Bok Tower Gardens is a National Historic Landmark, contemplative garden, and bird sanctuary located north of Lake Wales, Florida. It is named after the founder Edward W. Bok, a humanitarian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author who immigrated to America from the Netherlands.
We started our visit at the information center, which is a good way to get a lay of the land and learn the history of these gardens. They have a 15-minute film that is played continuously throughout the day. For those who aren’t familiar with Edward W. Bok, the Singing Tower, or Pinewood Estate, this film is a great way to find out everything about what Bok Tower Gardens has to offer. The exhibit hall has historical displays on Edward W. Bok’s life , as well as the history behind the Singing Tower and Gardens. You can also see the original carillon keyboard.
The Gardens have paved primary pathways and many mulched secondary paths, allowing you to wander through ferns, palms, oaks and pines that create a year-round backdrop of greenery. There are two main pathways that lead into the core Gardens, and many routes to choose in making your way to the Singing Tower. If you walk directly from the Visitor Center to the Singing Tower, it takes about 8-minutes. The grounds of Bok Tower Gardens is a designated site on the Great Florida Birding Trail, and is home to 126 different species of birds.
Singing Tower and Carillon
Looking up at the 205-foot neo-Gothic and art deco Singing Tower carillon is an experience like no other. The Tower houses a 60-bell carillon that has concerts at 1 and 3 p.m. with short selections played on the hour and half-hour. I learned something new on this trip, which is that carillon bells don’t move. Instead they are fixed in a frame, and the clappers inside strike the bells to produce the sound. A carillon is played from a keyboard on which the keys are depressed by the player’s closed hands and feet. The keys are connected to the clappers by vertical and horizontal wires.
The Pinewood Estate
This Mediterranean-style 1930s winter retreat is available for self touring. Contrary to popular belief, this was never the home of Edward Bok. Instead it was built for Charles Austin Buck, a Bethlehem Steel vice president. Docents are available throughout the home to interact with you and answer questions about the Estate and its furnishings. The estate is not open to the public every day, so be sure to check out the website before you go.
Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden
If you have children with you, don’t pass this up! It teaches them about conservation and the connection between animals, plants, and people. There is beautiful art, cooling water features, vibrant plantings, a boardwalk, a stage for little performers, and music area. Kids have things to climb on, under and through, as well as places to build, dig and create.
Pine Ridge Nature Trail
This is a 3/4-mile walking trail that takes you through a longleaf pine/turkey oak habitat. This unique habitat once covered millions of acres of the Southeastern United States. The longleaf pine forest is now in danger of disappearing, but fortunately the folks at Bok Tower Gardens preserved a portion of it for visitors to experience.
Bok Tower Gardens is open 365 days per year, and no two visits are alike!
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