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Explore Your City - Lakeland Revisted

Explore Your City - Lakeland Revisted

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I've written about reasons to visit Lakeland before, but on a recent trip with friends to Tampa I got caught in terrible traffic.  Traffic so bad that we gave up and detoured to Lakeland instead. After hours of research for a city that I couldn't get to, on the fly I had to come up with an itinerary for my friends. Thankfully there were some popular Lakeland spots they hadn't gotten to experience yet, so I had those under my tour guide belt, but I wanted to discover more for myself. Here's where we ended up.

HILLCREST COFFEE

In historic Dixieland a new coffee shop has recently opened so detour aside, timing was on our side. It's a beautiful home that the owner, Brian, renovated over time into a coffee shop with some serious home-away-from-home feels. With rich wood floors, an exposed fireplace, a classic southern wrap around porch and antique furniture, you'll get so cozy and caught up here your stay will long surpass your last sip of coffee.  You can choose from Buddy Brew and Patriot Coffee Roasters and they had a variety of dairy options to appease all. To add to the charm there are a few shelves of old board games to play with friends while you relax.

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One caffeniated stop is not enough for my coffee loving friends so of course we had to hit up the beloved Concord Coffee. The main reason I'm a Concord fan is that they almost always have a new matcha drink each time I visit (this time it was a delicious Matcha Lemonade) and they have the friendliest baristas. One girl in particular overheard our last minute strategy for the day and even gave us some local tips. I also really like practicing my window shots on my crew and watching how they all deal with geting their pictures taken in different levels of smiles.

PALACE PIZZA

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If you've been to Planet Pizza in downtown Orlando, imagine Palace Pizza as its larger more grown up cousin.  We gazed upon cases of options, huge garlic knots and several desserts including homemade cannolis and tiramisu.  Most slices cost about $2 so it's a good cheap option for a downtown foodie break. The pizza isn't life changing, but it's worth a seat on the patio watching the crowds from the very large farmer's market roll by. 

FLORIDA SOUTHERN COLLEGE

The first college campus I ever got to explore was the University of Florida back in 1995 when was oldest brother was a student there. I remember parts of it still so vividly. The manicured campus, the dorms, the libraries; it set a spark in me that became fascinated with all things collegiate. While I passed on going to college myself I still love touring campuses. I've walked the grounds of Yale, Harvard and Penn State and went in any door that wasn't locked. However it had never dawned on me to do that here, at Florida Southern College, where you can find the largest single-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture in the world.

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They offer several types of tours, including free and self-guided or a range of $7-$35 guided tours. That afternoon we took a very brief self guided walk in and around a few buildings and it definitely left me wanting to go back and see more.

POOR PORKER/801 E. MAIN

No stop to Lakeland is complete without a visit to the Poor Porker. Truthfully I will say something felt different this past visit. It was desolate, which seemed very odd for a Saturday afternoon and the small grocer market that was once there is no longer.  Their instagram @ThePoorPorker no longer exists, however the @801EMain still is active.  I found reports of renovations and a new food partner, Calexico, on their social pages.

Regardless of a possible shift or re-branding, the beignets were just as good as they always were which was exactly why we made a pit stop. Hopefully new and exciting things are coming to keep locals and visitors engaged.

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SILVER MOON DRIVE-IN

All it takes is a trip out to the country to realize that magical drive-ins still exist.

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Silver Moon has been open since 1948 and continues to show first-run movies on not one screen but two!  We drove by for a few pictures of the colorful exterior, but a movie was not on our agenda so we didn't stick around for a double feature. However, I wouldn't mind going back to experience something I haven't had since the Star-Lite drive in days back in Winter Garden.

BREW HUB LAKELAND

Beer o'clock rolled around so we headed to one of the larger spots in town to taste a wide variety of beers over at the Brew Hub.

Brew Hub is the only brewery I've visited that has an app you can download that tells you exactly whats on tap during your visit. They are not big on having ciders on tap, which was a bummer for me, but they had plenty of variety for my beer drinking friends. They also have a limited menu of beer cocktails and a small selection of wines. Surprisingly, their menu of mainly small bites has never disappointed me in all my visits.

All in all it's a great place to kill some time and have a drink or two, and because of the size, finding seat for your crew should never be an issue. They also have outdoor seating with a green space with corn hole on some of Florida's milder heat days.

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RED DOOR WINE MARKET

The last stop before heading back to Orlando was dinner and we settled on trying the Red Door Market. It has a hint of Ravenous Pig vibes but with a much homier feel. Probably due to the fact that just like HillCrest Coffee, you are dining in an inviting renovated bungalow.  It's a self-proclaimed gastropub with a menu full of small plates like "the best cheese platter in town" ($15) and larger plates like "the burger" ($15) seen below.

I wish I had more pictures from our meal but my friends and I were enjoying ourselves with good conversation so I put my camera away, except for this one bad iPhone shot of "the burger".  We had a great meal and it was a satisfying end to an off-the-cuff day of exploring.

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