Located right off of I-4 about 40 minutes east of Tampa and around an hour southwest of Orlando, Lakeland is a unique destination that combines a historic “Old Florida” feel with some modern accents.
Whether you are drawn to the local history and world-famous architecture, the spring training baseball, or the outstanding collection of shopping and restaurant options, Lakeland offers something for just about everyone.
Like we have seen in many other retirement spotlights, the Lakeland area was originally home to a large number of Native Americans prior to the arrival of Spanish explorers. But the modern story of Lakeland starts when the railroads arrived in the area along with a number of freed slaves following the Civil War.
After serving as a location for military troops during the Spanish-American War, the economic boom of the 1920s brought an influx of people to Lakeland. Many of the buildings constructed during this time are still standing today.
Other key events in Lakeland's history include the arrival of the Detroit Tigers for Spring Training in 1934, famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright's work at Florida Southern College starting in 1938, and the Lakeland School of Aeronautics training pilots during the early days of World War II.
Lakeland is known for a laid-back Florida lifestyle that embraces the outdoors through places like the stunningly beautiful Hollis Gardens. Residents can also enjoy the outdoors at places like Lake Parker Park, Common Ground Park, and the Circle B Bar Reserve.
The lifestyle in Lakeland transforms for a few months every spring when it becomes a baseball town that is the Spring Training home of the Detroit Tigers. This is one of the most exciting times to be in Lakeland as everyone is watching the Tigers prepare for the new season.
The focal point of the arts and culture scene in Lakeland revolves around the masterful work of Frank Lloyd Wright. Florida Southern College in Lakeland is known for hosting the largest collection of Wright's work, and it is a popular destination for many architecture and design enthusiasts.
In addition to being famous among architects, Lakeland also has a thriving artist community that revolves around the Polk Museum of Art and the historic Polk Theatre.
Like many of the popular retirement destinations in Florida, Lakeland has a historic downtown district that is filled with enough boutique gift shops and antique dealers to make shopping there a unique experience that is constantly changing and evolving.
Downtown Lakeland also hosts a farmers' market every Saturday morning where you will find an outstanding selection of hand-made soaps, crafts, and gifts, as well as all of the traditional farmer's market items like locally grown produce and fresh-baked breads.
We can't finish a section on shopping without mentioning that Lakeland is the headquarters of Publix Super Markets, which operates more than 1,000 stores throughout the Southeast. The very first Publix opened right down the road from Lakeland in Winter Haven in 1930.
Everything about the restaurant scene in Florida revolves around fresh seafood, and Lakeland residents have plenty of options to choose from in that respect. Two of the most popular options for casual seafood are Harry's Seafood Bar and Grille and Fish City Grill.
If hip tapas bars that specialize in bone marrow, escargot, and short ribs are the kind of places you enjoy, then Red Door Lakeland is going to be your new favorite restaurant, and you will definitely not be disappointed with the menu options there.
There is also a Latin American side to Lakeland that includes world-class restaurants like Nineteen61 and the more casual Brasa Latina.
With a rich architectural history, a spring seasonal baseball experience, and an eclectic restaurant scene, there is nothing standard about Lakeland. This fun destination is the perfect spot for anyone looking to embrace that combination of art, history, sports, and food.
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