The small town of Lake Wales in Florida may be at the very heart of the Sunshine State. For those visiting the area, its convenient setting makes it relatively easy for travelers preparing to travel by car to get to almost every part of the state.
Lake Wales has approximately 14,000 residents and is located in Polk County. For lovers of sun and sand, it’s equidistant from the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, which are home to numerous world-class beaches.
Many major theme parks are also within a short drive, so it shouldn’t be difficult to keep busy.
Here are 15 things to do in and around Lake Wales, Florida.
1. Bokta Gardens
Edward Bok is a well-known publisher and author who was born in the Netherlands but spent most of his life in the United States.
The Boque Tower and Gardens at Lake Wales were a gift to the American people after his death in 1930; they are now one of Central Florida’s most popular garden attractions.
The site includes Iron Mountain, one of the highest points in the state. In addition to the many cultivated fields, the garden is also famous for its carillon, which regularly entertains guests with stunning idyllic music.
There are a variety of activities to choose from, and the bells ring every day from 1pm to 3pm.
2. Ghost Mountain
If you believe the rumours, Spock Hill in Lake Wales is a place where the laws of gravity don’t apply, where the magnets are super strong and a car with a transmission in neutral rolls up the hillside.
While the jury is still out on what causes these intriguing phenomena, there seems to be little to doubt the strange events happening on the mountain, and they’ve been around for as long as anyone can remember.
Opponents claim that the mountain is just home to optical illusions that make things appear to be happening when they aren’t, but either way it’s a fun and convenient stop that’s completely free.
3. LEGOLAND Florida
Legoland Florida is a 150-plus-acre property located in Winter Haven, about a half-hour drive northwest of Lake Wales.
One of the most popular theme parks in the state, although it has only been around since 2011, it has already attracted a sizable loyal following.
In addition to activities, the facility also includes dining and lodging options, and many visitors with children choose to spend a significant amount of their vacation on site.
Most of the rides and activities are designed for children ages 2 to 12, but older kids and parents usually have fun too.
4. Ashton Lakes Golf Club
Ashton Lakes Golf Club East Course in Winter Haven is approximately 6,300 yards long and is known for its compact, well-maintained fairways and beautiful scenery.
Many courses have 18 holes on the shores of Lake Ashton and there are many tees available for young, old and inexperienced players.
There is also a year-round swimming pool and a restaurant. Both are the perfect complement to a morning or afternoon round.
Tee times go by quickly during peak hours, so book in advance if you’re going to play.
5. Cemetery of America’s oldest old man
When Charlie Smith finally died, the coroner is said to have spent nearly an hour checking his maths to make sure his age was correct.
According to records, the man was born in Liberia, Africa in 1842. After being captured, he was sold as a slave and sent to the United States. He died in 1979.
This gave him over 130 years to live! Although some dispute this claim, his tomb is unique to local legend and America, and is a worthwhile place to visit for those who don’t mind deviating from the norm.
Tombs are free to visit and are about a 40-minute drive from Lake Wales.
6. Hollis Gardens
Located on East Orange Street in Lakeland, Hollis Gardens is a no-entry natural wonderland of just over an acre.
The gardens are neoclassical in theme and feature several different areas including fountains, waterfalls, koi ponds, grottoes and a variety of native and exotic plants, trees and flowers.
Owned and managed by the city, the garden features a lake whose water perfectly reflects the bright colors of the garden.
Many guests choose to bring some sodas and sandwiches and enjoy a picnic before heading off to their next adventure.
7. The Wonderful House
Located in nearby Bartow, the Wonder House has a fascinating history dating back to the 1920s, when it was built by a wealthy Pennsylvania man who was told his lifespan was less than a year.
You probably know where the story begins, but to get the real insider scoop, you need to visit the house, one of the best-preserved early Florida buildings in the area.
Aside from the interesting stories of the house’s builders and occupants, the house itself was a technological marvel of its time, and reinforced concrete was used long before it became a mainstay of construction. Admission and tours are by advance reservation only.
8. Clown Marchant Stadium
Lakeland’s Joker Marchant Stadium on North Lake Boulevard has been around since the mid-’60s and is now the spring training home for the Detroit Tigers of Major League Baseball.
The stadium has undergone extensive renovations over the past few years and can now seat more than 8,000 spectators comfortably.
During the state’s Grapefruit League games, the stadium hosts games for many teams from across the country. Although it is relatively small, it is filled with major league facilities and is also accessible to disabled fans.
Check their website for a schedule of pre-season training events and games.
9. Busch Gardens Tampa
Busch Gardens Tampa is one of the most famous top theme parks in the world, and for those visiting Lake Wales, it’s very close.
It’s easy to drive straight west in Tampa, it’s truly a theme park, zoo, interactive museum and world-class live entertainment all rolled into one.
Its African-themed guided animal and adventure tours are one of its most popular activities, and there are plenty of dining, lodging and retail options. All in all, this is a convenient, value-for-money one-stop destination for families looking to minimise unnecessary travel time and maximise fun on a limited holiday schedule.
10. Sharp Family Travel Education Center
Located on Lake Hollingsworth Boulevard in nearby Lakeland, the Sharp Family Travel and Education Center is a popular historic attraction in a building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
The center is located on the campus of Florida Southern College. While visitors have a broad view of Wright’s design elements in this particular case, it’s definitely an attraction to watch.
The center’s exhibits address Florida’s history, development, economy, and tourism, which account for a significant portion of the state’s total revenue.
Professional guided tours are available, but you can also visit the sights yourself if you’re faster.
11. Tampa Museum of Art
Established in 1979, the Tampa Museum of Art houses an impressive collection of modern and contemporary art in a variety of mediums.
The collection features pieces with local, national and international influences, and even includes historical and ancient pieces. In addition to permanent exhibits, the museum often hosts temporary exhibits from other institutions.
Staff offer a complete range of lectures, tours, workshops and educational programs designed for children and adults, and the museum’s scenic downtown location overlooking the Hillsborough River adds to the experience.
It’s open every day of the week, but times vary.
12. Polk Theater
Lakeland’s Polk Theater has been open for more than 90 years, and during its prime, hosted some of the biggest names in entertainment, such as Glenn Miller and Elvis Presley.
The era in which the theater was built was marked by booms and busts, and during the Great Depression, it fell into hard times.
In the ’80s, the struggling theatre was bought by a group of civic and artistically minded citizens; it has undergone several renovations and upgrades since then. It has now been restored to its former glory and still offers visitors a variety of live entertainment options.
13. Museum of Science and Industry
Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry is located on East Fowler Avenue. It is close enough to many other area attractions to be easily visited without taking too much unnecessary time.
The museum has hundreds of interactive exhibits covering a much wider range of topics than many other museums – most prominently commerce, industry, science and technology.
Not just another see but don’t touch attraction, visitors of all ages are encouraged to touch, think and experiment. This is one of those places that is known to take up more guest time than they were originally allotted.
14. Tampa Riverwalk
For most of the year, the weather in Florida is absolutely perfect.
Yes, summer can be sweltering, but even in June, July and August, there are plenty of pleasant days. For those who want to stretch their legs, enjoy the view, and enjoy a delicious meal, there’s no better place than the Tampa River Walk.
Facing the Hillsborough River, the trail connects parks, retail, museums, galleries, hotels, and a variety of entertainment and dining options.
This is a particularly popular spot in the afternoon and evening, when the temperature drops and the sun sets.
15. Big Cat Rescue
Sometimes even a large carnivorous cat with a bad attitude needs a little TLC.
Located on Easy Street in Tampa, Big Cat Rescue is an animal sanctuary and rehabilitation center in Citrus Park; it is dedicated to helping injured, orphaned or abandoned big cats.
Established in 1992, the facility is home to more than 100 felines representing nearly a dozen different species, including lynx, cougar, and tiger, to name a few.
Rescue offers a variety of shows and guided tours with different focuses, such as photography, behind-the-scenes animal care, and even night scenes, which is perfect considering cats are nocturnal.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Lake Wales, FL (FL)
Lowest price guaranteed.