Like many families with kids in this country, we took a week vacation in Orlando for fall break this year. Our goal was not to just do Disney but, with an 8- and 6-year-old in tow, a one-day visit was inevitable. I left this important job to my wife, who took our girls to Magic Kingdom while I spent the day with our 1-year-old boy. It was going to be our boys' day out!
After researching different options, I opted for a visit to Bok Tower Gardens. This attraction, about one hour from Orlando, offers the unique combination of nature, architecture and music. Besides, it is fairly affordable at $14 in a city where no attraction goes for less than $60. I figured there would be enough for me and my toddler to do and long enough of a drive for his nap.
As you pass the gate, the lengthy and slow drive to the visitor center suggests you are entering a sacred space. The vegetation and the quiet sets the stage for what you are about to experience. We went in and were helped by the courteous staff in the information desk. Recently, the facility added a whole new area for kids. That is where our early afternoon adventure, in the sweltering Florida fall heat was to start. Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden is simply magical. Levi, my 1-year-old, loved walking the path. We then went to a shaded area where we could not only escape the heat but also experiment with some instruments.
We spent 30 more minutes or so in the kid’s area until Levi was ready to get back in the stroller. That is when we started making our way to the tower. It is hard to describe the combination of a carefully designed garden which has a 205-foot tower with bells as its centerpiece. It gives the sense of a nature cathedral. The thick Spanish Moss-adorned oak trees along with grass surrounding the tower gives you echoes of paradise. The tower itself is a magnificent piece of architecture. It is really worth sitting down just to capture the intricate details that adorn the building from top to bottom. Then, the bells inside the cathedral start playing music. That is when the multi-sensory experience is complete with stunning visuals, inviting melodies and sweet aromas from the garden. One cannot help but pause, reflect and assent.
To me, it became a spiritual experience. I was grateful to be there with my 1-year-old son experiencing such beauty. It drew me to worship the Creator and being grateful for those who designed such a unique place. The overall experience was toddler approved. A contemplative dad was also grateful to find a place of serenity in a busy vacation week.
Reality Changing Observations:
Q1. Where do you go for quiet reflection?
Q2. What are the best ways to relax on a vacation?
Q3. Have you ever felt God’s presence in nature? How was your experience?