Turn up the lights, Swan City. With Daylight Saving Time getting its start over the weekend, we all gained extra sunlight (and lost some Zzz’s). While we’re grateful to see more of our little city during the day, we know there’s plenty of magic that happens at night, after the sun goes down.
With this in mind, we rounded up 7 bright nighttime views unique to Lakeland — like Sputnik, the tax collector office + the Southgate sign, among others — perfect for all the wannabee night owls (Who, me?). 🦉
Southgate Shopping Center
Built in 1957, the Southgate Shopping Center transformed the Polk County skyline – and now, you’d be hard-pressed to find an illustration of Lakeland that doesn’t include the 70-ft. arch. Not to mention, it’s universal claim to fame with an Edward Scissorhands cameo. In February 2020, the local Hollywood sign returned to its old roots with new led lights and now luminophiles can expect different themes + colors throughout the year.
Lights. Camera. Action. CMX Cinemas, formerly known as The Cobb Theater, acts as a neon beacon within Lakeside Village with its rainbow myriad of gold, orange, blue, green + red hues. In the 1980s, the building itself was originally home to Spring Lake Cinema 10 before becoming The Cobb Theater in the early 2000s. While the Cobb was taken over by CMX Cinemas, the neon signage has remained the same since the 1980s.
Silver Moon Drive-In
The first-ever drive-in theatre to open in Lakeland made its debut on April 14, 1948, as the Silver Moon Drive-In. At the time, admission was only 35 cents and included a short subject, a cartoon, and the latest newsreel. The infamous flashing neon sign and marquee were added in 1952 when Floyd Theatres took over ownership. The theatre still operates successfully showing first-run films.
Polk Theatre The Roto-Sphere
Built during the golden age, the Polk Theatre began thriving in its early years, and on opening day, the matinee sold out within an hour of the box office’s opening. While the marquee outside is lit up by tons of LED bulbs, have you ever looked up when inside? According to staff, the light fixtures in the “sky” are the originals from the 1920s, and no one is still really sure why they blink.
This spinning neon demon — often dubbed as ‘sputnik’ because it looks like the satellites that were launched in the ‘50s — was designed by Warren Milks between 1961-1970. The Roto-Sphere is so much of a Lakeland landmark, that it’s said that pilots use it as a reference point at night.
Joe G. Tedder, Tax Collector’s Office
This former Publix location is now home to the Joe G. Tedder, Tax Collector’s Office. The art deco-style building is painted lime green, trimmed in linear neon LED lights, and glass blocks.
Frances Langford Promenade
Holiday lights aside, the bulbs that adorn Lake Mirror cast a glow that can be seen nearly anywhere in Downtown Lakeland and reflect a mirror-perfect image of the lake in the dark. Any guesses on just many bulbs there are?