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Bok Tower Gardens - Orlando / Florida Guide

Florida Guide > Other Florida

On a recent trip to our villa on Highlands Reserve we wondered what we could do in Florida that was both child and Grandma friendly and wouldn' t bore the adults to death? We surfed the internet and found Bok Tower Gardens which appeared to fit the bill perfectly. The gardens is signposted off the US 27 in Lake Wales so not too far a drive away.

The gardens were the idea of Edward Bok who came from the Netherlands at the age of 6 with his family to live in Pennsylvania. They spent the winter at their house in Lake Wales and he enjoyed taking walks to the top of Iron Mountain ( at 298 feet above sea level, one of Florida’s highest points) seeing the beautiful sunsets and birdlife. In the 1920’s he bought some land there and set about creating “a spot of beauty second to none in the country”. He commissioned a famous landscape architect to create a subtropical garden which has become the home for 126 migrating bird species. Edward Bok also commissioned an amazing tower which houses a carillon (series of bells) which today is played on the hour and half hour.

Inspired by the website we set off for our day out and the gardens did not disappoint – fabulous exotic plants beautifully laid out with paths that were easy to negotiate with buggies and wheelchairs. We were advised that the bells would shortly ring when we arrived and were offered a ride up to the tower on a small trolley bus which made it a little easier and we could see why the tower was the star of the show – constructed of pink marble tiles it reflected the Floridian sunshine and we were mesmerised by the many plants and animals both carved into the tower and depicted in tiles. Surrounding the tower is the Reflection Pool which reflects the whole tower and entices lots of wildlife. For small change we bought food to give to the Koi carp in the pool, which were so tame they ate out of our hand.

The whole park is so serene and adults and children alike were transfixed by the chiming of the bells playing a range of pieces from Classical music to Hollywood musicals and operettas and hymns. We were amazed by the views from the top of the park and while small children were happy playing ‘tig’ amongst the gardens, the adults were content to soak in the views from the top of the mountain. Edward Bok certainly knew how to pick a spot!

At the end of our visit we satisfied our thirst in the café, where they have a huge selection of beers from around the world and some very tasty food too. Then off to the visitor centre where we discovered just how the park and tower were constructed and also how the carilloneur plays the bells. The last stop was the shop where there is a very comprehensive selection of gifts which were a nice change from the usual Floridian offerings and we bought several plants to improve our villa’s poolside garden which will provide an ideal reminder of the perfect day.

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