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Tallahassee, Florida: Gardens, Nature, History

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Florida’s capital city of Tallahassee is about a 5.5-hour drive from Birmingham and well worth every minute. There’s good food, great shopping, theater and arts, and so much more – too much, in fact, to cover in only one article. So for fans of the outdoors, gardening, or history, here are just a few of the reasons you’ll want to visit Tallahassee:

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Dorothy B. Oven Park & House features a classic manor style home with a most unusual paneling made from magnolia wood. The park itself consists of six acres of lush North Florida gardens filled with azaleas, camellias, palms and other local flora. Location: 3205 Thomasville Road. Phone: (850) 891-3915.

The Goodwood Museum & Gardens encompasses 16 acres that were once part of a corn and cotton plantation. The Main House was built in 1840 and is irrefutably the grandest antebellum plantation house ever built in this area. Twenty early structures remain on the property, some dating back to as early as 1835. Almost the entire collection of artifacts in the Main House have been passed down from owner to owner since the mid-1800s. Admission is charged to see the museum; garden tours are free. Location: 1600 Miccosukee Rd. Phone: (850) 877-4202.

Lichgate Cottage was built by Florida State University English professor Laura Jepsen and named for the gates of medieval England. The storybook cottage is surrounded by butterfly, perennial and daffodil gardens, a labyrinth, and a mammoth live oak. The grounds are open daily from dawn to dusk; cottage tours are sporadic. Location: 1401 High Rd. Phone: (850) 383-6566.

Maclay Gardens State Park covers 1,184 acres, the crown of which is the ornamental gardens and 1920s home of New York financier Alfred B. Maclay. Features include a secret garden, a reflection pool, a walled garden, and hundreds of camellias and azaleas. Lake Hall offers swimming, fishing, canoeing and kayaking, plus pavilions and grills along the shoreline welcome picnickers. The property has two wooded nature trails with views overlooking the lake. Hikers, bicyclists and equestrians are welcome on the five miles of shared-use trails and five miles of designated biking trails. Location: 3540 Thomasville Rd. Phone: (850) 487-4556.

Apalachee Regional Park Trail is the newest draw for walking, hiking, and biking in a beautiful natural setting. Location: 7550 Apalachee Parkway.

West of Tallahassee within Lake Talquin State Forest is Bear Creek Educational Forest, a 492-acre tract with three hiking trails, including a “talking tree” trail and an audio-enhanced Living Forest Trail, and an arboretum, plus rest rooms and drinking fountains. Location: south of Quincy on Hwy. 267. Phone: (850) 627-9064.

Wakulla Springs State Park is home to one of the largest and deepest freshwater springs in the world, Wildlife abounds and riverboat and glass bottom boat tours give visitors spectacular viewing opportunities. There’s also a nature trail and plenty of paved and unpaved areas for bicycling. The Lodge includes a restaurant, soda fountain, and guest rooms, each with its own marble bath. The picnic area includes a playground and there’s a designated swimming and snorkeling area in the springs. Location: 465 Wakulla Park Dr., Wakulla Springs. Phone: (850) 561-7276.

Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park stretches along the eastern shore of Lake Jackson with 670 acres, including a bluebird trail with thirty bluebird boxes. Location: 4000 N. Meridian Rd. Phone: (850) 891-3866.

Florida Caverns State Park is the only state park in Florida where public cave tours are offered. The Chipola River and a freshwater spring invite fishing, canoeing, and boating. Campsites are available, including equestrian sites with stabling options. Golfers will enjoy the rolling terrain of the park’s nine-hole golf course. Location: 3345 Caverns Rd. Phone: (850) 482-9598.

Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park features four earthen temple mounds dating from 1100-1200 A.D., the largest of which measures 278 feet by 312 feet at the base and stands 36 feet in height. The park has an interpretive trail and nature trail. Location: 3600 Indian Mounds Rd. Phone: (850) 922-6007.

Letchworth-Love Mounds Archaeological State Park lays claim to Florida’s tallest Native American ceremonial mound. The 46-foot tall structure is believed to have been constructed by people from the Weedon Island Culture, a group of Native Americans who lived in North Florida between 200 and 800 A.D. The park includes an interpretive trail and picnic area. Location: 4500 Sunray Rd. Phone: (850) 922-6007.

Mission San Luis is Florida’s Apalachee-Spanish living history museum. From 1656 to 1704, San Luis was the most significant village of the Apalachee people and became the westernmost military, religious, and administrative capital for the Spanish. The sights and sounds of this 60-acre sight transport visitors back to 1703 and offer a look into the life of Florida’s 18th century residents. Location: 2100 W. Tennessee St. Phone: (850) 245-6406.

The Museum of Florida History features over 40,000 artifacts and permanent exhibits from a prehistoric mastodon and to the Space Age. The “Forever Changed” exhibit highlights Spanish influence and includes an impressive collection of Spanish gold and silver found along the state coast. Location: 500 S. Bronough St. Phone: (850) 245-6400.

If you have time for only one stop, make it the Tallahassee Museum of History & Natural Science. Situated on the shores of beautiful Lake Bradford, the property includes many historic buildings and a boardwalk winding through a natural setting enclosures containing an impressive number of live Florida native animals. Big Bend Farm offers a look into a century-old way of life and there’s even the home of a princess onsite. Location: 3945 Museum Dr. Phone: (850) 576-1636.

To learn more about all things Tallahassee, visit www.VisitTallahassee.com, or phone: (800) 628-8266.

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