With sprawling landscaped grounds, a 205 foot tower with carillon, historic estate open for tours, miles of trails and much more, Bok Tower Gardens provides a variety of interesting exhibits for guests of all ages to enjoy. We recently visited this National Historic Landmark on a beautiful Spring day. Bok Tower Gardens provided us complimentary admission, but as always, all opinions about our visit are our own.
The grounds open daily at 8 a.m., but first time guests should plan to stop by the Visitor Center, which opens at 9 a.m. daily. There, staff can answer any questions you have, provide you with a copy of the Bok Tower Gardens map, and point you in the right direction. A nine minute film on the history of Bok Tower Gardens plays on continuous loop in the theater behind the Visitor Center desk, and a small museum is also attached and worth a look.
We felt the map makes the grounds look incredibly expansive, but in reality, the main sites are all within a five to 10 minute stroll from the Visitor Center. There is some elevation change, with the Visitor Center and Children’s Garden at the lowest points. If you have mobility issues, there is a free shuttle service between the Visitor Center, Singing Tower, and Pinewood Estate. We also noted that a few complimentary manual wheelchairs were available in an alcove between the gift shop and cafe.
One of the largest draws at the gardens is of course the Singing Tower, and we made it our first stop after the Visitor Center and Museum. The tower stands at 205 feet tall, and is done in the neo-Gothic style. It has been standing since its completion nearly 90 years ago, and features daily concerts from its 60-bell carillon.
The tower itself has some amazing details, from the solid brass door to the various carvings and statuary. Definitely take some time to walk around the tower and take it all in.
Since Bok Tower Gardens is located atop one of the higher points in Florida, there are a few places along the pathways where you can see something you don’t get in many other places in this part of the state – scenic vistas, with views of the rolling landscape below. Look for these spots behind the Singing Tower, and just off the main paved path near the foot of the long reflection pool (#13 on the Bok Tower Gardens map).
Becoming part of Bok Tower Gardens in 1970, Pinewood Estate includes the 12,900 square foot mansion and acres of manicured gardens. Even if you’ve chosen not to add on the optional tour inside of the mansion, your admission to Bok Tower Gardens allows you to explore the grounds around Pinewood Estate. Along with a few different style of gardens, the building itself is a masterpiece.
Inside, your tour begins in the foyer where a docent gives a brief history of the estate and points out some of the things you’ll see through the house. Your tour of the mansion is done at your own pace, with guides in many of the rooms to further explain what you’re seeing. The home has a number of interesting details, including different flooring patterns in each room, and intricate carvings on the doors throughout.
Bok Tower Gardens is full of different paths, including the main paved routes and many smaller natural ones crisscrossing between points of interest. Check the map for the different locations noted, and enjoy some time at the quieter spots in the gardens.
One of the newest additions to Bok Tower Gardens is Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden, where kids can enjoy a space created just for them. There are spots to climb, build, dig and create, with a focus on connection between animals, plants and people.
Located opposite the Visitor Center is a gift shop, which offers a variety of souvenirs as well as plants for guests to take home to their own gardens. We found the prices to be quite reasonable for a tourist location – for example a lenticular refrigerator magnet at $3, and a bottle of soda for $1.50. There is a cafe on site, serving a variety of lunch options. Guests are also welcome to bring their own lunch and use either of the two picnic areas just off the parking lot near the Visitor Center.
Bok Tower Gardens is at least a half day activity for visitors, and those who really enjoy horticulture and history can certainly spend the whole day strolling the grounds and taking it all in at a leisurely pace. Photographers will also enjoy a visit to Bok Tower Gardens, with a variety of landscapes and architecture available for picture taking.
If You Go…
Bok Tower Gardens
1151 Tower Blvd, Lake Wales, FL 33853
Open Year-Round 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Thanks to photographer Matt Hopkins for a number of images in this article.