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Welcome to Florida’s Springlands

Nearly 200 years ago, Columbia County was regarded as The Gateway to Florida. That moniker recognized how the region both advantageously abuts the state’s northern border and boasts wide-open spaces and land bridges that allowed for easier travel. 

Today, the region is known as “Lake City, Florida’s Springlands,” and it’s waiting to welcome everyone from far-flung tourists looking for year-round outdoor fun to locals finally falling in love with Florida’s north central region. 

“[Lake City] is like an outdoor theme park,” notes Paula Vann, executive director of the Tourist Development Council. “There’s kayaks, there’s floating down rivers in inner tubes, there’s swimming in springs, there’s all kinds of outdoor adventures.” 

Whether you’re looking for ways to spend all day on the water, an outdoor festival to add to your calendar, a town you can eat your way through, a charmingly historical downtown daytrip or your next favorite vacation destination, Vann invites you to discover everything that makes Lake City a uniquely inviting locale. 

Things to See

As Vann notes that “COVID nudged people outside,” Lake City’s state parks, national forests and abundance of fresh-air activities celebrate the great outdoors in all their glory all year-round. 

The Ichetucknee Springs, Big Shoals and O’Leno state parks—among many others—offer everything from hiking and biking to scuba diving and paddleboat rentals, while Osceola National Forest features fishing, scenic prehistoric swamps and stunning cypress trees reaching for seemingly improbable heights.

“It’s really unique that you can explore all of these parks and have all different experiences at each one of them,” says Vann. 

For those who prefer their natural splendor with a dash of American history, look no further than the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park. There you’ll find a museum dedicated to the 19th-century composer and “Father of American Music” who made the area’s Suwannee River famous with “Old Folks at Home”—Florida’s state song since 1935—as well as the legendary river itself and the many springs it feeds.

Things to Do

Lake City’s calendar is packed with special and annual events, many of which take advantage of the stunning landscapes and 12 months of inviting weather. 

The two-day Olustee Festival & Craft Show features vendors from all across the country and plenty of family-friendly attractions. Meanwhile, the Florida Folk Festival fills Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park with three days of live music, dance, stories, crafts and food, and The Suwannee River Jam hosts country music’s biggest names and rising stars alike. 

There’s also October’s Gateway City Craft Beer & Wine Festival, which features beer vendors from not only Florida but also all over the Southeast. “It’s right in downtown Lake City at our festival grounds, so it overlooks the lake,” Vann says. “It’s in a great setting.”

Places to Eat

Of course, taking in everything Lake City has to offer can work up an appetite, and hungry visitors, adventurous foodies and microbrew enthusiasts will all find that the region’s gustatory delights are just as sure-to-please and varied as its natural vistas. 

Downtown gastropub Marion Street Bistro & BrewHouse serves up elevated comfort food and drinks in a restored brick building as historical as its surroundings. Plus, as Vann notes, “They have a little speakeasy area in the back where you can have drinks and be a little bit separated from the rest of the restaurant.” 

Then there’s Halpatter Brewing Company, Lake City’s first craft brewery, a popular pet-friendly locale with ample indoor and outdoor seating and plenty of lively events. Phish Tales is another popular watering hole, the newer Mr. B’s BBQ has already established itself as a can’t-miss mainstay and Vann describes Shirley’s Restaurant as “everyone’s favorite breakfast spot.” 

Places to Stay

With so much to do, it’s impossible to cram it all into one day. Fortunately, staying overnight is the perfect opportunity to find out just what a charming host Lake City can be. 

Its many state parks and the Moonshine Acres RV Park provide a variety of camping options; you can hunker down in an array of well-known hotel and motel chains, or check in at The Blanche, a 120-year-old boutique hotel widely regarded as “The Pride of Lake City.” 

“Whatever you’re here for, we can accommodate you,” affirms Vann. 

Whether you’re a day-tripper, weekend warrior or planning a long family getaway, Lake City is always thrilled to welcome familiar faces and first-time guests with open-arm hospitality. 

Because, according to Vann, “We just love our visitors and meeting new people.”

Lake City, Florida’s Springlands
(386) 758-1312