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Journey To The Tower

Altitude isn’t something we get a lot of in Florida. Our tallest “mountains” measure in hundreds of feet and are rare to say the least, but that’s not to say there aren’t some amazing upland views. You just have to know where to look. One of the better known is Bok Tower, a National Historic Landmark in Lake Wales, FL. Admission is normally only $10 which is generally the upper end of our budget but this past weekend was a special Oktoberfest event and admission was free. With five kids, small admissions get expensive fast, so I find it hard to resist free admission to anything.

The drive was easy and only took us a little over an hour, which is always good. Any time something is free I know to count on a crowd, but when we got to the parking lot it seemed like we might be in for a little personal space violation.
There were enough cars in line, on the grass and on the pavement to fill half a Disney lot, but I took a deep breath and decided we had driven this far, so we had to give it a shot. When we finally made our way out of the parking lot, we were pleasantly surprised. The park is so big and spacious that as soon as the crowd hit it, they thinned out pretty quick and the festival itself was concentrated near the visitor center which meant the rest of the park was still pretty sparsely populated.
From the moment we hit the gardens I could smell the relaxation, or maybe it was the gardenias. Either way it felt like a dose of sensory valium. Between the cool breeze and incredible setting, there was something magical that drained all stress and anxiety out of your bodies. When we got to the main lawn I just laid down and breathed deep.

Even the kids all seemed to unwind when we walked into the grove of hundred-year-old oaks that surrounded the tower. Aside from a couple potty trips, no one complained or whined at all. It was nice enough being in a quiet beautiful garden, but the history and beauty of the tower made it amazing.

The lawn surrounding the tower is one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever been. Perfect cool grass and an unusually distant view of the surrounding countryside made us feel like we were sitting in a church courtyard from medieval England. The kids were just happy with the wide open space – any chance to run like crazy I suppose.

As we munched on our picnic I couldn’t help but look around and notice that this place seemed to be having the same effect on everyone else there too. Even though the parking lot was jammed packed with cars, they all seemed to leave that behind. Maybe it was in the water.
There were kids everywhere and I must have seen at least five different families huddling together in front of some random foliage taking family pictures. My kids even broke out into spontaneous hand holding and shoulder hugging. It was surreal but I wasn’t going to knock it. No one was screaming or arguing or throwing a tantrum. All was right with the world.

I finally decided to just roll with it and not look a gift horse in the mouth. We spent the better part of the next four hours just wandering the gardens and taking it all in - butterflies, flowers, endless shade and a whispering breeze. It was therapeutic.

By the end of the day no one wanted to leave but the snacks were long gone and we were getting tired so made our way back to the van. As if it were even possible, the parking lot was getting even fuller as the afternoon and evening festival events really got started. Even after we piled in the van and weaved our way in and out of the maze of cars, the effects of the visit seemed to carry over to the trip home. There was no shortage of “my favorite things” and a distinct lack of “stop touching me.” I wonder how much it would set me back to go back every day. -- The above guest post was written by Jason Grooms. You can follow him on Twitter here or check out his wonderful blog, Dad Quest.

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Journey To The Tower + trip