Welcome to Lakeland, FL

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Lakeland, FL | Photo by @emortdesign

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Welcome to Lakeland — the Swan City. Abby and Kaylee here, the editors of LALtoday, and we’re so excited to show you around. Before we get started on the tour, here are a few LAL facts:

○ In 1882, our town founder Abraham Munn purchased 80 acres of land (what is now our downtown area). Lakeland was then incorporated on Jan. 1, 1885. The names Munnville, Red Bug and Rome City were considered for the town, but rejected by the residents.

○ Now, Lakeland’s most popular nickname is Swan City. In 1957, Queen Elizabeth sent a pair of swans from England to be released on Lake Morton. Today, descendants of that pair continue to live at our city’s lakes, along with Australian Black Swans, White Coscoroba Swans, Black Neck Swans + other species of birds. We even have an annual swan round-up to ensure the birds’ health and provide feeding stations and breeding pens.

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See what we mean? | Photo by @p.1nny

○ We’ve got the best of both worlds, with close proximity to Tampa + Orlando, beaches and amusement parks (think Disney World, Universal Studios, Busch Gardens + more). Because of this we’re a great place for families with kiddos to entertain, and those who prefer hunting for kitschy fun stuff to do.

Alright, let’s have a look around.

The Polk Theatre

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So much history behind those doors | Photo by LALtoday

Visit now: The Polk Theatre is providing access to independent films for viewers to stream at home. Thanks to collaboration with the studios, the films can be rented through the theatre’s website for $6-12. Click here for a list of the films to choose from.

Visit later: When the theatre opens back up, don’t miss their live events in a one-of-a-kind historic space. Upcoming shows include 7 Bridges: The Ultimate Eagles Experience, The Hits of the Brits: The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and Take Me Home: The Music of John Denver.

Bonus: Elvis Presley (aka The King), played here in 1956 and left behind a signature in one of the theatre’s dressing rooms. The star’s signature was removed from the wall to avoid water damage but is now in a frame to be protected + displayed.

Polk Museum of Art

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Inside of Polk Museum of Art | Photo by @polkmuseumofart

Visit now: Want to brush up on your art education? 🖌️ Watch or listen to free Gallery Talks, Curator Tours, Docent-Led Tours + lectures on the museum’s website. If you’d like to dive deeper, there are also interviews with an art collector, conservator and featured artists.

Visit later: When the museum reopens, check out one of their educational programs or explore the hand-made, local goods for sale at The Shop. They have something for everyone, from 7-year-olds to adults.

Bonus: If you missed “The Paintings of Gabriela Gonzalez Dellosso” exhibition, you can experience it along with its gallery talk here.

Downtown Farmers Curb Market

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Fresh produce, local crafters + more | Photo by @photograph_skyler.a

Visit now: If you want to support local farmers, makers and artists, shop for their items online. Whether you’re on the hunt for a new coffee mug, local honey, or handmade soap, the Downtown Farmers Curb Market has you covered. 🛍️

Visit later: As fun as online shopping is, there’s nothing like strolling down N. Kentucky Ave. to sample new sweet treats and catch up with your favorite sellers.

Bonus: We love this Virus Button Pack from The Red Swan.

SUN ‘n FUN Aerospace Expo

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The wonder of flight, like you’ve never seen | photo by @igotyour6

Visit now: To level up on your STEM education, check out STEMChats for hands-on crafts and virtual experiences guided by Aerospace Center for Excellence (ACE) educators. You can also experience the excitement of SUN ‘n FUN via their Air Show at home.

Need a new background for your Zoom calls? Whether you’re more of a hot air balloon or fireworks kind of person, find a SUN ‘n FUN-themed backdrop that suits your style here.

Visit later: SUN ‘n FUN is scheduled to host its next in-person expo April 13-18 in 2021. We can’t wait until we can see the majestic jets soaring again. ✈️

Bonus: There will be a Home Edition Live Online Benefit on May 30 at 6 p.m. Be sure to tune in to catch all of the airshow action in a new format.

Eatin’ in LAL

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Mayday Ice Cream – perfect for a sunny FL day | Photo by @lkldbitesandbrews

When it’s safe to visit, you’ll have plenty of delectable food options.

Abby’s personal favorites include Ato, Thai Oishi, Cob and Pen, Zarza, and Mayday Ice Cream

Kaylee loves Palace Pizza, Philly Steak & Wings, Cafe Zuppina + Black and Brew

We’ve also got plenty of articles to help you navigate the local food scene.

○ You can’t miss these classic Lakeland restaurants, like Fat Jack’s Deli & Pub, Frescos + Mister Fish.

○ And if you’re gluten-free, we’ve got you covered there too. Check out this list of 20 local restaurants with gluten-free options.

○ If you prefer mobile cuisine, check out this list of local food trucks.

That brings us to the end of the tour. You didn’t think we could show you all of Lakeland, did ya? Some things you just have to experience in person, like strolling along one of our many lakes at sunset or the charm of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture.

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Old-school FL charm is kinda our thing | Photo by @brandonrski

If you still haven’t had enough of LAL, check out the photo album we recently made and start daydreaming about which Central FL attractions you’ll plan for your visit. And be sure to stop by the Visit Central Florida website for more virtual fun + inspiration for your next trip to Swan City. We can’t wait to see you. 👋

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