Lakeland is my home town.  I returned after retiring from the military in 2001.  It is really a large suburb of Tampa and Orlando, some clever lad put up a sign on the interstate declaring it the future home of downtown Orlampa, and he might be right.  Life here is all about work and church, and where are you going for the weekend?  Still, there are some unique things to see that are really "one of a kind."  It might be a good spot to set up for visits to Tampa or Orlando, but that rarely happens as far as I can tell; hotels are most generally for business travelers, or displacees from hurricane damage.

The historic district, in the center of town, between Lake Hollingsworth and Lake Mirror, is great for walking and seeing "old Florida" bungalows and larger houses on the picturesque lakes.  The swans on Lake Morton were a gift of the English monarch, storks, ducks, white pelicans, and geese are frequent visitors too.  Other lakes harbor alligators and various large turtles. 

Downtown has been restored, and is worth having a look.  Free parking on city streets around Munn Park.  Polk Art Museum has a surprising turn of exhibits, should visit if possible.  It is an excellent example, perhaps the best, of a small Florida city; so many are just expiring due to sprawl.  The city employs a landscape architect full time, with crew, and it shows.  Keep an eye out for fiberglass swan sculptures dotted around.  They remain from an arts fund raiser a few years ago, and many have become permanent installations after being auctioned off.  There is a sculpture garden along Lemon Street,  east of S. Florida Ave. and over to Massachusetts Ave. (3 short blocks).

 Do not miss Florida Southern College.  The campus is quite open, with free parking on the west side, up Johnston Street.  Why visit?  The single largest exhibit of Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture.  We call it "Child of the Sun" and it is gorgeous.  The school contributes many local business people and is the cultural center of Lakeland; it is increasingly well-regarded by those who rate colleges.

The north side, around the I-4 interchange with US-98, is all big box stores and chain restaurants, little remarkable that isn't available elsewhere.  Likewise the south side, farther down along S. Florida Ave. and out to Harden Blvd.; new shopping at Lakeside Village has caused a bit of a stir, but it's really more of the same, with slightly better packaging.  East side is light industrial zoning, nothing to see really.