Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Lakeland, FL

  • Published 2022/04/07

Considered among the best places to reside in Florida, Lakeland is a city in Polk County.

While Central Florida is rich in beautiful and aesthetic locations, Lakeland has a charm like no other city.

It is known for being not only a cultural hub but also a residential paradise and tourist spot.

Lakeland’s location also works in its favor, being right between the Tampa Bay Area and Orlando, Florida‘s most famous tourist attractions.

Lakeland may be less heard of, but that makes it even more special.

Since it is overlooked as opposed to the larger, more famous cities, it is quite serene and unique.

Even if Lakeland is less explored, it has a lot of fun activities and spots for tourists.

Here are the best things to do in Lakeland, Florida:

Have a Dreamy Day at Lake Parker

Calm water at Lake Parker

Laurel A Egan /

The biggest lake in Lakeland, Lake Parker extends for 2,272 acres.

This freshwater lake can be found in North Lakeland.

Lake Parker Park leads up to the lake, making the entire experience picturesque and adventurous.

With multiple boat ramps and fishing piers, the lake is famous for the boating and fishing facilities it offers.

Freshwater fishes can be found here, most famously the largemouth bass.

A white bird with long legs at Lake Parker

Laurel A Egan /

You can reserve a fishing trip and ask for expert fishing guides to help you have an optimal fishing experience, guaranteeing a catch at the end of your rod.

For those not interested in fishing, there is dense vegetation around the park.

Keep out a keen eye for rare beauties like cattails and bulrush.

The diversity of wildlife here adds to the thrill, ranging from birds to alligators.

The park and the path around the lake make for a peaceful spot to sit and relax while taking in the preserved natural beauty.

Experience the Wild at Safari Wilderness

Zebras at Safari Wilderness in Lakeland

OST_Florida, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Safari Wilderness at Lakeland provides an authentic tour around the natural habitat of wild animals, covering more than 250 acres.

Located in The Green Swamp, a vast preserved forest in Central Florida, the Safari Wilderness offers a typical African safari in Central Florida.

Not only is the area dense in vegetation and trees, but it is also rich in animals and birds.

More than 400 types of animals roam the expansive area, most of them uncaged.

The safari is a breath of fresh air, far away and distinct from the city.

Open jeeps, covered just by a canopy, are driven by expert guides who will take you all over the park.

Animals such as llamas, ostriches, buffaloes, and deer can come right next to your window, allowing you to pet them.

What makes the entire experience seem even more authentic is seeing animals belonging to different species live in one space.

With the safari tours having gone on for so many years, the animals are used to humans and have adapted to a friendly nature.

Watch a Classic Film at the Polk Theatre

Exterior view of the Polk Theatre

Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Built almost a hundred years ago, the Polk Theatre offers the old cinema experience.

It was built during the Golden Age of Hollywood, making it a crowd-puller.

However, with the struggling economy and a World War, Polk Theatre began to face trouble.

With low attendance, the establishment had to rope people in through contests and giveaways.

Finally, in 1982, a group of people took a grant from the government and bought the theatre.

Now, it runs as a non-profit organization.

The Polk Theatre has more to it than its rich history.

Its stunning architecture can take you back to the old days of theater, with seating for more than a thousand people and an intricately designed ceiling that gives the illusion of a sky full of stars.

The theater regularly puts on plays, Broadway shows, concerts, and classic, independent, and foreign films.

Admire the Art at the Polk Museum of Art

Brown brick building of Polk Museum of Art

Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Among the best art museums in Florida, the Polk Museum of Art has free entry for everyone since it’s a non-profit entity.

It is two blocks away from the Florida Southern College campus.

While it may have a free ticket, it is home to some of the rarest artwork and sculptures in Florida, including ceramic plates painted by Pablo Picasso.

It boasts contemporary and modern works, along with several African and European pieces.

The museum features more than 2,500 works, making it an exciting place to visit.

Click Pictures at Lake Mirror Park

Centre piece at Lake Mirror Park

Butter142, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Named one of the top 10 best public places in America by the American Planning Association, Lake Mirror Park is particularly special because of its multiple features and facilities.

It is accompanied by a promenade that gives a beautiful scenic view of the lake and gardens.

Lake Mirror with plants and benches for the visitors to relax

Stony River /

Next to it, the Hollis Garden, which is tiered and full of flowers and shrubs, makes for a beautiful spot to sit and relax.

Extra elements such as a beautiful fountain and a huge metal structure as the centerpiece add uniqueness to the park and make it an aesthetic location to click pictures.

Lake Mirror Park is a busy place, with more than 900 events taking place each year.

Duck at Lake Mirror Park

Leodidthis /

Hike in the Circle B Bar Reserve

A bird flying over the marshlands at Circle B Bar Reserve

Svetlana Foote /

The Circle B Bar Reserve is a protected nature reserve in Lakeland that spans more than 1200 acres.

Since it isn’t a wilderness park, animals roam quite freely all around.

There is almost a full guarantee that you will witness at least one alligator on a lake bank.

An alligator at Circle B Bar Reserve

Itz Universal Fotos /

A cattle farm-turned-reserve, it is home to hundreds of bird species, all of which can be spotted and identified by expert guides.

The most thrilling aspect of the Circle B Bar Reserve is that it is unpredictable.

Deep blue water at Circle B Bar Reserve

Suzanna Ruby /

You can spot anything on any given day, so be on the lookout for wild animals in their natural habitat.

The best part is that entry to the reserve is entirely free!

Spend a Romantic Evening at the Silver Moon Drive-In Theatre

Exterior view of Silver Moon Drive-In Theatre

DanTD, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Silver Moon Drive-In Theatre in Lakeland is almost 70 years old.

It was the first and is now the only remaining drive-in theater in Lakeland.

The vintage vibe of the place attracts all kinds of crowds, from older people wanting to revisit the charm of watching timeless classics on the big screen to younger kids wanting to recreate the magic of the past.

The theater plays both classics and new movies.

There is also a concession stand for you to enjoy snacks while watching the movie.

Some of the biggest blockbusters that have played on the Silver Moon screen are Grease, Footloose, Tom and Jerry, and Back to the Future.

Watch a Game at Joker Marchant Stadium

Baseball game at Joker Marchant Stadium

Mikerussell at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium is an 8,500-seater baseball field.

Opened more than 50 years ago, it has witnessed several renovations.

The stadium hosts baseball games very often.

Exterior view of Joker Marchant Stadium

Mikerussell at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The fact that it is the training home of the Detroit Tigers makes it an even bigger deal, especially for sports fans.

One of the biggest matches in this stadium was a training game between the Boston Red Sox and the Detroit Tigers, which drew in more than 10,000 people.

Wander around Frank Lloyd Wright’s Work at Florida Southern College

Pfeiffer Chapel built by Frank Lloyd Wright at Florida Southern College

Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Frank Lloyd Wright, an American architect, was chiefly responsible for designing the campus of Florida Southern College.

Over two decades, he delivered 18 designs, 13 of which were built.

Contributing to the design of the Florida Southern College was the biggest construction project Wright had ever undertaken.

Amazing architecture at Florida Southern College

Jillian Cain Photography /

For this reason, the college has been named a historic landmark by the government.

Wright’s beautiful structures, which are now intertwined with the history of the college, can be seen on the campus.

These include the Buckner Building, the Danforth Chapel, the Water Dome, and many more.

White building with dome like structure at Florida Southern College

Khairil Azhar Junos /

Even if you aren’t an architecture enthusiast, you can visit the college campus to admire the beauty and uniqueness of Wright’s vision and talent.

Take Your Kids to Explorations V Children’s Museum

Street view of Explorations V Children’s Museum

Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Explorations V Children’s Museum was specifically designed to provide an optimal experience for children and to help them explore their creativity.

There are displays and exhibits made to cater to children’s understanding and introduce them to culture, history, and diversity.

Several educational programs and skill-building workshops are organized, which allow children to participate, learn, and feel a sense of fulfillment.

Entry of Explorations V Children's Museum

Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

While the museum may be designed only for children, it has built an atmosphere that parents love too, as it allows their children to thrive.

A day spent at the Explorations V Children’s Museum would make a fun activity for the entire family.

Stroll around Lake Hollingsworth

Beautiful view of the Lake Hollingsworth

Fred J. Haley /

One of the most popular lakes in Lakeland, Lake Hollingsworth has an area of 350 acres.

A biking trail and a path surround its circumference, making it a famous spot for bikers and runners alike.

Lake Hollingsworth during dusk

Robyn Bartlett /

Much like in other spots in Florida, birdwatching is a common activity in Lake Hollingsworth.

Since it is south of the Florida Southern College, the Wright architecture can be seen from a distance, making the walk around the area even more scenic.

Next to the lake, there are multiple cafes, parks, and restaurants.

Witness Beautiful Swans at Lake Morton

Swans lined up at Lake Morton

Feng Cheng /

Lake Morton is less popular among visitors than it is with locals.

However, that makes it even more special for tourists because it allows the entire area and neighborhood not to lose its original charm.

It is famous for boating, jogging, and fishing.

Beautiful pink flowers booming at Lake Morton

Feng Cheng /

Lake Morton is home to many species of birds, especially swans.

It has the greatest number of black and white swans in one location in Lakeland.

Other birds include ducks, gulls, storks, pelicans, and herons.

Black swans swimming at Lake Morton

KontroledKaos /

Go Camping at Colt Creek State Park

Camping at Colt Creek State Park

Jearim /

A part of The Green Swamp in Lakeland, Colt Creek State Park covers more than 5,000 acres.

It is home to a rich biodiversity of both vegetation and wildlife.

The park has created a sustainable environment for humans to venture and explore and for animals to thrive without being caged.

Kayaks docked at Colt Creek State Park

Norm Lane /

Many endangered species such as Cooper’s hawk and the gopher tortoise can be spotted here.

The park allows for many recreational activities, such as bicycling, camping, birdwatching, hiking, fishing, horse-riding, kayaking.

It can even be rented to host weddings.

Picnic benches at Colt Creek State Park

Norm Lane /

Drink Freshly Brewed Beer at Swan Brewing

Up and running for the last 40 years, Swan Brewing is a local beer brewery in Lakeland.

The founders and staff are known to be extremely friendly, chatty, and very passionate about beer, adding an extra personal touch to your visit.

The entire experience is super fun, as you get to try out samples, too.

They use locally sourced ingredients as much as possible, making the beer taste more unique.

Learn All about the Aviation World at the Florida Air Museum

Display at Florida Air Museum

Lestocq, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Florida Air Museum at the Sun’ n Fun Fly-In is an aviation museum and research library devoted to educating the general public, children, and aspiring aerospace professionals about aviation.

The museum has not only exhibitions depicting the history of flights and places but also a flight simulator.

Old artifacts and presentations take people through the history and past of aviation.

Florida Air Museum in Lakeland, Florida

WatchmanDS, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Recently, the museum has also introduced a scholarship program for students in the industry.

It also hosts summer camps and academies, which serve to educate and excite the youth for the future of the aerospace industry.

Even if you aren’t interested in aerospace, the Florida Air Museum will evoke curiosity in you and make you feel the excitement and magic of aviation.

Tour the Sharp Family Tourism and Education Center

The Sharp Family Tourism and Education Center is located on the Florida Southern College campus.

Two chapels, a planetarium, and a theater are all included in a tour of Wright’s structures that visitors may take with a tour guide.

The rebuilt Waterdome, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is a massive circular pool encircled by fountains.

One of Wright’s most extraordinary single-site installations, the collection is enormous.

More than a dozen items of Wright’s furniture may be found in the Usonian residence.

Self-guided tours are another option available to visitors.

Tours of the archives and behind-the-scenes are also offered.

Have a Picnic at Munn Park Historic District

Enterance of Munn Park in the Historic District

Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s an excellent time to be a history nerd!

One of Lakeland’s oldest parks was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1997.

More than 40 historic structures can be found throughout the park, making it a great place to explore on foot.

Plaques and memorials commemorating troops from the Confederate States of America dot the landscape.

Explore the park’s many historic buildings and monuments.

The Old City Hall and the Old Coca-Cola building are only two examples of eccentric architecture that can be seen throughout the city.

Go Birdwatching at Saddle Creek Park

Lake at Saddle Creek Park

Truth Falcon, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Lakeland, Florida, is a great place to go if you’re looking for various outdoor activities.

One of the most popular destinations is Saddle Creek, a vast county park in Florida’s panhandle.

Its 2.4-mile birding track makes this urban park, located east of downtown, a popular destination for birdwatchers.

When visiting this park, you may use a variety of natural amenities, such as picnic pavilions, play areas, and playgrounds.

You may go birdwatching and get some fresh air on the nature trail located on the property.

If hiking isn’t your thing, there’s always fishing, camping, or boating.

Learn Fishing Sustainability at Tenoroc Fish Management Area

Managing the fauna of Tenoroc Lake is only one of the many benefits of the Tenoroc Fish Management Area.

In addition to assisting in the restoration of species, the management offers educational opportunities for visitors to Tenoroc Lake and monitors the land, the lake, and its species.

They also establish other laws and seasons in the area.

Fishermen, wildlife watchers, and other nature enthusiasts may enjoy their pastimes without harming the lake’s natural environment.

There are 5.8 million acres in the Florida Wildlife Management Region System, and the Lake Tenoroc area is only one of them.

Shop for Souvenirs at Lakeland Antique Mall

This vast mall, home to more than 250 vendors, brims with antiquities from bygone eras.

Antiques and vintage things of all kinds may be found here, ranging from beautiful furnishings to wacky collectibles.

The mall has a unique assortment of items that make it seem like a museum.

For individuals who appreciate retro and vintage items, it’s one of Lakeland’s most appealing attractions.

You may find fantastic deals and priceless relics from a bygone period at this antique mall.

Of course, you could wander around the shops and take in the sights.

Final Thoughts

Lakeland, Florida, has it all, no matter your interests, with its cultural attractions, wildlife sanctuaries, and museums appealing to many tourists.

If you want adventure and natural retreats, this city has something for you.

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