Detroit Free Press travel writer Ellen Creager invented a motto for downtown Lakeland when she wrote about our city as a “small mecca of cool” as the 2004 Spring Training season approached.

Creager yesterday gave Free Press readers another of her regular Lakeland travelogues. There’s still praise, but it seems tempered.

Some examples:

  • “Lakeland isn’t the fanciest town in Florida. But beyond the fast food joints and seemingly endless medical clinics, there’s a charming core to the old town whose streets are quaintly named Lemon, Lime and Orange.”

  • “Make time for low-key Lakeland, where everything is not manufactured or pretend, but real, just slightly faded, and is a genteel slice of old Florida beyond your air-conditioned room at the Holiday Inn.”

She does implore her readers to spend time between games in the downtown and Lake Morton districts for some “culture and unstructured time.”

Among her suggestions: dining at the Terrace Grill, Red Door Wine Market, Bay Street Bistro or Fat Maggie’s; viewing Lake Morton swans; touring Florida Southern College; visiting downtown events, Hollis Gardens or the Polk Museum of Art.

There’s no “mecca of cool” gushing this time, but her nod to Lakeland’s authenticity is sincere.

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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