Central Florida — So Much More than Theme Parks
Typically, when One thinks of Central Florida, antiquing isn’t the first thing that comes to mind… or the second or third, for that matter. But among the many reasons to take a theme park break is the plethora of fine antique shops throughout the Sunshine State. Florida’s Antiques Loop (as we Floridians affectionately call it) includes Lakeland, Winter Haven, Lake Alfred, Plant City, and Lake Wales. But even if you’re not an antique freak, it’s worth a visit to The Barn Antiques in Lake Alfred. As you’ll soon see, this little gem located just 5 minutes from Interstate 4 (exit 48 in Lake Alfred) is a quaint little complex consisting of multiple shops and even a restaurant for hungry shoppers to take a delicious reprieve.
The Barn Antiques — A Family Affair
Ednamay Wales dreamt of opening an antique shop, and in 1969 her dream became a reality. It was located on the family ranch in rural Polk County, in a small, tin-roofed building. She called it The Barn Antiques. But Ednamay wasn’t the only visionary in the family. Today, in its 6th decade, The Barn Antiques has expanded into much larger quarters and involves all of the Wales family. In fact, it’s one of Florida’s most popular destinations for quality antiques. Some of the collector’s items come from extensive local buying, but many of the hand-picked treasures come from their frequent trips abroad.
The collectible heirlooms include dining room and bedroom pieces, armoires, sideboards, chairs, bookcases, desks, stained glass windows, and so much more. You don’t have to be particularly fond of period pieces to enjoy browsing this shop. I’m not an antiques aficionado, and yet, it’s fun just looking at all the classics. As the owners like to say, “Heaven’s a little closer at The Barn!”
The Stable Home Decor
Ten years (or so) after successfully launching The Barn Antiques another expansion project took form. Right alongside the antique shop the Wales Family opened a home decor and gift shop called The Stable Home Decor. Oh my gosh… this place is packed with goodies! From floor to ceiling, I don’t think there’s a foot of spare space. The Wales Family certainly are gifted designers. I have purchased a few of their floral arrangements and wreaths, but they also have framed prints, candles, bath and body items, very unique women’s fashion accessories, and so much more. I like the way everything is displayed in vignettes, so it looks more like a designer home than a retail shop. They also do a great job of balancing traditional home decor with the latest trends. So pretty much whatever your taste, you’ll likely find something you just can’t resist at The Stable!
The Seasons Gift Shop
A short stroll down the sidewalk from The Stable is The Seasons. Another gift shop, but this one features holiday and seasonal (hence the name) decorations for the home. Another jammed-packed shop that requires a few trips around the store in order to see everything. The displays at The Seasons are ever-changing. Depending on the calendar month in which you attend, you may see Valentine’s, St. Patrick’s, Spring, Easter, Summer, 4th of July, Fall, Halloween, Thanksgiving, or Christmas decorations and home accents. It’s fun here, because I never see the same things twice. Even when I don’t purchase anything (a rare occasion) at The Seasons, I leave with tons of decorating ideas! On my last visit they were all decked out for Christmas. The entire shop transforms into a winter wonderland filled with holiday decorations in a variety of styles and themes — traditional, trendy, whimsical, and everything in between. I absolutely love this place at Christmastime! Who says you can’t get into the Christmas spirit in Florida?
The Back Yard Garden Shop
Of course no well-dressed home is complete without taking care of the front porch and back yard… kinda like getting all decked out in your fanciest 5th Avenue attire and forgetting your shoes or jewelry. But alas, the Wales Family has you covered with that too. Adjacent to The Seasons Gift Shop is The Back Yard Garden Shop. It’s a really cool outdoor shopping area underneath a canopy of shade trees. In keeping with “the barn” theme, it has rustic wooden rafters for the ceiling, a straw floor, and bales of hay that double as display cases.
Just like the other shops in this complex, every nook and cranny is crammed with merchandise. Here, you’ll find decorative garden accessories including fountains, arbors, birdhouses, flags, colorful pots, garden statuary, wind chimes, outdoor pillows, plaques, and many more unique items. And, if you’re in the market for some Florida-friendly native plants, you’ll find a wide variety that changes often. There are seasonally appropriate selections as well.
Make sure you walk through The Back Yard Garden Shop at least once. Because, well, how many gift shops have a live tree growing right through the center of it?
The Back Porch Restaurant
It’s quite easy spending several hours browsing through all the antiques and home decor awesomeness this complex has to offer. Hubby and I usually allow 2-3 hours every time we visit. I’ve noticed that even men that don’t like to shop do not have a problem coming here. Perhaps it’s because of the strategically placed benches along the walkway where the men seem to gather. Perhaps. But I’m more inclined to believe it’s the promise of a relaxing lunch at The Back Porch Restaurant. Nestled nicely between The Seasons and The Stable, this cozy little luncheon spot has a unique twist compared to most restaurants. It’s actually a picnic lunch. Everything is served in individual wooden picnic baskets and eaten from disposable plates, just as if you were on a picnic.
The Back Porch serves casual American eats in a very comfortable atmosphere. You get to choose between indoor or patio dining. And, did I mention how inexpensive it is? It’s a wonderful change of pace from the typical stereotype restaurant concept. After reading my Back Porch Restaurant Review here, I think you’ll agree!
The Barn Antiques & Shops — Directions and Store Hours
Whether you’re a local who was born and raised in Florida or a visiting tourist, The Barn Antiques and shopping complex is worth a few hours of your time. The inventory is constantly changing; and, quite honestly, you never know what you’ll find! It’s an off-the-beaten-path kind of place which can be difficult to find unless someone tells you about it. It’s a short 25 minute drive from Disney’s Magic Kingdom theme park, 50 minutes from Tampa’s Riverwalk (longer if you take the back roads, which I recommend). If you’re using GPS, simply input The Barn Antiques, Lake Alfred as your destination. Here are the directions and store hours…
From Interstate 4
Take Exit 48, Hwy. 557, 3 miles South
From Hwy. 17/92 in Lake Alfred
At the intersection of Hwy. 17/92 and E. Pomelo follow signs to Interstate 4, on Hwy. 557 – 4 miles
- The Stable, The Seasons, The Back Porch, and The Back Yard are open all year. The Barn Antiques is open seasonally, from the first Saturday in October through the last Saturday in May
- Store Hours — 10 to 4, Tuesday through Saturday (the shops are closed on Sundays and Mondays)
- The Back Porch serves lunch from 11 to 3
Have you been to The Barn Antiques and shopping complex? Or maybe you’ve stumbled across a unique and quaint shopping/dining experience of your own. Please share with our readers in the comment box below!