Lakeland is the perfect place to spend your sunny Saturday in, with a vibrant food scene and diverse cluster of unique small businesses.
Nestled between Tampa and Orlando, this close-knit community of college twenty-somethings and easygoing retirees is skyrocketing in popularity each year, and it continues to take off even in the midst of COVID-19. Why you might ask? Because if there’s one thing Lakeland has to offer, it’s creativity, which is identified with each new, exciting spot that opens around town.
So today we’ve rounded up some of the foremost local favorites that will keep you coming back to this gem of a city.
Born + Bread:
Featured in Food + Wine, USA Today, and Bake From Scratch, Born + Bread Bakehouse is a local favorite that has Lakelanders eagerly waiting in line for a chance to sample their iconic baked goods. Try one of their signature “cruffins” (a cross between a croissant and muffin) or a twice-baked croissant, then finish it off with a glass of smooth, cold-brewed coffee. While the bakery is only open to the public twice a week (Wednesday 5-8 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m.-1 p.m.), their website offers a handy pre-order option so you can skip the busy lines.
Lakeland Farmers Market:
Open every Saturday morning from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Lakeland Farmers Market is an integral aspect of local culture. Various vendors from around Polk County gather to sell their wares, from fresh farm produce to boba tea. While you explore the farmer’s market, be sure to pop into the small businesses that are dotted along the market’s main stretch on North Kentucky Ave., like Twenty Seven or Top Buttons Boutique.
Hop on over to Twenty Seven, a whimsical paper goods and tea shop in the heart of downtown Lakeland. With an Instagram following of over 88,000, their vibrant home goods are well admired, from bubbly art prints to customizable greeting cards. Fancy a cup of tea? They offer a broad assortment of unique tea blends to sample at their in-house tea bar, or pick up a package to brew at home yourself. A small tip for you: Twenty Seven recently announced that they’ll be relocating to a new facility in the near future, so be sure to check their website for updated information before you visit!
This bungalow-turned-coffeehouse is the Lakeland art scene’s mecca and is constantly buzzing with energy. From busy college students to laidback seniors, everyone is welcome to stop by and enjoy a cup of fresh coffee or simply meet a new friend. With art dotted on each wall and regular live music events, Hillcrest is the perfect place for people to gather and express their artistic abilities! The only downside? Hillcrest is only open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday and closed on Sunday, so you’ll want to make it your first stop.
Concord Coffee & Mitchell’s Coffee House:
If you can’t catch Hillcrest before its early close, have no fear! Lakeland houses three private universities, which means there are several coffee shops scattered around the city. For a minimalist, sophisticated atmosphere, try Concord Coffee, a Lakeland favorite that roasts its own coffee beans. Looking for a cozier experience? Mitchell’s Coffee House is a family-owned cafe, and its walls are lined with bookshelves of board games.
Polk Museum of Art:
For the art enthusiast, the Polk Museum of Art is an exceptional place to spend your afternoon. Explore the museum’s various ancient to modern collections that span the globe, and while you’re there, be sure to check out the student artwork on display from nearby Florida Southern College. The Polk Museum also circulates a diverse number of exhibitions each year; currently on exhibit is “Toulouse-Lautrec & The Belle Époque,” a collection of Post-Impressionist Parisian lithographs. The best perk of all is that the museum is free to visitors, just be sure to visit their website for reservations before arriving.
Opened in 2020, The Joinery is a modern, industrial food hall that overlooks scenic Lake Mirror. With eight dining options and an in-house floral shop, you’ll have no trouble discovering something delicious to sample, but you may find it difficult to choose just one meal. Notable favorites include Gallito Taqueria street tacos, Sabu ramen bowls, and Ava neapolitan, wood-fired pizza. For a sweeter twist, Mayday Ice Cream offers unique, artisanal options, or stop by the Bar, which mixes modern cocktails and handcrafted brews.
Circle B Bar Reserve:
For nature lovers and avid hikers, Circle B Bar Reserve is the ultimate spot to explore Floridian wildlife, and yes, almost certainly meet a friendly alligator along the way. With nine hiking trails from easy to moderate difficulty (0.2 to 1.3 miles), even the least active members of your party will appreciate the untouched nature of Circle B.
The Poor Porker:
Searching for a unique, affordable Lakeland eatery? Look no further than The Poor Porker, a bohemian, open-air cafe that specializes in serving up crispy beignets and savory burgers. With an array of delectable flavors to choose from, it’s almost impossible to select only one tray of beignets. The same is true for their iconic Adler’s Burgers, which was voted Best Burger of 2020 (Best of Haven). The Poor Porker also offers a variety of eclectic seating options, from a vintage camper to a covered, air-conditioned bar. Open Friday through Sunday, be sure to check out upcoming live music and entertainment at their website!
Silver Moon Drive-In Theatre:
Looking for a cinematic way to end your weekend in Lakeland? Look no further than Silver Moon, a drive-in theater that has been drawing movie-goers since 1948. With double-feature showings seven nights a week, there is something for everyone! Check out their website for current and future showings.