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Category Archive: Tampa Bay Beaches

Bok Tower Gardens Sets Hearts to Ringing

Lake Wales – As the songs of the carillon bells filled the blue sky and filtered down through the majestic oak trees, David Buchman leaned back into an Adirondack chair and closed his eyes. A soft breeze stirred a sea of green grass below him and swayed the Spanish moss in the branches overhead. While visitors may come here from around the world every year, Buchman considers Bok Tower Gardens in Central Florida to be therapy in his own backyard – particularly after a recent overload of teaching college classes and studying for a doctoral degree. pullquote “It just feels like the stress is sucked out of you here,” Buchman, 49, of nearby Kissimmee , said of the National Historic Landmark. Bok Tower Gardens – halfway between Orlando and Tampa in Polk County – consists of carillon bells in a 205-foot Singing Tower, landscaped gardens that are home to wildlife and 126 different species of birds, and a 1930s-era Mediterranean-style mansion. At the Window by the Pond – an observatory that overlooks a bog, birds, reptiles and butterflies – he feels as if he's in another world, Buchman said after he returned to an iron bench near the Singing Tower, where partner Don Cupo, 50, waited with his mother, Jean Cupo. The bell tower – made from a combination of Florida coquina stone and Georgia pink and gray marble and surrounded by a 15-foot-wide moat – holds the carillon made up of 60 cast bronze bells weighing from 16 pounds to almost 12 tons. Every half hour, brief recorded carillon music from the tower echoes over the grounds. Longer live concerts of carillon music are held daily at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. The founder, humanitarian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edward Bok, had been inspired to replicate carillon music from his native Netherlands when hiring a landscape architect in the 1920s to transform the property into a lush setting of camellias, magnolias and azaleas amid ferns, oaks, palms and pine trees. The property – sitting near Iron Mountain and at almost 300 feet above sea level one of the highest points in Florida – offers sweeping views of a valley of towns and orange groves below. “You forget where you are,” said Jean Cupo, who recently moved to Florida from New Jersey. Aside from the grounds and music offered every day of the year, Bok Tower Gardens also features tours of Pinewood Estate – a 20-room Mediterranean-style mansion that had been the winter home of Bethlehem Steel executive C. Austin Buck and was acquired by the Gardens in 1970. Activities at various times throughout the year at the Gardens include: moonlight carillon concerts, sunset and symphony concerts with the carillon and the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, family hikes, Valentine's Day dinners at Pinewood Estate, photography workshops in the gardens, plant species research projects with universities, and educational programs for children. Bird watchers come to the Gardens as a stop on the Great Florida Birding Trail. Trish Driscoll of nearby Lakeland knew that her mother, an avid gardener, would love the place, so she held off coming until her mother could visit her from New Hampshire. “I said, 'I'm going to wait,'” Driscoll said. “She got off the plane two days ago.” Her mother, Ann Hinman, has fallen in love with Florida's beaches in the past. Now, sitting under moss-draped oak trees on a bench down a trail from the tower after a carillon concert, Hinman looked out over the hillside and the valley below and was enraptured by a different aspect of the state. “This is absolutely amazing,” Hinman said. If You Go Where: Bok Tower Gardens is located in Central Florida at 1151 Tower Blvd., Lake Wales. It is 55 miles southwest of Orlando and 60 miles east of Tampa. Hours: Open every day of the year from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., with the last admission occurring at 5 p.m. Cost: Admission is $12 for adults and $3 for children ages 5 to 12, with children under 5 able to enter for free. More information: Call 863-676-1408 or visit boktowergardens.org .

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Bok Tower Gardens Sets Hearts to Ringing

Time Flies: Things to Do in Florida Airports

No one likes to be stuck at the airport. But if you find yourself with a layover, the Sunshine State is a pretty decent place to pass the hours. Miami International Airport (MIA) Dining: Trying to decide where to eat at Miami's airport is like trying to decide where to eat in the city itself. You have many great options. In a nod in Miami's Cuban influence, consider La Carreta in Terminal D. It's one of several Cuban eateries at the airport, serving up pastelitos (turnovers) and croquetas (croquettes), plus a variety of salads, sandwiches and more. Other standouts include The Counter for a great burger, Shula's Bar and Grill for surf-'n-turf and Barcardi Mojito for a spirited start to your trip. Shopping: Score a slam dunk with the basketball fan in your life when you come home with a souvenir from the airport's new Miami Heat store. Open since December, the 1,000-square-foot retail space is chock-full of all things Heat, from jerseys and iPhone cases to bed sheets and bobbleheads. Find it near Gate D-32 in the American Airlines terminal. Another must-do retail therapy stop in Terminal D is the Shoppes at Ocean Drive . Named for Miami's famed shopping thoroughfare, it's actually 10 stores in one. At nearly 10,000 square feet, the shopping paradise houses retailers such as Solstice Sunglass Boutique , Hugo Boss Sport and Prive Gourmet Market . If You Go: 2100 NW 42nd Ave., Miami, 305-876-7000, miami-airport.com Orlando International Airport (MCO) Dining: Skip the hot dogs and pizza and have an unprecedented airport dining experience at one of two great restaurants inside the Hyatt Regency Orlando , in the main terminal. McCoy's Bar and Grill features food you'd love to eat at any dinner party, with offerings such as baked brie and Cornish hen. The menu includes plenty of healthy choices, too, with sushi and a decent selection of organic and vegetarian options. Then there's the more formal Hemisphere Steak and Seafood , offering upscale fare like filet mignon and swordfish piccata. Shopping: Leave it to Orlando's airport to include retail outlets for Walt Disney World , SeaWorld Orlando , Universal Orlando and Kennedy Space Center . This is your chance to grab a last-minute souvenir for the same price as you'd pay in the parks. You can also pose with statues of iconic park characters, like Cinderella or Harry Potter, in front of each store. Art: Browse the main terminal to check out the airport's permanent art collection, featuring notable 20th century artists like Doris Leeper and Duane Hanson – both inductees into the Florida Artist Hall of Fame. If You Go: One Jeff Fuqua Blvd., Orlando, 407-825-2001, orlandoairports.net Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) Relaxation: Plenty of airports offer chair massages, but this one contains a full-service spa. At Comfort Zone Spa , you can relieve the stress of traveling, combat stale airplane air with a facial, get beach-ready with a wax job or just treat yourself to a mani-pedi. Entertainment: Many airports showcase special entertainment on holidays, but Jacksonville has live music every day of the year. In the center courtyard, enjoy a different performance each day – a solo saxophonist, jazz guitarist, singer/keyboard player, old-style crooners, North Florida folk music and more. Performance times vary. Art: You'll find pieces by Jacksonville artists throughout the airport, from the pre-security wood carvings by Grant Ward to post-security paintings by Jason John. Also be sure to visit the Sky Gallery , which for the next few months features an exhibit on Jacksonville's historic Riverside Avondale district. If You Go: 2400 Yankee Clipper Drive, 904-741-2000, Jacksonville, flyjax.com Tampa International Airport (TPA) Relaxation: Take the elevators to the Blue side baggage claim, and check out the aquariums, which you can see from inside and outside the building. Also on the Blue side is an oasis of green space. With fountains and benches, it's the perfect place to curl up with that novel you bought in the airport bookstore. Dining: Tampa International Airport really stepped up its culinary game in 2012 with the addition of Cigar City Brewing , the popular local chain Green Iguana , Shula's Bar and Grill and Shula Burger . Another new addition getting rave reviews is First Flight , a wine bar by the popular Tampa restaurant Mise En Place . Located in the center terminal, it serves beer, wine and appetizers. But perhaps the most “Tampa” restaurant of all is Columbia Restaurant Cafe , an offshoot of the century-old Cuban restaurant that started in Tampa and has since expanded to locations across the state. Settle in for Cuban comfort food such as Spanish bean soup, the Ybor City devil crab croquette and, of course, a Cuban sandwich. Buen provecho . Artwork: Frequent travelers will appreciate the rotating art gallery on Level 3 of the main terminal, which periodically changes its featured works. The focus is always on Florida artists. If You Go: 4100 George J. Bean Parkway, Tampa, 813-870-8700, tampaairport.com

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Time Flies: Things to Do in Florida Airports

No. 1 tourist destination?

That's Visit Florida's goal, and it could get there. And 2013 promises a convergence of major events in the state that should assure tourism numbers will only continue to soar.

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No. 1 tourist destination?

An otherworldly pedicure

At Senses: A Disney Spa, the newly overhauled pamper palace at the Grand Floridian, you'll get a woven narrative and well as some callus scraping.

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An otherworldly pedicure

Heritage’s high-tech helper

Heritage Village, Pinellas County’s 19th century living history museum, now has QR codes at many of its buildings.

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Heritage’s high-tech helper

Blue Man Group

The performers at Universal CityWalk in Orlando are offering an online ticket deal for Florida residents.

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Blue Man Group

Heritage Village’s high-tech helper

Heritage Village, Pinellas County’s 19th century living history museum, now has QR codes at many of its buildings.

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Heritage Village’s high-tech helper

Justin Bieber

The Biebs is skipping Tampa on his Believe Tour , hitting Orlando instead, though Beliebers shouldn't have trouble making the trek across I-4. Opening the Friday show is Call Me Maybe singer Carly Rae Jepsen.

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Justin Bieber

Old-school Florida charm

At Wakulla Springs State Park, you'll be engulfed in a world that hearkens back to another time, chock full of old-school Florida charm. Janet Keeler tells us why you should visit this stunning part of Old Florida.

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Old-school Florida charm

A citrus romantic

“In January, my favorite place in Florida might be an orange grove,” Jeff Klinkenberg writes. “My second favorite January spot … might be the Florida Citrus Archives on the Florida Southern College campus in Lakeland.”

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A citrus romantic

 
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