family members and moved from Hardee County to a four acre tract on the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa. Soon after the Smith House followed and a dream began to come true. First opening to guests during the 1979 State Fair, the museum grew by leaps and bounds in that year with 7 buildings moved from all across the state of Florida and restored on site to their original turn-of-the-twentieth century appearance. Additional buildings were added over the years with the Terry Store arriving in 1992. The Carltons' vision continues to shine bright and educate a whole new generation of Floridians about their past. Cracker Country continues to be supported today through their love and generosity.

Right: Portrait of Mildred W. & Doyle E. Carlton Jr.

We Are Unique

What to See and Do

13 Historic Buildings

Tour our collection of buildings that have been relocated from across the state.

Historic Dress Educators

Knowledgeable interpreters dressed in period outfits at each site

Hands-on

Get involved and experience a day in the life in rural Florida's history

Crafts and Demonstrations

Discover skills and home-made crafts of Florida's pioneers

What to See and Do

 

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Directions to Cracker Country
Florida State Fairgrounds Physical Address: 4800 US Hwy. 301 North, Tampa, FL 33610

There are 3 entrances into the Fairgrounds property: US Hwy. 301, Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. and Orient Road. MLK, Jr. Blvd. and US Hwy. 301 are only open when there are events ongoing at the Fairgrounds. The Orient Road entrance is accessible seven days a week with 24-hour security present. Please use the proper entrance identified for each event occurring at the Fairgrounds.

HART Bus Schedule Information can be found on http://www.gohart.org/.

 

Driving Directions to the Fairgrounds

Please note that for School Tours you will be entering the Fairgrounds via the Orient Rd Service Entrance.

 

From Tampa or St. Pete/Clearwater via I-275 to I-4 Eastbound

U.S. Hwy. 301 Entrance Gate: Travel on I-275 North toward I-4/Orlando and merge onto I-4 East via Exit 45B. Take Exit #7 (U.S. Hwy. 301 South) and stay in the right lane heading south for ¼ mile. Turn right into the Fairgrounds entrance. Do NOT go past the light at MLK, Jr. Blvd.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. Entrance Gate: Travel on I-275 North toward I-4/Orlando and merge onto I-4 East via Exit 45B. Take Exit #5 (Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd./SR-574 West) and turn right off the ramp. Proceed past the Orient Rd. light and the Fairgrounds entrance is on the left-hand side.

Orient Rd. Entrance Gate: From I-4 Eastbound only, take Exit #6 for Orient Rd. and turn right off the ramp. There will be a sign for the Fairgrounds entrance immediately on the left-hand side. Check in at the Security Guard gate for entry.

 

From Lakeland/Orlando area via I-4 Westbound

U.S. Hwy. 301 Entrance Gate: Travel on I-4 West toward Tampa to Exit #7 toward US-92 W / HILLSBOROUGH AVE and merge onto US-301 south toward RIVERVIEW. Head south ¼ mile and turn right into the Fairgrounds entrance. Do NOT go past the light at MLK, Jr. Blvd.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. Entrance Gate: Travel on I-4 West toward Tampa to Exit #5 (Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.). Turn left off the ramp. Proceed past the Orient Rd. light and the Fairgrounds entrance is immediately on the left.

Orient Rd. Entrance Gate: Travel on I-4 West toward Tampa to Exit #7 toward US-92 W / HILLSBOROUGH AVE and merge onto E. HILLSBOROUGH AVE. Proceed to the light at Orient Road and turn left. There will be a sign for the Fairgrounds entrance on the left-hand side. Check in at the Security Guard gate for entry.

 

Traveling from I-75 North/South (from Ocala/Sarasota area)

U.S. Hwy. 301 Entrance Gate: Follow the same directions as when traveling to the MLK, Jr. Blvd. entrance, however make a right-hand turn at the light at U.S. Hwy. 301. The Fairgrounds entrance will be on the left-hand side across from the Holiday Inn Express and the Winghouse Restaurant.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. Entrance Gate: Traveling north on I-75, take Exit #260 (B) and merge LEFT onto DR MARTIN LUTHER KING JR BLVD (aka SR-574 West). Traveling south on I-75, take Exit #260 and merge RIGHT onto DR MARTIN LUTHER KING JR BLVD. Go west for 2.5 miles and pass the light at U.S. Hwy. 301. Turn right into the Fairgrounds entrance.

Orient Rd. Entrance Gate: Follow the same directions as when traveling to the MLK, Jr. Blvd. entrance, however keep proceeding on MLK, Jr. Blvd. to the next light which is ORIENT RD. Make a right at Orient Road. There will be a sign for the Fairgrounds entrance on the right-hand side. Check in at the Security Guard gate for entry.