Lakeland, Florida, has a lot going for it. As the largest city in Polk County, it boasts the largest on-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture, one of the top-ten art museums in central Florida, great shopping, excellent eateries, amazing weather … it’s no wonder so many people choose to call this area home.
“We know and love our Lakeland community,” says Jeanie Tini, Director of Marketing and Sales at The Estates at Carpenters, a Life Plan Community in Lakeland, FL, that offers Lifecare. “However, there is so much more to Central Florida than just our community and city. Lakeland is situated in a prime spot to head off on a variety of day trips to different areas of our state. Within two hours, you can be in a place that offers a completely different feel from what you’ve come to expect in this area.”
Jeanie says that summertime is the perfect time to get out, hop in a car and head to the many different pleasures that Central Florida has to offer.
“There’s a little bit of something for everyone, from art enthusiasts to beach lovers to naturalists and antiquers and more,” she says.
We’ve put together a list of six easily drivable day trips from Lakeland to some favorite sites in Central Florida, including approximately how long it will take to drive to each one and some of the one-of-a-kind, only-found-in-Florida reasons to head there.
Daytona Beach (2 hours and 30 minutes)
Most people know Daytona Beach as the site of the Daytona 500 NASCAR race every February. While visiting Daytona International Speedway is always an option, there are plenty of other fun and exciting ways to fill your day in this harbor town.
- Spend an afternoon walking along the beach on the 750-foot-long Daytona Beach Pier and Boardwalk – don’t forget to bring your fishing pole, because fishing from the pier is free.
- Climb the 203 steps of the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse, the tallest working lighthouse in Florida, while also looking for Florida wildlife in Ponce Inlet.
- If you’re tired of the beach scene, head a few steps away to the Joyland Amusement Center, where you can ride go karts, hop aboard a roller coaster or try your hand at the old-school arcade area.
- If you’re in town on a Saturday Night between May 29 and September 11, grab a beach chair and enjoy free, live music at the Bandshell Summer Concert Series. This summer’s lineup features tribute bands honoring the music of Billy Joel, the Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi, Fleetwood Mac and many more. Be sure to stay after the concert for the fireworks show from the pier.
Homosassa (1 hour and 45 minutes)
This town, located on the Gulf Coast, is a paradise for nature and water sports enthusiasts alike. It’s the perfect place to spend an afternoon snorkeling alongside manatees, watching spider monkeys and alligators in their natural habitats (from a safe distance, of course) and catching a glimpse of Florida’s most endangered species.
- The Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is a must-see for those who want to walk on the wild side. Hike along the trails and revel in the beauty of the crystal clear springs. The park features a variety of captive animals such as alligators, black bears, red wolf, Key deer, flamingos, whooping cranes and the oldest hippopotamus in captivity.
- For a bit of history, head to the Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park, where you’ll find the remains of a 5,100-acre sugar plantation and a steam-driven mill that operated from 1851–1864 and supplied sugar products for southern troops during the Civil War. Besides the ruins, the site offers a picnic pavilion, restrooms, tables for picnicking, and grills.
DeLand (1 hour and 50 minutes)
Nicknamed “The Athens of Florida,” DeLand is a step back in time to the glamour and drama of Old Florida. It’s home to the state’s oldest college and is known for its gorgeous architecture and opportunities for nature adventures.
- Lovers of historic homes will want to put a tour of the Stetson Mansion at the top of their list. It’s Florida’s most historic home, only Gilded Age mansion and the largest, grandest, most innovative home ever built in the state before 1900.
- If being outside is your thing, head to De Leon Springs State Park, where you can spend the day boating, camping, scuba diving, picnicking, hiking … whatever it is that floats your boat (literally or figuratively), you’ll find it there.
- Walking through the campus of Stetson University is a great way to end your day. You’ll learn about its history and take in the views of the stately red-brick buildings, Greco-Roman columns and gorgeous oaks.
Tarpon Springs (1 hour and 45 minutes)
This cute coastal community is known as the “Sponge Capital of the World” and remains the largest producer of natural sponges in the world today. It’s also home to the highest percentage of Greek Americans in the country – descendants of the sponge divers who settled here in the early 1900s.
- Be sure to sample some authentic Greek cuisine at one of the many eateries and bakeries that line the waterfront on Dodecanese Boulevard. Don’t forget to memorialize your trip by purchasing an authentic sea sponge at the Sponge Docks.
- A little further off the beaten path is Brooker Creek Preserve, a beautiful, quiet nature oasis where you can hike, birdwatch, wildlife watch, and simply enjoy some peace and quiet from the hustle and bustle of the sponge docks.
- If you’re interested in learning more about the culture and history of the area, visit the Tarpon Springs Performing Arts and Cultural Centers or the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral, or take a drive through the historic district to see 145 historic homes.
Mount Dora (1 hour and 30 minutes)
Besides being known as the “Bass Capital of the World,” this small and charming town is the perfect designation for antique enthusiasts.
- Shop for trinkets and treasures in Mount Dora’s downtown area, where you’ll find antique shops as well as outdoor cafes, gourmet restaurants, galleries, wineries and bed and breakfasts.
- If fishing is on your itinerary (and it should be), check these canals off of Lake Dora, Beauclair and Carlton to hook a trophy of a different kind.
Lake Wales (1 hour)
Lake Wales’ city motto is: “Not out of the way, just out of the ordinary.” That certainly describes this town that’s a blend of Florida old and new.
- Be sure to visit Bok Tower Gardens with its Singing Tower, bird sanctuary, and Pinewood Estate as well as see the 250-acre contemplative garden. The gardens are a frequent site of outdoor concerts, so check and see what is going on during your stay.
- The Lake Wales Art Center, founded by famed City Planner Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr. in 1927, features art exhibits, concerts and educational series.
As you can see, you don’t have to travel far for adventure – it’s practically waiting outside your front door. Grab your sunscreen and your hat and don’t forget your camera, and you’ll be ready to have a summer to remember.
About The Estates at Carpenters
The Estates at Carpenters is a Life Plan Community offering worry-free independent living, assisted living and high-quality skilled nursing care and rehabilitation. For over 35 years, The Estates has provided older adults in the area with an active, engaging lifestyle filled with abundant choices and the amenities and services that make life easier. A lifestyle designed to keep older adults healthy and well today – and tomorrow.
For more information on The Estates or to RSVP to an upcoming event, contact Jeanie at 863-279-4503 or visit our website.