Bartow is known for its small city heritage and distinctive Southern culture, and is appropriately nicknamed, “City of Oaks and Azaleas.”

Historic L.B. Brown House
Historic L.B. Brown House

Bartow is Polk County’s second oldest city and is most notable for both the Polk County History Center and Historic L.B. Brown House and Museum.

Polk County History Center
Polk County History Center

If you’re a history buff, the Polk County History Center is a great place to begin your journey through Polk County. Located in the Old Polk County Courthouse in downtown Bartow, the History Center has been preserving its past since 1998.

Poster Image for Visiting Bartow, Florida - Museums, Restaurants and Shopping

Our 15 Favorite Things To Do in Bartow

  1. One of our favorite things to do in Bartow is drive south on Broadway and tour the many historic homes of the city. My Girl was filmed at 555 East Stanford Street, and the Benjamin Franklin Holland House, home to the father of Spressard Holland, a former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator, is across the street at 590.
  2. Make an appointment to tour the Historic L. B. Brown House and Museum, a museum and architectural masterpiece. Built by self-taught master carpenter Lawrence B. Brown, the nine-room, 1,700 square foot home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, it is a museum honoring the contributions of African Americans to Florida history.
  3. Another beautiful home, the John J. Swearingen House, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. You can see it at 690 East Church Street, and take your time meandering through the Church Street Historic District.
  4. We’re not done talking about historic homes. In the Northeast Bartow Historic Residential District you can find 27 historical buildings built between 1886 and 1925. The district includes Jackson Avenue, First Avenue, Main Street and Vine Street.
  5. Enjoy breakfast or lunch at one of our Local Favorites: The Cookie Jar Bakeshop. Once you make it through the front door, you’ll realize you’ll also be purchasing a few (or dozen) cookies, cupcakes and/or brownies. We’ve been buying sweet treats from The Cookie Jar Bakeshop for over a decade, and each bite has exceeded our expectations.
  6. Bring the kids to Family Fun Day at the Polk County History Center. On the second Saturday of each month, the History Center hosts a day full of arts and crafts. Every month there’s a new theme.
  7. Celebrate all things science fiction during Bartow’s annual SyFy Saturday. You see life-sized replicas of Doctor Who’s time machine and the TARDIS. Come dressed up in themed attire, or have one of the festival’s makeup artists add some science fiction flair to your already pretty face.
  8. Eat under the oak tree at Curly Tails Barbeque. Once you’re there, you’ll get what we’re sayin’.
  9. Go antiquing at Antiques on Main and Smith & Jones Antiques. If you’re in town on the second Saturday of the month, stop by Main Street’s Antique Fair which is set up along the sidewalks of downtown. Find unique and one-of-a-kind items that you won’t want to leave without.
  10. Art blooms every March in Bartow during the Bloomin’ Arts Festival, Bartow’s annual spring arts celebration. From antique cars and paintings to restored violins, art of all kinds is celebrated, appreciated, purchased and even raffled at this two-day festival.
  11. Explore the Polk County History Center during a family friendly architectural tour and learn more about Neo-Classical architecture, the construction of the building and the stories behind the iconic Old Polk County Courthouse. These tours take place on the third Saturday of each month.
  12. Roll around in the grass at Mary Holland Park. There’s two playgrounds, a skateboard park, fitness trail and picnic tables in this hidden gem.
  13. In the mood for seafood? Catfish Country has been serving southern style seafood in Polk County since 1985. Not only will you enjoy great seafood, but you’ll get an unlimited amount of hot biscuits, freshly made coleslaw and sweet Georgia onions.
  14. Bartow’s Municipal Airport and Bartow Air Base Museum is between Bartow and Eagle Lake. Inside the museum you will find memorabilia from World War II, when this complex was in service as the Bartow Army Air Field. After World War II, it was used to run a flight school training cadets for military service.
  15. If you’re here in February, join us at the L.B. Brown Festival to celebrate the life and achievements of Lawrence B. Brown with jazz, gospel and contemporary music, dancers and storytellers.

The Bartow Chamber of Commerce can provide additional information about the area.