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Day Tripping Florida – Bok Tower Gardens

With one-and-a-half miles of Florida preserve, beautiful native gardens, and an old-world singing tower, Florida has no place quite like Bok Tower Gardens.

Tucked away in Lake Wales, it is just 78 minutes from Tampa, making it easily accessible for a weekend trip.

The gardens were built by Edward William Bok in 1928. Bok was an immigrant from the Netherlands and an American entrepreneur. He lived by his grandmother’s words, “Wherever your lives may be cast, make the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it.”

He set out to build a beautiful landscape for the American public to enjoy, and on February 1, 1929, President Calvin Coolidge dedicated the gardens for public use.

The Bok Tower Gardens offer activities for the whole family, from guided classes and an upscale café to dog-friendly nature trails, children’s parks, and more.

The bell tower at the center of the gardens features eight floors, including a library, a practice studio, and a research center. The Carillon, a type of fixed bell, is housed on the 8th floor.

Interestingly, the bells are “hung dead,” meaning they do not swing; only the clappers inside move. The system is entirely manual and does not require electricity to function.

The Singing Tower Carillon holds daily concerts at one and three o’clock, with short selections played every half-hour.

The Olmstead Gardens, which surround the bell tower, were designed by world-famous architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., and are considered one of his most outstanding achievements. Here, you will find acres upon acres of palms, southern oak and pine, and a breathtaking array of seasonal flowers, making this a great visit any time of year.

The primary paths of the gardens are paved, making them easily accessible for everyone. Keep in mind that some secondary pathways between the walks are mulched and have inclines and are not recommended for wheelchair users.

For the more adventurous, there are three-and-a-half miles of hiking trails in the Pine Ridge Preserve, which are home to 126 native Floridian bird species as well as several endangered animals, namely the gopher tortoise and the eastern indigo snake.

Active-duty military personnel (with I.D.) receive free general admission; up to four friends and family members are admitted at half-price daily. Retired military members are offered free admission on military holidays. Free admission for the general public is on the last Thursday and Friday of the month from May 30th through August 30th.

Visitors can pack lunches and spread their picnic blankets anywhere in the park. Between military discounts and a sack lunch, Bok Tower Gardens is one of central Florida’s most budget-friendly and exciting adventures for active-duty and retired military families.

Written By: Stevie Escobar


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