We had the opportunity recently to run up to Lake Mirror Park in Lakeland. Those who follow us know we like to explore – and this became an unexpected adventure. We found Lake Mirror Park was a whole lot more than we had anticipated.

Our main objective had been lunch, but when we got there, we discovered a complex that has some wonderful botanical gardens as well as a great little play park for kids.

We had discovered The Garden Bistro through TripAdvisor. The reviews were good so we decided to give it a shot. Although we arrived just before closing, we were not disappointed.

Located between Hollis Garden and the Barnett Play Park off Lake Mirror, this little cafe has both indoor and outdoor seating. Being that it was a beautiful day, we chose the outdoor area. It provided a great view of the lake and the promenade. The atmospheric conditions most definitely added to our dining experience.

When we first arrived, the railing tables were taken. When they left, we had a much nicer view.

The menu was a compendium of soups, salads and sandwiches. I was having a bit of a time trying to discern what a Turkey Bacon Buleah or a Ham & Cheese Gibson actually might be. Our server then explained that those were the names of nearby lakes. The Portabello Parker and the Magnolia Mirror then made much more sense.

In fact, my wife made the Portabello Parker with its generous Portabello Mushroom cap, eggplant, roasted red peppers, avocado and provolone her order. I, on the other hand, could not pass up the Turkey Bacon Buleah. Both were great and we give this place high marks.

Our lunch. She got the tomato basil soup while I went for the default cole slaw.

Hollis Gardens

After lunch, we decided to take a stroll. Just next door was the Hollis Gardens. It’s 1.2 acres of formal gardens set in a neo-classical architectural environment. It’s complete with patterned flower beds, public art, and ornamental fountains.

Dubbed one of Lakeland’s best attractions, they say that there are more than 10,000 flowers there. We cannot testify to that but we can say that the place was impeccably landscaped.

The steps up from the promenade lead to this wonderful fountain.

Lush green walking areas are set off by hedges and lined with all manner of plants dot the park. Additionally, there are sitting areas around to give people a chance to stop and enjoy the beauty. There also was classical music playing quietly around the grounds.

We observed several standing sculptures, including the nearly ten foot tall Verde Columns by artist Glenn Zweygardt. We found this to be an impressive piece, nicely set off by the plantings around it.

The Verde Columns is a wonderful addition to the park.

For the Kids

Equidistant on the other side of the Garden Bistro is the Barnett Family Fun Park. As formal as the Hollis Gardens are – the Barnett Park is informal. We found this to be a great people-watching area. One of our favorite spots was the splash park.

We found the “on switch” at the top of the stairway. Once we pressed it, there was big fun. It triggered a series of water jets that come out from the pavement below. It appeared to us that the sprays came out at random intervals – although we didn’t tarry long enough to discern a pattern.

Needless to say, the kids seemed to enjoy it as much as we enjoyed watching them.

The water jets come right out of the ground – much to the delight of the kids.

Moreover, there are giant swings, a labyrinth and a sand play area for the youngsters. We also found what was described as “a multi-purpose play field” (aka – open ground.) In our day, this would have begged for tag, red rover or full-contact duck, duck goose.

The Giant Swings of the Barnett Family Play Park.

The Promenade

All of this is located off the Frances Langford Promenade. Named after Lakeland’s favorite daughter, it is a walk that rings beautiful Lake Mirror. We, did not have time to walk it. However, we promise to take that stroll on our next visit to beautiful Lake Mirror Park.

There’s a lot more for us to discover here.