The seemingly never-ending cold weather was giving me the winter blues, so I planned a spontaneous trip to warm Central Florida.
My desire for sunshine and lush landscapes was quickly realized in Lake Wales, where I also found unexpected delights in the unique Bok Tower Gardens.
Exploring Bok Tower Gardens
Set amongst rolling hills of citrus trees, Bok Tower Gardens is a National Historical Landmark that’s only about a 20-minute drive from Legoland Florida. This is a unique venue that will delight all visitors. The gardens were designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, the son of the famous “Father of Landscape Architecture” Frederick Law Olmstead Sr., who is responsible for the design of Central Park in New York City. Frederick Jr.’s resume of projects is also impressive and includes the grounds of the White House.
During my initial stroll through the property, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of so many flowers and lush trees. The scent was absolutely intoxicating. With so many different kinds of flowers – including camellias, azaleas and magnolias – set amongst oak trees, ferns and palms, this is a photographer’s paradise.
I really enjoyed my visit to The Window by the Pond, where I could sit and observe wild birds, reptiles and butterflies. The small and intimate outdoor sitting room allows you to peacefully relax and take in the nature of the bog. I loved the sign that stated, “This is nature’s show, not ours. No scheduled performances.”
Bok Tower Gardens also has a couple of natural trails that provide wonderful hikes through rare and unique Florida habitats, including a longleaf pine forest. Take a moment and absorb the delicate beauty in front of you.
The Singing Tower Carillon
Visiting the gorgeous neo-Gothic Singing Tower and Reflection Pool is akin to a spiritual experience. It’s impossible not to have a moment of reflection, quiet and gratitude. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of this 62-meter-tall structure and the enchanting music of the carillon bells, which made me reminiscent of my travels throughout Europe. The carillon concerts are performed daily at 1 and 3 p.m. and are included in the admission fee. The beautiful Reflection Pool is home to numerous koi fish, another sight to be enjoyed at the Singing Tower.
The Pinewood Estate at Bok Tower Gardens
This beautiful estate at Bok Tower Gardens was built in the early 1930s for Charles Austin Buck, a successful Bethlehem Steel vice president. He greatly admired Spanish culture, and it was his desire to design his mansion in the Spanish style, with a flow that allowed family and guests to enjoy the simple pleasures of life and the beauty of the property. Spanning 1,200 square meters, the grand and spacious mansion still has a warm feel and is absolutely lovely. As a singer myself, I was particularly captivated by the music room, overlooking the gardens, which is an ideal space for an opera performance because of the amazing acoustics. I even took the opportunity to sing an aria for our host.
Bok Tower Gardens is enchanting in every way with its dedication to the preservation of nature, architecture, music and history.