Know Before You Go
Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, we have introduced enhanced health and safety measures for you, our visitors, and our staff.
Learn more about these efforts for clean safe fun on our reopening page.
Please note: All collaborative hands-on stations in Cracker Country are closed until further notice.
Reliving Rural Florida's History...
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 or elementary school field trip.
Cracker Country is not open daily to the public.
Explore Florida history at the museum and at home!
October TBA, 2020
Gates open at 6:30pm
Meet our story tellers who tell tales so wild that it will keep you on the edge of your seat!
December TBA, 2020
Holiday crafts, hand-made goods, simple decorations of the past
February 11- 22, 2021
Open until 6pm
Discover the Fun of the Florida State Fair.
Contact us to schedule a guided group tour through the museum.
Who are we?
We are an 1890s rural living history museum focusing on hands-on school field trips and opportunities for the public to learn about old Florida.
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
Tour our collection of buildings that have been relocated from across the state.
Knowledgeable interpreters dressed in period outfits at each site
Get involved and experience a day in the life in rural Florida's history
Discover skills and home-made crafts of Florida's pioneers
Upcoming Events, Historical News, Ticket Releases, and Special Programs Designed for You!