As the jewel of Polk County, Lakeland, Florida is among the largest cities in the state. It’s a traveler’s paradise with miles of scenic lakes, beautiful parks, and a bustling downtown area. Nature enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers will love exploring this exotic destination, while foodies and culture buffs will find plenty to keep them busy.
Next time you plan a trip to Florida, make sure to add Lakeland to your itinerary. Ready to learn more? Here are our favorite things to do in Lakeland FL that we know you don’t want to miss.
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COOLEST PLACES TO STAY IN LAKELAND
- Great Location: Courtyard by Marriott Lakeland is just 4 miles from Florida Southern College and offers an outdoor pool and onsite restaurant. Snacks and drinks are available 24/7 in their market!
- Best for Foodies: Overlooking Lake Mirror, The Terrace Hotel Lakeland, Tapestry Collection by Hilton is a historic hotel in Lakeland city center that features an on-site restaurant that you will love. The Terrace Grille serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner under restored ceilings and antique windows. The Terrace Bar offers a variety of drinks and small plates. A weekday happy hour is also offered.
- Tried and True: Hampton Inn Lakeland is located near Joker Marchant Stadium, and features a free breakfast and outdoor pool. It’s also only five miles from Frank Lloyd Wright-designed buildings on the Florida Southern College campus.
CIRCLE B BAR RESERVE
We begin our Lakeland adventure with a visit to the expansive nature preserve known as Circle B Bar Reserve. This large expanse of protected land is home to abundant flora and fauna. You’ll find countless species of birds, including sandhill cranes, eagles, wood storks, and owls. Be on the lookout for the infamous gators that call this park home, especially the 12-foot beast that went viral a few years back.
The 1,267-acre reserve is also a haven for hikers, with plenty of trails to choose from. Each offers a unique perspective on this beautiful area, like the Heron Hideout and the Lost Bridge Trail. The latter features a long boardwalk over the marsh, providing an exciting experience.
SAFARI WILDERNESS RANCH
Although there are plenty of animals at Circle B, you actually need to do some searching to find them all. To get a closer look at majestic creatures like ostriches and water buffalos, head over to Safari Wilderness Ranch. This unique attraction allows visitors to get up close and personal with exotic animals. The term “safari” isn’t used lightly here, as guests are treated to a truly immersive experience.
You can drive through the safari on your own or join a guided tour to get even more information about these amazing animals. During your visit, you’ll get the chance to feed and interact with exotic creatures like zebras, camels, and even lemurs. It’s truly a unique opportunity ideal for animal lovers and kids of all ages.
A glamping experience is also available at Safari Wilderness for those in search of the ultimate in luxury and adventure.
Another one of Lakeland’s most beautiful natural attractions is Hollis Garden. This pristine park is a hidden gem, with winding paths that lead through an array of flowering trees and plants. Sixteen distinct gardens span the one-acre site, each one highlighting a different type of vibe. You’ll find thousands of vibrantly colored blooms here, with trees and shrubs that reflect the beauty of a wild tropical rainforest.
Visitors can also enjoy picnics or strolls through the park and snap photo ops with gorgeous contrasting colors. In fact, many wedding parties choose to have their photos taken here, as it provides the perfect backdrop for these special moments. Look for sculptures, fountains, and other works of art scattered throughout the grounds, or pack a sketchpad to capture all the beauty on paper.
PRESSED BOOKS AND COFFEE
The downtown area of Lakeland also offers plenty of activities, including a visit to Pressed Books And Coffee. This cozy little shop is ideal for relaxing and unwinding with a cup of freshly brewed coffee. The menu showcases all your favorite blends and an assortment of baked goods and specialty drinks.
More than just a local cafe, Pressed Books And Coffee is also a hub for the community. As the name suggests, it is a place to discover and share new books. They even host book clubs and other events to unite people and support the literary scene.
LAKE MORTON HISTORIC DISTRICT
Another one of Lakeland’s interesting districts resides at the heart of the city – Lake Morton Historic District. This charming neighborhood is home to quaint boutiques, charming cafes, and other small businesses that reflect the local culture.
Located primarily south and east of Lake Morton and north of Lake Hollingsworth, take a stroll through this picturesque area, and you’ll be transported back in time. The tree-lined streets, historic homes, and beautiful lakefront make it the perfect spot for a day of exploring. The lake is well-known for its flock of large, graceful swans that make it their home. Lakeland prioritizes protecting these beautiful birds, but the community is always welcome to come to admire them.
With all that exploring, you’re sure to work up an appetite. There’s no better place to satisfy your hunger than at The Joinery. It is located in downtown Lakeland and features an extensive menu of savory pizzas, fancy ramen, and other artisan foods. As Lakeland’s first food hall, it is quickly becoming one of the most popular attractions in the city.
Drinks are also abundant here, with a wide array of local craft beers, cocktails, and wines on offer. This spot is where tourists and locals come to unwind after a busy day exploring all that Lakeland has to offer. With bingo and trivia nights, live music, and amazing people, The Joinery is the place to be.
JOKER MARCHANT STADIUM
For sports fans, the city of Lakeland is also home to Joker Marchant Stadium, which hosts frequent tournaments and sporting events. This charming stadium was built in 1966 and has played a key role in shaping the local community. The MLB’s Detroit Tigers use this field for spring training, and local teams often make the trip here to watch their idols in action.
This stadium is easy to get to, with excellent facilities, a large seating capacity, and close proximity to Lakeland’s vibrant downtown area. Minor league teams also play here occasionally, and the stadium is home to Little League games.
DOWNTOWN FARMERS CURB MARKET
Much like The Joinery, the Downtown Farmers Curb Market is a staple of the food scene in Lakeland. This bustling outdoor market features dozens of vendors selling locally grown produce, fresh seafood, and a wide range of artisan goods. Many vendors offer free samples, so you can taste everything before purchasing.
The Curb Market is also a popular place for locals to gather and socialize, as there are frequent live music performances. The performances are family-friendly and mostly feature instrumental music like acoustic guitars.
LAKE MIRROR PARK
Next on the list of top things to do in Lakeland is a visit to Lake Mirror Park. This gorgeous park features a grand promenade, perfect for strolling or biking along the waterfront. The walk is roughly one mile long and offers lovely views of Lake Mirror. Of course, the famous swans are never far from view, but you’ll also find geese and other birds here.
A gorgeous fountain sits at the center of the lake, and various beautiful sculptures are scattered throughout the path. Adjacent to the park is the aforementioned Hollis Garden, an idyllic park filled with lush greenery and vibrant flowers. Both walkers and runners can be spotted here, so mind your step, and enjoy some of the best Lakeland scenery.
FLORIDA AIR MUSEUM
Sometimes, the best activities are educational ones. For history buffs and aviation enthusiasts alike, the Florida Air Museum is where you should go next. This beautiful museum offers a fascinating glimpse into Lakeland’s rich aviation history and hosts fun events throughout the year.
Howard R. Hughes, known as the Hollywood movie producer, was a devoted aviation enthusiast and beloved figure. As such, this museum is dedicated to him and his personal aviation collection. His flight suit and oxygen mask are on display, as well as his various flight logs.
FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT AT FLORIDA SOUTHERN COLLEGE
Another iconic figure who played a large role in both Lakeland’s and the United States’ history is Frank Lloyd Wright. As arguably one of the world’s greatest architects, he was a visionary who created some truly stunning structures.
Wright designed several iconic buildings during his lifetime, including the Hotel Imperial in Japan and the Darwin D. Martin House in New York.
The most extensive collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture is at Florida Southern College. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Thirteen campus structures were designed by Wright, all covered during the tour.
POLK MUSEUM OF ART
Also located At Florida Southern College, the Polk Museum of Art features rotating exhibits from local, national, and international artists. The museum strives to make modern and contemporary art more accessible to all audiences, so they feature both traditional and experimental pieces in their exhibitions.
Tours of the museum are available, as well as educational and family-friendly events. The art gallery hosts intimate concerts and film screenings, so you can enjoy some of your favorite films on the big screen in a unique setting.
COLT CREEK STATE PARK
Colt Creek State Park is nearly five times bigger than Circle B Bar Reserve. Florida’s natural beauty comes alive here, with Flatwoods, sand pine scrub, and cypress swamps within reach. Hiking is a blast here, with an extensive trail system making it easy to see all of the park’s hidden gems.
As for fauna, you can expect to see various birds and reptiles, including eagles, hawks, owls, alligators, turtles, and more. Otters are known to make their home here, so keep your eyes peeled for these cute creatures as you enjoy the outdoors in Lakeland. There are also horseback riding trails in the park, where you can enjoy a relaxing ride through the scenic woodlands. When night falls, both camping and glamping are available.
Head to Green Swamp Wilderness Area if you want something a little wilder. This sprawling part of the park offers 33 miles of hiking trails. Fishing is prevalent here, too, with bass, sunfish, and catfish to catch. If hunting is more your speed, deer, hog, and turkey are popular targets.
Thanks to paved roads and flat terrain, biking is available in the park. For the adrenaline junkies out there, Green Swamp Wilderness Area also offers off-road biking trails. On the water, you have the option of kayaking, canoeing, and even boating.
EXPLORATIONS V CHILDREN’S MUSEUM
Support a non-profit organization dedicated to educating and inspiring the next generation of scientists, artists, technologists, and generally curious people. Explorations V Children’s Museum is a hands-on museum that features two floors on topics ranging from math to nature. Its play-based learning approach encourages both creativity and imagination in children, preparing them for a bright future ahead.
Their sensory inclusion program is also worth mentioning, as it ensures that all visitors can fully enjoy the exhibits. Kits are available on loan to make the museum more accessible for visitors with autism, sensory processing challenges, and other disabilities.
WILDWOOD ANTIQUE MALL OF LAKELAND
Are you looking for something to bring back home with you? Check out the Wildwood Antique Mall of Lakeland, a quaint shop filled to the brim with vintage goods. From furniture and jewelry to pottery and art, plenty of hauls are on display. They also have an extensive collection of clothing. You’ll find beautiful dresses and formalwear to jeans and t-shirts, all in pristine condition.
This unique shopping experience is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to discover hidden treasures and explore the past. Over 250 vendors operate out of the Wildwood Antique Mall, making it a treasure trove for an avid collector or someone looking for one-of-a-kind keepsakes.
Take a step back in time and enjoy a show at the historic Polk Theatre. This atmospheric theater has delighted audiences for decades with its grand architecture and ornate décor.
It was built during the Golden Age of Movie Palaces in the 1920s and has maintained its original charm ever since. Today, it hosts a variety of performances, from live concerts to film screenings. You’ll find everything from ballet to jazz here, so there’s something for everyone.
Grab some popcorn and settle into your seat for an unforgettable experience at the Polk Theatre.
LAKELAND FOOD TRUCK RALLY
Lastly, we have the Food Truck Rally. On the second Thursday of every month, head to Munn Park in downtown Lakeland to enjoy some of the best food trucks in the area. You can expect delectable dishes from the likes of Mr. C’s Grilled Cheese, Got Desserts, and Spontaneous Consumption.
Over 20 vendors are typically in attendance, which means there’s no shortage of mouthwatering options. Live music and great people-watching make it the perfect way to close out your trip to Lakeland.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO FLORIDA
- YOUR FLORIDA VACATION
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- ST. PETE: 23 Outstanding Things To Do In St. Petersburg FL
- TAMPA: 41 Amazingly Fun Things To Do In Tampa, Florida
- CENTRAL FLA: 43+ Unique & Awesome Things To Do In Central Florida
WHERE TO STAY IN LAKELAND FL
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