Let’s always remember and embrace the hardships, the lessons learned from last year while leaving its anxieties behind. We’ve gathered a list of 50 things to do this year – for yourself and others, some heart-pounding, some heart-felt – to perhaps find a semblance of normalcy. Let your happiness blossom and your worries wilt as you reacquaint yourself with the beautiful community we’re all a part of. This year and all that follow, remember that kindness to yourself and others can change the world, so there’s a bonus listing for you – #51: be kind. Whether you check off each box or only a few from our list, I hope 2021 brings you fulfillment, joy, creativity, and clarity in the process. Happy New Year!
*When checking these off your list, be sure to wear a mask, social distance, and follow guidance from the CDC and local health officials. We want you to stay safe and keep others safe and healthy too!
shop a farmer’s market
Familiar faces and fresh fruits and veggies – what could be better? Shopping at a farmer’s market is a great way to interact with the community’s vibrant businesses, farmers, and makers. Every Saturday from 9 am to 1 pm in the BB&T parking lot across from Grove Roots, the pet-friendly Winter Haven Farmers Market draws crowds to its collection of vendors who offer fresh vegetables, freshly-baked bread and pastries, jam, coffee, plants and more. The Lakeland Downtown Farmers Curb Market is another must-shop. Stroll Kentucky Ave. for produce, food vendors, kombucha, and other odds and ends every Saturday from 8 am to 2 pm (closed during the month of August).
find your perfect coffee spot
A cup of coffee is a convergence for friendships, business meetings, and ideas. Grab your laptop and get some work done or take a minute to sit and finish that book you’ve been meaning to read. Explore a few of the local coffeehouses, try them all out and settle on your ideal coffee spot, maybe even down to the perfect table. A few of our favorites are Black & Brew, Concord, Mitchell’s, Unfiltered, and Hillcrest. If you’re on the east side, check out Amonie Jo’s, N+1, and Richard’s! What’s your favorite place to sit and sip?
polk museum of art living wall
Polk Museum of Art consistently presents rich and interesting exhibits for patrons to experience – and admission is free. Breathing new life, quite literally, into the Polk Museum of Art’s outdoor sculpture courtyard is their Living Wall. If you haven’t been yet – go. A once blank wall now drips with lush shaggy greenery making for a tranquil piece of living art. Admire it, breathe it in, take a selfie.
go old school at silver moon drive-in
This iconic Lakeland drive-in movie theater opened over seventy years ago. Stop in their snack bar for candy and popcorn before parking it for an evening of cinema beneath the stars. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Silver Moon makes me think of the drive-in scene in Grease, “Sandy, you just can’t walk out of a drive-in!”
sweet dreams are made of this
Here’s a listing for all your gumdrop dreams and Sour Patch wishes. For a gigantic robot, classic sci-fi flicks, import candies, and craft chocolates, visit Ivy and Ella at Confection. For a more nostalgic citrusy sugar high, make a trip to Davidson of Dundee or Webb’s Candy Shop. In Lakeland, Rocket Fizz has a large, out of this world sweets selection.
show your appreciation for essential workers
For those who make a living putting others before themselves – show some love. Do something nice for first responders, teachers, and healthcare professionals like picking up their lunch tab, sending a gift certificate, donating to a teacher’s wish list, or just saying, “Thank you for what you do. You are appreciated.”
picnic at bok tower gardens
Walk the gardens and rest your blanket on a piece of heaven overlooking a pond, under a sleepy oak, or opt for one of their several picnic table locations. You can bring your own picnic basket or order something fresh and delicious from their Blue Palmetto Cafe. The cafe is open from 9 am to 5 pm, and guests can order online, choosing the time for food to be ready.
flutter over to the auburndale rotary butterfly garden
Take a peaceful outing to this butterfly garden featuring over 30 different types of Florida-Friendly plants (native and non-native). According to their website, “The plant selection has been designed to attract a wide range of Central Florida butterfly species to feed on the nectar of our flowering plants. There are also several species of flora that serve as host plants to particular butterflies. For example, Milkweed is the exclusive breeding ground for the popular Monarch Butterfly. Similarly, the Florida State Butterfly, the Zebra Longwing, uses Passion Flower to lay its eggs.”
Beer… beer as far as the eye can see. Cheers to the many fantastic breweries and taprooms around! Polk County has some heavy hitters when it comes to craft brews. There’s the community living room feel of Grove Roots, the lake views and live music at Swan Brewing, the industrial vibe at The Florida Brewery’s Beer Garden, to the newspaper turned tasting room at Front Page Brewing in Bartow. Don’t forget to see what’s on tap at Union Taproom, Craft + Kitchen, and Brew Hub.
pints and pinball
There’s nothing like spirits and skeeball to take your mind off things. But where can you drink AND play fun games? The Rec Room and Galaxy Bar, of course. The Rec Room is a bar boasting video games, arcades, and other recreational pastimes. Shoot some hoops, tee up at their golf simulator, or play a round of tipsy skeeball. Another stellar stop is Galaxy Bar, a blast from the past retro arcade bar. Galaxy Bar has it all – cocktails, tunes, pinball, and over 25 classic arcade games.
take a culinary trip around the joinery
This upscale Lakeland food hall gives us all the flavors and feels. Make it a priority to get to each of their vendors this year (we bet you’ll do it more than once). Bite into a sushi burrito from Ato, a Neapolitan wood-fired pizza from Ava, or a Mediterranean-inspired bowl from Plenty. Give in to a puffy taco or two from Gallito Taqueria and a scoop of Mayday’s handcrafted artisan ice cream. We know you’ll be raving about the ramen and Japanese street snacks from Sabu and the killer burgers from Super Duper Spot. Imbibe with a craft beer or cocktail from The Bar and your day is complete.
Ah yes, the old proverb: “If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you.” But that’s not the right ‘altitude’ to have! At Jump Florida Skydiving in Lake Wales, you can take a tandem leap from an airplane from 11,000 to 18,000 feet in the air. Take the plunge and opt for photos and video to commemorate your adrenaline-inducing dive.
Consider donating to a local nonprofit like Polk Pride, food pantries or the SPCA if you have a little extra to give. Provide opportunities for local youth by making a monetary donation to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Polk County or Girls Inc., or drop off supplies to pet shelters, Talbot House Ministries, Women’s Resource Center, or kidsPACK to name a few.
Thrifting is kind of like mystery shopping. You don’t have to have an idea of what you want, to come out of the store with something special. Shop for a stylish outfit, funky furniture, or odds and ends that speak to you. Stop in a local Goodwill, Salvation Army, or Habitat ReStore for some treasures. Also, check out Saint Matthews Thrift Shop, St. John’s Thrift Store for Missions in Winter Haven, and Peace River Center Thrift Shoppe in Lakeland, and Top Buttons in Winter Haven, Lakeland, and Bartow.
add to (or start) your vinyl collection
Flip through records at Jesse Carl Vinyl, The Wax & The Needle, or the selection at Central Avenue Antiques in Winter Haven to find something good for the soul.
find your center
Looking to improve your balance, flexibility, and strength? Want to get totally blissed-out? Take a yoga class! There are many studios to choose from around the county – Inside Out Yoga in Winter Haven and The Balance Culture in Lakeland. Find a studio and community that resonates with you and get physical.
ride the van fleet trail
Since we spent the entirety of last year being couch potatoes, let’s get some sun, fresh air, and exercise! Take a leisurely (and socially distant) ride down 29.2 mile, 8-foot wide Van Fleet Trail. The General James A. Van Fleet State Trail will introduce you to a medley of landscapes to take in from pine flatwoods, cattle ranches, former citrus lands, swamps, and bottomland forest. A few more trails to do sick wheelies on are Circle B Bar Reserve and the TECO Auburndale Trail.
snap a photo at southgate
This is one for the scrapbook. If you don’t already have a selfie with the nifty Southgate Shopping Center arche, grab your polaroid. The South Florida Avenue shopping center was built in 1957 and is famously known for appearing in Tim Burton’s 1990 cult classic “Edward Scissorhands” starring Johnny Depp and Winona Rider. The Southgate sign is retro in all its glory and perfect for the gram or to send to Gram Gram if you’re here for college or just passing through.
Antique stores abound in Central Florida. Find that perfect retro couch or funky knickknack for your bookshelf at one of the too-many-to-name antique stores around the county. Try out Treasure House Antiques or Central Avenue Antiques in Winter Haven or Dixieland Relics and Lakeland Antique Mall on the west side. Find something old or something new at The Barn Antiques in Lake Alfred. The Barn opened in 1969 and is open seasonally from October through May. The Stable Gifts & Crafts, The Back Yard Garden Shop, and The Back Porch Tearoom are open year-round. Shop until you drop and then have lunch at The Back Porch.
coffee + axes
Give boredom the axe at Ax-Caliber Axe Venue and Coffee House. Picture this: you drink a cup of coffee; you’re freakin’ jacked on caffeine. Next, someone gives you an axe and it’s all completely legal. But really, it sounds like a good time. Ax-Caliber is Polk County’s first axe venue and coffee house, boasting food, beer & wine, locally-roasted Caliber Coffee, 14 lanes for axe throwing, pool tables, games, and big screen TV’s. AND, Military and first responders get a free cup of coffee and half off on meals when in uniform.
take flight at the florida air museum
Learn about Florida Aviation History, Airshow Performers and Pioneers, Mid Century Innovations in Aviation, and more through the many exhibits at the Florida Air Museum in Lakeland. Walk the Florida Aviation Hall of Fame and let your interest soar to the Static Displays. General admission tickets and annual memberships are available.
take a self-guided public art tour
Our area is abundant with inspiring murals, sculptures, fountains, and gardens. Create a map with all the public art you’d like to admire and make a day (or several) of it. A few ideas to start your list are Hollis Gardens, “The Calm” mural in Winter Haven, public art in Munn Park, the Lemon Street Promenade in Lakeland, and the Gillian Fazio mural in Lake Wales.
We love to see what our readers are up to. When you snap a selfie, photo of your pet, or a good meal you had around town to post to Facebook or Instagram, use the hashtags #kindachill when you’re in east Polk and #lkldhaven when you’re in Lakeland, and your post might be in our next issue of Haven or LKLD.
adopt a pet or help a pup find its furever home
If you’re looking to expand your family by roughly four paws, consider adoption. SPCA Florida, The Humane Society, The Polk County Bully Project, and other area shelters are full of sweet animals looking for a good home. If you already have a full doghouse, try a Doggy Date at SPCA Florida. Through this program, you can take a dog to hang out for the day. Not only do they make the best company, but it also allows adoptable dogs to interact outside of SPCA and exposes them to potential new best friends.
take an orange grove tour
If you haven’t done this at least once, we might have to take your Florida card away. The sights, the smells, the tasty citrus, Ridge Island Groves offers grove tours at their Haines City location where you can pick an orange right from the tree. Take a drive through Babson Park and Frostproof for stunning hillside grove views. If you take Highway 27 through Lake Wales to get there, you’ll notice the Florida’s Natural plant. Fun fact: Florida’s Natural started 85 years ago, and is one of the largest co-ops of citrus growers in the world, according to their website. You can even take a trip to their visitor’s center, The Grove House, to learn more about their citrus history, sample juice, and pick up a keepsake!
Though I’m more of a putt-putt girl myself, Polk County has its fair share of beautiful golf courses. Enjoy a bit of luxury at Streamsong Golf Resort, practice your drive at Dundee Road Golf Range, or play a few holes (or fore!) at Cypresswood Golf and Country Club, or the Cleveland Heights Golf Course.
write a letter
A handwritten note can be just the thing to brighten someone’s week. Checking on friends and family via social media, email, and Zoom is nice, but there’s an extra touch of humanity and kindness attached to a physical letter. Strike up a correspondence with a pal or let your grandma know you’re thinking of her. You can even support local businesses with your snail mail endeavor by purchasing stationery, note cards, and stickers at local gift shops.
take an architecture tour
Frank Lloyd Wright and Gene Leedy left their mark on Polk County with interesting and influential architecture. Take the Leedy Lifetime Works tour, a self-guided tour best done by car, to admire Leedy’s work from downtown Winter Haven into the neighboring residential areas. Pick up a self-guided tour map from the Tourism and Education Center at Florida Southern College and wander amongst the marks that Frank Lloyd Wright left on the college.
support a local creative
There is an impressive pool of creatives throughout Polk, who make everything from home decor, furniture and art, to comic books and cuisine. Grab some chow from fan-favorite blossoming food/ beverage vendors who often do pop-ups and markets like Blue Dog Craft Barbecue, DOU Bakehouse or Krazy Kombucha. Expand your mind with Hocus Pocus Comics or pick up some art from Bump Galletta or a cross-stitch by Pin & Needle. Visit some of the local markets to find new favorites or to meet the makers and local entrepreneurs making a difference.
check out the lwac
There’s always something going on at the Lake Wales Arts Center, from concert and exhibit series to the Lake Wales Arts Festival. Check out their Paint Uncorked classes where you can “Wine a little; Paint a lot.” On February 20 and 21 this year, the LWAC will host their 50th Annual CB&T Lake Wales Arts Festival. The festival promises to be two days chocked full of art, music, community, and culture! Visit their website and socials for more info.
the great escape
Lakeland Escape Room, Escapology Escape Rooms Lakeland, and iPanic Escape Room offer games where guests choose a theme, work with their friends to find clues, beat the clock, and solve mysteries. Game themes range from creepy to heart-pumping action like heists, asylums, and lost cities to shootouts, shipwrecks, and secret agents. It’s a ton of fun and great for team building. Bring your smart friends. ;)
read a good book
Each month we feature a “Check Me Out ;)” section in which the Lakeland Public Library and the Winter Haven Library send us books to pick up or check out. Let us know what books from the lists that you’ve read! Post it on social media with the hashtags #kindachill and #lkldhaven. Give yourself a goal this year to read a certain number of books. Can you read one a month? Two a month? Maybe one a week?
have a moonlit dinner
We love all our local restaurants, but some really knock it out of the park when it comes to the outdoor ambiance, twinkling lights, or cozy backyard vibes. Here are a few noteworthy night spots. The Best of Haven 2020 winner for Best Patio is Tempo 1930, followed by Fire and The Twisted Prop Bar & Grille. You can’t go wrong with the recent Florida Trends Magazine Golden Spoon Winner, Nutwood, too. They have year-round lights strung on their patio for the most romantic glow. On the west side, the Best of LKLD 2020 Best Patio winner is Patio850, followed by Red Door and Swan Brewing.
The sign posted just before Spook Hill reads: “Ages ago an INDIAN TOWN on Lake Wailes lake was plagued with raids by a HUGE GATOR. The town’s GREAT WARRIOR Chief and the gator were killed in a FINAL BATTLE that created the huge swampy depression nearby. The chief was buried on its north side. Later PIONEER HAULERS coming from the old ARMY TRAIL atop the ridge above found their horses LABORING HERE… at the foot of the ridge … and called it Spook Hill. IS THE GATOR SEEKING REVENGE, OR THE CHIEF PROTECTING HIS LAND???” Then it states the instructions: Stop car on white line, place in neutral and let it roll back. Do you dare?!?!?!
shop and dine small, often
Show your love for local, not just on Shop Small Saturday, but every day. Meeting a friend for lunch or coffee? Opt for a locally-owned restaurant or coffee shop. Whether you’re looking for a book, birthday card, or new blinds, make a small business your first choice.
Sunsets, wildlife, and Central Florida flora and fauna are the perfect backdrop for a paddleboarding trip on The Chain of Lakes. Paddleboard Winter Haven offers tours, lessons, and classes to up your paddleboard game. If you’d prefer to strike out on your own, they offer rentals too!
See what volunteer opportunities are available at any of the local nonprofits and charities. Have a good time while helping out someone in need. It doesn’t matter if you are passionate about helping animals, homeless folks, the food insecure, those struggling with health issues, or the elderly; there is an organization in Polk County dedicated to that. The Humane Society, SPCA Florida, VISTE, American Cancer Society, ElderPoint Ministries, Gospel Inc., Talbot House Ministries, and Women’s Resource Center are only some of the organizations that you can dedicate time to.
visit a historic theatre
Polk Theatre and The Ritz come to mind! The Polk Theatre, a movie palace built in 1928, is celebrated for its stunning design, entertainment, and historic significance to Polk County. Catch a movie under, “ the watchful eye of a starry ceiling.” The Ritz Theatre in Winter Haven has been home to live shows and motion picture showings alike. Built in 1925, the Ritz has had many lives over the years and is now being managed by Main Street Winter Haven and is alive again with shows and community events.
catch a show by the cypress gardens water ski team
Oooo and Ahhhh at the world-famous Cypress Gardens Water Ski Team’s tricks and stunts on the 3rd Saturday of each month. From November - February starting at 3:30 pm, from March - October beginning at 5 pm. Admission is free, and concessions are available. Bring your own lawn chairs or blankets. 199 S. Lake Silver Drive, NW in Winter Haven.
get involved, you young professionals
Polk County is home to three young professionals groups – Endeavor in Winter Haven, Engage in Bartow, and EMERGE in Lakeland. These groups are perfect for networking with fellow young professionals, working on your own professional development, and staying engaged, pun intended, with the community. Each group offers its members philanthropic opportunities as well as annual events and monthly Lunch & Learns. Check out their websites and socials for more info!
get ATVenturous at bone valley
Fifteen trails ranging from novice to advanced snake through a 200-acre tract of land owned and managed by Polk County. The ATV park boasts open riding areas and hill climbs for dirt bikes, four-wheelers, and side-by-sides. Newer riders will enjoy the training areas before hitting the challenging trails. With restrooms and picnic areas, you can bring the whole fam to Bone Valley!
learn about polk county’s history
Explore remnants from an era gone by at the Polk County History Center, including artifacts like fossils, clothing, fishing lures, agricultural equipment, and military relics. The History Center, once the Polk County Courthouse, has a collection including “natural and cultural objects related to Polk and the greater Central Florida area that represent our history from pre-Columbian to present-day eras. The artifacts on display at the museum represent individuals, cultural groups, and events significant to the region.”
go ice skating
Pull out your warm clothes and go to a public skate at Lakeland Ice Arena. A friend of mine who moved to Winter Haven from up north said she loves it when Florida gets a cold snap. Not because of the change in weather, but because of the change in wardrobe. Most Floridians don’t so much have a “winter wardrobe” as a bunch of warm, sort of mismatched items of clothing we pull out in a panic when it drops below 70. She loves to see what sort of wacky winter wear people step out in. And really, what better place to outfit watch than a Central Florida ice rink during a public skate?
Though it is a private residence, the Wonder House is open for historical tours on a limited basis. The house’s magic comes from its builder, eccentric inventor Conrad Schuck who built it without blueprints and sprinkled in many of his inventions (like air conditioning in the 1920s). The four-story house has two stories underground with other notable features like a moat with two bridges, pools on the third floor previously used as bathtubs, swimming pools, and koi ponds, and a vast concrete pergola, also on the third floor. Inquire about historical tours to learn more about the Wonder House’s intriguing history and features.
Attend a hands-on or demonstration cooking class in Lakeland at Publix Aprons Cooking School. You can sign up online by viewing their calendar, which details each available class. Over the holidays, they offered classes on gingerbread houses, holiday appetizers, cookies, and snacks. Check out the calendar for what’s coming up soon!
don’t’ sweat it (but do)
New year, new me, right? Just kidding. Forget New Year’s resolutions and make your health a priority every day. Polk County offers many ways to stay active like watersports, walks around our lakes, and bike trails. There are also a ton of great fitness clubs from Crossfit and Zumba to yoga and standard gyms. If you’re looking for a spot in Lakeland, try our readers’ Best of LKLD 2020 picks – Anytime Fitness, YMCA, and Willpower Fitness. On the east side, Best of Haven 2020 winners were Just Move Athletic Club, Habitat Health and Fitness, and Planet Fitness. The brand new Advent Health Field House in Winter Haven offers memberships as well. Grab your water, queue up your playlist and get moving!
take a hike at circle b bar reserve
Take in the fresh Florida air during a walk through Circle B. You’re sure to spot a variety of plant and animal species and might catch a glimpse of a gator or two at Lake Hancock (maybe even a gigantic one, like the one that made the news). Circle B is a haven for nature photographers of all skill levels and birdwatchers as well.
Come together to handpick tasty, fresh fruits and veggies at one of the many U-pick farms in the county. Whitehead’s Blueberry Farm won Best U-Pick Farm for Best of Haven 2020. Pick all the fresh blueberries you want and pay per pound. During the blueberry season, which typically runs from mid-April through the first weekend in June, grab a basket and pick as many as you’d like from their over 30,000 blueberry plants across 15 acres. Shady Oak Farm won the same category in the Best of LKLD 2020. Pick from their 26,000 blueberry plants of five varieties: Emeralds, Jewels, Gulf Coast, Sharpblue, and Springhigh. This family-owned operation has been in business for 16 years.
Sign up for a music lesson with a private instructor at both Carlton Music Center’s locations in Winter Haven and Lakeland. Check out the selection of music and vocal classes at Lakeland School of Music, or JaM Guitar Studio and start jamming out, man.
have a spot of tea
Did you know Polk County has tearooms? I don’t mean sweet iced tea – I mean like real hot tea service. Put on your fanciest pants and make your way to some Earl Grey and dainty treats at the Twisted Teapot, Twenty Seven, Amazing Grace Tea House, or Lavender n’ Lace Tearoom and Restaurant.
a night at the theatre
A night out at the theatre is a great way to support the local arts scene. Check out the websites and social media pages of Theatre Winter Haven, Lakeland Community Theatre, Lake Wales Little Theatre, Haines City Community Theatre, The Ritz Theatre, The Ramon Theatre, and Polk Theatre to see what fantastic productions are coming up.
check them off as you go:
| || |