12 Great Attractions and Activities in Lakeland

Hollis Gardens in Lakeland, Florida
Hollis Garden in Lakeland, Florida | Photo Credit: Shutterstock - Sean Pavone
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Situated just off I-4 between the metropolises of Tampa and Orlando, lies Lakeland. This charming lake spotted area has rapidly grown to become a bustling city, but its heritage is still shown through various landmarks. Loved by Floridians for being the founding city of the Publix supermarket, this city has a lot of unique attractions to visit ranging from a unique outdoor safari to stunning public gardens.

Table of Contents

About

The Seminole Native Americans once lived within this region and used many of the surrounding lakes for freshwater and fishing. Although Polk County was established in 1861, the City of Lakeland was not founded until 1885. The city got its name due to the vast number of lakes that are scattered throughout the region. Following the Civil War, many freedmen moved to the Lakeland area, particularly in the Moorehead neighborhood.

Lakeland became a strategic city in the Spanish-American War. In 1898, over 9,000 American troops were staged and housed on the banks of Lake Wire.

Between the years of 1920-1940, Lakeland grew very rapidly. The city even got its own college in 1938 that was designed by the world-renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright. During World War II, Lakeland was home to the Lakeland School of Aerodynamics. This school turned out over 8,000 trained pilots to both the United States Army Air Force and British Royal Air Force.

In 1957, Queen Elizabeth II of England granted the gift of two swans to the City of Lakeland. These swans have since been popular wildlife in the city and have continued for generations.

For years, the town mascot was a one-eyed, three-legged alligator that was suitably named “Blinky”. By 1979, the alligator was moved to Homosassa Springs State Park for safety and care of the reptile. Over the years, Lakeland has grown to become a large city along the I-4 corridor. With its close proximity to other nearby larger cities, Lakeland has sprouted up into a city filled with plenty of its own attractions that are perfect for visitors to explore1

Things to Do

1. Explore the Florida Children’s Museum

Address: 600 Bonnet Springs Blvd, Lakeland, FL 33815

At over 47,000 square feet, the Florida’s Children Museum boasts 2 stories of galleries filled with interactive displays. While the museum is geared for children, there are plenty of fun things to see and learn about. There are both permanent and temporary exhibits that help the museum change its displays to keep the attractions new and exciting. Some of the areas of the museum includes a miniature city, virtual creation gallery and so much more. Kids will also love the large, climbable 100 ft “Blinky” the alligator that pays tribute to the city’s celebrity reptile.

2. Soar into History at the Florida Air Museum

Address: 4175 Medulla Rd, Lakeland, FL 33811

This museum is renowned for its exhibits on aircraft, famed pilots, and unique collection of artifacts. On display are exhibits on the expansion of commercial aviation, NOAA, NASA, and WWII. The Florida Air Museum is also home to the Florida Aviation Hall of Fame. A few of the planes on display include a 1926 Ford Flivver, 1929 Pietenpol Air Camper and a Wittman Tail Wind. Visitors often enjoy seeing one of the largest collections of Howard Hughes items including his flight maps, suits, and other various objects owned by the famed aviator.

3. Ponder Creativity at the Polk Museum of Art

Polk Museum of Art, Lakeland, Florida
Polk Museum of Art, Lakeland, Florida | Photo Credit: Wikimedia – Kiran891

Address: 800 E Palmetto St, Lakeland, FL 33801

Showcasing a collection of various art, this museum boasts displays on centuries worth of creative works. The Polk Museum of Art is free to visit. From pre-Columbian era to modern Contemporary art, the museum offers visitors a glimpse into pieces from Europe, African and even local Florida artists. Check out their website to see the most current galleries.

4. Get Outdoors at Bonnet Springs Park

Bonnet Springs Park, Lakeland, Florida
Bonnet Springs Park, Lakeland, Florida | Photo Credit: Shutterstock – Kai Rush

Address: 400 Bonnet Springs Boulevard, Lakeland, FL 33815

This free park welcomes families and friends to come enjoy that great outdoors right in the city. Bonnet Springs Park invites pets to explore the park too! Kids will love the interactive playground and treehouse. Plus, don’t miss the opportunity to check out the canopy walk!

5. Catch a Show at the Polk Theatre

Polk Theatre, Lakeland, Florida
Polk Theatre, Lakeland, Florida | Photo Credit: Wikimedia – Public Domain

Address: 121 Florida Ave S, Lakeland, FL 33801

Built in 1928, the Polk Theatre was one of the first of its kind in the area. When it opened in December 1928, nearly all the tickets sold out in an hour of opening day. The theater seats 1,400 people and has been known to house performances by Eddy Arnold, Gene Autry and Tommy Dorsey. One of the most famous performances was in 1956 by the King of Rock ‘n Roll, Elvis Presley. The theatre offers various shows and performances that invite visitors to enjoy the beautiful historic building.

6. Step Back in Time at the Silver Moon Drive-In

Silver Moon Drive-In Theater, Lakeland, Florida
Silver Moon Drive-In, Lakeland, Florida | Photo Credit: Wikimedia – DanTD

Address: 4100 New Tampa Hwy, Lakeland, FL 33815

Travel back to the 1950s at this retro attraction that first opened its doors in 1948. This classic drive-in still shows double-features 7 nights a week. The Silver Moon Drive-In has two screens and even a snack bar and merchandise store. The location also occasionally hosts live concerts.

7. Stop and Smell the Flowers at Hollis Garden

Hollis Garden, Lakeland, Florida
Hollis Garden, Lakeland, Florida | Photo Credit: Wikimedia – VisitCentralFL

Address: 702 E Orange St, Lakeland, FL 33801

With over 10,000 flowers, plants and trees, Hollis Garden is a popular attraction in Lakeland. These beautiful grounds boast a diverse array of botanical species across the 1.2 acre area. The gardens are located within Lake Mirror Park. Aside from plants, the gardens also show off public art and even ornamental fountains.

8. Go on a Campus Tour at Florida Southern College

Address: 840 Johnson Ave, Lakeland, FL 33801

One of the first things to see at Florida Southern College is the Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center. This center allows visitors to learn all about the influence that Frank Lloyd Wright had on the design of this unique campus. In fact, Florida Southern College is the largest single-site collection of buildings designed by Wright. He spent over 20 years designing numerous campus buildings, of which 13 were constructed to completion.

9. Go Wild at Safari Wilderness

Address: 10850 Moore Rd, Lakeland, FL 33809

Nestled within the Green Swamp, Lakeland’s very own safari features animals from around the globe. Safari Wilderness is a 260-acre ranch that welcomes visitors to not only feed some of the animals but go on a rugged adventure. Guests can drive their own vehicles, hop aboard the open-air bus, ride an ATV or camel, or even kayak through the safari. The ultimate experience can even be upgraded with overnight stays in glamping tents.

10. Catch a Game at Joker Merchant Stadium

Joker Merchant Stadium, Lakeland, Florida
Joker Merchant Stadium, Lakeland, Florida | Photo Credit: Wikimedia – Mikerussell

Address: 2301 Lakeland Hills Blvd, Lakeland, FL 33805

Also known as Publix Field, Joker Merchant Stadium is home to the Lakeland Flying Tigers and Gulf Coast Tigers baseball teams. They earn their names based on the fact that the 8,500 seat stadium is the location of the MLB Detroit Tigers spring training. Grab a hot dog and drink before settling in to watch a baseball game with some of these great teams.

11. Explore Colt Creek State Park

Kayaks at Boat Launch in Colt Creek State Park, Lakeland, Florida
Kayaks at Boat Launch in Colt Creek State Park, Lakeland, Florida | Photo Credit: Shutterstock – Norm Lane

Address: 16000 State Rte 471, Lakeland, FL 33809

Sprawling over 5,000 acres, Colt Creek State Park offers 15 miles of multi-use trails that allows hikers to witness the beautiful nature of central Florida. Numerous species of native wildlife reside within the park including alligators and bald eagles. There is a mixture of primitive and equestrian camping sites that can accommodate large groups. The park additionally offers canoes and kayaks that can be rented for an even more engaging adventure.

12. Stop by Circle B Bar Reserve

Address: 4399 Winter Lake Rd, Lakeland, FL 33803

There was once a booming cattle ranch that was located in the same spot, which is actually where Circle B Bar Reserve gets its name. Aside from hiking, biking and birding, the park offers exploration of over 1,200 acres of wetlands and winding trails. Be on the lookout for various wildlife and be sure to snap some pictures of this beautiful outdoor park.

Plan Your Visit

Lakeland, Florida is conveniently located just off I-4 between the cities of Tampa and Orlando.

If you enjoyed reading this post or have visited Lakeland, Florida before, leave a comment below or share this post on your favorite social media!

  1. Wikipedia – Lakeland, Florida ↩︎
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