A friend of mine called and said she had a cheap weekend at a historic hotel in Lakeland, FL and wanted to know if I’d like to come along. Well as far as I know there isn’t much to do in Lakeland. I had been there once before when my son was young and playing in State Chess tournaments. I didn’t remember much as I was in the convention center most of the day while he played chess. I do remember he won 3rd place in states for his age group! So I figured what the heck, why not?
Oddly right after she asked I got a Groupon offer for a Giraffe Ranch that was fairly close to Lakeland so I bought 2 and knew at least for one afternoon we’d have something to do; just in case Lakeland was a total bust. I also knew the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino was about 30 minutes away so figured if all else fails we’d be able to go loose some money on the slot machines.
I picked her up at the Tampa International Airport on Friday night and we took the 40 minute drive to Tampa – – this is of course after meeting another friend for a late lunch in Dunellen, FL – more to come on that later. We arrived at the hotel and they had free valet parking – SWEET! It was called the Terrace Hotel and is on the register of historic hotels. The hotel opened in 1924 and apparently at that time Lakeland was a place one came from the North to “winter”. According to the hotel’s website “she was hailed as one of Florida’s finest new year round inns, which at the time was a rather novel concept. Prior to then, and the wide availability of air conditioning, hotels simply opened for “The Season,” and closed for the summer.”
In the lobby we were greeted by a very pretty, very large Christmas tree, boughs of pine and holly, wreathes with red bows, twinkling lights and Christmas carolers – yes in full old time costumes signing right there in the lobby. It was sort of magical and very impressive. We went to our room on the 3rd floor where for our $30 a night we got a view of the parking garage (what else would you expect for that rate really though?). The room was very nice – large with a nice size bathroom, robes, nice toiletries and a big flat screen TV. I was slightly impressed because I hadn’t really been expecting much.
As luck would have it this night was the first Friday (December 2nd) and in Lakeland there were a few things going on. We got dressed and went to see what was what outside. Being the first Friday there was the usual art walk happening, but it was coupled with a Christmas Parade complete with street food, floats and lots of people walking around enjoying the Christmas lights. It was pretty and it was warm. In a few of the art galleries they were serving free wine and cheese and everything was open late for the event. We got to take tons of pictures and enjoy the little village atmosphere. It was nice. I got lots of pictures and we got to bed early.
The next morning we got up and had an early lunch/late breakfast at a restaurant nearby (can’t remember the name but I’ll get it from Katherine). It was a very nice meal and we ate outside on the sidewalk at the tables overlooking Munn Park. Then it was off to the Giraffes and later the casino. Not much else happens in Lakeland. I do want to mention though that the next morning we had a very nice brunch at the Terrace Hotel restaurant. It was good food though a bit pricey but we were celebrating our wins at the casino and felt the splurge would be fine. I think Lakeland is ok for a very short term, but there isn’t much to do there aside from bars and restaurants. I’m glad I went because spending time with Katherine was great and all the decorations really got us in the Holiday mood, but I’m not going back anytime soon.