Steam rises from the cup of hot coffee sitting snugly in your lap on the front porch. It’s a quiet morning- bird’s singing, crickets chirping and the wind rustling through the trees as the wind chimes dangle from the house next door.
In the distance, children have already begun playing in the front lawn, laughing and giggling as mom calls “Breakfast is ready!” The kids respond with a quick yet polite, “yes ma’am!” as they run inside. Further down is a neighbor on their daily walk, passing every house with a hand wave and a “Hello” to each person sitting outside, enjoying their own cup of coffee.
It’s a place where acknowledging people by their first name and adults with the proper Miss or Mr. is a must, adding a polite hand wave is a given, and using respectful manners is second nature.
Southern hospitality is more than manners and etiquette in the South- it’s a sign of kindness and respect. It’s a feeling of home when you’re not in it and being part of the family when you’re far from it.
Southern hospitality is what Plant City, Florida, does best.
1. The Sparkman House Luxury Bed and Breakfast
Sitting on the porch steps, you take in the view of freshly cut grass and tall trees towering over the streets. Small spots of shade cover brick after brick from an overwhelmingly sunny day. The historic downtown neighborhood looks picture-perfect along with everything else on the wrap-around porch- rocking chairs rocking, swings swinging.
A summer night stay at the Sparkman House Luxury Bed and Breakfast is the perfect way to experience southern hospitality while touring around the charming town of Plant City.
Through the double doors you’re greeted with a scent of familiarity and a sweet “Hey ya’ll, welcome,” as you walk through the doors. It feels like you’re stepping into a scene from the early 1900s with delicate antiques placed neatly on the tables and elegant chandeliers hanging above the wooden floors.
Walk up the wooden staircase that has a rug elegantly draped across the steps. A common area is in the middle of the upstairs space with four bedrooms and a bathroom. Open the door to a rooftop deck to watch the sunrise (or sunset) while drinking a cup of tea or munching on a freshly baked cookie.
The walls are enhanced with elaborate wallpaper, and a stream of light peeking through the window shades reflect a morning glow on the walls. Each room has a name specific to match the theme.
The Caravelle guest room is detailed in deep navy blues for a warm, inviting stay.
The Villanova guest room is bright and vintage with blush and champagne colors to give it a royal touch.
The Palmero guest room is decorated with French design in blue and champagne with each detail adding to the luxurious and magnificent design.
Downstairs is the Davenport guest room. This room gives guests privacy in the back of the house with mahogany, cherry and oakwood used for complementary finishes. The second suite downstairs is the Natchez guest room, which features a canopy bed and models the great Planters’ house of the 19th century for an elaborate finish.
Lastly, the Carriage house is a separate guest room with its own bathroom and dining area for more privacy. Every inch of the house is furnished delicately and with care, just like the hospitality offered at the Sparkman House.
Downstairs, the dining room is placed next to the kitchen. Walk a few steps over for a gourmet breakfast that’s both delicious and cooked with care. The menu consists of a three-course meal to get you ready for a busy day. Enjoy it seated at a table inside the dining room or sinking into the cushions of the couch on the gazebo deck.
A few rooms are located downstairs, including a cozy library den with shelves from floor to ceiling and a ladder hanging off the shelves. Open the door in the hallway to the left, and you’ll come across the Natchez guest room. Keep walking through the library, and the Davenport guest room is in the back for more guests to enjoy.
The beautifully manicured lawn has a gazebo that stands on the corner of the property with a fire pit to one side and a patio deck for lounging on the other. The green vines wrapped along the privacy fence make for the perfect Instagram picture backdrop while you’re playing lawn games in the backyard.
Check out the website for more details on amenities and booking. The Sparkman House embodies southern hospitality inviting guests and welcoming a stay to be part of the family in each room.
2. Southern Hospitality
There’s a ready feeling to take on another full day and explore more of the charming city as you slip out the door. With the friendly gestures, a “hey ya’ll” mixed with a southern drawl, the ma’am and sir mixed with Mr. and Mrs.’s that gives you an extra reason to smile to strangers walking across the street today.
The Sparkman House is in a convenient location neighboring downtown and a close drive to everything else in the city. The buildings blur past as you drive through town, looking at the sites to see and the stores to shop. Some buildings are new while others have been around as long as the city.
One building that’s been in business for over 35 years is Southern Hospitality Furniture and Décor. Walking through the automatic doors, a cashier greets you before the air conditioning gets a chance to. The sweet gestures and friendly greetings live up to the name.
Flowers sticking out of cardboard boxes are piled high on the shelves. Pottery vases and antique-styled pieces are scattered, the colors creating a rainbow on the shelves with different sizes stacked against each other. Décor signs are perfectly placed in scenes of kitchen places and living room spaces.
It’s an experienced decorator’s wonderland and a rookie’s dream. Weave in and out of the maze-like path of soft leather couches, rustic dressers, neatly made beds, classy end tables, efficient desks, high table-top chairs and more.
This store has everything you need to make a home feel comfy and cozy. Designer brands such as Magnolia Home, Ashley Furniture, Craftmaster, Coast to Coast, Legends and 34 other designers have pieces at Southern Hospitality.
In addition, there is a crafts section filled with ribbon in every color imaginable, as well as any other supply needed for your next DIY project.
Southern Hospitality has all of your decorating needs for serving guests in your home with style.
3. Fred’s Market Restaurant
Drive a few more miles down the road and pull into the parking lot filled with cars bumper to bumper. It’s time for lunch!
What better way to show southern hospitality than with food? Visiting Fred’s Market Restaurant is a family tradition with the best southern cooking in Florida. The restaurant began in 1954 as a gas station and later turned into the first Johnson’s Restaurant.
Walk up to the front porch and pass by older couples rocking in the rocking chairs as you make your way to the door where a gentleman is likely to open the door for you. Inside, the smell of southern fried food makes its way to the front as you walk in. Once seated, the service is fast and sweeter than the sweet tea.
On your way to the buffet line, you may be stopped by a few neighboring tables for a quick conversation about the weather and the food you’re about to dig into. If there’s anything Plant Citians care about most, it’s their food.
Grab a plate and get ready for some good southern cookin’. Place a spoonful of creamy mac and cheese, buttery mashed potatoes, crispy fried porkchop with tomato gravy, fried chicken leg and salted green beans. It’s a buffet line with what seems like endless options, and who says you can’t have it all?!
For dessert, have a helping of warm peach cobbler paired with vanilla ice cream slowly melting on top. It’s better than any store-bought or box mix recipe!
Fred’s is the place for good home-cookin’; but most importantly, what keeps customers coming back is the southern hospitality. Every visitor becomes a part of the family. You’ll leave with a heart as full as your stomach.
Exploring the shops and restaurants of the charming town somehow leaves you refreshed rather than exhausted. The secret?
You don’t feel out of place- you feel at home. It’s here that you realize southern hospitality is more than manners and showing respect- it’s a way of life. Hospitality is shown through friendly gestures and acts of kindness that have now become second nature to most and still a work in progress for some.
That’s what southern hospitality is all about- it’s learning how to be the best version of yourself to serve and help others do the same. And this is found best in little places just like this, right here in Plant City, Florida.