Shortly after we arrived at Kissimmee South, I read a blog post from another RVer about the Bok Tower Gardens, in nearby Lake Wales.
The 50-acre garden was established by Edward W. Bok in 1929 as a gift to the American people, and dedicated by President Calvin Coolidge as a National Historic Monument.
The gardens were designed by Landscape Architect, Frederick Law Olmstead, who is also know for designing the National Mall in Washington DC.
The “singing tower” is a 205 ft. Gothic structure of Georgia pink marble, and native Florida coquina. The tower is home to a 60-bell carillon – one of the world’s finest – and daily concerts are performed by the carillonneur at 1pm and 3pm. The smallest bell in the carillon weighs just 16 pounds, and the largest weighs over 11 tons – all brass!
February and March are the peak bloom season for the azaleas, camellias and magnolias, so I decided that we would wait until the last weekend of February to visit.
So, on our last Friday in Kissimmee (yeah, I’m 2 weeks behind on the blog!!) we took off in the Jeep and headed south through the orange groves to Lake Wales.
It was peak season for juice oranges, too, and with the top off on the Jeep, we were surrounded by the smell of orange blossoms – heavenly!! I just kept breathing in the scent! I love it!
We arrived at the gardens, (paid our $14 each admission – a little high, but worth it!) and started our tour at the Visitor Center,
where we picked up a map, watched the introductory video and strolled through the exhibits about the construction of the tower.
The Visitor Center also has a courtyard cafe, with a very cool airplant wall,
and cobblestone walkway.
From the Visitor Center, we followed the walkway into the gardens. We passed the Kitchen Garden, and the outdoor demonstration kitchen (Nice!),
and wandered into Hammock Hollow – the children’s garden.
It was a very cute garden – with lots of little interactive areas for kids to explore and learn.
Back on the walking path, we entered the Wild Garden,
a showcase of native Florida plants and ecosystems.
Window by the Pond
Now that’s a wild plant!!
Tree branch covered by air plants.
Continuing on, we arrived at the highlight of the gardens – the beautiful flowering shrubs.
Every color of azalea was blooming, and it was amazing!
Next stop on the tour was the Pinewood Estate.
We didn’t pay the extra $6 to tour the house, so we just walked around the outside. They had quite a backyard!
Beautiful Mediterranean architecture, too!
By the time we finished touring the grounds of the Estate, it was almost time for the 1pm concert at the Tower, so we continued along the walkway until we reached the Tower.
Nice view from across the reflection pond
There’s a viewing area with a screen where you can watch the carillonneur as he performs. He strikes these pedals with the heels of his hands, really hard, and that action pulls the bells that are attached to each respective bell.
We started out watching from here, but it was in the direct sun, so a little hot, and people were chatty, so we moved over to the base of the tower where we could enjoy the concert better.
The concert was very good, and the tower itself is a beautiful structure – with intricate carvings at the top where the carillon is located,
a sundial at the base of the tower on the west side,
a solid brass door on the east side, with panels depicting the story of creation,
and carvings of native Florida birds in the granite around the base.
Following the 30-minute concert, we walked back down the hill to the parking lot. It was a very nice day, and we enjoyed both the concert and the gardens!
On the way back to the RV Park, we stopped to have an early dinner at a little fish camp that we had heard about.
We had a nice dinner overlooking the lake,
and met some other visitors from Michigan – small world! Dinner was really good, too!
In addition to being a bar and restaurant, they also have a few campsites on the channel and lake. Cute place, but pretty far from civilization!