“Make you the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it,” was some advice of Edward W. Bok, an American editor, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and philanthropist of the early 20th Century. Bok lived up to these words by creating a garden and nature preserve that is today a national historic landmark and a must-see destination if you are visiting Central Florida.
Bok got the idea for his garden project in 1921 while spending a winter vacation in the hills of Florida’s Lake Wales Ridge. There he visited a place called Iron Mountain and decided to preserve the hill and create a bird sanctuary.
He went on to create a remarkable nature sanctuary with majestic moss-covered oak trees and sweeping vistas. It is truly a peaceful place and the wildlife here is unafraid and will not flee from you.
The Pine Ridge Nature Preserve at Bok Tower Gardens gives visitors a chance to walk a 3/4-mile walking trail through this endangered longleaf pine and sand hill ecosystem and view many endangered plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. Edward Bok initially wanted to create a bird sanctuary and today Bok Tower Gardens is listed on the Great Florida Birding Trail and is a wonderful spot to see many endangered and threatened birds.
The gardens have been voted the best in Florida by the “Florida Monthly” but the central point is the amazing Singing Tower, whose architecture is based on the Gothic towers and churches of Europe. Bok commissioned Milton B. Medary, a noted Philadelphia architect, to build the tower. Ornate decorations in the art deco style were added by sculptor Lee Lawrie.
Bok admired the bell towers of his native Netherlands and his tower in Florida has a sixty bell carillon which is played in a beautiful concert every day at 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm.
To get the most out of all that is on offer at Bok Gardens, including the historic Olmsted landscape garden, the music of the Singing Tower carillon, Pinewood Estate mansion tour, the museum exhibits, caf,� and the gift shop it is recommend that you plan a minimum of three to four hours. Some visitors comment they wish they’d allowed more time in their schedule for a longer stay, so give this attraction some time and you will not be disappointed.
If you like picnicking, you can take your pick from two shaded picnic areas, bringing your own food, or purchasing at the park’s own Caf,�.
Bok Tower Gardens is open every day of the year from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. with last admission at 5 p.m. The Visitor Center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. General admission tickets are good for one day only and do not include specially ticketed events.
The current admissions prices are as follows, Adults: $10, Children: (ages 5-12): $3, Children: (under 5): Free and Members: Free. Group rates are available with preregistration of 20 or more. On 8-9 a.m. on Saturdays, the admission rate is now 50 percent of general admission.
Bok Tower Gardens is within convenient driving distance from Orlando and Tampa and is located at 151 Tower Blvd. Lake Wales, FL 33853. Their contact phone number is 863-676-1408 and you can find out more about the Gardens at their website