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Top Things To Do In Lakeland

History lovers, art buffs, and nature enthusiasts alike will enjoy Lakeland, the largest city in Polk County, Florida. Halfway between Tampa and Orlando, the historic city was settled in the 1870s and is known throughout Florida’s history as the home to numerous Native American tribes. Today, much of that land is protected on the Circle B Bar Reserve. Visitors can enjoy the area’s historic sites, engaging museums, and gardens filled with indigenous flowers and plants. There are also several lakes to explore near the city, making for easy walking trails and scenic views. Keep reading for a detailed guide of Lakeland’s most popular attractions and things to do while visiting.

Lakeland has many can’t-miss things to see, do, and eat while visiting. The heart of the city’s downtown area offers the beautiful Lake Mirror Park, complete with a historic promenade, amphitheater, and pedestrian walkways. Peruse the antique dealers, specialty shops, art galleries, and museums in the walkable downtown Historic district.

The best things to do near Lakeland include:

  • View the works of Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, plus ever-changing exhibits at the Polk Museum of Art
  • See gators, ospreys, eagles, and more at the historic Circle B Bar Reserve
  • Experience more of Florida’s wilderness with a tour of Safari Wilderness Ranch
  • Take a guided bike tour with BeFly Bikes through the area’s downtown and business district
  • Relax by the calm waters of Lake Parker, one of the area’s most beloved lakes

A trip to Lakeland doesn’t need to break the bank. There are plenty of fun, cheap things to do with friends, family, or whoever you’re traveling with. From outdoor activities, foodie favorites, and local must-sees you can’t experience anywhere else, almost everything in Lakeland is equal parts enjoyable and affordable.

To get your itinerary started, here are a few cheap things to do near Lakeland:

  • Have a picnic or catch a movie at the Lake Mirror Promenade
  • Attend a Flying Tigers baseball game at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium
  • Feed the swans and ducks at Lake Morton while taking in the scenery
  • Grab a coffee and beignet from The Pool Porker
  • Enjoy cheap bites and live music at Lakeland’s local hangout spot, 801 E. Main

From beautiful landscapes to cultural must-sees, Lakeland is an underrated tourist destination to visit year round. With its tranquil atmosphere, nature lovers will flock to one of the many lakes and parks. The famous promenade at Lake Mirror is the the crown jewel of the historic downtown Lakeland area. The 1.2-acre botanical garden at Hollis Garden that boasts several fountains and hundreds of flowers.

Some of the popular attractions near Lakeland include:

  • Learn about the area’s wildlife at Polk’s Nature Discovery on the Circle B Bar Reserve
  • Admire the iconic Polk Theater which was built during the golden age prior to World War II
  • Experience the educational and interactive environment at Common Ground Park
  • Stroll the promenade at Lake Mirror, a proud list spot on the National Register of Historic places since 1983
  • Wander the butterfly trail at Hollis Garden, where it’s good luck if a butterfly lands on you

Summer is in full swing, which means plenty of daily activities to experience in Lakeland right now. From daring in-flight adventures at the Aerospace Discovery Center to historic city walking tours, as well as numerous happy hours around town, you’ll be busy from morning until late at night.

Exciting activities near Lakeland include:

  • Flight enthusiasts can’t miss the SUN n’ FUN Fly-in at the Aerospace Discovery Center
  • Learn about the city’s history on the Lake Mirror Historic Tour
  • Head to the Cob & Pen for their daily happy hour deals
  • Cheer for the a local team at the RP Funding Center, formally known as The Lakeland Center
  • Another underrated happy hour in Lakeland is Winners Circle on the south side of town

Lakeland’s nightlife is buzzing with breweries, wine bars, plus plenty of venues to experience a live show or music. There are also a plethora of delicious restaurants ranging from Puerto Rican food, seafood, classic American, and BBQ. Most don’t require a reservation and all range in price from low to gourmet. Treat yourself to a nice dinner and then experience entertainment from comedy, to art gallery parties, theater productions, and of course, live music.

Nighttime activities near Lakeland include:

  • Bar hop through downtown starting at Fresco’s Bakery and Bistro for dinner and a full bar
  • See a play at the historic Polk Theater
  • Sample craft beer at local favorites Chop Shop, Molly’s, and Linksters
  • Sip on wine with a beautiful view of Lake Mirror at The Terrace
  • Laugh yourself out of your chair with a stand-up comedy show at Winners Club Sports Bar & Grill

Your calendar is even busier in the summer and that’s thanks to the many different things to do this weekend happening in Lakeland. So whether you’re a local or visiting for the weekend, take advantage of your time off to explore what this great city has to offer.

A few weekend activities near Lakeland include:

  • Enjoy a sunset safari experience at Safari Wilderness (reservations required)
  • Peruse and shop local vendors at the Downtown First Friday
  • Bring your pup to Dog Friendly Summers at Bok Tower Gardens
  • Attend a lunchtime tour of the Polk Museum of Art by one of their respected museum staff
  • Love classic cars? Check them out at the Lake Mirror Car show

Summer is the perfect time for kids to explore new and old favorites in Lakeland. Most are inexpensive, even free, activities and places to go that you can also enjoy. From indoor fun at the Family Fun Center to exploring Oponay Farm, there are numerous things to do with kids that will leave the whole family happy.

Family-friendly things to do near Lakeland include:

  • Play a game of mini-golf or laser tag at the Family Fun Center
  • Take an art class at Art Centric (for adults, it’s BYOB)
  • Pick fresh blueberries and peaches at Oponay Farms
  • Use your five senses at the Explorations V Children’s Museum
  • Climb up into a jet plane and learn all about flying at the Florida Air Museum

With it’s dewy heat, tropical plants, and lakes for days, Lakeland’s atmosphere only makes all the romantic things to do even more heated. And whether you’re going on a first date or have been together forever, a date night is essential for all couples.

Some examples of date night ideas near Lakeland include:

  • Catch a movie at the iconic Silver Moon Drive-in
  • Enjoy a fine-dining experience at Nineteen 61 or Scarpa’s
  • See and smell pretty flowers on a tour of Hollis Garden
  • Pamper you and your date to a couples massage at the Day Dreams Spa
  • Be spontaneous and explore the Historic District

Grab your girl gang, friend group, or whoever you hang out with because Lakeland has plenty of group activities to do. Whether you just want to hang out at a local bar for happy hour or try something totally new like an escape room, your friends will thank you for finding something exciting to try.

Things to do with your friends near Lakeland include:

  • Bring your socks and A-game to AMF Lanes for bowling
  • Bounce around 2Infinity for some out-of-this-world fun and jumping
  • Checkout live music or a show at Among Friends Music, Fresco’s, and Red Door
  • De-stress in The Salt Room–it’s literally a room covered in grains of salt to help detox the body
  • Test your friends with the challenging Lakeland Escape Room
  • Plan a group dinner at Bay Street Bistro–it’s perfect for groups and has great food and atmosphere

With so much stimulation all around us–work, social lives, and the overall responsibilities that come with adulthood, it’s important to dedicate time to self-care and relaxing. And while Lakeland is well-known for its various outdoor activities, there are plenty of indoor things to do as well.

Here are a few ideas for Lakeland things to do indoors:

  • Paint a piece of pottery while sipping soothing tea at Picassoz Art Cafe and Tea Largo
  • Indulge your love for antique shopping at the Wildwood Antique Mall of Lakeland
  • Pamper yourself with a pedicure at Lee Spa Nails or facial at Skin and Tonic
  • Hone your yoga practice at Satya Life Yoga
  • Indulge your sweet tooth with a piece of Dulce de Leche cheesecake at Abuelo’s Mexican Food Embassy

Lakeland wouldn’t be the amazing city it is without it’s abundant lakes all around the city. The area is also lucky to have accompanying outdoor activities to satisfy your active side and keep you in nature. And if you want to be outside without the commitment of an all-day hike, hop on a bike tour and explore that way.

Other active things to see in Lakeland include:

  • Head out to Off the Wall Adventure for paintball, scuba diving, plus so much more.
  • Take a bike tour of Lakeland with the town’s bike share program
  • Fish for trout and bass on the clear waters of Lake Morton
  • Grab your clubs and head to the Cleveland Heights Golf Course
  • Learn how to shoot a bow and arrow at Dossey Creek Archery

Every city has its hidden gems, and Lakeland is no exception. And if you’re only there a few days, it’s important to know the best things to see and do ahead of time. Hop in the car and drive just outside of the city limits to experience the surrounding ecosystem (be sure to keep an eye out for gators!). Lakeland is also home to the world’s largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture.

A few must-see places near Lakeland include:

  • Tour the world’s largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture at Florida Southern College
  • Walk the Munn Park Historic District
  • Keep an eye out for the Old Coca-Cola building
  • Grab a coffee and beignet from The Pool Porker
  • Visit Lake Tenoroc a.k.a. The Great Florida Birding Trail just two miles northeast of Lakeland