5 Things To Do in Bok Tower Gardens

Bok Tower Gardens: Florida’s Mountain

Amongst the sprawl of endless things to do in Florida; theme parks, beaches, and city life lay perhaps the most remarkable hidden gem, just 55 miles south of downtown Orlando, in remote Lakeland, Florida, Bok Tower Gardens.

This beautiful attraction was practically in our backyard, yet we didn’t get to experience it until our very last day in Florida before we left for our grand world tour.

Here are 5 things you can do in Bok Tower Gardens:

1. Visit the Museum

Bok Tower Gardens has a very interesting history. The ridge itself called Lake Wales Ridge is one of the only parts of Florida to never have been submerged under water.

As well as the landscape the Bok Tower Gardens Museum also informs about the history of the grounds, the designer, and the mansion on property—which we’ll get to soon!

2. Pick up a Snack at the Cafe or a Souvenir at the Gift Shop

After exiting the museum is a beautiful patio area where you can sit and enjoy a beverage and snack from the Café or grab some take home trinkets at the gift shop. The fountain and garden area are only a taste of what’s to come as you venture deeper into the gardens.

3. Listen to the Bells at the Singing Tower

The most popular of the attractions at Bok Tower Gardens is the Singing Tower a 205-foot-high monument that stands high above the treetops. This tower has some really neat features like a sundial that tells not just the time, but the date and year as well. Most notably though are the ringing bells that play twice a day filling the entire grounds with church bells. We were lucky to go during the holiday season and heard some lovely Christmas tunes.

4. Walk the Trails and Water Features

Including extraordinary views of the Singing Tower there are plenty of nature trails to walk all over the grounds. The entire grounds were designed by Frederick Olmsted, Jr., the same landscape artist who created the grounds at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, and the Niagara Falls Park in New York. The grounds themselves were almost reminiscent of Park Guell in Barcelona Spain. Different trails are perfect for:

  • Birdwatching
  • Viewing wildlife
  • A Carnivorous plant self-guided tour
  • Feed the fish at the coy pond
  • Stargaze on select evenings

5. Tour the El Retiro Mansion

For a little extra on top of your entrance ticket you can take a tour around the inside of the El Retiro Mansion. This astounding house built in the early 1930’s was ahead of its time with tons of technologically advanced features. Radiators built into the walls, window screens (which was very rare for the time) that remain intact today, kerosene steam sterling engine powered fans, Spanish style stone floors to keep the home cool during the hot Florida summers, 24-inch-thick walls for better insulation, and a 1900’s intercom system.

The master of the house preferred to sneak away to bed so you’ll also get to see his secret passage from the sitting room to his private chambers.

The outside of the mansion, which is just as beautiful, is a part of the grounds and free for all Bok Tower Gardens visitors to access.

For more articles checkout 5 Items That Will Make Your Friends at Any Hostel or follow along with our USA road trip in Our Good Ol’ American Road Trip: Part 1 and Part 2

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