Tour rule for uneventful destinations: make an event! In Lakeland, this meant frequenting a local bar to learn about the area from the mouths, hearts and empty pint glasses of the locals.
The bar in question: Molly McHugh's Irish Pub. Much more than a local dive, Molly's feels like a traditional Irish pub: which, being from Boston, is a tough standard to meet in my book. We were lucky enough to stop by when there was an incredibly talented performer belting out classic Irish gigs, playing a variety of instruments, and providing a bit of comedy between numbers. The tune of "Seven Drunken Nights" reverberated against the wooden walls and circulated around the long tables of patrons, bringing everyone happily together in a way unfound in the empty, dusty streets of Lakeland.
For a relatively young place (Molly's opened in 1996), the Pub gave off the aura that it had been around since Seven Drunken Nights was first coined. A fascinating combination of patrons heightened the sense of community, as grumpy old men, tattoed youngsters, giggling couples, businesspeople, and ladies both dressed up and in sweats all joined together in song and laughter.
There are games in the back, lots of Irish beer on tap and no televisions inside (to keep the music and conversation lively, according to the bartender).
Without a car, your options in Lakeland are limited. I could have attended the reptile convention at the Lakeland Center (insert sarcasm), but I'm glad I visited Molly McHugh's instead.