Lakeland, Florida
Photo: Robert Hainer/Fotolia

Lakeland, Florida is the largest city in the Polk County Region, and was settled in the 1870s about a decade after the Polk County Region had been established. In the 1880s, a rail line was developed which saw Lakeland expand by an additional 80 acres, which is now known as the downtown portion of the city. Visitors can enjoy the historic promenade, amphitheater, specialty shops, museums, and the Hollis Garden which showcases over 10,000 indigenous Florida flowers and plants.

»Circle B Bar Reserve

Circle B Bar Reserve

The Circle B Bar Reserve is a large portion of land southeast of Lakeland which has been restored to protect the floodplain portion of Lake Hancock. The Polk County Environmental Lands Program has used the property to restore the Banana Creek marsh system, and has completed numerous restoration projects on the land in order to reinstate the hydrologic function of the land.

Due to this environmental restoration, the land makes a great destination for those who enjoy hiking on unpaved trails, biking along roadways and trails, as well as fishing along Lake Hancock. There are picnic facilities that can be used, a Nature Discovery Center and an impressive bird population of bald eagles, ospreys, waterfowl, and wading birds.

4399 Winter Lake Road (SR 540), Lakeland, FL 33803, 863-534-7377

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»Hollis Garden

Hollis Garden

The Hollis Garden is a 1.2-acre botanical garden located in Lakeland that is accessible to all who wish to take in its beauty as admission is free. The garden has a neo-classical theme with several fountains surrounded by lush ferns and tropical flowers. The garden is home to a Koi pong, a limestone grotto as well as a promenade that allows you to walk all the way around the lake.

The garden has over 10,000 different species of plants and flowers and gorgeous views of the Lake Mirror. The garden is named after the Hollis family that donated the 1.2-acre land, and is tended to by the city.

702 E Orange St Lakeland, FL 33801, 863-834-6035

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»Sharp Family Tourism and Education Center

Sharp Family Tourism and Education Center

The Florida Southern College is a national historic treasure in terms of architecture. It is one of the ten buildings that Frank Lloyd Wright designed when envisioning a “college of tomorrow,” during the Great Depression. Frank Lloyd Wright believed that traditional college architecture had been a failure and he wanted to use his knowledge of organic architecture to connect the individual structures of a campus together through their environment.

By the time he started his work at the Florida Southern College, Frank Lloyd Wright was world renowned and was considered by many to be the greatest living American architect. The Florida Southern College offers tours, but visitors may also walk through the grounds and admire the architecture at their own pace.

111 Lake Hollingsworth Dr., Lakeland, FL 33801, 863-680-4597

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»Lake Mirror Park

Lake Mirror Park

Lake Mirror Park is a multi-faceted entertainment complex that hosts theatre productions from its amphitheater, has a famous promenade, and caters to seniors with its senior adult activities. The park consists of 2,179-acres, and the lake is often glassy-smooth, hence its name. One of the major draws of the park is its 151 campsites, with 47 of them having electrical hookups for trailers and RVs.

There are also 20 campsites that can accommodate large groups, and a 200-foot swimming beach is adjacent to a picnic ground. The park also has hiking trails, skiing trails, and mountain biking trails, plus there are many amenities designed for those who need wheelchair accessibility.

121 S Lake Avenue, Lakeland, FL 33801, 863-834-2280

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»Joker Marchant Stadium

Joker Marchant Stadium

Joker Marchant Stadium is a baseball field that was opened in 1966 and renovated in 2003. The stadium holds 8,500 people and is home to the Detroit Tigers who use the stadium for spring training. With three expansions happening from the 1970s through till 2003, the stadium is now known as a state-of-the-art facility that features six luxury suites, improved seating for handicapped fans, as well as a second tier concourse level.

Four new indoor batting cages were installed, a new practice field was created, and the press box was expanded upon during the renovations. The stadium was named in honor of Lakeland’s former parks and recreation director, Joker Marchant.

2125 North Lake Avenue, Lakeland, FL 33805, 863-686-8075

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»Common Ground Park

Common Ground Park

Common Ground is an all-inclusive playground that is designed around encouraging children and adults of all levels and abilities to enjoy one another’s company through interaction. The playground offers an educational and interactive environment that goes above and beyond to provide social inclusion and cooperative play for all who decide to visit.

Common Ground serves the community by providing a facility for those who need accessible playgrounds that are non-traditional. By up keeping and improving the facilities from year to year, Common Ground consistently improves the quality of life experiences of those who have disabilities that prevent them from using traditional playgrounds. In addition to maintaining the park, scholarships are offered to children from low-income families so that they may take part in educational and recreational activities.

1000 E Edgewood Dr., Lakeland, FL 33803, 863-834-2233

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»Lake Hollingsworth

Lake Hollingsworth

Lake Hollingsworth was named after John Henry Hollingsworth who lived in the area during the nineteenth century. This large urban lake is one of Lakeland’s center pieces and focal points. The lake is perfect for social gatherings and is home to the annual Orange Cup Regatta as well as many marathons throughout the year. Along the perimeter of the lake there is a walking trail, where people can exercise, relax, or take photographs of the wildlife and gorgeous views.

The lake is well-known for its excellent bird sightings, and is home to some of the most prestigious historic landmarks such as the Lakeland Yacht Club and the Florida Southern College.

920 Lake Hollingsworth Drive, Lakeland, FL 33801

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»The Florida Air Museum at Sun 'n Fun

The Florida Air Museum at Sun 'n Fun

The Florida Air Museum was first envisioned during the 1980’s, when the founding director wanted to provide a year-round educational, historic presence for aviation enthusiasts. The museum started off as a mini-museum that appeared in the corner of Hangar A, but soon grew to become a full fledged museum in 1991, when the City of Lakeland approved funding for the construction of the current museum.

The museum offers educational programs throughout the year for those who are interested in aviation and aerospace discovery. Moreover, the museum has dynamic displays set up to offer insight into different types of planes including war birds, ultra-lights, classics, and one-of-a-kind designs.

4175 Medulla Rd., Lakeland, FL 33811, 863-644-2431

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»Polk Theatre

Polk Theatre

The Polk Theatre has a history-rich past, being built during the golden age prior to WWII and the stock market crash. The Polk Theatre was opened in 1928 and notable performances over the years including Elvis Presley, Glenn Miller, Tom Mix, and Gene Krupa, until it began to suffer during the Great Depression. The Polk survived the 1930s and stayed operational until the 1980s, when a group of citizens banded together and purchased the theatre.

The theatre now runs on donations and grants only, employs volunteers, and has multiple events per year including fundraisers and performing art events. The Polk can be rented for private parties, weddings, events, corporate functions, photography shoots, and film screenings.

121 South Florida Ave., Lakeland, FL 33801, 863-682-7553 Photo: Polk Theatre

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»The Lakeland Center

The Lakeland Center

The Lakeland Center is a multi-purpose arena and theatre that can seat just over 8,000 people. It was opened in 1974 and is home to the Lakeland Loggerheads (hockey) and the Central Florida Jaguars of the American Indoor Football League. The center has been used for multiple concerts, professional wrestling events, basketball games, dance competitions, and even spa expos.

The Lakeland Center has a Broadway series, an entertainment series, and special engagements, plus there are group services available and partner discounts. The center also does allow venue rental for exhibitors, planners and promoters and does offer catering for those who may want to use the venue for marriage or conferences.

701 W Lime St., Lakeland, FL 33815, 863-834-8100 Photo: The Lakeland Center

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»Polk Museum of Art

Polk Museum of Art

The Polk Museum of Art is the largest and only nationally accredited visual arts organization in existence within the Polk County Region. The museum is a Smithsonian affiliate, serves a broad range of communities throughout the Polk area, and puts an emphasis on art, science, and history. The museum has a collection of over 2,500 works of art, which includes works from famous artists such as Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, and Miriam Shapiro among others.

The museum serves over 35,000 students per year, has many outreach programs that serve low-resource communities, and brings in approximately 130,000 visitors annually. The museum also holds events like art crawls, galas, and receptions.

800 E Palmetto St, Lakeland, FL 33801, 863-688-7743 Photo: Polk Museum of Art

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»Explorations V Children’s Museum

Explorations V Children’s Museum

The Explorations V Children’s Museum was founded in 1991 and is the only hands-on museum in the Polk County Region. The museum is dedicated to providing an educational and cultural experience for both children and families. The museum is home to three floors of kid-powered exhibits and programs that are interactive and are designed in helping children from Pre-K through 5th grade.

There are over twenty different exhibits across the three floor museum, plus there are in-house programs that aim at promoting skills needed for academic readiness and advancement in problem solving, self-control, creative expression, and fine and gross motor skills. The museum has won many awards throughout the last decade, and caters to more than 40,000 annually.

109 North Kentucky Avenue, Lakeland, FL 33801-5044, 863-687-3869

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»Saddle Creek Park

Saddle Creek Park

Saddle Creek is one of the largest parks in the area, and has facilities for families, individuals, and children alike. Whether you want to do target practice, take your children to the playground, play sports, or use the picnic gazebos, there is always something to do in Saddle Creek.

There are two main trails that are good for hiking, the Nature trail, which is 1.2 miles, and the Tenoroc trail, which has two parts to it. Both allow dogs access, but motorized vehicles are not allowed. The Tenoroc trail has a $3 entrance fee and doing both portions of the trail takes just over an hour. If hiking is not your thing, fishing, boating and camping facilities are available as well.

3716 Morgon Combee Rd., Lakeland, FL 33801, 863-499-2613

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»Safari Wilderness Ranch

Safari Wilderness Ranch

Safari Wilderness Ranch allows visitors to experience a natural habitat, where the exotic herds roam freely across 260-acres of pristine wilderness. All safari vehicles are fitted with shade canopies and stadium seating so that everyone can enjoy the adventure. Visitors can choose what adventure they would like to take part in, either by safari vehicle or by camelback.

From ring-tailed lemurs, to African Watusi to Irish Dexter cattle, the Safari Wilderness Ranch has some amazing wetland exotic species. In order to preserve the watershed, the ranch restricts how many visitors are allowed as the area is sensitive. Come take part in an educational journey that will allow you to learn about Florida’s natural history.

10850 Moore Rd., Lakeland, FL 33809, 813-382-2120

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»Holloway Park

Holloway Park

Holloway Park sits on 250-acres of the total 330-acre land, which was primarily mined for phosphate prior to becoming a park that aims at preserving the lands. The park has endless opportunities for adventure for those who enjoy being out in nature. Jogging, hiking, photography, and bird watching are the most popular activities. Guided tours are offered on a regular basis.

You can take your own self-guided tours and use the facilities that are on the land. The park has room for 1,200-1,500 cars, and can attract large numbers of people for large outdoor events including cross-country meets.

2402 Holloway Park Dr., Lakeland, FL 33812, 863-899-6569

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»Colt Creek State Park

Colt Creek State Park

Colt Creek State Park has over twelve miles of gorgeous multi-use trails that visitors can use for biking purposes, hiking adventures, and even horse-back riding. All of the trails will take you through cypress domes, past open pastures, and through the pine flat woods that make up the majority of the forest. The wildlife includes white-tailed deer, bobcats, otters, bald eagles, and Bluebirds.

Additionally, you may find that you see a lot of butterflies and birds as there are 150 bird species and 79 butterfly species. Fishing is available during the day at three different lakes. There are six different fish species including bluegill, shell-cracker, sunshine bass, bream, catfish, and largemouth bass. There are also primitive group camping areas for people to use but they require a reservation.

3900 Commonwealth Boulevard, Tallahassee, FL 32399, 850-245-2157

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»Lakeland Berries

Lakeland Berries

Shady Oak Farm aims to provide a safe environment for families who want to spend a day picking fresh berries in a relaxed environment. What makes Shady Oak Farm different than other berry picking farms is that they offer farm classes for those who want to learn about where their food comes from. They offer all of their blueberry picking pricing at wholesale prices and you can choose from five different varieties emeralds, jewels, gulf coast, sharp blue and spring high.

In addition to blueberries, the farm also offers a large variety of vegetables and herbs, such as potatoes, cabbage, onions, squash, carrots, corn, sugar cane, and other fruits like strawberries.

3320 Shady Oak Dr. East, Lakeland, FL 33810, 863-512-1547

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»Tenoroc Fish Management Area

Tenoroc Fish Management Area

The Tenoroc Fish Management Area not only manages the wildlife of the Tenoroc Lake, but it also helps wildlife thrive. The management helps with the restoration of species, maintains habitats, monitors and surveys the land, the lake, and the species, and provides education to those who travel to the Tenoroc Lake area. Moreover, they set the regulations and seasons for hunting and fishing in the region.

By using sporting opportunities, avid anglers, wildlife viewers, and nature lovers in general get to pursue their interests without hurting the previous ecosystem of the lake. The Lake Tenoroc area is only one portion of the 5.8 million acres that the Florida Wildlife Management Area System takes care of.

620 South Meridian St., Tallahassee, FL 32399-1600, 850-488-4676

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»Lake Morton Historic District

Lake Morton Historic District

The Lake Morton Historic District offers residents a unique place to live. The districts are located primarily around the south and east portions of Lake Morton and just north of Lake Hollingsworth.

What makes living here a unique experience for residents is the historical elements and architectural integrity that was built into these houses. The development of these neighborhoods was done mostly during the 1920s, although the construction did begin around 1906. The neighborhoods have gorgeous views of rolling topography, pleasant shorelines, and beautiful vistas not seen regularly in Florida.

Post Office Box 1362, Lakeland, FL 33802-1362

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»BeFly Bike Tours

BeFly Bike Tours

BeFly Bike Tours offers tourists and locals the chance to have a unique experience in discovering all that the city of Lakeland has to offer. There are twelve different routes available that highlight stops at local businesses, restaurants, lakes, and downtown attractions. BeFly Bike Tours offers a convenient means of transportation through rented bicycles and guided tours.

The guided tours put an emphasizes on helping residents, and visitors become aware of the resources that are available throughout the city, including the colleges, museums, and business district. All bicycle rentals are made accessible to the public from Monday through Saturday and can be utilized on Sundays by appointment.

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»Lake Tenoroc

Lake Tenoroc

Lake Tenoroc is located two miles northeast of Lakeland and is known as a gateway for the Great Florida Birding Trail. The lake has amazing bird watching opportunities, including the ability to see wading birds, waterfowl, raptors, as well as songbirds who stop by the lake during their migration periods. The lake is also a hot spot for bass fishing, which can be done via fly-fishing, bank fishing, and via fishing teams.

For visitors who are looking for recreational activities, fishing is the main attraction of the lake, but there are numerous wildlife viewing opportunities, hiking and horseback riding options, a shooting range as well as paddling via canoes and kayaks available. Photo: watcherfox/Fotolia

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21 Best Things to Do in Lakeland, Florida