Finding the Best Places to Retire Since 2006!
Nicknamed Swan City, Leafy Lakeland Boasts Lakes, an Inviting Downtown and Reasonable Prices
Situated between Tampa and Orlando in central Florida, Lakeland (population 108,000) is in the middle of the state's coastal plain. With 38 named lakes within town borders, Lakeland has a soothing quality.
The city got its start in the 1880s when a man named Abraham Munn purchased 80 acres in what is now central Lakeland. He built a lavish hotel, the Tremont Hotel, and the railroad arrived soon after. By the mid-1890s, Lakeland was prospering as a transportation hub and agricultural center with strawberries and grapefruit becoming important local crops.
In the 1920s, the Florida land boom brought new residents and new construction. The Detroit Tigers made Lakeland their spring training home in the 1930s, and in 1938 architect Frank Lloyd Wright arrived at Florida Southern College to begin designing the "true American campus."
Today, Lakeland is a quiet, leafy town with the nickname Swan City because its downtown Lake Morton is home to 65 mute swans. The original pair was donated by Queen Elizabeth II in 1957 after a previous flock had dwindled. The swans are a particular point of pride and attract tourists year round.
The cost of living is 10% below the national average, and the median home price is $185,000. There are older tree-canopied areas with modest concrete block homes, some of which have seen better days. There are also sleek new neighborhoods with Mediterranean style homes and newly planted trees. Lake James is a comfortable 55+ community with a lake.
Forty-three percent of Lakeland residents are age 45 or better. The city has some racial diversity and has grown by 7% during the last decade. The crime rate meets the national average, although the property crime rate is slightly above the national average. Twenty-five percent of locals hold at least a college degree, and politics lean to the right.
Lakeland's attractive downtown has lakes, tall trees, shaded brick sidewalks, cute, awning-draped shops, outdoor cafes and a restored promenade. Public art, much of it in the form of butterfly and swan sculptures, adds even more charm. Pretty Hollis Gardens near Mirror Lake has fountains and flower gardens.
Downtown is also the place for the weekly farmers' market. More than 50 vendors sell everything from jam and herbs to art and plants. Fresh fruit and vegetables are available, too.
First Friday happens happens once a month. Located near Munn Park, the event has a different theme each time, anything from Dog Days to Cookie Carnival. Vendors of all sorts participate, creating a festival atmoshphere.
Fun eateries and pubs include the Lakeland Brewing Company. It sits next to Lake Mirror, has an outdoor patio and soothing water views. Harry's Seafood Bar and Grille, a New Orleans style restuarant, exudes character and is known for its Jambalaya and Shrimp-N-Grits.
Cultural amenities are in good supply and include the Polk Museum of Art, the Imperial Symphony, the Florida Air Museum, and the Florida Dance Theatre. The city has more than 70 parks and recreation areas.
The Detroit Tigers still spend their spring training months here, playing at Joker Marchant Stadium, and the city's professional indoor football team, the Florida Marine Raiders, play their games in Lakeland Center.
Florida Southern College continues to showcase Frank Lloyd Wright's unique architecture. The college also hosts the annual Festival of Fine Arts.
Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center is accredited by the Florida Medical Association and accepts Medicare patients. It has 864 beds and is the fifth largest hospital in Florida.
Lakeland Public Library has two branches. Each has classes, audio books, a book club and more. Both also mail books and other materials to residents' homes.
Citrus Connections is the local bus system. The regular fare is $1.50 but people age 65 or better ride for half price. Montly passes are available.
Summer temperatures are in the 80s and 90s with high humidity levels and frequent rainstorms. Winter temperatures are in the 60s and 70s.
It is also worth noting that Lakeland's lakes are home to all sorts of wildlife, including some alligators. A video of a 15-foot-long alligator strolling across a walking path in Circle B Park made national news a few years ago.
Recommended as a Retirement Spot? Yes
Named Pascua Florida by Juan Ponce De Leon, the Sunshine State did not enter the Union until March 3, 1845. Balmy mild winters began attracting snowbirds to the state in the late 19th century. Retirees continue to flock to the state. It's not hard to see why tourism has become the leading industry.
International trade and citrus are also major contributors to the state's economy. Eighty percent of the nation's oranges and grapefruits are grown here, and 40 percent of all U.S. exports to Latin America flow through Florida.
Florida's landscape includes uplands and coastal plains. It contains more than 11,000 miles of waterways and about 4,500 islands spread across 10 acres.
The state has 1,250 golf courses, more than any other state in the Union. The 47 mile Pinellas Trail is the longest urban trail on the east coast. Orlando theme parks attract more visitors than any other theme parks in the U.S. The only place in the world where alligators and crocodiles co-exist is in National Everglades Park.
Population - 20,612,439
Persons 65 years old and over - 20%
High school graduates, persons age 25+ - 87%
Bachelor's degree or higher, persons age 25+ - 27%
Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin - 24%
White persons, not Hispanic - 58%
Median household income - $47,525
Median home value - $159,900
Social Security taxed? No
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
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