By Rebecca Pringle
The Florida Panhandle is an amazing area, and Tallahassee is uniquely situated to take advantage of the best it has to offer. This includes Florida’s State Parks. Florida has one of the best state park systems in the country with over 170 parks throughout the state. With cooler temperatures and changing leaves, fall is one of the best seasons to picnic at a state park, or make a day trip getaway.
If you love the beauty of gardens, then Alfred B. Maclay Gardens is a sight to see. The gardens themselves contain picturesque fountains and walkways and a historic home available for touring during the high blooming season from January to April. Throughout the park are picnic areas, and nature trails for walkers, bikers, and equestrians. Another park feature, Lake Hall allows opportunities for swimming, fishing, canoeing, and kayaking. The park also hosts numerous events throughout the year.
If you like history, Natural Bridge Battlefield and San Marcos de Apalache are the places to go. Natural Bridge Battlefield is the site of the second-largest Civil War battle in Florida. Confederate soldiers successfully defended it from Union troops and Tallahassee remained the only Confederate capital east of the Mississippi River not captured by Union forces. Natural Bridge is surrounded by picnic tables, fishing areas, and woodlands that offer a place to relax and reflect on history.
San Marcos de Apalache has played home to many different groups of people throughout its history, from the time of the Spanish explorers to present day. The park offers a museum with artifacts unearthed near the fort, a video about the history of the park, guided tours, interpretive trails, and picnic and fishing areas.
If you prefer natural history then Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological Site may be the place for you. The Lake Jackson Mounds is one of the most important archaeological sites in Florida. The park features four earthen temple mounds, the earthen equivalent of the Mayan pyramids in Central America. There are many different trails that go throughout the park, many areas for bird and wildlife viewing and guided tours are available as are picnic areas.
Looking for a scenic place to exercise? Tallahassee–St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail is your ride. Running 20.5 miles from the state capital to the coast, this trail follows a historic railroad corridor. The first rail-trail in Florida’s system of greenways and trails to be paved, it is the perfect place to go jogging, biking or just take a walk.
Whatever your interest, the Florida State Park System has something to pique it. For more information, you can look up these parks at www.floridastateparks.org.