Only 53 miles from Orlando, Florida's Bok Tower Gardens is a refreshing and beautiful destination that's fun for all ages. And you can go anytime - the gardens are open 365 days a year from 8 AM to 6 PM.
Bok Tower Gardens were established in 1929 by Edward W. Bok. It's now one of the United States' National Historic Landmarks. The destination is family-friendly and largely handicapped accessible, with mobility carts and wheelchairs available. (The second floor of Pinewood Estates is not accessible.) The destination is both a garden and a bird sanctuary.
So why would you want to go to Bok Tower Gardens?
- The gardens are beautiful year round. In February and March the camellias and azaleas are gorgeous and can be seen along many of the walking and shuttle paths. In the fall another set of plants are in full bloom. No matter when you go, be prepared to see scenic vistas and landscapes along with flowers in bloom.
- The Pine Ride Preserve Trail is a chance to hike through one of Florida's most endangered ecosystems.
- You can walk over a wetland on a boardwalk that spans a wetland prairie and bog.
- Visit the endangered plant garden, where over 30 rare plants from around Florida are showcased and protected.
- Walk up to the "singing tower" to hear the bells. The tower houses a 60-bell carillon and music is played frequently, some recorded and some live. Check the schedule at the Visitor Entrance for time.
- Children will love the Hammock Hollow Children's Garden where they can discover plants, climb, dig, and build.
Bok Tower Gardens gives you an opportunity to walk through gardens and landscapes created by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. one of the foremost landscape architects in the United States. He spent much of his life establishing and working on national parks, including the Everglades, Arcadia National Park, and Yosemite National Park. Olmsted established over 50 acres of shaded woodland garden and bird sanctuary at Bok Tower Gardens. There are more than 1000 plant types in the gardens.
Pinewood Estate and Gardens
Get a ticket to visit Pinewood Estate and Gardens while you are at Bok. Located toward the back of the Tower Gardens, Pinewood estate is one of the best examples of Mediterranean-style homes in the Southeast United States. It was built in the 1930's for one of Bethlehem Steel's executives, Charles Austin Buck, as his winter home. Pinewood is a 20 room mansion with gardens and vistas designed by Olmsted, Jr. and one of the Olmsted firm's other landscape architects, William Phillips. Phillips later become well-known for designing the Fairchild Tropical Garden in Coral Gables. Pinewood is unique because the grounds and landscaping were established first, and then the home was positioned to take advantage of the landscape and flow of the gardens. You can tour both floors of the home by stairs (the second floor is not wheelchair accessible).
Bok Tower Gardens is a contemplative space for everyone
The Gardens were designed to be a sanctuary and a feast for the eyes. You'll see stunningly beautiful blossoms, butterflies, and birds and other wildlife. You can also hear the carillon music often at the Bok Tower. The tower itself is 205 feet tall and is make of pink marble and coquina. You'll see stone carvings of pelicans and geese on the tower as you walk around it, along with a lovely reflecting pond and shady areas to sit and rest. Edward Bok is buried at the base of the tower just in front of the huge set of brass doors.
The Visitor's Center offers a short movie about Bok Tower Gardens, places to sit, and restrooms. Across the courtyard you'll find the Blue Palmetto cafe and a gift shop. The courtyard itself is beautifully planted with a hanging garden and orchids.
Bok Tower Gardens is an easy place to visit for all ages, and a great break when you've been on the road.
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Looking for a quick trip to the Caribbean that's kid friendly? See my article about Royal Caribbean's CocoCay Island.
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