Soak up Central Florida’s laid-back vibe with a visit to Polk County, home to historic Lakeland and scenic Lake Wales.
The heart of the state provides a perfect home base for a vacation with its easy access to beaches and popular attractions such as LEGOLAND Florida Resort, picturesque gardens and a cowboy lifestyle experience. Central Florida is home to some 554 freshwater lakes, prime for fishing and other water adventures, as well as plenty of parks and trails to explore on land. You’ll find a mix of small-town charm and big-city amenities.
Downtown Lakeland Food Scene
Enjoy exploring the emerging, vibrant dining scene that’s thriving in downtown Lakeland. From upscale offerings to more casual fare, foodies will find plenty to love. Head to the Born & Bread Bakehouse for Instagram-ready breads and fresh-baked “cruffins,” a croissant-muffin hybrid that’s become the bakery’s signature item. The bakery is owned by a Polk County native who regularly hosts apprentices from around the world traveling here to learn about the baking business. For a cup of coffee that’s as beautiful as it is delicious, pull up a chair at Lakeland’s Concord Coffee. The coffee shop, whose motto is “good things happen over coffee,” roasts the beans that become espressos, lattes and more so you can take home a bag and enjoy a few sips of vacation every morning.
Picking up a handcrafted latte at Concord Coffee
Old Florida Garden Gems
Central Florida, with its warm days and plentiful sunshine, provides an ideal climate for botanical gardens. There are many in the area, and all offer peaceful trails, vibrant flowers and wildlife-viewing opportunities. Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales is a favorite, highlighted by a 62-meter-tall art deco bell tower, known as The Singing Tower for its daily concerts of carillon music. The gardens, which were designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., also feature a children’s area, walking tours of seasonal blooms and tranquil resting spots. In Lakeland, visit Lake Mirror Park to stroll Hollis Garden. The formal garden, surrounded by neoclassical architecture, features more than 10,000 flowers, ornamental shrubs and native trees. Just a short walk from downtown, the garden is dotted with patterned flower beds, relaxing fountains and sculptures.
Colorful flora framing the famed "singing tower" at Bok Tower Gardens
Authentic Florida Dude Ranch
Revisit the days of Old Florida, when the state was a prime spot for cowboys and cattle ranchers, at Westgate River Ranch Resort and Rodeo. This luxury camping, or “glamping,” resort offers accommodations ranging from teepees to luxury tents and cabins to suit every traveling style. Get in touch with your inner cowboy here with activities like horseback riding, archery, skeet shooting and hayrides. Take a thrilling airboat ride on the Kissimmee River, and be sure to keep an eye out for alligators, birds and other wildlife. On Saturday nights, the ranch hosts a rodeo with exciting competitions in bull riding, barrel racing and trick riding.
Soaring over the wetlands of the Kissimmee River on an airboat ride from Westgate River Ranch Resort
Fly in to Tampa International Airport (TPA) or Orlando International Airport (MCO). Both offer plentiful rental car availability and are about an hour’s drive to Lakeland.