/ Road Trips
Road Trips — By Apryl Chapman Thomas on January 6, 2010 at 8:40 am

The (Many) Gems of Downtown Lakeland, Florida

Maybe it’s me, but I believe that the true heart and/or essence of any town and city can be found within its downtown.  centralfloridapolkcounty 002(a) And this is certainly true for Lakeland, Fla.

Located in Polk County in central Florida, less than an hour from both Orlando and Tampa, Lakeland is the perfect destination to be close to it all, yet far away enough to relax. But don’t spend too much time relaxing, because you might miss out on exploring the many gems of downtown Lakeland.

Where ever you day and/or itinerary make take you in Lakeland, there are certain places downtown that you shouldn’t miss.

Start your day downtown off right with breakfast at the Terrace Grille inside Terrace Hotel (map). Built in the early 1920’s, the hotel was one of the premier hotels in the state. It hosted such famous faces as Frank Sinatra, Henry Ford, Bobby Jones and Frank Lloyd Wright, and was the official spring training headquarters hotel of the Detroit Tigers. Operating as a hotel through the 1960’s, the property fell into some hard times and was shuttered in 1986. However, Terrace Hotel would be resurrected, restored and reopened in 1999. If you go, be sure to spend some time paying attention to the lobby. Much of what you see, from the black granite floor to the cypress wood ceiling, is the original features of the hotel.

Lakeland wasn’t named such by accident. Here, you’ll find many, many lakes, 38 of them named.  Of course, you can’t miss Lake Mirror, located across the street from Terrace Hotel. Take a leisurely stroll around the Historic Lake Mirror Promenade and enjoy the different pieces of outdoor art.  Then there’s Lake Morton, better known as a swan sanctuary, Lakeland’s most loved feathered residents. You also see a variety of other birds as well.

If you go back to Lake Mirror Promenade or spend more time walking around, be sure to stop at Hollis Garden (map). An urban oasis, it’s a place that you don’t expect to find in downtown. Then again, it’s Lakeland, so you should expect the unexpected. centralfloridapolkcounty 068(a) The 1.2-acre garden is filled with all types of flowers, trees and more. You’ll find a little everything from tropical plants to a grotto to “rooms” based on colors. Pay close attention to the details within, such as the outdoor art and reuse of curbs in the grotto. It just add to the overall atmosphere of the garden.

Arts are aplenty in downtown Lakeland. For instance, you can enjoy exhibits at Polk Museum of Art (map), or take in a performance the grand Polk Theatre (map). Even if you’re not into performing arts, the visit alone to Polk Theatre is worth it. Opened in the late 1920’s, as you sit in the seats today and take in the Mediterranean village facade, you can’t help but feel as if you’ve been transported back in time to the golden age of theatre.

Travel with children? Then you definitely want to visit the Explorations V Children’s Museum (map). After spending some hours there, head to Barnett Family Park at Lake Mirror to burn off some energy.

What do you get when you combine a college president and his vision with an architect and his talent? The largest of collection of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings. centralfloridapolkcounty 208(a) If you only have time to tour one thing when you are in this area, it has to be the Frank Lloyd Wright architect tour at Florida Southern College (map).  View the Water Dome, the Annie Pfeiffer Chapel, the William Danforth Chapel, among others.

Regardless if you have a few hours or a whole day, you won’t be disappointed spending your time in downtown Lakeland. Plan wisely so you can take in and enjoy what downtown has to offer.

photo credit: personal photos

This post was a result of discovery on a recent press trip sponsored by Georgia Turner Group and Central Florida CVB.  The opinions expressed in the post are my own.

6 places are mentioned in this post!
  1. Built in 1924 the restored Terrace Hotel is set on the corner of Main
  2. Located in downtown Lakeland, approximately 3 miles from the intersection
Click on the place name to learn more


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