Located in central Florida’s Polk County about 50 miles east of Tampa, Fort Meade is a city of about 6,000 residents that’s part of the Lakeland-Winter Haven Metropolitan area.
Fort Meade is in a particularly rural part of the state. For those visiting the area who are interested in exploring all that Florida has to offer, it’d be wise to rent a car, as many attractions are outside city limits.
Within a short drive of Fort Meade are a variety of state and national parks, as well as cultural, artistic, and historical attractions, and some of the state’s most scenic beaches as well.
Below are 15 things to do in and around Fort Meade, Florida.
1. Fort Meade Historical Society
Small town historical societies are usually free to visit, staffed by knowledgeable and enthusiastic volunteers and full of interesting exhibits that go a long way toward giving first-time visitors a unique historical overview of the area they’re visiting.
Located on North Tecumseh Avenue downtown, the Fort Meade Historical Society is the perfect first-stop for new visitors. It’s located in a quaint part of town that’s easily explored on foot.
Though donations are gladly accepted, admission is free, and many previous guests have noted that the exhibits that touched on Native Americans and the Civil War were particularly interesting and poignant.
2. The Snicker Shop Café
Located on North Charleston Avenue in Fort Meade, The Snicker Shop Café has only been open since the end of 2018, but in that short time, it’s attracted a loyal following of coffee lovers, and they’ve got a great selection of sweet and savory food items as well.
They’re particularly well-known for their tasty and hearty breakfast wraps, and their menu includes fresh baked goods, smoothies, and a variety of hot and cold coffee choices.
The Snicker Shop Café is a great stop to make before heading out on a long day of sightseeing and exploration; it’s a popular place to recharge with a cup of coffee in the afternoon as well.
3. Patterson Park
Patterson Park on 9th Street NE is one of those often-overlooked gems that makes a big impression with those who are lucky enough to stumble upon it while traveling.
It’s one of Fort Meade’s smaller parks and is easy to miss, but it features a couple of lakes connected by a small canal. There are several walking paths that include picnic areas, gazebos, and observation areas.
The park also has a boat ramp that’s suitable for small boats, and since gasoline engines aren’t allowed, the lakes are popular with kayakers and fishermen whose boats have electric motors.
4. Polk Theatre
Lakeland’s Polk Theatre is a popular entertainment venue that’s located about 25 miles northwest of Fort Meade.
Like many small-town theaters all over the country, the Polk Theatre experienced both boom and bust years, and for much of the 20th century, it fell on hard times.
It was purchased, renovated, and reopened by a group of civic-minded citizens in the ‘80s. Since then, it has been offering the public a variety of entertainment options, including films and performing arts ranging from dramatic theatre and dance to concerts and comedy.
Check out the calendar of events on their website before making a special trip.
5. Alafia River State Park
Alafia River State Park is one of central Florida’s most visited natural attractions, and it only takes about 45 minutes to get there from Fort Meade.
One of the park’s main features is the network of multi-use trails that wind their way through nearly 20 miles of varied landscapes, including forests, hills, and rivers. For those who set-out in the morning and afternoon hours, it’s common to see a range of wildlife species.
The park’s trails are open to bikers, walkers, and horseback riders, and there are a number of rustic camp and RV sites for those who’d like to spend a night or two under the stars.
6. The Hollis Garden
The Hollis Garden is a relatively small botanical garden located in Lakeland. It is home to thousands of species of plants, flowers, and trees of both local and exotic origin.
The garden is free to visit, and the grounds include fountains, sculptures, and covered seating areas, making it the perfectly serene place to retreat to when the Florida sun is at its hottest.
The garden is comprised of a number of distinct cultivated areas, each with its own theme. The lake in the center often reflects the colors of the flowers and trees perfectly, making for rare photo ops.
Consider visiting in the early spring when most of the flowers are in full bloom.
7. Polk Museum of Art
The Polk Museum of Art is located just a block east of beautiful Lake Morton in Lakeland on the campus of Florida Southern College.
One of the state’s most well-respected museums, it is affiliated with the world-famous Smithsonian Institute and offers visitors a diversity of galleries, including historic and contemporary art created in a variety of mediums from all over the world.
Previous guests have noted that the museum’s exhibits and works of art far exceeded their expectations. Though admission is inexpensive during the week, many travelers choose to visit on Saturday mornings when it’s free.
8. Joker Marchant Stadium
During the early spring before the Major League Baseball season has officially started, teams from all over the country descend on the Sunshine State to get themselves into shape.
Joker Marchant Stadium was officially opened in the ‘60s. Over the years, it’s received constant upgrades and renovations and is now one of the most well-appointed spring training facilities in Florida.
The stadium holds more than 8,000 spectators and is the home of the Detroit Tigers. Tickets are relatively inexpensive, and there are often opportunities to interact with the players and catch some great pre-season games against teams from all over the country.
9. Lake Hollingsworth
Central Florida is full of lakes of varying shapes and sizes. Since the center portion of the state is particularly rural, they’re often centerpieces of activity for locals and visitors alike.
Lake Hollingsworth is one of Lakeland’s social epicenters too; it offers lovers of the great outdoors a variety of recreation options, ranging from swimming and fishing to waterskiing and wildlife viewing.
Much of the lake’s perimeter is connected by multi-use trails, and it’s common to see an impressive array of animals and birds and some pretty amazing water scenes as well, especially considering it’s an inland area.
10. Explorations V Children’s Museum
Founded in the early-‘90s and located on North Kentucky Avenue in Lakeland, Explorations V Children’s Museum is a unique interactive attraction that’s all about engaging kids and educating them at the same time as they’re being entertained.
The museum’s hands-on exhibits promote thinking, creativity, and problem solving, and touch on a variety of topics, including science, history, and artistic impression.
Generally, the museum was designed with kids up to about 5th grade in mind, but parents and older children usually end-up having a blast and learning a thing or two as well. The museum is a great place to spend a few hours when the weather isn’t conducive to being outside.
11. Busch Gardens Tampa
Busch Gardens Tampa is one of Florida’s largest attractions. For many families traveling with kids, it’s the place where they spend the majority of their vacation time.
Some of Busch Gardens’ most popular attractions are its African animal-related activities, including guided safari tours featuring lots of exotic animals. But it’s also got an impressive variety of live entertainment, as well as abundant dining and lodging options.
Most park activities are for kids, but there are trendy bars and restaurants featuring evening entertainment that are perfect for those who are able to steal a night without the little ones in tow.
12. Florida Museum of Photographic Arts
Photography is often overlooked as an art form, but the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts on North Ashley Drive in Tampa is dedicated to dispelling that stereotype.
The museum is located in an architecturally unique building that’s often referred to as The Cube. Though it’s only been open since 2001, it’s amassed one of the world’s most impressive collections of photographs that range from historic to contemporary.
In addition to its permanent exhibits, the staff offers a variety of instructional programs geared toward amateur photographers. They often host temporary exhibits from well-known artists and private collections too.
13. Tampa Riverwalk
Tampa’s location along the Hillsborough River makes for some unique opportunities to experience the splendor of the natural and manmade worlds together that aren’t often available elsewhere.
The Riverwalk connects several urban parks, and along the way, there are hotels, galleries, and restaurants, as well as lots of live entertainment venues that tend to come alive in the late afternoon and early evening hours.
There’s no better place in the area to catch a sunset too, and though it’s an excellent place for families, it’s the perfect spot for couples in need of a romantic evening together.
14. Big Cat Rescue
Big Cats have a bad reputation as killers and man-eaters, but these fascinating animals play important roles in the natural world.
Big Cat Rescue is located on Easy Street in Tampa. Since it was established in 1992, it has been dedicated to providing a sanctuary for animals that have been orphaned or injured in the wild.
The rescue is home to more than 100 cats of nearly a dozen species, and much of what the staff does involves rehabilitation and reintroduction.
Guided tours are the only way to explore the facility, so check out their website to see their options, prices, and schedules before heading out.
15. Museum of Science & Industry
Featuring nearly 500 interactive exhibits that have been designed with inquisitive youngsters in mind, the Museum of Science & Industry is an attraction that’s especially popular with families.
It’s the largest facility of its kind in the region and touches on interesting topics like robotics, space, and business. The staff offer a variety of programs, including guest speakers, guided tours, and teamwork-focused activities.
The museum’s IMAX Theater screens numerous shows daily as well. Not surprisingly, it can really draw the crowds during peak times, especially on the weekends. Consider a morning or weekday visit to avoid the masses.