Seeking dinos, drinkable dessert in Plant City

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Dinosaur World in Plant City, Fla.

Dinosaurs roam -- well, not exactly -- at Dinosaur World in Plant City. (COURTESY DINOSAUR WORLD)

About as far as I typically venture into Plant City is the few blocks it takes to go from Interstate 4 to Buddy Freddy's buffet on Thonotosassa Road.

What would it take, aside from a strawberry festival, for me to explore further? How about Plant City's Parkesdale Farm Market being named among "America's Best" for drinkable desserts in a poll in the September issue of Food Network Magazine?

And to burn off the calories, let's follow dessert with a stroll through Dinosaur World, that place with the big dinosaur statues that you point at when you whiz by Exit 17 on I-4 without stopping to check it out.

It all started out fine.

Taking the recommendation of several locals, I stopped for an early lunch at Johnson Barbeque (1407 MLK Blvd.; After all, a guy can't have dessert on an empty stomach. Johnson's has been in Plant City since 1954 and the Grandpa's Lunch Special (1/4-pound pork sandwich, with side and a drink for $6.79) was tasty enough to put this place on my map as a pit stop on Orlando- Tampa road trips.

Alas, I can't report on the award-winning fare at Parkesdale Farm, on West Baker Street across from the Strawberry Festival grounds. The place was closed for vacation, something that wasn't mentioned when I looked up the hours on its website (

Sitting in the empty parking lot, with no prospect of drinkable dessert, the only thing to do was to go to Dinosaur World ( without it. Value is its claim to fame and it is inexpensive: $12.75 for adult admission, $9.75 for children.

For that price, you gander at 150 motionless statues of dinosaurs. How realistic is it? The Tyrannosaurus Rex had a Gatorade bottle in his mouth. No air-conditioning, not even a ceiling fan. No snack bar, just a Pringles vending machine. Hungry Howie's delivers to the parking lot. For real.

Now I really needed a drinkable dessert. Thankfully, I found one at Keel & Curley Winery (, which offers strawberry wine freezes in air-conditioned comfort. It was an award-winner.
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