Introduction to Lakeland, Florida
Lakeland is a city in Polk County, Florida, located approximately 35 miles east of Tampa and 55 miles southwest of Orlando along Interstate I-4. Neighboring communities include Polk City, Winter Haven, Bartow, Mulberry, and Dover. The city is home to Florida Southern College and Polk Community College.
Founded in 1882 by land developer Abraham Munn, Lakeland prospered during the next few years along with the burgeoning railroad industry which serviced the community well. Incorporated in 1885, Lakeland quickly became one of Florida's premier cities, resulting in the construction of many notable structures, some of which today appear on the National Register of Historic Places. The 20th century brought a combination of boom years and lean years to the city, which has seen large-scale improvements in its downtown area within the past ten years. Lakeland today is a city which retains its historic charm while at the same time positioning itself for future growth.
Arts and Entertainment in Lakeland
Lakeland's central location affords visitors and residents access to many local attractions and also attractions from the surrounding cities of Orlando and Tampa. Orlando is home to several major attractions, including Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, and Sea World Florida. Lakeland itself hosts several seasonal events and festivals. In April, thousands of aviation fans flock to the city to participate in one of the world's largest aviation events: the Sun 'n Fun Fly-In. Featured at this event are state-of-the-art aircraft displays, daily air shows, and educational forums covering virtually every aviation interest. October's Fall Festival in Munn Park includes sidewalk arts and crafts, and in the same month the city hosts the Lake Mirror Classic Auto Festival. In December children of all ages enjoy the annual Christmas Parade and Snowfest at Lake Mirror.
Lakeland also offers a wealth of artistic and cultural attractions, some of which are listed here:
- Florida Southern College Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture & Visitors Center: Home to the largest single-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture, the College offers a wealth of information about the famous architect, including a permanent exhibition of his photos, drawings, and correspondence.
- Florida Air Museum at Sun 'n Fun: Among the exhibits are personal artifacts from legendary aviator Howard Hughes and "Sweetie Face", the famous aircraft of aerobatic legend Bob Hoover.
- Florida Dance Theatre: Polk County's only professional dance company and one of Central Florida's most innovative forces in contemporary dance.
- Polk Theatre: A restored facility originally built in 1927 as a vaudeville and movie house.
- Exploration's V Children's Museum: Three floors of hands-on exhibits for kids and families.
- Polk Museum of Art: Exhibitions include Contemporary American Art, European Decorative Art, Asian Art, and a permanent display of Pre-Columbian artifacts.
- Imperial Symphony Orchestra
- Pied Piper Players
- Lakeland's Community Theatre
Sports fans will recognize Lakeland as the long-time Spring Training headquarters of the Detroit Tigers, who began training there in 1934. The city is also the regular season home of the Tigers' minor league farm team in the Class Single-A Florida State League, the Lakeland Flying Tigers. Both teams play in newly-renovated Joker Marchant Stadium. Indoor professional football also exists in Lakeland, home of the Lakeland ThunderBolts of the American Indoor Football Association (AIFA). Fans of NFL football can take the short drive to nearby Tampa, home to the National Football League's Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Also located in Tampa are hockey's Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL), Major League Baseball's Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and Arena Football's Tampa Bay Storm (AFL). Lakeland's neighbor to the northeast, the city of Orlando, is home to basketball's Orlando Magic (NBA) and also to the Orlando Predators of the Arena Football League (AFL).