The first time I visited Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park was about a dozen years ago when I lived in Tallahassee. I was one of a handful of bloggers writing about things to do in and around the state’s capital.
A tech company, road tripping from Silicone Valley to Miami to attend a conference, contacted me. They connected with bloggers along the way and shared their trip on a blog, Twitter, and probably MySpace. They asked me to arrange an activity at an attraction in Tallahassee near I-10. In exchange, they filmed the activity and featured me on their blog.
Options were limited but the Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park was the perfect choice. As for an activity, geocaching was relatively new and there was at least one cache in the park. The tech guys found the cache and swapped out a creepy baby doll head for their company swag. It was the first time they geocached, and I ticked a few seconds from my 15 minutes of fame while falling in love with another state park.
It has been years since I last visited the Maclay Gardens. Earlier this spring, I found my way back to Tallahassee to meet with lawmakers and worked in a quick visit to the park, bringing my dog.
A Garden is Born
Alfred Barmore and Louise Fleischmann Maclay purchased about 300 acres in Leon County, Fla., following a visit in 1923. They were enamored with the area’s stunning trees of oaks, hollies, and dogwoods. He was a New York financier working in the family business which included Knickerbocker Ice Company and Knickerbocker Trust Company. She was an heir to Fleischmann yeast and baking products.
Tallahassee was the place where Maclay could realize his dream of a creating a beautiful garden. This was the couple’s winter home and they focused on planting hundreds of winter and spring blooming camellias and azaleas. This was the couple’s winter home and they focused on planting hundreds of winter and spring blooming camellias and azaleas. They also planted dogwoods, magnolias, oaks, honeysuckle, and other trees. This resulted in the creation of one of the state’s most stunning ornamental gardens.
A Legacy for All to Enjoy
Mr. Maclay passed away in 1944 at the age of 73. Mrs. Maclay and their children donated the gardens to the state of Florida in 1953. Her wish was to open the gardens to the public and serve as a memorial to her husband. Today, the park is about 1,200 acres which includes 11 miles of trails and 28 acres of historical gardens. Within, find a secret garden, reflection pool, walled garden, and visitor center.
Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park is open year-round but if you can, visit between December and April when gardens are in full bloom. Walk the brick walkway alongside gorgeous flowers in shades of pink, yellow, and white. The gardens are visually appealing and aromatically delightful.
No Dogs in the Gardens But…
Although the state park is dog-friendly, the gardens are not. This meant Radcliff, my four-legged traveling partner, chilled out in my GMC Terrain (with the air conditioning running), while I made a very quick run through some of the gardens.
The Lake Trail around Lake Overstreet, however, is dog-friendly, and we spent about 90-minutes walking a 2.9-mile shared-use loop trail. We walked through the woods along a dirt path at a leisurely pace. A handful of bicyclists and walkers passed us and although I did not see any, horseback riding is permitted (when you bring your own horse).
The trail follows close along Lake Overstreet’s shoreline and several tree species offer shade. The terrain was a bit hilly and was a nice change from Southwest Florida. While my ears tried to identify birds chirping, my nose picked up the earthy aroma typically found in the woods. My dog’s nose was in constant sniffing mode which kept him motivated and moving forward.
Walking under the shade of trees with views of the lake was relaxing. Several times I stopped to admire flowers popping up from the brown landscape, composed of dirt and decaying leaves. It’s hard to believe this serene gem is so close to Florida’s capital.
My visit to Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park was brief but the perfect dose of Mother Nature I needed.
Nuts & Bolts About Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park
Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park
3540 Thomasville Road
Tallahassee, Fla. 32309
Tel: (850) 487-4556
Open 8 a.m. – Sunset
Fee collected at the main entrance.
Friends of Maclay Gardens