It’s official. You no longer need to brave I-4 and Orlando traffic for date-night fun. Instead, you can stay home and welcome the Orlando hordes sure to flock here now that Orlando Date Night Guide has issued its “20 Reasons Downtown Lakeland Is Worth the Drive.”

“Lakeland may be the last place you think of when it comes to art and foodie-fare, but this walkable downtown is full of surprises,” writes wedding photographer and travel blogger Stephanie Patterson in an article posted today.

She mentions a lot of the usual suspects: Lake Morton, the museum, Hollis Gardens, Munn Park, FSC, Polk Theatre, restaurants, etc. But she also discovered some of the newer gems like Swan City Cycles and the Dixieland Selfie Wall (a lot of Lakelanders don’t know about that one yet) and she raves about the abundance of public art.

Writer Stephanie Patterson at the Dixieland Selfie Wall

For the record, the Dixieland Selfie Wall is in the alley just west of Florida Avenue between Belmar and Park Streets.

Patterson told lkldnow she found the selfie wall via a YLakeland post on Instagram-worthy spots in Lakeland. “I had to do a little sleuthing online to find the exact location, but was able to find it easily from Concord Coffee (a friend tipped me off about Concord – what a cool place!)”

She decided to spotlight Lakeland because she has photographed some weddings around Lake Mirror and friends introduced her to First Friday and other local events. As a Davenport resident, “Lakeland is only a short drive away for me with less traffic than going into Orlando. It’s nice to have a walkable downtown nearby with great restaurants and activities.”

For Lakelanders who want to experience Orlando (now that the Orlandonians will be heading here), Patterson suggested a few neighborhoods to check out: “Winter Park is similar to Lakeland in its walkability, historic buildings, and shops and there’s enough to do there to make it worthy of a day trip. The Mills50 is one of my favorite areas restaurant-wise (Black Rooster Taqueria and King Bao are some recommendations) and Thornton Park/Lake Eola is wonderful for anyone visiting downtown.”

Check the article for the full list of 20 reasons downtown Lakeland is worth the drive.

It’s been a dozen years or so since a Detroit Free Press travel editor dubbed downtown Lakeland “a little Mecca of cool.” Looks like we’re getting discovered again.

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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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