Christmas concerts from the 60-bell Bok Tower carillon are a holiday tradition at the home of a philanthropist who followed his grandmother’s advice to make the world more beautiful.
Bok Tower Gardens is an Old Florida-style attraction on seven lushly landscaped acres in Lake Wales. The attraction sits atop the 298-foot tall Iron Mountain, one of Florida’s highest points.
The tower once provided a 360-degree view of miles of orange groves. Now that the groves are gone, the tower serves as a backdrop for a true Florida-style holiday photo. Poinsettias, amaryllis, and bromeliads provide color beneath the oaks trees draped with Spanish moss. A 15-foot-tall Christmas tree created with nearly 350 bromeliads greets visitors to Bok’s former home, Pinewood Estate.
Carillon concerts are played every 30 minutes from 1-3 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays from Nov. 25 through Jan. 8. The Orlando Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra will play with Carillonneur Geert D’hollander at the Sunset and Symphony Holiday Concert at 6 p.m. Dec. 3. Flaming torches illuminate pathways leading up to the 205-foot tower and families bring themed picnics to enjoy during the annual concert.
The final holiday concert with a live choir singing under the evening stars will be held at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 18. The Mediterranean-style Pinewood Estate will be open for a special nighttime tour complete with hot chocolate and cookies.
Edward W. Bok immigrated to America from Den Helder, Netherlands at age six. The successful publisher, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and environmental advocate spent his winter months in Lake Wales. He decided to preserve the hilltop and create a bird sanctuary that he called Mountain Lake Sanctuary and Singing Tower. He gave it to the American people Feb. 1, 1929, and it is now listed as a National Historic Landmark.
He was fulfilling the wishes of his grandmother, who told him to “make the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it.”
More than 23 million visitors have toured the Bok Tower Gardens since 1929. The peaceful attraction has no roller coasters or virtual reality rides but it offers a quiet respite during hectic holiday times.
For park hours and admission fees, go to boktowergardens.org.