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Free Fun for the Family in Lakeland, Florida

by Angelique Platas

Mar 12, 2020

Photo: Robhainer | Dreamstime.com


For a family-friendly Florida vacation, you may already have dollar signs and Mickey ears in your view. Skip the crowds and enjoy a quieter reprieve in one of the state’s quaint, off-the-beaten-path towns like Lakeland. While technically a college town, it is far more subdued than you might think.


Whether driving through between major cities Tampa and Orlando or taking a daytrip from nearby towns like Plant City or Auburndale, Lakeland is for the flea market hunters, community event lovers, green thumb wannabes and antique scavengers in your crew.


Take the green route — think more botanical and less financial — and enjoy the city’s many natural (and free) escapes. Hit the reserve on a walk, run or bike ride at Circle B Bar Reserve. Pay a visit to Lake Hancock and in the lush, green, marshy landscape and get a quick workout in. Expect to see a gator or two, especially along Alligator Alley or Gator Creek Reserve. Go birdwatching at Lakeland Highlands Scrub and pack lunch for an impromptu picnic.


This Central Florida town is actually loaded with locales for history buffs and art lovers, including the botanical variety. Stop at Hollis Garden for a lakeside stroll amid beautiful seasonal flowers and well-manicured topiaries. Check the garden’s website for local events and free concerts, held year-round and typically all-ages.

Hollis Garden. Photo: Vanessa Gifford | Dreamstime.com

Get eyes on some art and culture while in the area with a stop at Polk Museum of Art. One of the top-rated museums in the state, Polk is a privately owned, non-profit offering exhibits, events and art classes throughout the year. Sign the kids up for some activities and art lessons for a break from the Florida sun — with a dash of educational value they will be having too much fun to notice.


Go lake hunting! Renting a car in Florida is usually a must, especially if you want to enjoy a multicity trip, so take advantage and see the sites. Hop in the car or rent a bike and explore the area’s many lakes and nature preserves. From Lake Mirror and Saddle Creek Park to Lake Gibsons and Lake Parker, you’ll have your hands full visiting them all.


Lakeland is a pedestrian-friendly town, so getting around by bike will be a fun, throwback way to enjoy a summer vacation like a local. Head to downtown Lakeland for a wide variety of restaurants, bars and nightlife. Nothing too crazy, though, as this locale is one of the more tame college towns in the state.


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