We admit it: You won’t find theme parks in Lake City, Florida’s Springlands. But that’s what makes us special. (Trust us, there’s no bigger thrill than taking a plunge into 72-degree water on a hot summer day!)
Here’s an overview of attractions and fun places to visit during your stay.
Let’s start with downtown Lake City, a walkable area filled with Southern hospitality and old Florida charm. Downtown has a wide array of historic buildings reflective of different eras of northern Florida architecture. The century-old Blanche hotel, which once hosted notorious gangster Al Capone, is still very active today, with 14 furnished rooms that offer the boutique experience you’re looking for. There are a variety of places to grab morning coffee and other meals. The Marion Street Bistro & Brewhouse has an array of artifacts and relics to go along with delicious food and drink. If you feel happy hour approaching, stop in at Halpatter Brewing Co. for a pint or two of one of their house-made beers and a light bite.
Downtown’s signature park, Lake Desoto, makes for a relaxing stroll, and it’s a lovely place for a picnic. If the little ones need to burn off some energy, just north of Lake Desoto you’ll find the Rotary International Children’s Playground, with slides and other fun stuff. It’s a relatively small, sand-based area that’s fenced in, so you can let the kiddos run wild.
To get a fascinating overview of Lake City, Florida’s Springlands, plan a visit to the Lake City-Columbia County Historical Museum, located in a quaint old house downtown and filled with photographs, artworks, texts, furniture, tools, and more that provides a full account of the Gateway City’s history. Entrance to the museum is free, although a donation is appreciated.
Who doesn’t like a leisurely stroll through a farmer’s market on a Saturday morning? The Growers and Makers Market, held every second and fourth Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Olustee Park, showcases a large group of vendors selling locally grown produce, food vendors, plants, herbs, arts and crafts, and other products. The folks selling their wares are always happy to chat.
Just 13 miles northwest of Lake City lies the town of White Springs, which back in the 1830s became Florida’s first tourist destination. Why? Because of the supposed healing qualities of the local sulfur-laced spring waters. People visit today to see the historic springhouse, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, and walk the shady sidewalks of the historic town of White Springs.
Also within the White Springs city limit is the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park, which features a museum that honors the life and music of America’s first pop songwriter. The 800-acre park also includes forests, hiking and biking trails as well as a full-facility campground and cabins.
Another place in White Springs that offers water-based thrills is American Canoe Adventures. Situated in a house on US-41, this operator offers seven different canoe day trips along the Suwannee River, ranging from one to six hours, as well as group overnight trips that entail extended paddles down the Suwannee.
If you’re looking to fully soak up the springs experience, but you’re not arriving with a watercraft or gear, Rum 138 is situated amid a heavy concentration of springs. The business rents and sells kayaks, canoes and paddleboards, but does not offer tours. A little farther south, in the town of High Springs, the Santa Fe Canoe Outpost provides paddling day trips along the Santa Fe River and into various springs.
And, finally, for our largest attraction: The Florida National Scenic Trail cuts through a big swath of Lake City, Florida’s Springlands. The Florida Trail, as it’s commonly known, is one of only 11 Congressionally-designated long-distance hiking trails in the country. It’s run by the U.S. Forest Service. A good portion of our part of the 1,500-mile trail runs through the Osceola National Forest, so put on your hiking boots and start exploring!