I was born in a Central Florida town named Lakeland.  I’ve lived in various other areas of Florida as well as in other states.  I lived in New York for a few years.  I spent a few summers in Western Pennsylvania.  I’ve spent numerous months in numerous parts of Ontario, Canada.  Quite by accident, I spent nearly a month in a small town in Mississippi.  I’ve hung out quite a bit in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.  And currently I’m back in Lakeland.

As you’ve probably guessed by the name, my hometown is aptly named Lakeland because of its many lakes.  We have thirty-eight named lakes, to be exact, as well as several smaller unnamed lakes which are actually just phosphate mine pits that have filled with water.

Anyway, when I was little, the most exciting thing that happened here every year was when the city would put the Christmas trees in the middle of the lakes.  Sometimes, we might be driving somewhere and would get to see the workers assembling the trees and floating them out to the middle.  I always found that so thrilling.  Even now, when I drive by a lake at night and see the Christmas tree in the middle with the reflection showcasing the colors, it brings back a nostalgia that makes me smile.

Also while I was growing up, our downtown area was not very nice.  A lot of vagrants and panhandlers occupied the park in the center of town, and many of the stores had closed and moved to the mall.  Then, a couple of decades ago, Lakeland revamped its downtown area.  It cleaned up the park, many of the shops reopened, and it was restored to its original glory.  Now, our downtown is called “Historical Downtown Lakeland.”

Upon this renovation, the city started adding a holiday light show to the park and the surrounding area.  We have carolers that sing there until 10:00 every night during December, and if you walk through the park, it transports you back to a time long ago when life was simpler.  As such, I just wanted to share with you some photos from my city’s downtown.  I took these photos a few days ago, so I don’t believe the city has finished decorating yet.

See the black swan and the white swan? I love the Christmas tree in the middle of this lake.

Santa and two reindeer are hanging over the edge of the electric department building. And though it’s difficult to see, the street lamps around this lake are decorated with bells.

The blue Christmas tree on this lake changes colors every few seconds.

Downtown, the decorations on the street lamps are different on each street.

The police department has a policeman with a bag of toys decorating their building.

This is the walkway to the park downtown.

The streetlamp decorations on each road are different.

Even the train station sports a giant, lighted wreath.

This is more of the downtown park.

More of the downtown park.

Time to talk:  What is your city famous for?  How does your city decorate for the holidays?  Do you decorate the outside of your house?


50 thoughts on “Downtown

  1. Those images look familiar, Rachel. My youngest daughter went to Southeastern University.

    I live out in the Ocala National Forest, and though I used to put lights outside, with my kids grown up and what-not I just don’t feel like going to all of that trouble anymore. Seldom do we even have company and the kids have kids and it’s a hassle to get everyone together anymore.

  2. Very pretty. Love the swans Rachel!

    I guess Calgary is famous for hosting the 1988 Winter Olympics and its annual Calgary Stampede and Exhibition – the greatest outdoor rodeo in the world!

    What happened to the homeless people of Lakeland when downtown was restored?

    Diana xo

    • The homeless are still here, just in different areas where the police don’t bother them as much. Unfortunately, the shelters here don’t accommodate all of them and they have to get in line early to get a bed. However, unlike up North, here our post offices and other such places are open 24 hours and a lot of times, people will sleep in there if it’s bad outside. 😦

      • It’s unfortunate, but I think we have (or at least we SEE) a lot more homeless people here than the times I lived up North. I think it’s because of the year-round weather. The heat sucks but at least they don’t freeze. I volunteered at a soup kitchen a few years back, and it was so sad when people didn’t get served if they were at the end of the line.

  3. Jolly good pics young Rachel – of where we live William Cobbett passing through in September 1823 noted in his book Rural Rides:
    “Deal is a most villainous place. It is full of filthy-looking people. Great desolation of abomination has been going on here; tremendous barracks, partly pulled down and partly tumbling down, and partly occupied by soldiers. Everything seems upon the perish. I was glad to hurry along through it, and to leave its inns and public-houses to be occupied by the tarred, and trowsered, and blue and buff crew whose very vicinage I always detest.” There you have it! Mind these days it is seen as a rather posh little place where rich London folk buy second homes!

      • Damage to Deal – what with it being in Hellfire Corner could have been much worse. It’s historic references to drunkenness, prostitution etc. was because for donkeys years the Royal Marines had been based here, plus it had it’s own fleet of fishermen. Put all those together, plus a pinch of ladies of dubious morals and bingo!

      • Except she was probably called Mavis back then! Deal did hold the record for the most pubs in one town back in the day – the beach seems to have been the brothel from the history I’ve read!

      • Sadly it’s not like that anymore – the rich gay community moved in about 20 years ago and wherever the pink pound turns up so do standards. We are really rather trendy here now with cafes, restaurants etc. The town is big on arts and music and is very, very English. Once the marines moved away the gals had no punters!

  4. Our town gets the usual few lights, depending on how much money the shopkeepers have donated. As for my house I don’t decorate the outside – it’s too much hassle and I can’t afford the electric bill (bah humbug!) 🙂

  5. Beautiful shots of downtown Lakeland, Rachel. Your town does a nice job decorating. I did see the black and white swans in the top shot. Nature with the lights! The dark swan was hard to catch. Good job there!

    We have a big decorated tree in the city center, Clinton Square, with an ice rink that’s open weather permitting from the day after Thanksgiving until March. And through the New Year, the surrounding buildings at the square are decorated, too. I will publish a post with shots so you can compare. 🙂

      • It kind of reminds me of those vintage trees that people used to have that were silver and they had a revolving light that they shined on the tree that turned it different colors. Those were before my time, but when I was a kid, I had an aunt who had one of them that she bought at a garage sale and I thought it was the coolest thing! LOL!

  6. The Christmas trees in the lakes are so cool! I love the black and white swan, although I didn’t see the black one at first.
    Most of the little towns here in south Jersey decorate and have special Christmas events and shopping. We’re close to Philadelphia, and there are now all sorts of Christmas lights and events. There’s a German style Christmas village, a new outdoor ice skating rink by City Hall, and many other things. We used to go to see the light show at Wanamaker’s Department Store (now it’s Macy’s). It was kind of hokey but magical at the same time. But those big, old fashioned department stores were special, too.

  7. Boy, you’ve been all over! Lakeland looks quaint, but also decently sized. It sort of reminds me of my hometown in Texas … miss it some days. The town I live in now is ah … small. Very small and the decorations they put up are limited. There is a small Christmas parade in the neighboring small town, but I’ve lived here 16 years and never been. That’s kind of sad. If we are talking about something other than Christmas stuff that we are famous for, it would definitely be The Red River George (people from all over the world come to rock climb here) and Natural Bridge State park. Beautiful scenery and lots to do in the summer. As far as outside decorations, it all depends on the mood I’m in. Some years I’ll go way over board while others, I just string up a few lights (like this year). Great post Rachel!

    • You know, I looked up our actual land mass size for this post and it said roughly 64 square miles, which would only be 8 x 8 miles. And that seemed impossible! It takes me 45 minutes to drive from the south to the north side, and 20 to drive from the east to the west side. But even though it’s large, it’s got “small town mentality” as far as people that don’t like to leave the city limits for anything. I don’t care for that. (I like to be on the go!) The rock climbing at your place sounds like fun! 😀

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