Lake Wales is a city in Polk County, Florida, west of Lake Kissimmee and east of Tampa. It is part of the Lakeland–Winter Haven Metropolitan Statistical Area. Lake Wales is located on the Lake Wales Ridge, an upland sandy area that runs more or less parallel to both coasts in the center of the Florida peninsula. Lake Wales is surrounded by parks, gardens and wildlife preserves. Bok Tower Gardens or Bok Mountain Lake Sanctuary and Singing Tower is a 250-acre bird sanctuary and a contemplative garden. A 5,930-acre Lake Kissimmee State Park consists of floodplain, forest, hammock, prairie, flatwoods and three lakes: Kissimmee, Tiger, and Rosalie. Pinewood Estate is an elegant 20-room Mediterranean-style mansion located in 7.5-acre lush Bok Tower Gardens. Westgate River Ranch Resort is an authentic Florida dude ranch and one of the last untouched corners of Florida wilderness. Certain attractions may be temporarily closed or require advance reservations. Hours/availability may have changed.
1.Bok Tower Gardens
© Jim Vallee/stock.adobe.com
Bok Tower Gardens or Bok Mountain Lake Sanctuary and Singing Tower is a 250-acre bird sanctuary and a contemplative garden near Lake Wales, Florida. . It includes the Pine Ridge Trail, the 205-foot tall Singing Tower with its carillon bells, Pinewood Estate and a visitor center. The magnificent gardens were landscaped by the renowned garden designer Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. Hiking the Pine Ridge Trail is great way to observe Florida’s diverse natural habitats. While exploring the gardens, the visitors can learn about the history of Edward W. Bok and his Singing Tower and tour the historic Pinewood Estate mansion, which offers a glimpse of the luxurious lifestyle of the 1930s. There are also Children's Garden, Edible Garden and Outdoor Kitchen and Wild Garden to enjoy. Visitor Center features exhibits on the life of Edward Bok and the Carillon. Bok Tower Gardens is open daily.
1151 Tower Blvd, Lake Wales, FL 33853, Phone: 863-676-1408
2.Lake Kissimmee State Park, Lake Wales, FL
A 5,930-acre Lake Kissimmee State Park is located about 15 miles east of Lake Wales, Florida. It consists of floodplain, forest, hammock, prairie, flatwoods and three lakes: Kissimmee, Tiger, and Rosalie. The park provides home to 50 species of plants and animals that are threatened, endangered or of special concern. The park is a popular destination for boating, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, camping, hiking, biking, horseback riding and nature observing. The park’s 200 species of birds include bald eagle, snail kite and whooping crane. The park is also home to bobcat, grey fox, white-tailed deer, sandhill crane, wild turkey, fox squirrel and otter. There are thirteen miles of hiking trails, six miles of horse trails and fishing docks. The park's campsites are located in a charming shady oak hammock. There are two basic campsites and a youth camping area.
14248 Camp Mack Rd, Lake Wales, FL 33898
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3.Pinewood Estate, Lake Wales, Florida
© Bok Tower Gardens
Located in 7.5-acre lush Bok Tower Gardens, Pinewood Estate is an elegant 20-room Mediterranean-style mansion originally named “El Retiro,” or “retreat.” The mansion was built for Charles Austin Buck in the early 1930s as his winter estate. The historic estate is open to the visitors of Bok Tower Gardens throughout the year. The gardens were landscaped by the firm of Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. in 1929. The house was built in 1930 by architect Charles Wait and is now known as one of the best examples of Mediterranean-style architecture in Florida. The estate’s external landscape and ornamental touches include a formal Mediterranean-style garden with a Spanish frog fountain, an enchanting stone grotto at the front of the house; an Oriental moon gate fountain and an English-style country garden with a lawn and a pond.
1151 Tower Blvd, Lake Wales, FL 33853
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4.Westgate River Ranch Resort
© Westgate River Ranch Resort
A part of the River Ranch RV Resort, Westgate River Ranch Resort is one of the last untouched corners of Florida wilderness. Located near Lake Wales, it is an authentic Florida dude ranch about one hour South of Orlando. It allows visitors to return to the days of "Old Florida" and the time of cowboys and cattle ranchers. The Ranch spreads over 1,700 acres overlooking the scenic Kissimmee River and features horseback riding, a famous Saturday night rodeo and much more. It is the great destination for a memorable family vacation. The ranch offers several onsite dining options, including Westgate Smokehouse Grill, River Ranch Saloon. If features an amazing range of outdoor activities such as a rodeo, bungee jumping, petting farm, fishing, golf and more. Westgate River Ranch Resort & Rodeo offers its guests a variety of cowboy-themed accommodations including luxurious teepees and Glamping.
3200 River Ranch Blvd, River Ranch, FL 33867, Phone: 863-692-1321
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5.Spook Hill, Lake Wales, Florida
© City of Lake Wales, Florida
Spook Hill in Lake Wales, Florida is an optical illusion where cars appear to roll up the hill. Spook Hill is located on the Lake Wales Ridge, a range of sand and limestone hills that used to be islands two to three million years ago when sea levels were much higher than now. Such spots, and there are many around the world, are known as a magnetic hill, anti-gravity location or a “gravity hill. ” In such places, a stationary car will appear to roll uphill. The town of Lake Wales embraces and the hill’s curious properties and enjoys the tourists that are attracted by the phenomenon.
Lake Wales, FL 33853
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6.Lake Wales Depot Museum & Cultural Center
© Lake Wales Depot Museum & Cultural Center
The Lake Wales Museum and Cultural Center in Lake Wales, Florida, locally known as The Depot, is a local history museum located in the former railroad depot built in 1928 by the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. The museum tells the story of the area heritage beginning with the foundation of Lake Wales in 1911 and the formation of the city industry, places of interest and the 19th century developments that led to the area settlement. The museum is operated by the Historic Lake Wales Society in support of the City of Lake Wales. The exhibits include the original train master’s desk and a prehistoric dugout Indian canoe over 1000 year old.
325 S Scenic Hwy, Lake Wales, FL 33853, Phone: 863-676-1759
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7.St. Anne Shrine, Lake Wales, Florida
Located about six miles east of Lake Wales, Florida, St. Anne des Lacs was a small rural shrine built in 1920s by French-speaking Catholics living on Lake St. Anne. The shrine was built of stone, a rarely used material in Florida. The shrine consisted of the church, and a number of elaborate statuary which formed the stations of the cross, spread through the surrounding woods along the trails. A statue of St. Anne stood on a raised platform in the middle of the lake. .Pilgrims used to come to the shrine from all over the state, sometimes thousands of people crowding the narrow road that led from the highway to the lake. The shrine was decorated with murals that depicted the scenes of the Holy Land, sculptures and paintings. The shrine was de-sanctified in the 1960s, and most contents of the shrine were removed while only some historical traces remain.
1207 St Anne Shrine Rd, Lake Wales, FL 33898
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8.Tiger Creek Preserve, Lake Wales, Florida
Tiger Creek Preserve is located on the eastern corner of the Lake Wales Ridge, one of Florida’s famous “ancient islands.” The Ridge is Florida’s oldest and highest landmass, separated from the mainland long time ago by a shallow sea. This separation caused the preserve to have one of the biggest concentrations of endangered and threatened species of plants and animals in the country, some endemic to the area. The preserve contains hardwood swamps, scrubby flatwoods, hammocks, pine flatwoods, longleaf pine, wiregrass and sandhill habitat. Tiger Creek Preserve is a crucial link in a network of preserves that protect what is left of the Lakes Wales Ridge ecosystem, a national hotspot of biological diversity and the oldest physical feature of peninsular Florida.
674 Pfundstein Rd, Babson Park, FL 33827, Phone: 863-635-7506
9.Lake Wales Little Theatre, Lake Wales, Florida
© Lake Wales Little Theatre
Lake Wales Little Theatre in Lake Wales, Florida, has been providing locals with high-quality, live entertainment since 1978. The theatre offers recent hits as well as old favorites, and frequently offers new plays never produced before. The intimate 140-seat theater provides everyone with a great view. The mission of Lake Wales Little Theatre, Inc. is not only to provide high quality entertainment but also a creative opportunity for the many interested and talented people in the area. Participation in activities on stage, backstage and in the audience is open to all interested local residents. The Lake Wales Little Theatre was formed in 1978, and for the first 14 seasons presented its productions in various local venues. The 15th season, in 1992, opened its new theater building at 411 North Third Street.
411 N 3rd St, Lake Wales, FL 33853, Phone: 863-676-1266
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10.KICCO Wildlife Management Area
KICCO Wildlife Management Area consists of more than 7,000 acres along the Kissimmee River in Polk County, south of SR 60. Almost 13 miles of the Florida Trail crosses the area through shady oak hammock, rough scrub, cypress strand, and pine-palmetto flatwoods. There is also the 9-mile shell KICCO Grade road that offers excellent biking opportunity. Wildlife includes white-tailed deer, feral hogs, alligators, bald eagles, hawks, wading birds, wild turkeys and sandhill cranes. The threatened crested caracara has been also observed in the area. A portion of the area is set aside for feral hog hunting. Camping is allowed at Hunter's Campground during periods when hunting is allowed. There is a public boat ramp located at structure 65, and a private boat ramp at River Ranch Resort can be used for a small fee.
FL-60, River Ranch, FL 33867, Phone: 850-488-4676
11.Grand Hotel, Lake Wales, Florida
© City of Lake Wales, Florida
The Grand Hotel, known until 1980 as the Dixie Walesbilt Hotel and the Hotel Walesbilt is an iconic 10-story historic hotel in Lake Wales, Florida, originally built in 1926. It opened in 1927, two years before the nearby Edward Bok's famous Bok Tower. Original owners included many famous names, including Governor Martin of Florida, silent screen stars Thomas Meighan, Mary Pickford, Gloria Swanson and Clara Bow, famous Hollywood attorney Nathan Burkan and Hollywood Producer Victor Heerman. The interior of the building was very ornate, even more than the exterior. It included arcades, Italian-made ceilings, column capitals, a drinking fountain by Ernest A. Batchelder, antique marble floors, a wrought iron balustrade, and a central mezzanine. In 1995 the hotel was sold at auction and closed and the interior was in part dismantled.
5 W Park Ave , Lake Wales, FL 33853-4131
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12.Lake Wales Family Restaurant, Lake Wales, FL
© Lake Wales Family Restaurant
Lake Wales Family Restaurant in Lake Wales, Florda, is a homey diner with cozy, inviting atmosphere and spectacular colorful murals on the wall that remind the guests of the owners’ Greek origin. The restaurant is known for home-made food and all fresh, natural ingredients. American classic cuisine focuses on comfort food prepared fresh every day for breakfast and lunch. The menu is large and has something for everyone, from steaks, chops and grilled chicken to dinner classics like veal parmigiana, burgers, salads and sandwiches. Surprisingly, considering the Greek owners, there are no Green dishes on the menu.
109 FL-60 west, Lake Wales, FL 33853, Phone: 863-676-8799
13.L'incontro Restaurant, Lake Wales, Florida
© L'incontro Restaurant
L’incontro Restaurant is a stylish, cozy Italian family-owned restaurant in Lake Wales, in the heart of central Florida. L’incontro offers classic Italian food using traditional recipes and methods. Their sauces, dressings, mozzarella and special dishes are prepared with the highest quality, freshest ingredients available. Everything is made to order by the renowned Chef Jose and his team. Fresh, crisp tablecloths and gleaming woodwork in the dining room provide perfect background for a romantic dinner, business lunch or a family gathering. The menu includes everything from gourmet pizzas and fresh pastas to classic Italian dishes such as veal parmigiana or shrimp fra diavolo. L’incontro has a well-selected wine list.
35 FL-60, Lake Wales, FL 33853, Phone: 863-676-7400
14.Crazy Fish Bar & Grill, Lake Wales, Florida
© Crazy Fish Bar & Grill
What started in 2002 as a seafood in a former bikers bar in Lake Wales, Florida, grew quickly into a popular seafood restaurant where folks do not mind waiting in line for the freshest seafood available. The dining room is lively, colorful and quirky, always buzzing with activity and conversation of happy patrons. The best seat in the house is a lovely patio with large umbrellas. All their seafood comes from local commercial fishermen and farmers. The menu is seafood-focused but also offers hot soups, fresh salads, sandwiches and burgers. The full bar offers local and domestic beers, wine by glass or by the bottle and a large selection of cocktails. Check their daily specials for good deals.
802 Henry St, Lake Wales, FL 33853, Phone: 863-676-6361
15.Sizzling Grill, Lake Wales, Florida
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Sizzling Grill is a popular steak and seafood restaurant in Lake Wales, Florida. This relaxed, family-friendly restaurant has an interesting stone feature wall and cozy booths and is known for fresh seafood dishes, grilled fish and great quality steaks. The diverse menu also includes
starters, fresh salads, hot soups, burgers, delicious desserts and many popular American comfort foods. Full service bar is famous for its generous strawberry daiquiris that are served every day. Sizzling Grill has a charming outdoor patio and is open for lunch and dinner.
21400 US-27, Lake Wales, FL 33859, Phone: 863-676-4898
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16.Cherry Pocket Steak & Seafood Shak
© Cherry Pocket Steak & Seafood Shak
For a long time, Cherry Pocket, snuggled in a ‘pocket’ of land between the canals near Lake Wales, Florida, was a place for crusty fishermen to hang out, tell tall stories and drink beer. Rumor has it that at times there have been cock-fighting, gambling, gator wrestling and who knows what else. The place changed hands, going from one colorful character to another until, about 20 years ago, Richard and Elsie took over and made it into a family-friendly restaurant and full bar. It is still rustic, colorful and quirky but the food is prepared from daily catch, and the meat and produce are the highest quality and prepared to order for each customer. There is a board with daily specials, usually the best option. Leave some space for Elsie’s famous desserts. Cherry Pocket also has fish camp and RV attached.
3100 Canal Dr, Lake Wales, FL 33898, Phone: 863-439-2031
17.Lake Wales Main Street
© Lake Wales Main Street
Visit a pioneer of Florida’s Main Street programs at the Lake Wales Main Street. Established in 1987, the Lake Wales Main Street is a beloved area in the city’s historic downtown area and is known for revitalizing this area of Lake Wales. It is undoubtedly one of the hippest places to be in town as it's home to incredible leisure activities, fantastic food, great shopping opportunities, and is even a business district in its own right. Main Street is a strong supporter of shopping small and shopping local, and it’s home to local businesses like trendy clothing boutiques, local yoga studios, and popular homegrown bakeries. Foodies will also love the restaurants and eateries available in the area as Lake Wales Main Street is home to a local watering hole called The Ranch Taproom, and a family-friendly seafood joint called Melanie’s Seafood Company.
Main Street, Lake Wales, Florida 33859, Phone: 863-678-4023
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18.Florida’s Natural Visitor Center
© Florida’s Natural Visitor Center
Practically a household staple in American homes and many around the globe, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard about Florida’s Natural. This orange juice giant has been producing the finest breakfast beverage staple since they opened their first orange grove in 1933, and has since then been honing their craft and offering a variety of juices. Visitors to Lake Wales can learn all about the best citrus growers in the country through Florida’s Natural Visitor Center. The center, which is lovingly referred to as The Grove House, is just a few steps away from Florida’s Natural’s orange groves and is home to a collection of photographs and exhibits that tell the company’s history. In addition to learning about the company, visitors can also sip on delicious and refreshing juice samples. A gift shop is also available on-site for guests who would like to bring home keepsakes to remember their visit. The Florida’s Natural Visitor Center is open from 10 am to 5 pm from Monday through Friday.
20160 US Highway 27, Lake Wales, Florida 33853-2425, Phone: 863-679-4110
18 Best Things to Do in Lake Wales, Florida
- Bok Tower Gardens, Photo: Jim Vallee/stock.adobe.com
- Lake Kissimmee State Park, Lake Wales, FL, Photo: duke2015/stock.adobe.com
- Pinewood Estate, Lake Wales, Florida, Photo: Bok Tower Gardens
- Westgate River Ranch Resort, Photo: Westgate River Ranch Resort
- Spook Hill, Lake Wales, Florida, Photo: City of Lake Wales, Florida
- Lake Wales Depot Museum & Cultural Center, Photo: Lake Wales Depot Museum & Cultural Center
- St. Anne Shrine, Lake Wales, Florida, Photo: Glebstock/stock.adobe.com
- Tiger Creek Preserve, Lake Wales, Florida, Photo: Wirepec/stock.adobe.com
- Lake Wales Little Theatre, Lake Wales, Florida, Photo: Lake Wales Little Theatre
- KICCO Wildlife Management Area, Photo: kucheruk/stock.adobe.com
- Grand Hotel, Lake Wales, Florida, Photo: City of Lake Wales, Florida
- Lake Wales Family Restaurant, Lake Wales, FL, Photo: Lake Wales Family Restaurant
- L'incontro Restaurant, Lake Wales, Florida, Photo: L'incontro Restaurant
- Crazy Fish Bar & Grill, Lake Wales, Florida, Photo: Crazy Fish Bar & Grill
- Sizzling Grill, Lake Wales, Florida, Photo: Maksim Toome/stock.adobe.com
- Cherry Pocket Steak & Seafood Shak, Photo: Cherry Pocket Steak & Seafood Shak
- Lake Wales Main Street, Photo: Lake Wales Main Street
- Florida’s Natural Visitor Center, Photo: Florida’s Natural Visitor Center
- Cover Photo: Nick Fox/stock.adobe.com
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