“Lakeland is a great place to raise a family with quality green spaces, awesome public amenities, great parks and a very robust concentration of multi-use trails. Lakeland’s early forefathers believed quality spaces contribute to a great quality of life and belong to the public. This is why most lakes inside the corporate limits include a path or trail along with open green space so the public can enjoy.”
— Mayor Bill MutzLakeland really lives up to its name, with 38 named lakes. Some lakes allow swimming, fishing and/or boating. Others have paths around them and are popular for running and walking. Still others are perfect for watching sunsets and sunrises.
Speaking of lakes, you can’t help but see and marvel at all the beautiful swans making our lakes their home. “One of the first things I get asked is about the Lakeland swans, so I outline the story of how the city received a breeding pair of swans from Queen Elizabeth in 1957 at the request of Lakeland residents,” Mayor Mutz said. “The swans have become iconic with the city of Lakeland over time and now their iconic image is included as part of the city’s logo.” Learn about the fiberglass swans dotting the city, and check out the swan roundup that occurs each year for the welfare of the animals.
Local Gardens, Parks and Trails
Botanical gardens: Hollis Gardens overlooking Lake Mirror downtown, is known as a picturesque spot for photo shoots. You’ll often find brides posing for their wedding pictures here. While not in Lakeland, Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales has nearly 50 acres of botanical gardens and is worth the hour drive.
Nature parks: Circle B Bar Reserve, Se7en Wetlands, Holloway Park, Lakeland Highlands Scrub and Lake Crago all offer wonderful opportunities to explore Florida’s wild side without venturing out of greater Lakeland. Colt Creek State Park is only one of two state parks in Polk County. About 35 minutes from the city center, Colt Creek has more than 5,000 acres of native Central Florida habitat and is a popular place for horse clubs and trail riders.
Bonnet Springs Park: The project to turn 168 vacant acres west of downtown Lakeland into the showcase Bonnet Springs Park is on schedule to open this spring or summer, the private park’s developers say.
Local Biters, Stingers and Invaders
Yes, there are probably gators in the water. If it’s fresh or brackish water in Florida, you can reasonably expect there to be an alligator in there somewhere. Alligators are an important part of our ecosystem but they can be dangerous — particularly during mating season: May and June. Stay safe and keep your distance.
A snapping turtle bite can take off a human finger; there are two species that live in Florida: the common snapping turtle and the alligator snapping turtle. The alligator snapping turtle is protected as a State Species of Special Concern by Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Species Rule.
While Central Florida is home to 26 species of snakes, there are only four venomous snakes who inhabit the region. These include the Eastern diamond-backed rattlesnake, the pygmy rattlesnake, the cottonmouth or water moccasin and the coral snake.
Florida is also home to four species of stinging caterpillars; yes, even the caterpillars here can be dangerous. Cane toads are an invasive nuisance that can be particularly harmful to pets and must be dispatched humanely; relocation is not an option. Oh, and don’t say we didn’t warn you about lake-dwelling amoebas.
While it’s fun to gloat to your Northern friends digging out of snow banks while you sit poolside in January, Floridians learn early on to take Mother Nature very seriously.
Thunderstorms and tornados: Lightning strikes are frequent in Florida and can cause serious harm. While you probably know to seek shelter and avoid trees, you may not know to get out of the water as soon as you hear thunder. This includes showers, baths and even washing dishes. Pay attention to the emergency alerts. Tornados in Florida are typically smaller than the monstrous ones of the Midwest, but they can happen any time of year and spring up quickly. Hurricane prep: Don’t let Floridians’ nonchalant “we don’t get out of bed unless it’s a Cat 2 or above” attitude fool you. Most of us are prepared for hurricane season well in advance, which is why we can act so cavalier. Hurricane season starts June 1 and ends Nov. 30 although it is possible to have a tropical storm or hurricane outside this window. Here are some local resources so you can be prepared:
- Hurricane Prep – United Way of Central Florida
- Polk County Emergency Management
- Lakeland Electric Storms & Outages