Culture, Community, and Charm!
Finally, some Florida content for you! As I shared with you in my Palm Beach travel guide, Florida is full of lovely towns and cities. I wanted to debut Florida by sharing a place that I find special, which is why I’ve put together this list of the best things to do in Lakeland, Florida. Lakeland was where I spent part of my childhood, it makes the perfect day trip from Orlando, the restaurants in Lakeland have become something to watch, and the local ecosystem is one that I find inspiring! This carefully curated list of the best things to do in Lakeland, Florida is not exhaustive yet it will give you a good bite of what Lakeland is made up of and what the community has to offer. I would suggest choosing a few places off this list or visiting every place on the list over a weekend in Lakeland, Florida!
Before I dive in, I thought it is worth mentioning two local publications that continue to enhance the community and showcase locally owned businesses and products. The second I was off the highway, I went straight to a local cafe and found myself free copies of The Lakelander and LKLD Haven Magazine. I’d grab one of each even if you already have your day planned out. So many of the stories covered gave me insight into the town’s offerings and even inspired me to try a few other places on my next visit!
- The Lakelander has a strong Kinfolk vibe to it. From the art direction, the style of writing, and the quality of the visuals make you think you’re diving right into a travel magazine with a strong cultural focus. Their articles are more profiles, which gives you a better understanding of the place.
- LKLD Haven Magazine is the perfect magazine to pick up if you’re looking to find events, places, and the best things to do in Lakeland, Florida and the wider Polk County area. So if you’re done with Lakeland early, then you can add maybe a few more places on your list for your way out if you’re just doing a day trip from Orlando!
Tea, Coffee and Cake!
- Born and Bread Bakehouse is heaven for both the sweet tooth and savory carb enthusiasts! It wasn’t until my third visit did I finally get to visit because of their limited opening hours! So if you find yourself in Lakeland early in the morning, go there for a savory breakfast sandwich and a coffee!
- Honeycomb Bread Bakers have a soft spot in my mom’s heart. On my first visit, I visited purely to order a tea and snack and noticed the bread baskets in the back were empty. On my second visit, I showed up with my mom and we got two loaves of bread! The French baguette was sweet-smelling and crusty, which transported us back to Paris for our mother-daughter getaway!
- Hillcrest Coffee gives you a homey feeling. Casual seating arrangements and people seemed to know each other. It’s possibly the perfect coffee spot for a family!
- Concord Coffee was the spot I went to when I got right off the highway. I had the best caffeine fix and loved the minimalist design. It’s your typical millennial cafe that does a coffee well. It sits in a plaza where you can find both the magazines I mentioned above as well!
Where to Eat
- Scarpa’s is one of those places that I found out through word of mouth and that of 6 different people. After it was recommended 6 times, I realized I needed to visit to judge for myself. It’s hard finding seasonal dishes on a menu with fresh pasta in Florida, so that’s why Scarpa’s makes the cut! It’s cozy, accommodating, and reminded me of trattorias in Milan!
- Palace Pizza is a homey spot for your pizza with fresh ingredients. I was in Lakeland on my own one afternoon and went for a slice and ended up getting a whole lot more!
- Mojo Federal is right around the corner from Palace Pizza and was recommended highly by a chef friend. This means you have to go. I ended up ordering a platter with my friend Amy so we could try it all. Maybe it was because it had been 5 years since I had good BBQ, but flavorful and hit the spot. Another reason to go would be the whiskey bar too!
- The Joinery is Lakeland’s new addition and an exciting one! I’ve yet to properly check it out, but I wanted to add it to the list since a food hall has something for everyone!
Where to Shop
- June Taylor Shop is a treasure trove. Full of eclectic pieces from all over the world and of various eras. On my second recent visit, I decided to take my parents to the shop and they fell in love with two Indian-inspired pieces that sit in their home today! I found a gorgeous sketch of a woman and a mid-century modern console I lusted over. It’s worth a wander!
- The Shop Across the Street is one of those shops you’ll spend hours in! Full of nicknacks, memorabilia, and vintage finds along with the sweetest shopkeeper and her dog! I’d go for their record collection and vintage prints!
- Scout & Tag can be a bit of a confusing shop because it wraps around and seems to contain multiple shops within it even though it just looks like one small storefront. This was my favorite shop in Lakeland because they stock lots of Lakeland-made products. I ended up purchasing Patriot Coffee beans that are roasted in Lakeland and some Rafa Natural skincare products made just down the road in Bartow.
- Twenty Seven is the shop that you’ll find all over social media and rightfully so because it is beautiful! If you’re looking to support small brands then Twenty Seven has it all stocked. I love that the shop owner creates exclusive items for Twenty Seven made in partnership with other local brands. If you had to buy one thing then make it one of the Twenty Seven candles infused with Rafa Natural essential oils!
The Best Beers & Cocktails
- Revival was an exciting visit because my friend Amy told me about a cocktail bar in Lakeland that not only made amazing cocktails, but also had a whole wall dedicated to books. We decided to visit before dinner on my first recent visit and after one cocktail I knew it was in the top 3 cocktail bars I have visited in the world! Their style and technique are new as they reinvent old classics!
- Swan Brewing had to be on my list because if there is one thing I noticed about Florida, it is that there is a strong independent craft brewery scene that I’m totally into. Swan Brewing is Lakeland’s very own and their taproom features so many different other beers across the US!
For an Evening in Lakeland
- Union Hall was a gem that I accidentally came across. I was trying to find Concord Coffee and saw the gorgeous outdoor space of Union Hall. I walked by and saw three people having a meeting and we soon ended up in a conversation with those people who were the managers! They opened up not too long ago in hopes to create a space for locals to come, hang and sing! I love that they do open-mic nights and other entertainment throughout the week. The space is industrial with chic, elevated hardware. It’s a great vibe in the evenings too!
- Silver Moon Drive-In will take you back to the golden days where everything was simple or carefree! If you’re into a very chilled, relaxed evening then head on over to Silver Moon for a drive-in cinema experience!
- Polk Theatre is the obvious stop for thespians and alike! Built in the 1920s, the theatre is absolutely stunning and still holds many period features. They have showing for different plays throughout the year and have recently started showing classic films.
Where to Walk & Explore
- Lake Morton Historic District is the perfect neighborhood to explore if you want to take a peaceful walk like a local. All the streets are freckled with homes and it’s got to be one of the best things to do in Lakeland, Florida because you get to see so many historic homes!
- Florida Southern College has some gorgeous buildings that make an impact for anyone interested in architecture! Take a tour or walk around campus to check the buildings out. If you’re limited on time, you’ll see some of the buildings on your drive around Lake Hollingsworth.
- Lake Mirror and Hollis Garden are two of the best things to do in Lakeland, Florida. Get your walking shoes on and walk around the lake, enjoy the views, watch the swans, and then relax in Hollis Garden!
I know many of you might not make a special trip to Florida just to visit Lakeland, but if you’re looking for a really nice day trip from Orlando then this should be the one! Lakeland has so much to offer and it excites me to see so much growth happening there that caters to young professionals, art enthusiasts, creators and more! What of these do you think are the best things to do in Lakeland, Florida?