Just a short distance from the hustle and bustle of Orlando’s attractions, hundreds of lakes dot the Central Florida countryside, providing some of the best bass fishing in the country as well as plenty of opportunity for boating and other watersports. Those who want to keep their feet firmly on the ground will find hundreds of exceptional golf courses in this region.
Charming villages dot Central Florida; in places such as LakeWaters, Winter Haven, Polk City, and Babson Park, visitors may explore small-town America and find interesting architecture and antiques.
Surrounded by Florida’s legendary attractions, Lakeland is conveniently located between Orlando and Tampa just off Interstate 4.
Lake Mirror Park
In the heart of downtown, Lake Mirror Park offers a historic promenade, amphitheater, and pedestrian walkways. Hollis Garden, located around the walkway, is a breathtaking, formal garden overlooking Lake Mirror and showcasing more than 10,000 flowers and Florida-indigenous plants. A grand staircase connects the park and the garden.
History comes alive in Lakeland’s legendary downtown and revitalized Historic and Antiques district. More than 60 antique dealers, specialty shops, art galleries, restaurants, and pubs can be found in the heart of downtown.
The historic Polk Theatre, built in 1927, has its interior designed like a Mediterranean village and restored to its original splendor, providing a venue for special events also located in the downtown area. Nearby is Exploration V Children’s Museum, a hands-on children’s museum. The Polk Museum of Art exhibits a collection of pre-Colombian artwork, a unique sculpture garden, and other traveling collections. Also check out what’s happening at The Lakeland Center, a top-rated entertainment, sporting, and convention complex.
Festivals in Lakeland Florida
Popular events throughout the year include Mayfaire-By-The-Lake, a juried outdoor art festival held Mother’s Day weekend; the springtime “Child of the Sun” Jazz Festival at Florida Southern College which offers the largest single-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture in the world; and the week-long Sun ‘n Fun Fly-In at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport. The Florida Air Museum at Sun ‘n Fun displays a rich variety of aircraft and aviation artifacts year ‘round for lovers of flight. The Lake Mirror Auto Classic showcases unique vintage cars from across the United States and the world in Lakeland’s beautiful downtown setting each year in October.
Located in the middle of Central Florida, Lakeland’s sun-kissed climate and rolling landscapes provide the perfect backdrop for a variety of recreational activities, including championship golf courses, that appeal to everyone.
Lakeland has 13 freshwater lakes to enhance its beauty. Several are actual bird sanctuaries; in fact, Lakeland even has its own Swan Department to care for more than 200 swans that grace many of its lakes. The Lake Mirror Promenade, designed in the 1920s, features magnificent columns and seawalls with classical ornamentation. It is listed on the National Historic Registry. Stroll over to Barnett Park which has interactive fountains, themed play areas, and ornate Byzantine tile mosaics.
Lakeland is conveniently minutes away from all of Florida’s most popular tourist attractions such as Disney World, Sea World, and Universal Studios in Orlando, as well as Busch Gardens in Tampa, Cypress Gardens Adventure Park, and Historic Bok Sanctuary. It’s just a short drive to Spaceport USA and the Kennedy Space Center, Florida’s Gulf and Atlantic beaches, and Tampa and Orlando International Airports.
Where to See Large Wild Alligators in Florida
An amazing video of a large alligator in Florida is making its rounds across the internet this week. With one person taking video on one side, and a few lucky nature photography enthusiasts on the other, an alligator estimated to be fifteen feet long crossed between the group allowing everyone a long look at one of Florida’s most recognizable residents. The beast, commonly referred to as Mr. Hunchback by locals, is a regular sight for hikers at the Circle B Bar Reserve and now everyone wants to see him. All week long the quiet reserve has received so many visitors they were having trouble parking! (Take a look at the news report below for interviews with the photographers on-hand and to see the increase of hikers on the trails.)
Although the Polk Nature Center/Circle B Bar Reserve has been the highlight of the state this week, there are dozens of other great wildlife locations across the state that can offer tourists an inside look at large alligators. My favorite way to observe alligators is via an airboat ride. It is like two great adventures at once. First, you ride a fun airboat through the swampy water. Then you stop to watch stunning Florida wildlife — in the wild! It’s amazing!
My second favorite way to see gators is by driving along the Tamiami Trail! This is one of my absolute favorite roads in Florida. While driving you see dozens of alligators sunning in the canals and can easily pull over to watch them from the safety of your vehicle! (This is a great way to watch alligators with small children because you don’t have to worry about them falling into the water or running in a direction they shouldn’t.)
Lastly, if you want to see alligators up close and personal — visit the alligator farm! An alligator farm will bring you as close to an alligator as you want, you can even hold baby alligators there! Sure, it isn’t the wild, but no matter how you view alligators in Florida, it’s wild!
5 Alligator Safety Tips:
- Never forget that an alligator is a wild animal, who can kill you!
- Always respect their space
- Use your camera zoom instead of getting closer for a better photo
- Observe with extreme caution when children are present.
- Go with a guide (or Park Ranger) if you aren’t familiar with the area.