Over the weekend, I emerged from the covers, saw the beautiful blue skies and told myself, "Put on your three best winter coats! We are venturing out in this 34 degree weather!"
Destination: Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales
Located a short 45 minute drive from Kissimmee (or a little bit over an hour if you're driving from Tampa), tranquil and serene Bok Tower Gardens quickly became my new favorite place.
I found azaleas, camellias and magnolias on every corner with ferns, palms, oaks and pines fashioning a lush background to the garden. Over 126 species of birds inhabit it as well as the threatened gopher tortoise and endangered eastern indigo snake.
I was blown away on the history of how it came to be and get ready because I memorized ALL THE FACTS!
(Takes deep breath and begins...) Edward W. Bok emigrated at six years old with his family from the Netherlands, with little money and knowing nothing about American customs or even the language.
Through tons of hard work, he became the editor of Ladies' Home Journal, a position he held for 30 years. He was a fierce advocate for world peace and at one point offered $100,000 for the best practicable plan by which the United States might cooperate with other nations to achieve peace!
Like most northerners, Bok looked to escape the cold and vacationed down in sunny Florida during the winters. He became enchanted with its beauty (I mean, who wouldn't?) and the sights from Iron Mountain, which at 295 feet above sea level is one of the highest points of the Florida peninsula. So he purchased land, had his friend Frederick Law Olmstead Jr. (one of the many high rollers that Bok knew) to design the garden, but there was something missing...
The Carillon and Singing Tower!
- The tower is a National Historic Landmark Built on St. Augustine coquina and gray marble from Tate, Georgia Bok fondly remembered music of carillons from his childhood and had a world-class carillon commissioned for his tower There are only four carillons in the state The bells weigh from 16 pounds to almost 12 tons Bok passed away close to his beloved tower and is actually buried in front of it
Another National Historic Landmark, the beautiful Mediterranean-style Pinewood Estate built in the 1930s can also be found on the grounds. For an additional fee you can tour the estate.
There's tons to see and do at the gardens and a lot of new experiences coming up throughout the year! Make Bok Tower Gardens a stop during your next Kissimmee vacation. Click here to begin planning.