Arcadia, Florida

Arcadia is the county seat for DeSoto County, and many people who travel to visit historical sites in DeSoto choose Arcadia as their base since this city has accommodations, restaurants and other conveniences for the traveller.

Arcadia is not a big city and the population estimate for 2020 was just a bit above 7,400 residents.


Where is Arcadia?

Arcadia is located in DeSoto County, in the south-western part of the Florida peninsula. The Peace River flows past the west side of the city.

Getting to Arcadia

By road

  • U.S. Route 17 passes through the centre of Arcadia, connecting the city with Bartow (50 miles away) and Punta Gorda (25 miles away).
  • In the centre of Arcadia, U.S. Route 17 is crossed by Florida State Road 70. This road connects Arcadia to Okeechobee (64 miles away) and South Bradenton (48 miles away).
  • Florida State Road 72 splits from Florida State Road 70 just west of Arcadia. It is connected to South Sarasota (44 miles away).

By air

Arcadia Municipal Airport is located 1 mile southeast of Arcadia´s central business district.

What to do in Arcadia


Downtown Arcadia is considered one of the best places in Florida to go antiquing. Antiquing is available year-round here, but the main event of each month is always the 4th Saturday Antique Fair. In an average month, the fair brings an additional 60-120 antique vendors to Arcadia.


Arranged by the local rodeo association, three major rodeo events take place in Arcadia each year. The first one is in March, the second on the Independence Day holiday, and the third one in fall. Several local charities and college scholarship funds receive money from the rodeo events.

Outdoorsy activities

The Peace River offers great opportunities for canoeing, kayaking and natural habitat tours.

DeSoto´s Annual Fair

Arcadia hosts DeSoto County’s Annual Fair, which (among other things) includes swine and cattle shows presented by the local FFA and 4-H. DeSoto´s Anual Fair does not have a fixed date, but normally takes place in January.

Aviation Day

In March each year, Aviation Day takes place at the Arcadia Municipal Airport, and people flock to see airplanes and other airborne vessels on display. There are usually opportunities for riding helicopters and biplanes, and also to learn about and watch skydiving.

Parades in Arcadia

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade
March Rodeo Parade
Cinco de Mayo Parade
Independence Day Parade
October Homecoming Parade
Veterans Day Parade
Christmas Parade

Why is it called Arcadia?

The city Arcadia was named after the woman Arcadia Albritton (1861-1932), the daughter of the pioneer settler couple Thomas H. and Fannie (Waldron) Albritton.

According to The Atlas of Florida, it was the Rev. James Madison (“Boss”) Hendry (1839–1922) who selected the name Arcadia, because Arcadia Albritton had baked a birthday cake for him.

Arcadia´s Historic District

Arcadia´s Historic District is a 3,400 acre area that includes the city´s downtown area. It is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

Examples of historic buildings in Arcadia are the William Oswell Ralls house, the Micaja T. Singleton house, and the Johnson-Smith house.

arcadia canoeing

History of Arcadia

The importance of the railway

In 1886, the Southern Florida Railway connected Arcadia with Bartwo and Punta Gorda, and the improved transportation caused Arcadia to grow. The city was incorporated, and in 1887 became the county seat for DeSoto County. The first county capital of DeSoto County was Pine Level, but as soon as the Florida Southern Railway reached Arcadia, getting to Arcadia became so much easier for the county residents compared to Pine Level.

In 1907-1910, a second railroad line – the Charlotte Harbor and Northern Railway – was built between Mulberrry and Boca Grande, and one of the stops along this line was Arcadia.

From 1915 to 1934, Arcadia was also served by the East and West Coast Railway, which connected the city to Bradenton.

The devastating fire

On Thanksgiving Day in 1905, Arcadia was ravaged by fire. Starting in a livery stable in mid-town, the fire could spread without encountering much resistance, as Arcadia had no fire department nor any proper water system. Fortunatelly, the fire did not result in any loss of life.

Most of the business district was destroyed, and it would take years for Arcadia to recover.

The Carlstrom Field

The Carlstrom Field in Arcadia was first active in 1917-1922. Named after the Swedish-born American aviation pioneer Victor Carlstrom, it was a grass airfield belonging to the Army Air Service and used for pilot training during and after World War I.

In May 1941, before the United States had officially entered World War II, Carlstrom Field was opened again since it was needed for military primary flight training. Responsible for the training was the Emby-Riddle Aeronautical Institute. In addition to training U.S. Pilots, the Carlstrom Field also trained pilots for the Royal Airforce. After the end of the war, Carlstrom Field was closed in 1945.

DeSoto county used to be much bigger

Just like Manatee County was split into the counties Manatee and DeSoto in the 19th century, the DeSoto County was split up for form smaller counties in the 20th century. In 1921, DeSoto County was divided up into the counties DeSoto, Charlotte, Hardee, Glades, and Highlands. Arcadia remained the county seat for DeSoto County, while the new counties appointed their own respective seats.