800 E. Palmetto St., Lakeland, (863) 688-7743; polkmuseumofart.org
The Polk is a small museum affiliated with Florida Southern College, set in a quiet, mostly residential area and near a couple of the lakes that give Lakeland its name. It exhibits a variety of changing shows by local, regional and national artists, even extending to artwork by young students. Two fascinating continuing exhibits that are complementary to each other: Material World and Hungry Planet, showcasing photos by Peter Menzel from around the world of families’ possessions and what their average food consumption looks like.
Once you’ve browsed the galleries, it’s only a couple blocks’ walk to the heart of the campus, where the largest single-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings holds sway, including the Annie Pfeiffer Chapel with its overhead glass views and blocks of colored light in the walls. Tours are available. It’s a pleasant walk to the main campus, too, as you pass century-old restored homes with wide porches and plaques attesting to their traditional style.
10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 1-5 p.m. Sunday, closed Monday
Approximately 1 hour, 40 minutes
One small gallery displays the painting Claudius Triumph, by Alexander von Wagner, which served as inspiration for the depiction of the chariot race in the silent movie classic Ben-Hur. Painted around the 1870s, the work somehow ended up in a closet for decades before being rediscovered and restored starting in 2016. The Von Wagner Code gives clues to that painstaking process.
The Art of the Highwaymen: From the Woodsby Family Collection, opening Feb. 12, explores the roots of the African American landscape painters’ movement of the 1950s.
Tiny music boxes, wooden pieces made from Lakeland’s famous magnolia trees, colorfully designed face masks, and a magnetic play set featuring “Joy of Painting” legend Bob Ross.
Try the nearby Garden Bistro at 702 E. Orange, overlooking Lake Mirror, near Hollis Garden and the Barnett Family Park. Serene views from the terrace, with a nice mix of sandwiches, salads and soups on the menu, at affordable prices and served by friendly staff. The day we visited, an ice cream truck was parked there, too, offering cool treats.