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Why You Need To Visit Pasco County, Florida

things to do in pasco county, florida
*A big thank you to Visit Pasco for sponsoring my trip!

Looking for fun things to do in Pasco County, Florida?

Well then, you’re in the right place!

The truth is, when I mentioned I was visiting Pasco to friends, most couldn’t even name what state it was in.

And quite honestly, neither could I — which made an invitation by their tourism board even more exciting.

Look:

There are reasons popular cities are popular; but there are also so many under-the-radar destinations worth exploring.

And Pasco is one of them.

Here’s why.

Psst! Don’t forget to pin this for later! 

Planning a Florida vacation? While Miami and Tampa Bay are enticing Florida travel destinations, I want to put the fun-filled Pasco County on your radar, home to a number of active adventures, like scenic cycling routes, ziplining, hiking trails, wildlife viewing and more. Click the pin to learn why you should add Pasco County to your list of Florida travel ideas! #florida #floridavacation #floridatravel #fitnessvacation #healthyvacation

Pasco County Hotels: Hilton Garden Inn Tampa Suncoast Parkway

This Pasco hotel was well-located — especially for the itinerary below — and really helped me get into the active adventure mindset.

Not only was there a 24-hour fitness room and an outdoor pool, but also a zen room for meditating and unwinding in a candlelit space.

In my room, the Keurig machine and lovely forest views made it easy to wake up and greet the day.

fun things to do in pasco county, florida

This was a great space to enjoy the breakfast buffet each morning. Photo via Hilton Garden Inn Tampa Suncoast Parkway.

As for food, you can’t beat a buffet breakfast that includes made-to-order hot dishes for $10!

Pro tip:

Hilton has a free-to-join Hilton Honors rewards program, allowing you to earn points that can be redeemed for free hotel nights. Plus, you get free Wi-Fi and digital check-in opportunities.

Looking to peruse all your Pasco County hotel options?

Use this helpful hotel search box to find and book the best local properties:

 

Pasco County Destinations

While Hilton Garden Inn Tampa Suncoast Parkway is located in Lutz, there are numerous Pasco County destinations worth exploring (which is why you’ll want to rent a car for this Florida trip).

To help you familiarize yourself with this West Central Florida region, here is a map of Pasco County:

fun things to do in pasco county florida

Pasco County map. Photo via the US Census Bureau.

While Central Pasco tends to be more established, with premium shopping and entertainment complexes, West Pasco is where you’ll find a more ‘no shoes-no shirt-no problem mindset’.

The good news:

If you copy my Pasco County itinerary, you won’t need to drive more than 30 minutes to get to any activity.

Getting Around Pasco

You’ll want a car to visit each of the different Pasco County cities and towns.

For this Florida trip, I rented from Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

I’ve been an avid Enterprise user for years, mainly because they’ll pick you up from your hotel and bring you to their rental outpost.

Moreover, they have a rewards program where you can earn free rental days, and offer competitive prices.

That being said, I know everyone has their own favorite car rental brands.

To help you make the best choice for your Florida road trip, I’d created this handy dandy car rental comparison chart:

Best Rental Car Rates 2018

BrandLocationPerksBest Rate GuaranteeRewards ProgramCheck Availability
Enterprise Rent-A-Car7,600 locations+ in 85+ countriesThey'll pick you upN/AYesCheck Prices
Avis Rent-A-Car5,500+ locations in 165+ countriesPay upfront discount + AARP discountYesYesCheck Prices
Budget Rent-A-Car3,000+ locations in 120+ countriesPay upfront discount + AARP discountYesYesCheck Prices
Car Rental 817,000+ locations in 125+ countriesPay upfront discount N/AN/ACheck Prices
EuropCarOperates in 140+ countries Every rental = 2 trees plantedYesYesCheck Prices

How Far Is Pasco County From Tampa Bay?

While Pasco is certainly worth visiting on its own, it also makes an excellent trip in conjunction with Tampa Bay, especially as you fly into Tampa International Airport for both destinations.

From Tampa Bay — whether you’re in Downtown Tampa or coming from their airport — it takes about 20-40 minutes by car, depending on which Pasco County cities you plan to visit.

Fun Things To Do In Pasco County, Florida

Ready to dive into my outdoor-inspired, action-packed Florida itinerary?

Keep reading to learn my top picks for fun things to do in Pasco County, the Florida destination you’ve never heard of, but need to visit!

1. The Biking Is Scenic (Even For Beginners)

In almost every destination I visit, I try to explore at least a little by bike.

Well, in Pasco I beat my personal record, cycling 23 beautiful miles.

And the best part:

It wasn’t even that hard!

The entire ride was flat; and while my legs were tired on the way home — I recommend bringing some snacks, or even edible energy gel — I never felt overwhelmed with exhaustion.

 

Here was my route:

I started at Trinity Cyclery, where possibly the most friendly bike staff I’ve ever encountered rented me a cruiser bike ($25/day).

From there, I cycled 3.9 miles to Jay B Starkey Wilderness Park, seemlessly cycling onto a 7.5-mile paved trail.

The trail took me through a mix of landscapes, from dense canopy forest to open fields with breezy palms, hawks flying gracefully overhead.

One neat installation:

A pathway featuring the solar system, allowing you to cycle from the sun to Pluto. While one side of each plaque showed the planets themselves, the other offered relevant facts.

The paved path eventually attached to the also paved 42-mile Suncoast Trail, which runs parallel to the Suncoast Highway.

Depending on your energy level, you can bike for a while or do a short bit of the trail.

Just remember you also need to bike back!

fun things to do in pasco county, florida

Exploring beautiful Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park

2. The Wildlife Viewing Is Abundant

Now, I spent two days in Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park, a must-visit attraction if you’re wanting to experience Florida outdoors.

My first day in the 8,000-acre park was spent doing the above-mentioned bike ride.

On the second day, I explored on foot via the hiking and nature trails.

What’s neat is there is so much Florida wildlife you’re almost guaranteed to see a few creatures. It was seriously moving gazing up at the red-shouldered hawks gliding over open fields.

Bonus:

I also saw my first armadillo and my first fox squirrel!

fun things to do in pasco county, florida

My first fox squirrel sighting

Like with the biking, the treks are scenic and flat, meaning you don’t need to be wildly athletic to appreciate this outdoor attraction in Florida.

3. You Can Give Your Adventures An Aerial Twist

Active Florida experiences abound on land in Pasco…

…as well as in the air.

Start your morning early with American Balloons, seeing the county from up to 3,000-feet above.

Then, after a cup of coffee or two — hey, the hot air balloon flight check-in is at 6am — head to TreeHoppers Aerial Adventure Park to tackle their eight different ropes courses.

The courses range from easy (10 feet above the ground) to hard (50 feet off the ground and more physically demanding), so you’ve definitely got options.

My highlight:

The many zip lines within each course!

You’ll be responsible for your own carabiners, too, and will leave with some serious adventure skills knowledge.

4. Their Tacos Are Worth The Trip

Whether I’m in Florida or actually south of the border, I’m always seeking out the best Mexican food.

#GiveMeAllTheTacos

On this trip, my happy Mexican feast was savored at Capital Taco, one of the best restaurants in Pasco County.

fun things to do in Pasco County Florida

My delicious Capital Taco lunch. SO BIG!

While there are a few locations, I visited their Wesley Chapel eatery; an unassuming hole in the wall within a strip mall.

Inside, a makeshift beach shack offers up a dizzying array of ingredient combinations — all of which can be made into your choice of taco, burrito, salad, nacho platter, or rice or bean bowl.

Warning:

Portion sizes are enormous!

5. They Know How To Chill Out

When making your list of fun things to do in Pasco County, one essential Florida attraction that must be noted is Gill Dawg Marina & Grill.

What is Gill Dawg?

The easier question to answer is probably what isn’t Gill Dawg.

First of all, this Port Richey attraction offers a marina where you can rent kayaks, paddleboards and pontoon boats.

Additionally, they’re a hot spot for Port Richey events, with a waterfront restaurant and tiki bar as well as two stages for live music.

To me, the best travel experiences mix active adventures and laid-back fun.

Gill Dawg allowed me to spend the morning burning calories — dolphin- and bird-watching from my kayaking trip — before kicking back to some tunes, “Rum Runner” in hand.

It also didn’t hurt that their staff included some of the most accomodating and fun people I’ve ever met.

I’m pretty sure this photo says it all:

fun things to do in pasco county, florida

These bartenders are the best!

In short, Gill Dawg doesn’t disappoint if you’re looking for fun places in Florida.

6. Island Hopping Is A Thing

Staying in Port Richey, you can rent a boat and explore some of the nearby islands.

One fun option:

Durney Key Island, an uninhabited stretch with a beautiful beach.

Gill Dawg rents pontoon boats, and also does tours to this island.

fun things to do in pasco county florida

Chillin’ out on the idyllic Durney Key Island is a must-have experience in Pasco County. Photo via Visit Pasco.

From New Port Richey — another one of Pasco County’s cities that’s adjacent to Port Richey — you can charter a boat to the 403-acre Anclote Key Preserve State Park.

While swimming and beach relaxation are the main draws, you also don’t want to miss the boardwalk and 1887 lighthouse located on the southern end.

Over the years it has been vandalized and weathered, though the Florida Park Service and the Gulf Island Alliance worked together to restore it.

Today, it sits in its original state.

fun things to do in pasco county florida

Isn’t Anclote Key Preserve State Park gorgeous? Photo via Visit Pasco.

This all being said, the northernmost point is also worth a visit, with its azure waters and tropical vibe.

Enjoy bird-watching?

Anclote Key Preserve State Park is also home to over 40 bird species!

Important note:

There is no water or food in the park, so make sure to pack plenty of your own.

Companies that do the journey from New Port Richey to Anclote Key Preserve State Park include:

  • Windsong Charters (727) 859-0213
  • Island Paradise Charters (877) 774-0589
  • Private Island Charters (727) 534-8818

Call for more information about this unforgettable Florida experience.

7. Florida Fruit Picking Goes Beyond Oranges

There’s no doubt Florida has some of the world’s best oranges.

In Pasco, you can pick oranges at Hancock Groves in Dade City.

But that’s not all.

During my Pasco County trip, I spent time picking blueberries at Starkey Blueberry Farm, which was a completely new experience for me.

fun things to do in Pasco County, Florida

Picking fruit at Starkey Blueberry Farm in Pasco County, Florida

The U-Pick farm features 47 acres of blueberries, with eight varieties to choose from.

Not only that, but the scenery is gorgeous!

Make a right out of their farmstand area where they sell fresh produce, and you’ll head toward lush forest, the endless rows of berries hugged by Spanish moss.

In the front, a wooden swing sits in front of lovely beautiful lake, offering the perfect respite after your Florida fruit picking adventure.

fun things to do in pasco county florida

Swinging the day away at Starkey Blueberry Farm in Pasco County

And for the type of fruit you can drink — and get buzzed on — head to Strong Tower Vineyard & Winery.

Here you can sip complimentary wine tastings, take a free wine tour and even partake in their U-Pick.

They also host loads of fun events, from yoga in the vines to wine glass painting classes.

8. Their Cocktails Are Creative

You don’t need to travel to Miami for a great craft cocktail.

Actually, their drinks aren’t just tasty, but are sometimes made with fire.

A blowtorch sets a slab of cedarwood on fire, which the cocktail glass is placed over it. This gives your drink — specifically your “Old Fashioned”, at Craft Street Kitchen — a smokey essence.

By the way, this cocktail would certainly be about $15 back home in NYC; however, in Pasco it costs less than $10!

9. They Know How To Do Fusion Food

Florida has a unique culinary identity. It’s a southern destination with a tropical vibe, and its proximity to the Caribbean also has influence.

I mean, have you ever heard of “Floribbean cuisine“?

It’s a thing.

What I also discovered while looking for great restaurants in Pasco County, is they know how to mix their unique local flavors with food cultures from far away.

Like Italy.

One of the best meals I had was at the Noble Crust in Wesley Chapel, known for its southern-meets-Italian menu.

fun things to do in Paco County, Florida

Delicious Ceasar salad. Photo via the Noble Crust.

The space is beautiful, with a missing fourth wall giving way to an outdoor patio lined with firepits.

Candles adorn the tables, while the bar and indoor tables sit beneath an array of hip chandeliers.

When I was there I enjoyed the mussels and a Ceasar salad — with an egg on top, because, why not?

I also would love to get back for their brunch.

How tasty does this chicken and waffles look?

fun things to do in pasco county, florida

Yum! Chicken and waffles. Photo via the Noble Crust

And, like many great restaurants in Pasco County, the food is incredibly affordable. Actually, you can easily get a main meal for less than $20. 

What also struck me about the Noble Crust was the location inside the Shops at Wiregrass, an “open-air lifestyle center.”

The palm tree-lined, fountain adorned complex is chock-full of fun things to do in Pasco County.

There are restaurants, shopping, a kid’s club and even a slew of local Wesley Chapel events, like free Yoga on the Lawn on Monday evenings during the warmer months, and a weekend Fresh Market.

What fun things to do in Pasco County, Florida would you add to this list? Please share in the comments below! 

*A big thanks to Visit Pasco for sponsoring my trip!

*Some of the above links are affiliate links, meaning I make a small commission if a purchase is made, at no extra cost to you. I only recommend brands I truly love and think you would, too. Thank you for reading! 

Liked this post? Pin it for later: 

Here's why Pasco County, Florida should be on your Florida travel ideas list. One, it's home to a number of active Florida adventures and outdoor experiences, like beautiful biking trails, scenic hiking trails, ziplining, fruit picking, wine tasting, hot air ballooning and more. Two, the Florida restaurants and bars here are fantastic! Make Pasco your next Florida vacation pick! #FloridaTravelGuide #FloridaGuide #AdventureTravel #USATravel #TravelGuides

 

 

Jessie Festa standing in front of grafitti wall

Hi, I’m Jessie on a journey!

I take you beyond the guidebook to inspire you to live your best life through travel. Come join me!

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3 Comments

  1. Lori on May 19, 2018 at 9:35 am

    There’s a lot more to Florida the deeper you go, right? I love the Gulf Coast and Pasco looks like a place I need to explore more 🙂

  2. Thomas and Iris (Came to Wander) on May 20, 2018 at 7:53 am

    There’s so much information in this post! Thank you so much for sharing this.

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