It’s easy to zip by Lakeland as you travel Interstate 4 heading east to Orlando or west to Tampa. But that would be a mistake. This lovely central Florida city is home to architectural landmarks, public art, museums, baseball, and — yes — 16 natural lakes.
1) Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture at Florida Southern College
For his last commission, Frank Lloyd Wright designed the buildings and grounds at Florida Southern College. The whole campus bears his signature, from the sharp angles and airy, cantilevered, covered walkways to the astonishing acoustics in the theater. Tours $20-$35. www.flsouthern.edu/fllw-visitors.aspx
2) Hollis Garden
This formal, European-style garden on 1.2 acres overlooks Lake Mirror. Begin in the cool limestone-walled grotto and make your way by patterned flower beds, vegetable and herb gardens, ornamental fountains, and brightly colored pieces of public art. Classical music in the background complements the cultural cachet. www.lakelandgov.net/parkrec/HollisGarden.aspx
3) Frances Langford Promenade
Also known as the Lake Mirror Promenade, this mile-long palm-lined walkway follows the lake’s scenic shore, with access to Hollis Garden, Barnett Family Park, and Kryger Park. Named for actress and Lakeland native Frances Langford, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Albert Paley’s abstract metal-collage sculpture “Tribute to Volunteerism” anchors the northeast shore.
4) Polk Museum of Art
This small but fine museum includes pre-Columbian artifacts, European and decorative works, and Asian art, but its focus is on modern and contemporary art. Exhibitions change frequently, so there’s always a reason to return. Don’t miss the outdoor sculpture garden set against a “waterwall” fountain. $5, students and under 6 free. www.polkmuseumofart.org
5) Detroit Tigers Spring Training
Next spring the Detroit Tigers will begin their 79th season in Lakeland and 50th at the 8,000-seat Joker Marchant Stadium, extending the longest-lasting relationship between a Major League Baseball team and a current spring training host city. The Tigers first came to Lakeland in spring 1934. www.tigers.mlb.com