Most Polk County residents know Bartow as the county seat. Some travelers may think that Bartow is the section of town where Florida Highway 60 and US 98 come together. However, just off that main thoroughfare is a quaint little section of town that is rife with interesting little shops and delicious eateries.

The exterior of Sweet Magnolias is only the beginning of a fun and funky place for lunch.

It Started with Lunch

We were headed through town and decided it was time for lunch. A quick check with our trusty TripAdvisor account showed us that Sweet Magnolias had rave reviews and was within striking distance. Setting our GPS for Central Avenue, we were there in a blink and even found a front-row parking spot.

Lunch at Sweet Magnolias

The inside of the place was festooned with placards full of fun sayings, vintage signs and even quotes written on the walls. Despite the fact this seemed to be a “ladies’ place” even Mr Funmeister got a good-sized meal at a reasonable pricepoint.

Owner, the lovely Sandy, came by to check on us, and told us about revitalization efforts in “The City of Oaks and Azaleas,” and even about the ghost that apparently haunts the kitchen. She also directed us to some of the cool little shops nearby.

Thrift Store Radar Alerts

Mrs Funmeister immediately found the nearest thrift shop. Known as The Top Buttons, it is a combination of previously owned and new clothing. The botique and designer shop has a mission “to build self-worth in young women inside and out.”

The interior of Top Buttons Bartow. Some items no longer there….

In fact, we found a wide array of different kinds of shops in the area of Main St, Central Ave and Summerlin. Up Central, for instance was the Fancy Flea Cottage, Arts on Central, Bartow Mercantile, Rafa Natural and Face Naked & Beautiful.

Up Main Street was Bartow Christian Books & Gifts, Main Street Comics and Memorabilia, Indigo Moon, a shop full of artisan products and the very fun Krazy Kricket. That was a gift shop that also boasts an embroidery facility in the back.

The Krazy Kricket has wall hanging, scented candles, cards and a WHOLE lot more.

When it comes to places to eat, the only problem is making up your mind. There’s the aforementioned Sweet Magnolias, Hacienda Mexico, Bedrock Wings and Palace Pizza just to name a few. And when it comes to sweet treats – don’t cheat yourself out of The Cookie Jar Bakeshop and Eatery.

And when you’ve shopped and eaten enough – sit down for a while

Having gotten there fairly late in the day, we only scratched the surface. We plan to return, and maybe even attend one of the special events in this fun central Florida hamlet. If you are in the area, and have the time, it’s worth the diversion.

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