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Visit Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales for the beauty of the carillon bells and the surrounding landscape

Everyone kept telling us "you've got to go." So last weekend we finally got around to packing a picnic lunch, piled into the car and drove to Lake Wales, about 60 miles east of Tampa, to see the "another world" experience that so many had touted.

Bok Tower Gardens didn't disappoint. Here, nature is at its best — a place of breathtaking beauty that, at a glance, swallows whole the bustle of the day. This historical landmark has winding paths hugged by a glorious, lush landscape. This gift was given to the American people by a Dutch immigrant and writer and magazine editor, Edward William Bok, in the 1920s.

There's much to encounter during a stroll under the moss-laden oaks or while resting on a bench along the reflecting pool. The giant Victorian water lilies bob and bordering plants are often identified by their given names in English and Latin. Some now in bloom are the false blue ginger (Dichorisandra thyrsiflora) and the American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) a bushy plant with raspberry-colored berries that might be mistaken for a simple weed in the home landscape. Some creatures include the writing spider, which can be found busily weaving an impressive daily web, and the eastern gray squirrel that has become all too complacent with the human's step (so please don't feed them). There's an abundance of birds flitting about in this sanctuary, too, all chirping merrily it seems.

A 205-foot singing tower on a hill serves as the garden's centerpiece, housing a 60-bell carillon that rings concerts at 1 and 3 p.m. each day. The tower, made of pink Georgia marble and Florida limestone and enhanced with ornate tile, wildlife sculptures, wrought-iron gates and a large brass door, was built on one of Florida's highest "peaks," at about 295 feet.

That elevation might not impress mountaineers, but it provided an awesome vantage point for the 16-year-old flatlander in our group and this Northern transplant, too, during a too-brief stay.

No doubt, we'll be back.

You should go.

If you go to Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales

Where: 1151 Tower Blvd.,

Lake Wales

When: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, including holidays. Plan to spend at least four hours there. Last admission is at 5 p.m.

General admission: $12 for adults; $3 for children ages 5-12; free for children under 5. Free admission today (Veterans Day) to members of the armed services with proper ID.

Sights to see: Landscape gardens, Pine Ridge Trail, Pinewood Estate Historic Home (combination ticket is $18 for adults; $8 for children; closed through Nov. 24 in preparation of Holiday Home tour); Singing Tower is open to members only.

Amenities: Visitors center, gift shop, Blue Palmetto Cafe, picnic area, wheelchairs and carts (first-come, first-serve), shuttle service, Children's Discovery Backpack, geocache locations,

open-air pen for pet owners ($5 plus tax, bring your own water bowl).

Special events include concerts, art and photography classes, stargazing, nature hikes.

For information, go to boktower or call (863) 676-1408.

Visit Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales for the beauty of the carillon bells and the surrounding landscape 11/10/11 [Last modified: Thursday, November 10, 2011 4:25pm]
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