Found a few miles east of Tampa on Interstate Highway 4, Lakeland is well-named for its abundance of lakes and ponds, many of which are big enough for fishing and boating. Besides its lakes, Lakeland also has a surprising number of wild places. One is the Circle B Bar Reserve at Lake Hancock in the southern part of the city, where you can see lots of birds and tropical flowers. For a really wild time, check out the Safari Wilderness, with its African and Asian animals. For a fee, the kids can feed the lemurs. You’’ll find Lakeland vacation rentals all around the neighborhoods of this beautiful city. They range from apartments to ranch homes with carports to substantial houses with their own swimming pools. There are even rentals in the historic district located within walking distance of notable old buildings. An efficient transit system makes getting around Lakeland easy.

1. Lake Bonny Park

There’s so many fun things to do in the Lakeland area including the Lakeland Skate Park at Fletcher Park . It is a lure for skateboarders and has those crazy hills and concrete Mobius strips that skateboarders love. It is a lovely park for kids to play in, and it’s dog-friendly, in case you brought Fido along. Shady picnic areas make this park great for an al fresco lunch. It is also not too far from the Polk Museum of Art.

2. North Lake Wire

This modest neighborhood is the home of Lakeland Seafood, the place to go if you want to whip up a meal or two in your vacation rental. The locals rave about the fresh catfish, perch, shrimp, clams, and other shellfish. They even have prepared meals such as stuffed crabs that you can just take back to your place and warm up.

3. Westgate

The Westgate neighborhood is built on Westgate Park, which has playing fields as well as a community center for parties. If you and your husband want to steal away for a night of fun, you’ll find a nightclub called Dayton’s Fun Spot at the southern edge of the park, south of Josephine Street.

4. Tigertown

Tigertown is right on the enormous Lake Parker and contains the part of Lake Parker Park that’s the home of Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium. It is where the Detroit Tigers come for spring training, and it serves as the year-round home of the Flying Tigers. Bring the family to watch a game.

5. Beacon Hill

With its streets named after Native American tribes, this leafy neighborhood is just the place for a quiet vacation rental. Many of the homes have porches, garages, tidy lawns, and decks that are great for family breakfasts. Beacon Hill is within walking distance of Lake Hollingsworth, where you can enjoy cardboard boat racing. Dobbins Park is found to the north. The neighborhood also has good bus service, so sojourning into the heart of the city is a breeze.

6. Lake Horney

This area of Lakeland is found on the other side of Lake Hollingsworth from Beacon Hill and close to Lake Bonny. The Lakeland Skate Park is right on its border. The eponymous lake is tiny compared to the other two, but it’s a place to enjoy peace and quiet. To the north is the Harrison School for the Arts, and if you come during the school year, you can catch concerts, plays, and art shows held in the Harrison Theatre. Just north of the school is the Lakeland Community Theatre.

7. Combee Settlement

This large neighborhood borders Lake Parker and the wilds of Saddle Creek Park. This is the biggest of Lakeland’s substantial lakes and is a marvelous spot for fishing and boating. The lake is stocked with crappie, largemouth bass, and bluegill, so bring the appropriate fishing gear! If you wish to go east instead of west, Saddle Creek Park is stocked with the same type of fish. The park itself is composed of 740 acres of phosphate pits left over from the mines.

8. Raintree

Part of Raintree is within the Cleveland Heights Country Club, and some of it borders Lake John. Play a round of golf, then have a meal at the club’s grill or take a boat out on the lake. You can also pop over to Paladar Boricua & BBQ for such Puerto Rican tastes as mofongo and burritos. South of Raintree is Peterson Park, which just touches Lake John and has a boardwalk with beautiful views.

9. East Lake Morton

One edge of East Lake Morton curves around Lake Morton while the northern end takes a piece of Lake Mirror. Magnificent Hollis Garden is found in this neighborhood. It’s a formal, Italianate garden with carefully laid out walkways, glorious tropical plants and flowers, and lots of fountains. Lake Mirror is a serenely beautiful lake that’s small enough to stroll all the way around in a couple of hours.