Sometimes a road trip or exhausting red-eye flight can make you especially grateful for the comfort of your bed, familiar faces, and constant spaces. Experiences like these, though the fun can be fleeting, often make you realize how lucky you are to live in such a fine city as we do. That realization can lead to a wave of emotions, gratitude exuding from every pore. Here are some of the things our team is most thankful for in Lakeland, many of which are singular to this city.

The local businesses

Like most college-student-turned-Lakelanders, we have seen the turn in the local economy with the influx of small, local businesses that gained traction faster than anyone could have expected. Big names like Concord Coffee and Born & Bread are the first to come to mind, but family-owned businesses in the downtown area are oftentimes favorites for Lakelanders and a reason to be grateful for this season. These local businesses add flavor to our town and variety to our relationships!

Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture by Aaron Marsh from YLakeland on Vimeo.

The architecture

After Florida Southern’s 1938 president Ludd Spivey asked the great American architect Frank Lloyd Wright to build a “great education temple in Florida,” the legacy of Lakeland’s architecture began. Wright titled the project Child of the Sun, describing his Florida Southern buildings as being “out of the ground, into the light, a child of the sun.” It is the largest single-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in the world and attracts 30,000 visitors each year. In keeping with this tradition, the magnificent and daunting architecture of Florida Polytechnic greets visitors with its awesome spinal overture. Even the bungalows along the lakes are special to Lakeland, resounding Wright’s Usonian house adjacent to campus.

The Polk Museum of Art

We are so lucky admission to the Polk Museum of Art is free. The extraordinary building stands as the vanguard of new ideas, creativity, and artistic ability. Overlooking the placid, swan-filled shores of Lake Morton, the Museum is an all-too-often overlooked Polk treasure. Lofted ceilings accent the exceptional pieces held within its walls, from egg tempera by Robert Vickrey to rare Rosenquist creations. Closed Mondays, the PMoA is open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily and from 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. on Sundays.

 

Circle B Bar Reserve

“Only in Florida” was the title of the viral video depicting a colossal-sized gator tromping around the marshy grasslands of Lakeland’s very own Circle B Bar Reserve. I’d say that’s a pretty great way to describe the reservation, which never fails in showcasing its numerous gators, waterfowl, eagles, snakes, and mammals.

Lake Hollingsworth

Named number twenty on Under Armour’s “Run the World: The Top 20 Running Routes in America” article, this 2.93-mile lake is a big attraction for runners, joggers, walkers, roller skaters, and bikers for obvious reasons. Incomparable sunsets grace the skies daily, reflecting off the lake’s smooth surface to create a vision of heavenly glory. The lake itself is a place for the community, and you can barely make it around its perimeter without seeing a familiar face.

 

Bike routes

Just one of Lakeland’s hidden gems, the endless bike routes available to us is astounding. Some favorites are the lake-to-lake trail and Carter Road dirt bike trails. These trails and bike-friendly routes allow riders to not only ride their bike each day but also to enjoy the fresh air in LKLD.

Birds of a feather

BIRDING. There are so many birds right here in Lakeland! From the swans that grace the shores of Lake Morton to the roseate spoonbills of Lake Parker and Hollingsworth, the bird scene is enough to entice any level naturalist. As mentioned above, we are extremely thankful for Circle B. you can see great blue herons, white ibis, snowy egrets, and more walking those marshy trails.

Community & friends

Every single time we hold a “20 Questions with…” interview, we always ask about why that particular person came to Lakeland. And why they stayed. Many, if not all, the answers mention this sense of familiarity that comes with living in a small town. The community here is unlike many others, and the camaraderie between friends is tangible on a cellular level.

Farmers Market Saturdays

It’s easy to gravitate towards the fresh produce provided at the Saturday market downtown, and you miss it when you’re traveling. These markets are remarkable, and they attract every kind of Lakelander. From Hawaiian foods to fig jams, the Farmers Market’s diverse selection is a great reason to be thankful.

 

The Polk Theatre

Its stately walls hold this paradise of film and dialogue, and the first time you step foot in the theatre you are stuck with awe from the classic feel and great films shared at super low prices. Every week, the Polk Theatre features indie, classic, and off-kilter flicks from around the world. Did we mention it’s $2 beer or wine when you go?! You can’t pass up on an opportunity like that.

 

What are you thankful for this year?