A few weeks ago, I took my two children on a short solo road trip to Jacksonville, Florida. Tallahassee is the perfect spot for a bathroom and stretch break. It is about half way to Jacksonville and there are plenty of gas stations and places to eat. Unfortunately, whenever we make this drive we always make the mistake of getting off at the same miserable exit. This exit, which I believe is Capital Circle, is like the Bermuda Triangle. There are tons of gas stations and restaurants but it is very difficult to get across the many lanes of traffic. Once you are in the parking lot of one of these places, you can’t get back to the Interstate without turning around five times. It is not one of those exits where you pull off, pump your gas and hop back on with ease! On this trip though, we found a hidden treasure.
I had packed our lunch for this trip in an effort to avoid McDonald’s and save a few bucks, but when I pulled off at the Capitol Circle exit I wasn’t quite sure what to do and where to stop. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a trademark brown state park sign pointing the way to the Alfred B. Maclay Gardens. I keep our Real Florida Passport in my car at all times so if an opportunity to stop at another state park comes up, we can add to our collection of passport stamps. I couldn’t find much about Alfred B. Maclay except that he was a New York financier and he and his wife planted these gardens after they purchased the property for their winter escape. Unfortunately it was too late in the blooming season to see the beautiful camelias and azaleas, but the garden is full of gorgeous plant life displaying ever different shade of green.
We only saw one other family walking through the gardens. The kids were able to run around and I was able to enjoy a short walk before we finished the last leg of our trip. My favorite part of the visit was coming upon this:
One of my favorite books to read when I was little was The Secret Garden. The garden in this book was the first thing that came to mind when we saw this little gate hidden away. Unfortunately the gate was locked since it was the off season, but we were able to peek in and see this amazing garden.
The gardens are full of these wonderful bricked pathways.
There is a main path that winds down to the house and off of that path you see smaller brick paths that disappear into dirt pathways. Guests are welcome to explore these spots as well.
As you meander down the paths, you come across all sorts of things hidden in the foilage. The kids and I sat here for a few minutes watching the birds fly over the water.
Once you get to the end of the pathway, you arrive at the house. The house is open to the public during blooming season, which is January 1 to April 30. I was suprised at how modest the house looked compared to the expansive gardens and property.
We also saw a Reflection Pool and a beautiful little pond which I imagine is amazing during the blooming season.
My children loved spotting these little black caterpillars everywhere they looked!
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