If you’re looking for somewhere convenient to your west Orange County home for a family day trip, consider Lakeland, FL. Located in nearby Polk County, this unique Florida city is right along the I-4 Corridor, just about an hour drive from the Winter Garden and Windermere areas. It’s the biggest city between Orlando and Tampa.
Here’s a quick look at just some of the things to do in Lakeland:
Check Out Downtown Lakeland
Downtown Lakeland isn’t all that big, but that’s an advantage. It’s easy to explore the city’s pedestrian-friendly urban core, even with kids in tow, checking out all the shopping, dining, culture, and entertainment options. Historic Munn Park is the heart of downtown, and many of its main attractions are right around this idyllic square.
Meet Royal Swans
You’ll notice a good deal of swans at downtown Lakeland’s lakes. Many are descended from King Richard I’s royal flock going back to the 1100s. In 1957, Queen Elizabeth donated a pair to the city from the royal flock that lives on the Thames River. Lakeland celebrates its royal swans with public art, which is also found scattered around downtown.
Stroll Lake Mirror and Hollis Garden
Speaking of downtown’s lakes, the 18-acre Lake Mirror is the city’s centerpiece. It’s encircled by the Frances Langford Promenade, a charming 1920s-era walkway. At one end of the lake is Hollis Garden. This peaceful botanical garden features more than 10,000 flowers and other plants, stunning fountains, artworks, and impressive neoclassical structures.
Visit Explorations V Children’s Museum
This children’s museum borders Munn Park downtown. It offers three stories of interactive exhibits and fun for kids of all ages. There’s an amazing play center on the lower level that’s designed as an orange grove and citrus factory, in honor of Central Florida’s history in the citrus industry.
See Some Art
Right down the street from the children’s museum is the Polk Museum of Art. This might not work on the itinerary if you have young kids with you, but at least make a mental note to visit this Central Florida cultural attraction when you have the opportunity. The museum’s permanent exhibits include Modern and Contemporary Art, African Art, Asian Art, Pre-Columbian Art, and Decorative Arts.
See Some Architecture
Lakeland is home to Florida Southern College, and its campus has the biggest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture found in one place anywhere in the world. Wright’s “Child of the Sun” collection consists of 12 structures constructed between 1939 and 1958. It’s fun to just wander around, but enthusiasts can also take guided tours.
Catch a Movie at the Drive-In
Give your family the exceedingly rare experience of attending a drive-in movie. Lakeland’s Silver Moon Drive-In theater’s been offering this once-popular film-viewing format since 1948. There’s also an on-site flea market called Swap Shop on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
Enjoy the Great Outdoors
If your family’s looking for a nature experience, the 1,300-acre Circle B Bar Reserve is a great destination. It’s teeming with an amazing variety of birds and other wildlife, plus there are trails, picnic facilities, remains from the region’s early cattle ranching history, a guided tram tour, an indoor nature center, and other fun things to do.