Lake City is located in the north-central portion of Florida, between Jacksonville to the east and Tallahassee to the west.
At the time of the last census, Lake City’s population was slightly more than 12,000 residents. Though the area was originally settled as far back as the 1820s, the city wasn’t officially incorporated until nearly three decades later.
Visitors to Lake City will have a variety of recreation options to choose from, including state parks, historic sites, annual festivals, and even a number of art and cultural attractions.
Below are 15 things to do in and around Lake City, Florida.
1. Osceola National Forest
Osceola National Forest is named after a famed Seminole warrior and is spread over more than 200,000 acres of pristine land in north-central Florida.
One of the region’s largest attractions for outdoor enthusiasts and sportsmen, it offers visitors a wide variety of activity options, including fishing, hiking, mountain biking, and camping.
The forest includes rivers, lakes, swamps, and pine forests, and most of them are connected by an extensive network of multi-use trails.
During peak times, campsites my go quickly, and some seasonal activities like hunting and fishing require special permits, so make sure you have what you need before you go.
2. Lake City Columbia County Historical Museum
Located downtown on SE Hernando Avenue, Lake City Columbia County Historical Museum is housed inside a home from the 1870s and is full of interesting tidbits related to the city’s economy, culture, and development.
The historic home features a unique architectural style that was typical of the area in the 19th century. In addition to its exhibits, it includes period furniture, art, and housewares that give guests a unique look at the lives of those who lived in the area nearly 150 years ago.
The museum is only open from 10 AM to 1 PM a few days a week, so make sure to check their schedule before making a special trip.
3. Olustee Festival
Lake City’s Olustee Festival is a celebration of the area’s rich history that dates back to the days before the Civil War.
The festival is an annual event that usually takes place in February; it’s particularly well-known for its parade and Civil War battle reenactments.
For history and military buffs, it’s a truly one-of-a-kind spectacle, and includes hundreds of soldiers, officers, and cavalry troops decked-out in historically accurate uniforms and weapons that makes for a unique and immersive experience.
Seating areas along the parade route are hard to come by, so plan on arriving a little early if possible.
4. Webb’s Antique Mall
Florida’s weather is close to perfect for much of the year, but during the dog days of summer, the heat and humidity often conspire to make outdoor activities unpleasant. When that happens, it’s wise to have a few indoor activity options to fall back on.
Webb’s Antique Mall features a large, diverse selection of items and is one of Lake City’s most unique retail destinations.
Webb’s is open daily, and for those who’ve got the time and patience, there’s always the chance of uncovering a rare gem or two. It’s a great place to pick up a keepsake to remind you of your trip.
5. The Gateway Art Gallery
With its warm weather and abundant natural beauty, Florida has always been a place of inspiration to artists.
Located on North Marion Street in Lake City, The Gateway Art Gallery is the perfect place to discover a variety of locally created pieces that you won’t find elsewhere.
Gateway features everything from paintings and drawings to stained glass, carvings, and photography. In addition to their items on display, the gallery hosts a number of special events, classes, and programs throughout the year that are geared toward art lovers, collectors, and budding and veteran artists that come from near and far.
6. Olustee Battlefield State Park
In February of 1864, more than 10,000 Union and Confederate troops met on the field of battle in Olustee and fought the state’s largest Civil War battle.
The battle included troops from all over the country and resulted in thousands of casualties. For those interested in learning about this remarkable event, there’s no better place to visit than Olustee Battlefield State Park.
The park includes a museum and visitor’s center that are full of historical artifacts. The grounds are easy to explore by well-marked trails that are dotted with plaques, giving visitors interesting insights into how the battle played out.
7. Halpatter Brewing Company
Halpatter Brewing Company is one of the more recent additions to the area’s craft brew scene, but in just a short time, it’s garnered a loyal following.
There’s no better way to end a long day on your feet than with a cold beer, and regardless of what kind you fancy, you’ll likely find something to tempt your taste buds at Halpatter.
Located on NE Hernando Avenue in Lake City, they offer a variety of beer options from stouts to IPAs. They also provide a full menu of tasty food and have both indoor and outdoor seating areas.
On the weekends, there’s often live entertainment as well.
8. The Country Club at Lake City
The Country Club at Lake City features a championship level 18-hole course that’s one of the area’s premier destinations for discerning golfers.
The par-72 course is appropriate for players of most ages and skill levels and is known for its idyllic natural setting and well-maintained greens and fairways.
The course features several treed areas and abundant sand and water hazards that make it pleasantly challenging. Though it’s not the least expensive option in the area, it’s the perfect choice for those looking for a unique experience.
Reserve your tee time in advance, especially if you’ll be playing during peak times.
9. Alligator Warrior Festival
For much of its existence in the early to mid-19th century, Lake City was officially called Alligator, Florida.
It’s an apt name considering the Sunshine State’s abundant gators, and each year there’s a popular festival that celebrates the area’s history and heritage.
The festival is named after a Seminole warrior and includes historical battle reenactments, live entertainment, cultural activities, great food, and arts and crafts.
The event takes place in O’Leno State Park in nearby High Springs and is held over three days in October. It’s a show that goes on rain or shine, so bring an umbrella if wet weather is in the forecast.
10. Falling Creek Falls
Florida is one of the country’s flattest states, so it’s definitely not known for its waterfalls. But for those who find themselves in Lake City with a little time to kill, a trip to Falling Creek Falls would be a great way to spend an afternoon.
The falls are just a short drive from Interstate 10. Though they’re only about 10 feet tall, the deep amber waters cascading over the limestone terrace are particularly scenic, and a favorite photo-op for people just passing through.
There’s a parking area just off the road, and a boardwalk runs from the lot to the falls, so it’s possible to get close without getting muddy and wet.
11. Lake Isabella Historic Residential District
The Lake Isabella Historic Residential District in Lake City is comprised of nearly 150 homes from the 19th and early 20th centuries.
One of the largest historic districts in the area, most of the homes have been restored to near-original condition and include a variety of architectural styles that were common in centuries past.
The district is easily walkable and offers visitors many unique photo opportunities. In addition to the homes, there are galleries, shops, and restaurants nearby, so it’s the kind of area that can easily gobble up a few hours.
12. Alligator Lake Recreation Area
Though swimming isn’t a good idea at a recreation area known for its abundant gators, Alligator Lake Recreation Area offers visitors a variety of alternative activity options that have been known to keep many guests busy for days.
The 1,000-acre lake and park are located in Lake City, and canoeing, hiking and mountain biking are popular pastimes.
Alligator Lake is a popular fishing spot as well and is known to harbor lunker-size largemouth bass that often tip the scales at more than 10 pounds.
The recreation area includes plenty of natural and developed portions, and there are plenty of covered seating areas and clean restrooms.
13. Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
For those visiting Lake City with access to a set of wheels, Jacksonville is a convenient day-trip destination and features many family-friendly attractions.
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens boasts thousands of native and exotic animals spread over acres of scenic land near the mouth of the Trout River.
Popular exhibits include big cats from Africa, South America, and Asia, primates, and a huge variety of lizards and snakes as well.
Each distinct area is connected by well-marked paths, and there are plenty of shaded seating areas along the way.
Previous guests have noted that they spent more time on-site than they’d planned, and that the cost of admission was a good value.
14. The Riverside Arts Market
Jacksonville’s Riverside Arts Market is a popular retail destination that’s part antique mall, part farmer’s market, and part flea market.
Vendors sell everything from gourmet cheeses and health and body products to paintings and vintage jewelry, and the market is also known for hosting a variety of live entertainment events that add to its already festive vibe.
Most of the products you’ll find are made locally, so picking up a thing or two is a great way to support the local economy.
The market is adjacent to the Fuller Warren Bridge near the North Bank Riverwalk, so it is convenient to visit in conjunction with other attractions.
15. Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park
Located along the shores of the scenic Suwannee River in White Springs, Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park is most well-known for the folk music festival that’s held on-site annually.
The festival features tons of live music and great food and drink options in addition to the park’s beautiful setting.
The park also hosts a Christmas event that includes one of the area’s best light displays, and it draws visitors from all over the area.
The park’s amenities include abundant campsites, clean restrooms, and lots of natural areas for those who’d rather slip-off by themselves to enjoy the great outdoors away from the crowds.