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  • Tara Crutchfield

Haven Best of 2023 - Arts + Entertainment



BEST PARK

BOK TOWER GARDENS

1151 Tower Blvd, Lake Wales

(863) 676-1408

FB: Bok Tower Gardens

IG @boktowergardens

Twenty-three million visitors have meandered the stunning garden paths to Bok Tower since it opened in 1929. From the 1930s Mediterranean-style Pinewood Estate to the Visitor Center & Exhibit Hall, there’s plenty to take in at the Gardens. Those who adventure to Bok Tower Gardens can enjoy photography, birdwatching, geocaching, and hiking. Guests can trek the 1.5- mile Preserve Trail or 3/4-mile Pine Ridge Nature Trail and take the kids to the Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden. After taking in the flora and fauna and the carillon concert, which rings out throughout the Gardens each day at 1 and 3 p.m. with short selections played on the hour and half hour, conclude your visit with a tasty bite at the onsite restaurant, Blue Palmetto Cafe. Don’t forget to pick up a memento of your trip at The Shop at Bok or The Plant Shop.

2nd: Bonnet Springs Park

3rd: Central Park, Downtown Winter Haven


BEST DATE NIGHT

GROVE ROOTS BREWING CO.

302 3rd St SW, Winter Haven

(863) 291-0700

FB @groverootsbrewing

IG @groverootsbrewing

It would be hard to think of a better date night than the laid-back atmosphere at Grove Roots, with the Best Beer and Best Live Music. There’s plenty to do whether it’s your first date or your twentieth. The brewery offers a selection of local craft beers, unique food trucks, live music, and plenty of seating inside and outside to be in the heart of it all or tucked away by yourselves. They offer free trivia every Tuesday, and fun events throughout the year. Check their socials for the daily food truck.

2nd: (tie) Obscure Wine Company

2nd: (tie) Laugh Out Lounge

3rd: Nutwood


BEST GOLF COURSE

CYPRESSWOOD GOLF & COUNTRY CLUB

1099 Clubhouse Rd, Winter Haven

(863) 324-6174

FB @cypresswoodcc

IG @cypresswoodgolfcourse

Why did the golfer wear two pairs of pants? In case he got a hole-in-one. Tee-hee. Another win FORE! Cypresswood Golf & Country Club! This repeat Best Of Haven winner is an 18-hole championship golf course designed by award-winning designer Ron Garl. In addition to the course, Cypresswood has a putting green, chipping green, and driving range and is open to the public yearround from sunrise to sunset. After a day on the course, grab lunch at Cypresswood Pub and make a trip to the pro shop.

2nd: The Country Club of Winter Haven

3rd: Willowbrook Golf Course


BEST DANCE STUDIO

THE WRIGHT STEP SCHOOL OF DANCE

316 Ave C SW, Winter Haven

(863) 294-5300

FB: The Wright Step School of Dance

IG @thewrightstepschoolofdance

Our readers think The Wright Step School of Dance is the best. And they’ve got a pointe! With three studios spanning 5000 square feet, specialized wood flooring, and instructors trained in all dance styles, you know this Winter Haven dance studio is doing it Wright! The Wright Step School of Dance is a multi-genre dance studio opened in 2001 by Amy and Kevin Wright. “Faculty are industry professionals with a heart for sharing their love of our art!” The Wright Step Xtreme Team, founded in 2004, comprises about 70 dancers aged 5-18. In addition to their community outreach, the Xtreme Team has won numerous “Entertainment” awards, “Judges Choice” awards, and national overall placements.

2nd: Barbara’s Centre’ For Dance

3rd: The Ballet Conservatory


BEST LIVE MUSIC VENUE

GROVE ROOTS BREWING CO.

302 3rd St SW, Winter Haven

(863) 291-0700

FB @groverootsbrewing

IG @groverootsbrewing

Beers. Bands. Big-time Best Of Haven winners. This Winter Haven hangout is the place to enjoy a variety of locally brewed craft beers while listening to local talent. Grove Roots guests can imbibe the Best Polk County Beer (Tropical Dilemma) and hear live music ranging from solo acts to full bands every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night, and Sunday afternoon. Check their online calendar to see who’s playing this week! Pint-loving patrons can expect unique food trucks and ample places to hang out inside and out.

2nd: Tanners Lakeside Restaurant & Bar

3rd: Jessie’s Lounge


BEST MUSEUM

POLK MUSEUM OF ART AT FLORIDA SOUTHERN COLLEGE

800 E Palmetto St, Lakeland

(863) 688-7743

FB: Polk Museum of Art

IG @polkmuseumofart

Some 140,000 visitors come to the Polk Museum of Art annually. Admission to the Museum is free, and exhibits typically change every few months. PMA patrons can enjoy their diverse collection of more than 2,800 objects with a focus on collecting and exhibiting contemporary art, Asian art, Pre-Columbian art, African art, and decorative art. Some exhibitions are from their collection, but many are from local, nationally, and internationally known artists such as Pablo Picasso, Albert Paley, Miriam Schapiro, Donald Sultan, James Rosenquist, Andy Warhol, and many others. In 2022, the Museum announced plans for a $6 million expansion and renovation project slated for completion in the summer of 2024.

2nd: Florida Children’s Museum

3rd: Museum of Winter Haven History


BEST MURAL

HAVEN BY GILLIAN FAZIO

343 Ave. C SW, Winter Haven

FB: Gillian Fazio Art

IG @gfazioart

The Haven mural located on the back wall of the Alan L. Ulch building depicts the word “HAVEN” in crisp white letters with a butterfly atop the “A.” It is backdropped by mirror-still water dotted with lily pads and pink and white water lilies. In an interview with WFTS Tampa Bay, artist Gillian Fazio said, “I just wanted to make something that makes everybody feel happy and uplifted whenever they see the wall. So all my work tends to have bright colors, fun patterns, and some aspect of nature.” The mural is dedicated, “In loving memory of Mary Lou Ulch.”

2nd: Lady on the Wall by Kenneth Treister and William Larence

3rd: (tie) Falling Man by Paul O’Neill

3rd: (tie) Jensen’s Guitar


BEST VISUAL ARTIST

GILLIAN FAZIO

343 Ave. C SW, Winter Haven

FB: Gillian Fazio Art

IG @gfazioart

Gillian Fazio is no stranger to the Best Of Haven winners list. Her Haven mural took first place again this year for Best Mural, and she’s won Best Visual Artist multiple years in a row. Her talent can be seen in colorful, nature-inspired pieces around Polk County, like in the Create mural at Catapult in Lakeland or the oranges and butterflies in Slice of Happiness in Lake Wales. A Lakeland native, Fazio graduated Magna Cum Laude with a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from the University of Florida in 2017. Fazio has painted over 20 murals across Central Florida from Tampa to Anna Maria Island and describes herself as a “new age flora and fauna artist.”

2nd: William Larence

3rd: Paul O’Neill


BEST BAND

99 IN THE SHADE

FB: 99 in the Shade

Best Of Haven voters are rocking out to this high-energy variety and dance band. In addition to gigs at clubs, weddings, corporate, and private events, you can catch this rockin’ quartet regularly at Somewhere Sports Bar & Grill and Tanners Lakeside. Since 2015, 99 in the Shade has been getting crowds on their feet with classic to current music – everything from Journey to Bruno Mars!

2nd: B.Haven

3rd: Daniel Pepin


BEST DRAG QUEEN

TRISHELLE MICHAELS

FB: Trishelle Michaels

IG @trishellemichaels

Polk County drag performer Trishelle Michaels is dynamite on stage with killer costumes and fun lip-syncing solos. “When I’m on the mic, I try to make people laugh. I think that’s one of my attributes, and what draws people into me is my personality,” said Michaels. She regularly performs across the county. In her own words, “Trishelle is a role model. Trishelle is a promoter. Trishelle is someone that you could come and talk to. [...]” If you’re looking for plenty of laughs and to be awed by a top-rate performer – you’ve got to see Trishelle!

2nd: Momma Ashley Rose


BEST ANNUAL COMMUNITY EVENT

CAROLS IN THE PARK

Kick off the holiday season with community and caroling! Winter Haven is dazzled by local choral groups during the annual Carols in the Park. Main Street Winter Haven presents this downtown holiday event, bringing artisans and specialty food vendors to Central Park for over 30 years. There are activities for children of all ages, pictures with Santa Claus, live music and plenty of the holiday spirit!

2nd: Bark in the Park

3rd: Bandit Market


BEST LOCAL MAKER

THE PIN + NEEDLE

FB @thepinandneedle

IG @

Based in Winter Haven, Pin + Needle’s Lyndsey Venrick makes funny and subversive cross stitch and embroidery. Some of our favorites from her shop are cross-stitch minis. These cute framed minis have funny phrases with an adorable cross stitch flower or rainbow to soften them up. Grab your friends a “bitch please,” “Treat yo self,” or “mind your business,” framed mini cross stitch today! Or, order a cross stitch kit from Pin + Needle to create for yourself. Send Lyndsey a message, and she can get a pet or family portrait started for a future birthday or housewarming gift. “Our motto is ‘We don’t ask questions, and we don’t judge,’” so don’t be afraid to really ask for what you want!

2nd: Reservations4five Crafts

3rd: Rosemary’s Garden Florals


BEST HIDDEN GEM

CIRCLE B BAR RESERVE

4399 Winter Lake Rd, Lakeland

(863) 534-7377

Circle B Bar Reserve is one of the county’s finest hidden gems. It can be a quiet respite away from it all and an adventure full of nature and wildlife. Located on the northwest shore of Lake Hancock, Circle B is a former cattle ranch consisting of several distinct ecosystems across its 1,267 acres. This nature oasis offers activities like hiking, photography, and painting and has picnic shelters, restrooms, and paved parking with handicapped-accessible and grassy areas. According to the Polk County Environmental Lands Program, “You’re almost guaranteed to see alligators in Lake Hancock, often considered the headwaters of the Peace River, which flows more than 100 miles from Polk County southwest to the Gulf of Mexico.”

2nd: Artcade

3rd: Friends of the Winter Haven Public Library Bookstore

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