15 Best Things To Do In Lakeland (FL)

Written by Bethany Storms
Updated on
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Located in Polk County, Florida, Lakeland sits between Tampa and Orlando.

Throughout history, it had been known as the home of a number of Native American tribes. During my visit, I had the opportunity to explore the Circle B Bar Reserve, an area of protected land nestled within Lakeland.

One of the highlights of Lakeland was its beautiful lakes, which gave the city its name. I enjoyed strolling along the easy walking trails that connected these lakes, allowing me to explore several of them. It was a pleasant experience to immerse myself in the tranquil scenery while engaging in activities such as fishing, boating, and bird watching. These pastimes were beloved by both locals and visitors alike, providing a delightful way to embrace the serene surroundings of this part of the United States.

In addition to the lakes, Lakeland offered a range of attractions. I had the chance to visit engaging museums, each offering a unique glimpse into the city’s history and culture. Exploring the local historic points of interest was a fascinating journey through time, as I discovered the rich heritage of Lakeland. Moreover, sports enthusiasts would find themselves delighted by the various sporting venues scattered throughout the city.

Allow me to take you on a virtual tour of the best experiences and activities I encountered during my trip to the enchanting city of Lakeland.

1. Polk Theatre

Polk TheatreSource: visitcentralflorida
Polk Theatre

I had the pleasure of experiencing the Polk Theatre, a magnificent establishment that held more than just entertainment value. This iconic theatre, which dated back to 1928, held a special place on the US National Register of Historic Places. Its grandeur was evident as soon as I stepped inside, with its 1,400 seats and a plethora of breathtaing period features that any architecture enthusiast would appreciate.

The moment I set foot in the theatre, I was captivated by the sight of high balconies, evoking a sense of elegance and grandeur. The interior was adorned with a vibrant Venetian piazza, adding a touch of charm and enchantment to the surroundings. However, the true marvel awaited above, as my eyes were drawn to the ceiling adorned with a mesmerizing mural of painted clouds and stars, creating an awe-inspiring celestial panorama.

The Polk Theatre offered a diverse range of entertainment options for visitors to enjoy. Whether one desired a musical or a theatrical performance, this venue had it all. Not only did I have the opportunity to witness captivating live performances, but I also discovered that the Polk Theatre screened the latest movies. It was a delightful experience to watch a film in such an enchanting setting.

For ardent cinephiles, the Polk Theatre catered to their passions by hosting classic and independent movie nights. It was a chance to relish timeless masterpieces and explore the world of independent cinema, adding another layer of cultural richness to the theatre’s offerings.

2. Lake Parker

Lake ParkerSource: flickr
Lake Parker

Lake Parker, a charming body of water situated in the northeast region of the city. This pristine lake derived its name from Parker Streety, a renowned pioneer and esteemed resident of Lakeland.

Lake Parker held a special place in the hearts of locals and visitors alike, earning its reputation as one of the most beloved lakes in the area. As I ventured to its tranquil shores, I was greeted by the serene and glassy waters that stretched before me. It was a haven for boating enthusiasts, offering a perfect setting to embark on leisurely cruises or thrilling water excursions. Fishing enthusiasts also reveled in the abundance of opportunities presented by Lake Parker, with two dedicated fishing piers catering to their needs.

The lake teemed with vibrant aquatic life, boasting a variety of fish species, including bass, bluegill, and crappie, among others. Casting a line into the water, I found myself immersed in the joy of fishing, surrounded by the picturesque beauty of Lake Parker.

For those who preferred to remain on land, Lake Parker had even more to offer. Picturesque trails meandered around the lake’s perimeter, inviting visitors to explore the surrounding natural beauty. One particular trail caught my attention—the Lake-to-Lake Trail. Aptly named, this scenic path led me along the lakeside before guiding me to the nearby Lake John. It was a delightful journey that allowed me to appreciate the interconnectedness of Lakeland’s natural wonders.

3. Explorations V Children’s Museum

Explorations V Children’s MuseumSource: flickr
Explorations V Children’s Museum

On my journey of exploring Lakeland area, I stumbled upon Explorations V Children’s Museum—a true gem for families seeking an enjoyable and educational experience. The museum’s mission was to engage children through exploration and active play, making it an ideal destination for families with young ones.

One of the museum’s central concepts revolved around the five senses, which explained the presence of the letter “V” in its name—representing the number five. This clever incorporation emphasized the museum’s focus on sensory engagement and learning.

Explorations V Children’s Museum was thoughtfully designed with different sections dedicated to various themes. As I explored the museum, I encountered sections dedicated to music, space, flora and fauna, and science. Each area presented exhibits carefully crafted to captivate young minds, offering interactive and hands-on learning experiences. It was a joy to witness children enthusiastically engaging with the exhibits, their curiosity ignited as they delved into the world of discovery.

Visiting this museum was an educational adventure blended with endless fun. It provided a perfect opportunity for families to spend a day immersed in learning while creating lasting memories. Explorations V Children’s Museum undoubtedly catered to the younger visitors, fostering their growth and curiosity in a nurturing environment.

4. Circle B Bar Reserve

Circle B Bar ReserveSource: flickr
Circle B Bar Reserve

Circle B Bar Reserve—an intriguing destination that defied expectations. Contrary to its name, the Circle B Bar Reserve was not a bar at all, but rather a protected expanse of land in Polk County. Its purpose was to safeguard the thriving flora and fauna that adorned the surrounding area.

As I delved into the reserve, I discovered a hidden gem—the Polk’s Nature Discovery Center. This informative center served as a gateway to the diverse plant and wildlife found within the reserve. Engaging interactive displays and exhibits captivated visitors, providing a wealth of knowledge about the unique natural wonders in the area. It was a delightful opportunity to immerse myself in the fascinating world of the local ecosystem.

Bird watching emerged as a beloved pastime in the Circle B Bar Reserve, and it was not difficult to understand why. The reserve was home to an impressive array of avian species, making it a haven for bird enthusiasts. As I ventured through the reserve’s trails, I marveled at the sight of various birds in their natural habitat. But the wildlife encounters didn’t stop there—fascinating creatures such as alligators, snakes, otters, and bobcats freely roamed the reserve, adding an element of excitement and wonder to the experience.

The Circle B Bar Reserve provided a harmonious sanctuary for both flora and fauna, offering visitors an opportunity to witness the beauty of nature in its purest form. Exploring its trails, observing the vibrant birdlife, and encountering the captivating wildlife were all cherished moments that left an indelible mark on my journey through Lakeland.

5. Lakeland Center

The Lakeland CenterSource: thelakelandcenter
The Lakeland Center

The renowned Lakeland Center—an expansive arena and theater that had been entertaining audiences since its opening in 1974. The Lakeland Center boasted a grand atmosphere, setting the stage for a variety of captivating events. Sports enthusiasts would be thrilled to know that the arena played host to a multitude of thrilling competitions. From hockey and soccer matches to American football games, there was no shortage of exhilarating sporting events to witness within its walls. Additionally, I discovered that the Lakeland Center also welcomed wrestling matches, delivering pulse-pounding action and a lively atmosphere.

For those with a passion for music, the Lakeland Center provided an exceptional venue for live performances. Year after year, a diverse range of concerts graced the stage, offering an array of musical genres and artists for fans to enjoy. It was a delight to immerse myself in the vibrant energy of these concerts, surrounded by fellow music enthusiasts.

6. Polk Museum of Art

Polk Museum of ArtSource: flickr
Polk Museum of Art

The Polk Museum of Art boasted an extensive collection of over 2,500 artworks, spanning from the Pre-Columbian era to contemporary times. It was a treasure trove for art enthusiasts of all tastes, as the collection encompassed a diverse range of styles and periods. Even those with a preference for contemporary art would find themselves immersed in a world of captivating creations. Since its inauguration in 1966, this museum had served as a beacon for creativity and cultural enrichment in Polk.

Beyond the enchanting artworks housed within its walls, the museum offered a serene respite in the form of lush gardens. Taking a leisurely stroll through these verdant surroundings was a treat in itself, allowing me to appreciate the natural beauty that enveloped the museum. As I explored the outdoor areas, I encountered an array of captivating sculptures that added an extra dimension to the artistic experience.

In addition to its permanent collection, the Polk Museum of Art regularly hosted rotating exhibitions. These dynamic displays showcased the works of local artists from Lakeland and the wider area. It was a wonderful opportunity to witness the talents and creativity of artists in the community, providing a platform for their expression and contributing to the rich tapestry of artistic diversity.

7. Joker Marchant Stadium

Joker Marchant StadiumSource: flickr
Joker Marchant Stadium

During my time in Lakeland, I had the pleasure of experiencing the grandeur of Joker Marchant Stadium—a remarkable baseball stadium and a symbol of the city’s sporting prowess. Dating back to its opening in 1966, the stadium had established itself as the premier destination for baseball enthusiasts.

Boasting an impressive seating capacity of 8,500, Joker Marchant Stadium stood as a testament to the city’s love for America’s favorite pastime. As the training ground for the renowned Detroit Tigers, it held a special place in the hearts of both players and fans. I was fortunate enough to be in the area during baseball season, and attending a game at Joker Marchant Stadium was an absolute delight.

In 2003, the stadium underwent renovations, further enhancing its appeal and modernizing its facilities. This revitalization breathed new life into the venue, attracting both locals and visitors eager to witness the exciting matches played by local and visiting teams. The electric atmosphere, passionate cheers, and thrilling gameplay were all ingredients that made attending a game at Joker Marchant Stadium an unforgettable experience.

Baseball enthusiasts and sports lovers alike flocked to this remarkable stadium, uniting under the shared passion for the sport. It was a hub of excitement and camaraderie, creating a sense of community and camaraderie among fans. Joker Marchant Stadium was more than just a sporting venue—it was a place where memories were made and the spirit of all-American baseball thrived.

8. Fantasy of Flight

Fantasy of FlightSource: flickr
Fantasy of Flight

Since its opening in the 1980s, Fantasy of Flight had established itself as a mecca for aviation enthusiasts. The attraction proudly showcased the largest collection of private aircraft in the world, offering visitors a unique opportunity to delve into the rich tapestry of aviation history. Exploring the vast collection, I marveled at the impressive array of aircraft that had played pivotal roles in shaping the course of aviation.

One of the most thrilling aspects of Fantasy of Flight was its aerial displays. Witnessing these dynamic showcases was like stepping back in time, as the aircraft took to the skies and recreated the thrilling moments of aviation’s past. It was a mesmerizing experience to see the collection’s aircraft in action, reminding me of their historical significance and the incredible technological advancements achieved over the years.

What set Fantasy of Flight apart was the fact that almost all of the pieces in its collection were still in flying condition. This added an extra layer of authenticity and excitement to the attraction, as visitors had the chance to witness these remarkable machines take flight, defying gravity and igniting a sense of awe and wonder.

Additionally, Fantasy of Flight featured a seaplane runway—a unique feature that allowed visitors to experience the diversity of aircraft firsthand. From conventional planes to seaplanes, it offered a taste of the wide range of flying machines available. For aviation enthusiasts and plane lovers, this attraction was an absolute must-visit. It provided an immersive journey through the history of flight and a chance to appreciate the marvels of aviation up close.

9. Hollis Garden

Hollis GardensSource: flickr
Hollis Gardens

Hollis Garden was a true floral paradise, boasting an impressive collection of over 10,000 vibrant flowers. As I meandered through the gardens, I was greeted by a symphony of colors and fragrances that enveloped the air. The picturesque fountains added a touch of elegance to the surroundings, creating a serene ambiance that invited relaxation and contemplation. To my delight, the garden offered stunning views of the nearby Lake Mirror, enhancing the experience with its tranquil waters and scenic vistas.

One of the standout features of Hollis Garden was its gorgeous rose gardens. These meticulously tended spaces showcased a breathtaking array of roses, each displaying its own unique beauty and captivating scent. It was a feast for the senses, as I admired the vibrant colors and delicate petals of these exquisite flowers. Additionally, the garden boasted a charming butterfly trail, which provided a whimsical journey through nature’s wonders. I was enthralled by the sight of graceful butterflies fluttering from flower to flower, adding an enchanting touch to the overall experience.

Beyond the natural splendor, Hollis Garden featured remarkable architectural touches that added to its allure. One notable highlight was the grand staircase, an impressive structure that exuded grandeur and sophistication. It served as a visual centerpiece, complementing the beauty of the gardens and creating an atmosphere of elegance and charm.

10. Lake Morton

Lake MortonSource: flickr
Lake Morton

Lake Morton is a destination renowned for its pristine waters and tranquil ambiance. The area surrounding the lake was adorned with well-maintained walking trails, providing a perfect vantage point to immerse oneself in the breathtaking views of the surroundings.

As I meandered along the trails, I couldn’t help but be captivated by the crystal-clear waters of Lake Morton. The serene atmosphere that enveloped the lake created a sense of peace and tranquility, offering a much-needed respite from the bustling city. It was a true oasis of natural beauty, inviting visitors to relax and connect with the wonders of nature.

Lake Morton was particularly popular among fishing enthusiasts. The lake was teeming with trout and bass, making it an ideal spot for anglers to test their skills and try their luck. As I observed the fishermen casting their lines into the calm waters, I couldn’t help but appreciate the serenity and peacefulness that fishing in this idyllic setting must have provided.

For those inclined towards boating, Lake Morton offered a wonderful opportunity to take to the water. Boat ramps were conveniently located on the northwest shore, allowing boating enthusiasts to embark on leisurely cruises or engage in thrilling water activities. The gentle ripples of the lake served as a backdrop for a relaxing boating experience, providing a unique perspective on the stunning natural surroundings.

11. Munn Park Historic District

Munn Park Historic DistrictSource: wikipedia
Munn Park Historic District

The centerpiece of the district was Munn Park itself, a beautifully landscaped area that held significant meaning. It was designed as a memorial to honor the soldiers who valiantly fought during the period of the Confederate States of America. As I strolled through the park, I discovered statues and ceremonial plaques, paying tribute to these brave individuals. These poignant reminders dotted the park, offering a moment of reflection and remembrance. Named after Abraham Munn, the city’s founder, this district served as a window into the city’s past.

Within the Munn Park Historic District, I also encountered a treasure trove of historic buildings. A total of 48 buildings stood as enduring testaments to Lakeland’s past, each with its own unique story to tell. It was a delight to meander through the streets, admiring the architectural styles and appreciating the preservation of these historic structures.

While exploring the district, I came across several notable landmarks that piqued my curiosity. The Old Coca Cola building stood as a testament to the city’s commercial history, exuding a sense of nostalgia and charm. Another captivating structure was the Old City Hall, which showcased the architectural beauty of bygone eras. These quirky buildings added an extra layer of intrigue to the Munn Park Historic District, serving as reminders of the city’s vibrant past.

12. The Florida Air Museum at Sun ‘n’ Fun

Florida Air MuseumSource: flickr
Florida Air Museum

As part of my wonderful trip to Lakeland, I had the pleasure of immersing myself in the captivating world of aviation history at the Florida Air Museum. This remarkable museum, partly located in an aircraft hangar, was established in 1974 by a group of passionate local hobbyists who shared a deep love for all things aviation-related.

As I stepped into the museum, I was greeted by an awe-inspiring collection of aircraft. The range of aircraft on display was nothing short of spectacular, spanning from the era of the Second World War to the present day. It was a treat for aviation enthusiasts and history buffs alike, as each aircraft showcased the remarkable advancements and rich heritage of aviation over the years. One standout highlight was the motor of a Mercury rocket—a true testament to human ingenuity and space exploration.

For those seeking mementos of their visit, the museum conveniently featured a gift shop. I took the opportunity to peruse the aviation-related souvenirs on offer, allowing me to bring home a tangible reminder of my experience and passion for flight.

13. Lake Hollingsworth

Lake HollingsworthSource: flickr
Lake Hollingsworth

Encircling Lake Hollingsworth, I discovered a well-maintained path that proved ideal for cycling enthusiasts. It offered a picturesque route to pedal along while enjoying the scenic views of the lake. Additionally, for those preferring a leisurely stroll, the Lake-to-Lake Trail presented itself as an inviting option. This scenic trail led me to other captivating lakes in the area, such as Lake John and Lake Parker, providing a delightful exploration of the interconnected waterways. Spanning an impressive 350 acres, this serene lake captivated me with its tranquil beauty and abundance of recreational opportunities.

One of the highlights of visiting Lake Hollingsworth was the opportunity for bird watching. The park’s diverse ecosystem attracted a variety of fascinating avian species. As I immersed myself in the tranquil surroundings, I was fortunate to spot pelicans, plovers, and spoonbills among the vibrant bird population. It was a treat for nature enthusiasts and bird lovers alike, providing an up-close encounter with these captivating creatures.

Lake Hollingsworth derived its name from John Henry Hollingsworth, a local pioneer who had made Lakeland his home. This added a layer of historical significance to the park, as it served as a tribute to his legacy. It was a reminder of the rich heritage and the people who had contributed to the growth and development of the city.

14. Florida Southern College Frank Lloyd Wright Visitors Center

Florida Southern College Frank Lloyd Wright Visitors CenterSource: tripadvisor
Florida Southern College Frank Lloyd Wright Visitors Center

Frank Lloyd Wright Visitors Center is an architectural gem that paid homage to the renowned American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. Situated on the grounds of the college, the center served as a haven for Wright enthusiasts, housing a remarkable permanent collection of photographs, paintings, drawings, and furniture that showcased his genius.

The center’s permanent collection was a treasure trove of Wright memorabilia, offering a comprehensive glimpse into the architect’s life and work. As I immersed myself in the exhibits, I marveled at the intricate details and innovative designs that defined Wright’s architectural style. The center also played host to temporary exhibits, featuring pieces from other museums dedicated to Wright. This added an extra layer of depth and variety to the experience, offering fresh insights into the architect’s legacy.

Notably, the building housing the museum was part of the Florida Southern College Historic District—a testament to the architectural significance of the area. It stood as a Historic Landmark in its own right and boasted the distinction of being the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture in the world. The structure itself was a masterpiece, exemplifying Wright’s visionary principles and leaving an indelible impression on all who beheld it.

To enhance the visitor experience, the Frank Lloyd Wright Visitors Center offered walking tours. Guests had the option to embark on self-guided walks or join comprehensive behind-the-scenes tours led by knowledgeable local volunteers. These tours provided valuable insights into the architectural wonders of the college and the thought processes behind Wright’s visionary designs. It was a captivating journey through history and innovation, allowing visitors to appreciate the significance of Wright’s contributions to the world of architecture.

15. Common Ground Park

Common Ground ParkSource: gatesbaby
Common Ground Park

First opened in 2009, Common Ground Park was dedicated to fostering free play, enabling children to unleash their creativity and curiosity. The park’s commitment to providing a safe environment was evident in the turf-covered grounds, which ensured that children could explore and play without the risk of injury. It was a comforting sight to see youngsters freely engaging in the activities, their laughter and excitement filling the air. Renowned for its cutting-edge design and focus on learning through play, this park provided children with a wealth of opportunities for physical and cognitive development.

What truly set Common Ground Park apart was its unique play zones, each with its own captivating theme. From mountains and canyons to valleys and meadows, these interconnected zones invited children to embark on imaginative adventures. I witnessed their enthusiasm as they roamed through the park, discovering hidden nooks and crannies, and engaging in active exploration. It was a joyous sight that exemplified the transformative power of play.

In addition to the delightful playground features, Common Ground Park also boasted vibrant flower gardens. These gardens served as interactive spaces, allowing young visitors to engage with the natural world around them. It was heartwarming to see children marvel at the colorful blooms, fostering a connection with nature and fostering an appreciation for the environment.

15 Best Things To Do In Lakeland (FL):

  • Polk Theatre
  • Lake Parker
  • Explorations V Children’s Museum
  • Circle B Bar Reserve
  • Polk Museum of Art
  • Joker Marchant Stadium
  • Fantasy of Flight
  • Hollis Garden
  • Lake Morton
  • Munn Park Historic District
  • The Florida Air Museum at Sun ‘n’ Fun
  • Lake Hollingsworth
  • Florida Southern College Frank Lloyd Wright Visitors Center
  • Common Ground Park