16 Fantastic Things to Do in Lakeland, Florida That You Will Love

Steve Cummings


Are you looking for fantastic things to do in Lakeland, Florida? This guide has got you covered! Lakeland is the biggest city in Polk County, and it sits between Tampa and Orlando along I-4. There are 38 named lakes here, and they are great spots for outdoor activities. The downtown is considered the living room of Lakeland due to its old-fashioned brick buildings, antique shops, and places where they make special beers. 

Whether you want to walk in the historic downtown, check out a museum, or enjoy nature, this guide will help you find fantastic things to do in Lakeland that you'll love!

Lakeland: An Overview

Lakeland, Florida
Credit: Depositphotos

Lakeland is the biggest city in the Polk County area. People started living here in the 1870s, about ten years after the Polk County area was made. In the 1880s, they built a rail line, and Lakeland grew by 80 more acres. This area is now the downtown part of the city. It has the biggest group of buildings designed by Frank Llyod Wright at Florida Southern College. Visitors can enjoy walking on the historic promenade, exploring museums, checking out the Hollis Garden, and watching shows at the theater.

Lakeland has been in big Hollywood movies like Adam Sandler's The Waterboy and Edward Scissorhands. Whether visiting Lakeland as a tourist or just here briefly, you'll love this place.    

16 Fantastic Things to Do in Lakeland

Below are some of the best things to do in Lakeland, Florida

1. Visit Circle B Bar Reserve

Circle B Bar Reserve
Credit: Depositphotos

Location: 4399 Winter Lake Road (SR 540), Lakeland, FL 33803.

Start your Lakeland adventure by visiting the Circle B Bar Reserve. It was a big cattle ranch, about 1276 acres, and now it is preserved to protect the southern flora and fauna. The Circle B Bar Reserve is right by Lake Hancock, where the Peace River starts, flowing to the Gulf of Mexico. So, when you visit, you might see alligators!

The Polk County Environmental Lands Program did a lot of work to improve the land. They restored the Banana Creek marsh system and did many projects to help the land work the right way again. It is an excellent place for people who love hiking, bike riding, and fishing in Lake Hancock. It's also a great picnic spot. The reserve includes the Great Florida Birding Trail, so if you like watching birds, keep an eye out for osprey, eagles, hawks, white ibis, and turkeys. You may spot other animals like bobcats, otters, frogs, turtles, and armadillos. The best part? It is free! Perfect for nature lovers. 

2. Go To Safari Wilderness Ranch

Location: 10850 Moore Rd, Lakeland, Florida 33809

Hours: Open daily, 9 am – 5 pm 

Even though there are lots of animals at Circle B, you might have to look around to find them all. But if you want to get close to majestic creatures like water buffaloes and ostriches, you should visit Safari Wilderness Ranch. It is a big wildlife park in Lakeland, covering more than 260 acres. The park is privately owned and home to over 400 animals from around the world. You can visit the safari by driving in your car or joining a guided tour in a safari vehicle with a canopy. 

Are you looking for more adventure? Try a guided tour on a camel, kayak, or ATV! While there, you can feed and interact with animals like camels, zebras, ring-tailed lemurs, Irish Dexter cattle, and African Watusi. For those who want a luxurious and adventurous experience, Safari Wilderness also offers glamping.   

3. Take a Stroll in the Hollis Garden

Hollis Garden
Credit: Depositphotos

Location: 614 E. Orange St,. Lakeland, FL 33801

Hours: Tue-Sun: 10 am – 6 pm

If you're looking for a relaxing thing to do in Lakeland, consider visiting Hollis Garden! This 1.2-acre botanical garden is located near the lake and features neoclassical architecture. Hollis Garden feels like a cozy secret garden with shaded spots and benches. This garden is made in a rococo style, with raised flower beds, tropical bushes, green ferns, wildflowers, and native trees. There are also many lovely fountains around. You will find over 10,000 flowers, decorative shrubs, and trees here. 

As you enter the gardens, you'll hear classical music playing in the background. There are ponds with Koi fish swimming around and sculptures and statues to add to the overall ambiance. While there is no admission fee, bringing some cash is a good idea. There's a small stand selling cakes, tea, and wine to enjoy while admiring the garden's beauty. Hollis Garden is undoubtedly one of the top free attractions in Lakeland!

4. Visit the Lake Morton Historic District

Lakeland is also known as “Swan City,” and visiting Lake Morton will show you why. This quiet lake is home to a large population of graceful swans. Lake Morton got its name from John P. Morton, who owned the land near the lake. It is located in the middle of Lake Hollingsworth and Lake Mirror. Besides its peaceful atmosphere, one special thing about the lake is its clear water. It is pretty rare because you can see the bottom of the lake clearly. The area around the lake has hiking paths and walking trails so visitors can better look at the beautiful water. 

Lake Morton is not just a quiet place; it's also filled with activities. People often go fishing there. There are also boat ramps on the northwest shore, allowing people to enjoy the lake from a boat, feeling the waves. Lake Morton is at the center of the Lake Morton Historic District, which started in 1906. Many houses near the lake were constructed in the 1920s. The lake is near the Polk Museum of Art and Florida Southern College. 

5. Explore Polk Museum of Art

Location: 800 E Palmetto St, Lakeland, FL 33801

Hours: Tue-Sat: 10 am – 4 pm, Sun: 1 pm – 5 pm

Are you looking for a fun activity in Lakeland, Florida? Check out The Polk Museum of Art, a special place with beautiful artworks. This museum is not run for profit, and it started in 1966 when a group of local residents who loved art got together.

Each year, they welcome over 35,000 students and have an impressive collection of over 2,500 art pieces, including works by famous artists like Miriam Shapiro, Pablo Picasso, and Andy Warhol. They host events and art exhibitions, serving over 130,000 visitors from around the world. There's even a small sculpture garden that you can walk through. 

So, if you're a fan of art, The Polk Museum of Art is a must-visit. They have a busy schedule of events that can easily fit into your plans while in the area. Plan a visit and enjoy the art!

6. Visit Frank Llyod Wright at Florida Southern College

Florida Southern Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings
Credit: Shutterstock

Location: 840 Johnson Ave, Lakeland, FL 33801

Lakeland is home to the most extensive collection of buildings designed by the legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright. He was an architect known for “organic architecture.” He started working with Florida Southern College in 1938 and built 13 buildings on this campus. Today, this college has the most significant collection of Wright's architecture in one place worldwide. One famous building on the campus is the Annie Pfeiffer Chapel, the first one built. The chapel is known for its 65-foot bell tower and large skylights that let in natural light.

Other important buildings on the campus include special covered walkways, the Polk County Science Building, the Water Dome, and the Lucius Pond Ordway Industrial Arts Building. The Sharp Family Tourism & Education Center is the most recent building. If you like architecture, you must visit these iconic landmarks!

7. Wander Through the Lake Mirror Park

Lake Mirror
Credit: Depositphotos

Location: 121 S Lake Ave, Lakeland, FL 33801 

Located right beside Hollis Gardens, Lake Mirror Park is one of the most beautiful spots in downtown Lakeland. Its name comes from the lake's clear water, making it a popular choice for locals seeking a day surrounded by nature and culture. This beautiful park has a big walkway next to the water, perfect for walking or riding a bike. The walk is about one mile long, and you can see the lovely Lake Mirror. You'll also see geese, swans, and other birds. You'll find a beautiful fountain and pretty sculptures along the path in the middle of the lake. This park is a hub for arts and culture, featuring facilities like the Lake Mirror Theatre.

After enjoying the park, plenty of dining options are available across the street. Popular spots include the Texas Cattleman's Restaurant and the Garden Cafe. With its stunning views and a peaceful atmosphere perfect for a leisurely afternoon, Lake Mirror Park is a must-visit in Lakeland. For larger groups, there is a 200-foot swimming beach and 20 campsites available.

8. Go to Joker Marchant Stadium

Location: 2125 North Lake Ave. Lakeland, FL 33805

If you are a baseball lover, you must visit Joker Marchant Stadium, a baseball field established in 1966. It got its name from Marcus “Joker” Marchant, a former director of Lakeland Parks and Recreation” and a local personality. In 2017, the field got a new name – Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium. Publix is a popular supermarket chain in Florida with its headquarters in Lakeland. Recently, they added more box seats, covered sections, air-conditioned areas, restrooms, concessions, a new practice field, and wheelchair-accessible seating. 

If you visit in spring, you can see the Detroit Tigers practicing and playing. You can also see live home games of the league teams like Lakeland Flying Tigers and Gulf Coast Tigers. You can also enjoy delicious food, making it a fun spot to enjoy some baseball games. 

9. Explore Florida Air Museum

Location: 4075 James C Ray Dr., Lakeland, FL 33811

Hours: Mon-Sat: 10 am – 4 pm, Sun 12 pm – 4 pm

One of the fun things to do in Lakeland is visit the Florida Air Museum, the official Aviation and Aerospace Education Center in Florida! It is a great place for a day trip from Orlando or Tampa. You can learn about Howard Hughes, a famous aviator, at the museum. You'll see his personal things, actual flight gear, and awards from his aviation and film career. 

For kids, there's a special area called the Discovery Zone. It has games about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). You can also dress up like an aviator and take fun photos!

The museum displays aircraft types like the Vertical Riser, the Tomcat, and the SeaDart. They want to inspire the next generation of aerospace engineers and aviators. Sometimes, the Blue Angels even perform shows to make it more exciting! The best event is the SUN' n FUN Aerospace Expo in March. It is like a big show with airplanes flying, workshops to learn more, and you can even camp there!

10. Visit Lake Hollingsworth

Location: 920 Lake Hollingsworth Drive, Lakeland, FL 33801

Lake Hollingsworth is one of the big lakes in Lakeland that covers 350 acres. This circular lake is well-maintained, with many lily pads and trees around it. When the sun sets, the water looks colorful with purples, oranges, and pinks. The lake got its name from John Henry Hollingsworth, one of the first people to live here. From Lake Hollingsworth, you can see the beautiful buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright at Florida Southern College. There are also water lilies floating on the lake.

Around the water, you can see a 3-mile trail, the “Lake-To-Lake” trail. Here, you can see long-billed dowitchers, white pelicans, roseate spoonbills, and sometimes, families of otters swimming around. It is a perfect place for social events, and it hosts the Orange Cup Regatta and various marathons throughout the year.

11. Explore Munn Park Historic District

Location: 202 E Main St, Lakeland, FL 33801

Munn Park Historic District is in the middle of downtown Lakeland. It's like the main part of the community. The park has a fountain and lots of open green space for people to enjoy. The park is surrounded by 48 old buildings that have been well-maintained. You can take a relaxed walk through the area and look at the old buildings. There are also many places to eat, shop, and drink coffee. Some other interesting old buildings here are the Old Coca-Cola building and the Old City Hall. 

Something special happens every first Friday of the month at Munn Park. It's called “First Friday.” The streets near the park are closed, and it turns into a car show. At First Friday, you'll also find a Makers Market with artists, crafters, and over 60 exhibitors. Take a seat on one of the benches, enjoy the shade of old oak trees, and soak in the historic ambiance of this lovely downtown park.

12. Take Your Kids to Explorations V Children's Museum

Location: 109 North Kentucky Avenue, Lakeland, FL 33801

The Explorations V Children's Museum is a must-visit destination for families visiting Lakeland. This non-profit museum is about creating a world where kids can explore and learn. The “V” stands for the five senses – touching, seeing, and hearing. Kids can learn about arts and sciences through the power of play. The museum has interactive exhibits that encourage creativity. On the Basement Floor, there's an orange grove where kids can learn about different parts of the world. The First Floor has more hands-on activities for science, history, and music. There's even a special area called “The Tot Spot” for toddlers. The Second Floor is all about art. There's a big chalkboard where kids can draw and a gallery full of art. 

The museum has a “Dreamer's Gallery” with interactive brain teasers and science stuff. In this museum, your little ones can pretend to be broadcasters in the News Station, play with audio in the Sound Studio, try running a business in the Explore Store, and much more.

13. Take a Tour of Colt Creek State Park

Location: 16000 FL-471, Lakeland, FL 33809

Colt Creek State Park has beautiful landscapes like Flatwoods, cypress swamps, and sand pine scrub. You can explore the park easily with its many hiking trails. You'll find a variety of birds and reptiles like owls, alligators, eagles, hawks, and turtles. Otters also live here, so you might see them too. For bird lovers, the park is a treat with more than 150 different kinds of birds. It is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail.

If you're feeling adventurous, check out Green Swamp Wilderness Area. It has 33 miles of hiking trails, areas for hunting turkeys, deer, and hogs, and good fishing spots. You can do many things in the park, like watching birds, horseback riding, hiking, biking, or glamping under the stars. You can also go canoeing or kayaking in the winding creeks.

14. Attend Lakeland Food Truck Rally

The Lakeland Food Truck Rally is a fantastic event every second Thursday of the month in Munn Park, downtown Lakeland. This gathering brings together over 20 food trucks offering plenty of delicious choices. Attendees can enjoy mouthwatering treats from various food vendors, such as Got Desserts, Spontaneous Consumption, and Mr. C's Grilled Cheese. The event is not just about food; it also features live music, creating a lively and enjoyable atmosphere. The Food Truck Rally is an excellent opportunity for food lovers to explore different cuisines, indulge in tasty treats, and enjoy the vibrant community spirit of Lakeland. 

15. Visit Polk Theatre

Location: 121 South Florida Ave., Lakeland, FL 33801

Check out the old Polk Theatre to have fun and step back in time! This place used to be a vaudeville movie palace built during the Golden Age. It can fit 1,400 people and has cool features like high balconies, a colorful Venetian piazza, and a painted cloud. The inside is beautiful, like a courtyard from the Mediterranean, and it even has stars on the ceiling. 

The Polk Theatre is a super old place and makes money from its regular movie screenings and Performing Arts shows. Local theater groups also rent the space, adding to its income. You can even rent the theater for your events like weddings or parties. They show cool stuff like a Mary Poppins Sing-A-Long and do interactive performances with cult classics like The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Get some popcorn, find your seat, and enjoy a great time at the Polk Theatre!

16. Shop at Lakeland Antique Mall

Location: 3530 US Highway 98 North, Lakeland, FL 33809

Lastly, if you want to bring something special home with you, visit the Lakeland Antique Mall. It is a small store full of old and cool things. They have furniture, art, jewelry, pottery, and even clothes. You can also find many Disney items there, like Christmas ornaments, costumes, fake fruits, and even furniture from hotels. It's a great place to explore and discover interesting old items. More than 250 people sell their things there, so you might find a hidden treasure!

Final Thoughts

Lakeland is a fantastic place with so many things to do for everyone. You won't be bored at all! I hope this guide has painted a clear picture of the wonderful experiences waiting for you in Lakeland. Whether you enjoy nature and being outside or love trying new foods and learning about different cultures, Lakeland is the place for you! Bringing your family here would be a great treat!

So, if you're planning to visit, start planning and preparing. You can always use this guide on 16 fantastic things to do in Lakeland to help you with your tour. Happy travels!

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