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THE BOK TOWER GARDENS
Designed as “a spot of beauty second to none in the country”, Bok Tower Gardens have been offering exquisite experiences to over 23 million visitors since they opened in 1929. The historic landscaped gardens and unique Singing Tower carillon are the heritage of magazine editor Edward W.Bok, who set out to preserve the hilltop ridge site at Iron Mountain, from where he had observed wildlife and wonderful sunset vistas, and create a bird sanctuary.
The grand gardens were designed by Frederick Law Olmstead Jr, transforming an area of dry sand, and are considered one of the famous landscape architect’s greatest works. Bok later added a remarkable 205-foot Neo Gothic and art deco ‘singing tower’, housing one of the world’s finest carillons of 60 bells. Concerts are given daily at 1pm and 3pm. A Dutch immigrant, Bok gifted his creation to the American people on Feb 1, 1929, in thanks for the opportunities he had received.
Almost eight acres of the gardens are occupied by Pinewood Estate crowned by a 20-room Mediterranean-style mansion originally called ‘El Retiro’ (retreat) and built in the 1930s for a Charles Austin Buck, a Bethlehem Steel vice president. The house, used for various events and performances, and estate are also open to the public.
The Pine Ridge Nature Trail at Bok Tower Gardens winds through ¾ mile of preserved longleaf pine forest, while the 1.5mile Preserve Trail is part citrus grove being restored to Longleaf Pine.
Bok Tower Gardens lie midway between Tampa and Orlando, are open all year round (8am to 6pm) and are less than an hour’s drive along I4 and Highway 27 to Lake Wales.
The Visitor Center, Blue Palmetto Café, Tower and Garden Gift Shop are open 9am-5pm with limited hours on holidays. Combo admission – general admission with a self-guided tour of Pinewood Estate, is $18 adults, $8 children (5-12 years); general admission ($12/$3) includes the Gardens, Pine Ridge Nature Trail, Preserve Trail and Visitor Center.