15 Best Things to Do in Bartow, FL

Bartow, FL
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Nestled between Tampa and Orlando is the quaint and charming city of Bartow, Florida.

Also recognized as the “city of oaks and azaleas,” Bartow boasts numerous nature trails and wonders that are second to none.

The city also features many pieces and structures that tell its rich history, culture, and heritage, no matter where you turn.

With the many things you can do in Bartow, you might find it hard to assemble an itinerary.

You can start by reading this list of the best things to do in Bartow, Florida.

Wander the Halls of the Wonder House

You’ll find dozens of historical places on the streets of Bartow.

Perhaps one of the best attractions you’ll see is the Wonder House on Mann Rd.

The visionary inventor and builder Conrad Schuck built the historic house.

It features a cruciform architectural style of rock combined with glass and tile mosaics.

Book a tour and wander the halls of the Wonder House.

Explore all three stories that made the private residence a popular destination during the 60s.

You’ll even see some items from the 1920s, such as functioning air conditioners, laundry chutes, and delayed light switches.

The two-acre property is also an excellent spot for taking photographs, especially for those who are fans of classic houses with an eerie feel.

Go on a Scenic Walk at Fort Blount Park

Take your time admiring the quiet areas of Bartow when you go on a scenic walk around Fort Blount Park.

Lie in the green grass, or set up a small picnic with your family and friends under a cool shade on a warm day.

Before becoming a public park, Fort Blount Park started as a settler blockhouse established by Redding Blount in 1851.

Fort Blount was a place of refuge for community settlers during the Third Seminole War and remains a serene place even today.

Although it doesn’t look like a place that welcomed refugees, you’ll still feel a safe and calming vibe.

Walk along the park’s pathways, drowning out the sound of the busy streets.

Geek Out at SyFy Bartow

Enjoy dressing up as your favorite sci-fi character in Bartow’s version of Comicon, known as SyFy Bartow.

The annual event occurs in Downtown Bartow.

Kids and adults unleash their creativity with costumes and makeup and channel their geeky side.

SyFy Bartow also showcases a different theme yearly, paying tribute to Star Trek, Doctor Who, Star Wars, and more.

The free, family-friendly festival is also a day of great food, games, television, and car shows, among others.

You’ll even find yourself in a multiverse setting with a bunch of props and movie set replicas.

These things might make you feel like an actual character in your favorite show.

Swing by the L.B. Brown House

Green exterior of L.B. Brown House
Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

When walking around the streets of Bartow, you’ll come across a light green, Victorian-looking house.

The two-story house is the L.B. Brown House, a historic residence belonging to esteemed businessman Lawrence B. Brown.

Born during the last decade of slavery in 1856, Brown inspired many by working his way out of poverty.

He went the extra mile despite having a limited formal education.

Today, you’ll see Brown’s labor of love in the form of his house, which has nine rooms.

The beloved L.B. Brown House features a classic architectural style and Victorian ornamentation, bringing tourists back to simpler times.

Traverse the Mosaic Peace River Park

Nothing beats taking a quiet walk in a secluded area.

Sit with your thoughts and hear nothing but the sound of chirping birds and rustling leaves.

The Mosaic Peace River Park is arguably one of the best places to visit if you want to take a scenic and relaxing hike.

In the early 1980s, the site was originally an open-phosphate mine, then it became a reclamation project.

The Mosaic Peace River Park borders the 1,800-mile Peace River floodplain, which you’ll learn more about by reading informative signs.

Traverse the boardwalk and wander deeper into the forest that also gets denser after a few miles.

Then, find your spot under the cypresses, and watch out for birds perched on the branches.

Spot the limpkins, teals, gray catbirds, and swallow-tailed kites.

Join the Crickette Club Parade

Bartow doesn’t hold back when it comes to Halloween festivities.

Held at the Bartow Civic Center, the annual Crickette Club Parade is a fun day for the family.

Spend hours exploring the rides and playing games on the grounds, such as laser tag, dodgeball, and bungee trampoline.

You can also try rock climbing or bouncing around the inflatable obstacle courses and slides.

Of course, the Crickette Club Parade wouldn’t be complete without food trucks.

Grab a bite and taste barbecues, snow cones, kettle corn, and much more.

Don’t forget to take your kids to the annual flashlight pumpkin hunt behind the bingo booth for some fun activities and scavenger hunts.

Satisfy Your Cravings at Beef ‘O’ Brady’s

Walking around the city streets can be pretty tiring, and there’s no better way to recharge than eating to your heart’s content.

Swing by Beef ‘O’ Brady’s for some much-needed meat platters that satisfy your cravings.

Jim Mellody established Beef ‘O’ Brady’s in 1985.

Its homey and friendly atmosphere brings customers together as they cheer for their favorite teams.

The restaurant is a perfect destination for those looking to grab a bite any time of the day.

Enjoy shareable starters, gluten-free meals, or classic American food.

From premium-blend Angus burgers and award-winning chicken wings to tacos and sandwiches, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s has it all.

Once you’ve had your fix, have a glass of craft cocktails, wine, sangria, a margarita.

You might even want to get a couple of bottles of ice cold beer to end the night.

Enjoy the Local Scene at Main Street Bartow

There’s no better way to live like a local than wandering the streets of Main Street Bartow in the historic downtown district.

Checking out the city streets should help you take in the routine of Bartow residents.

Admire the city life through its lively stores and restaurants.

Take your sweet time observing Bartow architecture, and see some historic sites like the Polk County Courthouse.

You’ll even find an eclectic collection of restaurants, boutiques, cafes, and more.

The best part is that there’s always a little something for everybody.

Watch out for some much-awaited events, such as the Wednesday Farmers Market, Friday Fests, Classic Car Cruise-Ins, and SyFy Street Fairs, among others.

Visit the Polk County History Center

Facade of Polk County History Center
Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

History buffs will have a great time immersing themselves in the rich history of Polk County at the History Center.

Formerly known as the Polk County Courthouse in 1908, the history center boasts a neoclassical architectural style.

Its formal style makes the building stand out from other structures in the city.

Check out a comprehensive collection of natural and cultural objects that played essential roles in shaping Polk County's culture and heritage.

Check out over ten galleries in the history center’s museum, and read about Polk County’s long list of pioneers and industrialists.

Then, make your way towards the second floor to see the restored courtroom donning vaulted ceilings and viewing galleries.

You can also see an exhibit dedicated to the county’s military history and Paleo-Indian inhabitants from 1,500 years ago.

Have a Blast at the Bloomin’ Arts Festival

Art enthusiasts should have a blast cruising down the streets of Bartow during the annual Bloomin’ Arts Festival.

The Bartow Art Guild manages the Bloomin’ Arts Festival, an annual event during the first week of March.

This event features local and international artists, showcasing works using various mediums.

Watch the streets come alive, and let myriad colors take over the area and amuse tourists and locals.

The annual event features over 100 artists every year一from painters and sculptors, jewelers, woodworkers, and metal artists.

Don’t think the art pieces are only for viewing, too.

You can purchase some works on display.

If you’re lucky enough, you might even win a prize from the raffle draw.

Other festivities included during the two-day event are the Saturday Car Show (a real treat for true-blooded gearheads!), Quilt Show, and Student Art Show.

Walk along the Forest Fraser Trail

You made no mistake coming to Florida to explore fantastic nature trails.

If you ever find yourself looking for one in Bartow, check out the Forest Fraser Trail.

Running along State Rd 540 to Rd 60, Forest Fraser Trail takes you on a quiet and picturesque route that introduces you to Bartow’s natural wonders.

Unlike most trails with uneven paths and somewhat mountainous terrains, Forest Fraser features a relatively straight and even path.

Nevertheless, you’ll still see astounding sights like abandoned rail lines, groves, pastures, and fields.

You’ll also learn more about the rich history of Bartow by reading a bunch of informative guides scattered throughout the trail.

Visit the African American Heritage Museum

One of the many things that make Bartow a great destination is its history everywhere you turn.

One such place is the African American Heritage Museum.

Learn how Black Americans came to live in Central Florida and their most notable contributions to the country’s development.

Check out archives and other exhibits that will help you discover the importance of African Americans.

Admission to the museum is free.

However, the African American Heritage Museum encourages donations to support the city’s educational programs.

Indulge Your Sweet Tooth at Perkins Restaurant & Bakery

Anytime is a great time for dessert.

You’ll find one of the best places to satisfy your sweet tooth, Perkins Restaurant & Bakery, in Bartow.

The former single-pancake house that started in Ohio has become one of the most popular places to grab a bite in Bartow.

Sip on some coffee while you choose from the restaurant’s in-store bakery.

Choose from a wide selection of fruit, cream, cookies, Mammoth muffins, and more.

You can also enjoy breakfast-inspired dishes and various home-cooked meals that will make you feel like you're in your own home.

Bring your family to the Perkins Restaurant & Bakery!

Other Things to Do Nearby

Admire Figurative Art Pieces at the Polk Museum of Art

The Polk Museum of Art is also in Lakeland, 22 minutes from Bartow.

This museum houses one of Florida’s most prized art galleries in Florida Southern College.

As the largest and only nationally accredited visual arts organization in Polk County, the Polk Museum of Art houses over 2,800 art pieces.

The works come from renowned artists like Pablo Picasso, Barbara Kruger, Miriam Shapiro, and more.

As you wander the museum halls, you’ll see five permanent art collections that depict techniques and cultures from around the globe.

Start with the modern and contemporary art collection that showcases the creativity of Floridians in various mediums.

Then, move on to the art of the ancient Americas.

You’ll also find a vast collection of Asian art pieces like ceramics, ivories, textiles, and woodblock prints from China, Korea, and Japan.

Check out European decorative arts, highlighting the Italian majolica and French faience.

Explore a great selection of African art pieces, comprising 56 traditional works.

Norma Canelas and William D. Roth donated these items to the Polk Museum of Art.

Reconnect with Nature at the Circle B Bar Reserve

Wild cat at Circle B Bar Reserve
Fine Art Photos / Shutterstock.com

Exploring Florida’s nature trails is always a fun way to spend your weekends or vacations.

It’s good that you don’t have to go far from Bartow to find one worth your while.

Beautiful bird at Circle B Bar Reserve
LizArranda, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Circle B Bar Reserve in Lakeland, Florida, is only 16 minutes from Bartow.

It’s home to dozens of nature trails and vibrant wetlands.

The old cattle ranch now covers 1,200 acres decorated with scenic trails, marshes, and wetland habitats connected to the Peace River Basin.

Hawk at Circle B Bar Reserve
Romeo Guzman Photography / Shutterstock.com

Enjoy exploring the walking and biking trails surrounded by lush green trees and wildflowers.

Hang out by bird-watching spots like the Heron Hideout.

Swing by Lake Hancock’s marshy edge to catch a glimpse of alligators, tilapia, and anhingas.

Final Thoughts

The best things to do in Bartow are only within an arm’s reach.

You should have a great time exploring Bartow, from parks and festivals to restaurants and museums.

Plan your trip today and discover the best things to do in Bartow!