Updated date:

Visiting the Alfred B. Maclay State Gardens in Tallahassee, Florida

The southern states have a charm all their own. From beaches to deserts, there is a wide array of landscapes to please almost anyone!

Entrance to Maclay Gardens

Entrance to Maclay Gardens

The "Best Garden in Florida"

The Alfred B. Maclay State Gardens not only adds great beauty to Tallahassee, Florida—which is already a scenic place—but according to a 2007 issue of Florida Monthly Magazine, it was actually ranked as the "Best Garden in Florida." With Cypress Gardens and other gardens of great beauty in the State of Florida, that is high praise indeed!

Often when my mother and I used to travel between our point of origin and final destination, we would look for things that might be of interest to us along the way. Such was the case with the Maclay Gardens.

We were returning to our homes in Houston, Texas from a visit with relatives who lived in Englewood, Florida. Visiting this Florida state park occurred because we noticed a sign along the road directing us to its nearby location.

Maclay Gardens State Park

The Maclay Gardens State Park is located only half a mile north of Interstate 10. That is the main interstate thoroughfare connecting the lower states from Florida all the way to California. Since we were traveling on that interstate highway and it was so close to the highway, it was easy for us to allow the time to visit the gardens and park. Here are a few quick facts and figures about the park:

  • This is a huge 1,184-acre state park.
  • Hours are from 8 a.m. to sunset.
  • Gardens are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on a daily basis.
  • The physical address is 3540 Thomasville Road, Tallahassee, Florida.
  • The phone number is (850) 487-4556.

Alfred Barmore Maclay

Born in 1871 to a family of significant wealth derived from the Knickerbocker Ice Company, which had become the country's largest ice producer by 1881, Alfred B. Maclay first immersed himself in the family business. He then proceeded to master other interests such as real estate and banking.

After touring much of the world, at around age 30 he decided to become more involved with his passions, which included horses and other animals. His personal wealth afforded him the luxury to do these things. He became very active as an exhibitor as well as an officiator at horse shows. Mr. Maclay also showed and became a judge at dog shows.

Alfred Maclay became the president of the American Horse Show Association from 1926 to 1936. He was also an ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) board member.

Killearn

The farm property that Alfred B. Maclay purchased in 1912 at Millbrook, New York was named Killearn after the birthplace of his great great grandfather in Scotland.

After marriage to Louise Fleischman (from the well known Fleischman yeast company) in 1919, Alfred and Louise purchased the property in Tallahassee, Florida for their winter residence. It was also initially named Killearn.

The planting of the gardens was initiated in 1923. Since they resided there primarily in the winter months and spring they wanted their new gardens to be not only pretty but exploding with seasonal color.

28 acres of ornamental gardens were planted, and the Alfred B. Maclay State Gardens today contains one of the largest assortments of camellias and azaleas found anywhere in the South.

In addition to azaleas and camellias which bloom anywhere from January to the end of April generally peaking in mid-March, one can spot rhododendrons, wisteria, dogwoods, redbud trees, sago palms, magnolias and other plants which grace the grounds with different colors, textures, and heights.

Alfred died in 1944 and Louise continued to develop and tend her gardens opening them to the public in 1946. In 1953, 307 acres of property was donated to the Park Service in Florida. It is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Lake Hall

For boaters (only non-motorized boats are allowed), canoers, kayakers and others, Lake Hall—which covers 160 acres—provides an aquatic place to refresh the spirit and get a little exercise in the Tallahassee area. Swimming is allowed.

There are picnic tables, grills and even some pavilions provided for visitors to this park near the scenic Lake Hall.

Hiking the short nature trails or biking and riding horses on the longer trails is also something which can be enjoyed.

Lake Hall on the property at Maclay Gardens

Lake Hall on the property at Maclay Gardens

Reflection Pond

The reflection pond on the expansive lawn facing the lake provides a great spot for weddings or other significant events. The day that my mother and I were visiting the gardens we got to see professional photographers setting up their equipment to shoot photos for the State of Florida.

Professional photos were being taken that day at Maclay Gardens

Professional photos were being taken that day at Maclay Gardens

Spanish Moss

After deciding to take this side journey to see this state park and gardens, one of the first things we noticed were the trees bearing their lacy curtains of Spanish moss.

For those unfamiliar with this epiphytic plant which survives in warmer and humid climates, it lives by attaching itself to host trees (for the most part) and derives its sustenance and moisture from the air.

The only way that it can adversely affect the host tree is by blocking off too much of the light to the leaves which interferes with photosynthesis or by becoming too heavy for the branches to support its weight thereby breaking a branch. Other than that, Spanish moss is ornamental and adds a distinct charm to southern gardens given the correct growing conditions.

The Alfred B. Maclay Garden State Park was filled with Spanish moss. All one had to do was gaze upwards to see the shafts of sunlight illuminating those curly and lacy draperies cascading down from the branches of the trees.

Alligators in the Park

A sign on the property posted the following: "Alligators are present in this park. They are an important part of Florida's ecology and may be found whenever there is a natural body of water. They have a natural fear of man but may lose that fear by being around people—especially if they are fed. When this happens, alligators can be dangerous. For this reason, it is against park rules to feed or molest alligators in any way."

We did not see any alligators nor did we especially wish to do so. In the past, my husband who has golfed on some Florida golf courses has seen alligators lying around water hazards. That gives a whole new meaning to hazard!

Generally, from what we learned from my aunt and uncle who lived in Florida for many years, when alligators get to be a certain size (if living among populated areas) they are generally removed and relocated to natural settings in less populated areas of the state. Of course, if alligators' natural territory keeps being swallowed up by human development, more conflicts are likely to arise.

Tallahassee, Florida

Tallahassee is the location of the Florida State Capitol. Obviously, there is much more to the city and there are many other things to do and see while in Tallahassee but we were merely passing through on our way back to Houston.

My mother and I were really happy that we had stopped and had taken the time to see this beautiful state park with gardens and would highly recommend that you do the same if ever in that part of the country. We happened to be there in mid-March which was perfect timing to see the hundreds of azaleas, camellias and other blooming plants and trees showing off their multitudes of colors.

Hopefully you enjoyed this look at one of Florida's special state parks in the heart of Tallahassee, the Alfred B. Maclay State Gardens.

Alfred B. Maclay State Gardens

© 2010 Peggy Woods

Comments are welcomed.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 12, 2015:

Hi poetryman6969,

So you are "not a Spanish moss guy." Good to know. Ha! With or without the Spanish moss, the Maclay State Gardens are truly lovely.

poetryman6969 on May 12, 2015:

I am not a Spanish Moss guy but the rest of the photos are lovely.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 28, 2014:

Hello word55,

I am very happy to have been able to show you this beautiful state garden in Florida via the Internet. Appreciate your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 27, 2014:

Hi Rebecca,

So glad you liked my photos and tour of the beautiful Maclay State Gardens gracing Tallahassee in Florida. I am so glad my mother and I stopped there for a stroll and to learn about them.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 22, 2014:

Hi Au fait,

It is fun stopping along the way to take in sites that may not have been on the agenda. That is the fun of road trips. Often things are discovered as one is traveling the highways. Thanks for the share. :)

Al Wordlaw from Chicago on May 21, 2014:

Than you for showing such a beautiful place!

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on May 21, 2014:

What a pretty place, and a great photo tour of the Maclay Gardens! Thanks for sharing this!

C E Clark from North Texas on May 21, 2014:

Another great hub I haven't seen before! Great photos, and I pinned one to my 'Travel' board. Gave you 5 more stars and voted this up and BUI.

When I traveled a lot with #2 we used to stop and visit interesting things along the way like you. Some of the best things are not on the main roads.

Also sharing.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 24, 2012:

Hi Teylina,

So nice that you got to see the Maclay Gardens on a regular basis when you were growing up. We were really impressed with them. Such a lovely setting! Appreciate your comment.

Teylina on August 23, 2012:

I grew up not far from the Gardens, and I took them for granted as a child as a fun day trip in the spring. Summers had me begging my parents to take me south to the beach. But though Maclay was well-known locally, it was not the polished gardens you see today. However, it was always filled with workers who helped make it what it is today! Polite, knowledgeable and talked if someone wanted to. So glad you hubbed this!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 07, 2012:

Hi Gail,

That is half the fun of traveling...finding all the big or little places along the way that one can discover and enjoy. Glad to know that you enjoyed learning about the Alfred B. Maclay State Gardens in Tallahassee, Florida. Thanks for your comment and votes.

Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on March 06, 2012:

Great photos, videos and interesting facts. I never heard of this lovely Florida State Garden and it's good to know it's off a main highway.

Like you, my hubby and I like to break up long road trips by visiting interesting places along the way. That makes traveling itself, not just the end destination, a real pleasure.

Voted up across the board except for funny.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 16, 2010:

Hi Kaie Arwen,

So we each saw something different in Tallahassee, Florida...you, Florida State...and us, the Alfred B. Maclay State Gardens. From what you just said, it sounds like our visit was the more beautiful. Ha!

Kaie Arwen on July 16, 2010:

I've only ever been to Tallahassee once to see Florida State with my daughter when she was looking at colleges. The Spanish Moss drew me in............ the university didn't have the same affect! Thanks for this........... the gardens are beautiful! Kaie

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 15, 2010:

Hi Cheryl,

Thanks! You are very kind. So very happy that you got to know my mother. Visiting the Maclay gardens was just one of many things that we got to enjoy together and a memory that I will cherish. Bless you!

Cheryl on July 15, 2010:

Another beautiful master piece. You are a great photographer and artist.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 15, 2010:

Hello D.A.L.,

Glad you could virtually come along on our visit to the Maclay Gardens in Florida. It was my pleasure being your tour guide. :-)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 15, 2010:

Greetings Hello, hello,

I am so glad that I had been able to travel with my mother as much as I did when she was still alive. Visiting the Alfred B. Maclay State Gardens in Tallahassee, Florida was just one experience of many that I can now cherish and hold dear to my heart. Thanks for your visit and comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 15, 2010:

Hi sarovai,

I agree with you...that hanging spanish moss in the Alfred B. Maclay State Gardens is really beautiful. It is commonly seen in the south...even here in a nearby park in Houston. Thanks for the comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 15, 2010:

Hi Micky Dee,

Happy to hear that you enjoyed seeing the Alfred B. Maclay Garden via this hub. You are most welcome! :-)

Dave from Lancashire north west England on July 15, 2010:

Hi Peggy, what a joy to visit these beautiful gardens with you. Your photographs take me with you. Thank you for sharing this beautiful hub.

Hello, hello, from London, UK on July 15, 2010:

You are lucky to have experienced and seen such a beautiful laid out garden. Thank you so much for sharing it. I enjoyed reading you hub very much and seen the beautiful pictures.

sarovai on July 15, 2010:

Maclay garden hanging Spanish mosses really attractive. I like visiting gardens and enjoying the nature's calmness. Tnank u for sharing.

Micky Dee on July 15, 2010:

What a great garden! Thank you Dear!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 14, 2010:

Hi billyaustindillon,

Yes...getting that close to an alligator with dogs on leashes definitely gave my parents a scare. We did not see any alligators in evidence in the Alfred B. Maclay State Gardens, but they must be there at times for the sign to be posted.

Many of the people in Florida build screened in porches around their swimming pools to keep alligators out. Just a different lifestyle!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 14, 2010:

Hi Pamela99,

When you go, be sure and visit them when the azaleas are in bloom. Am certain each time of the year is pretty, but since the Maclays planted the gardens to be at their peak during that time of year, I know that you would be pleased to see them in the Spring as we did.

billyaustindillon on July 14, 2010:

A beautiful hub - those Alligator tails being like logs is a scary side bit! I have never been to that neck of the woods and looks both beautiful and very interesting. I can only imagine some of the locals stories.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on July 14, 2010:

Peggy, Those gardens are gorgeous. I can't believe I live in FL and yet haven't visited them. It is a drive for me but I am going to make an effort to get there. Thanks.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 14, 2010:

Hi prasetio30,

There are so many gorgeous gardens all around the world and it is fun to visit some of them while on vacation. Like you, I also love gardens. This Alfred B. Maclay State Gardens in Tallahassee, Florida is a beauty...especially when all the camellias and azaleas are in bloom. Thanks for the visit.

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on July 14, 2010:

I love garden. I found something beautiful inside garden. I agree with you, Florida has the best garden. Thanks for share with us. I really enjoy all the pictures and the video also. Thumbs up for you.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 13, 2010:

Hi Mike,

You are complimentary as always in your comments. The people that get to travel and write or report upon their travel discoveries are fortunate. I'd be a willing participant for sure! Thanks!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 13, 2010:

Hi nifty@50,

Apparently Spanish Moss was used for bedding and many other uses. Obviously it would have to be treated. Microwave ovens in this day and age does the trick of eliminating any bugs living in the Spanish Moss. I have used it that way in floral arrangements after picking it off of the ground or pulling it from trees.

Thanks for commenting on the Maclay Gardens in Tallahassee, Florida.

Mike Lickteig from Lawrence KS USA on July 13, 2010:

I am envious of both your skills as a photographer and your abilities to find beautiful locales to visit while vacationing. I think if one were to allow you to choose travel destinations for a vacation, no one would ever go wrong. Thanks for another look at an absolutely beautiful place.

Mike

nifty@50 on July 13, 2010:

Thanks for sharing these beautiful pictures Peggy W! If you ever see Spanish moss on the ground, leave it alone! Early settlers found out the hard way! They stuffed their bedding with it, to find that it is usually full of red bugs!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 13, 2010:

Greetings E M Smith,

We saw not one alligator at the Alfred B. Maclay State Gardens...but of course, there is that possibility in almost all of Florida near any of the waterways. The Maclay gardens are beautiful and peaceful as you stated. Thanks for the visit and comment.

E M Smith from Kingston-Upon-Hull on July 13, 2010:

Looks beautiful and peaceful apart from the alligators.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 13, 2010:

Hello suny51,

Happy to know that you enjoyed reading this hub about the Alfred B. Maclay State Gardens in Tallahassee, Florida. Wondering which garden you just visited? Perhaps you wrote a hub about it? Will go and take a look... Thanks for your comment.

suny51 on July 13, 2010:

Hello Peggy.

Every details and photographs suggest that Alfred B garden in Florida is beautiful and worth visiting place,and I really like to visit places like this and what a coincident,I have just visited one my self.Grand as always come from you.Thank you.Beautiful

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 13, 2010:

Hi heymcs,

Nice to hear that you got to really enjoy this Alfred B. Maclay State Gardens Park while you attended FSU in Tallahassee. I thought that the background of Mr. Maclay was interesting too.

It is so nice when wealthy people donate their land or mansions or art collections, etc. for public use so that the rest of us can also enjoy it. The Maclays joined with many others who have added much to what has become parks or set-aside points of interest all across America. We must all be grateful to them for the legacies they have left behind.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 13, 2010:

Hi dahoglund,

Those alligator tales were probably not tall tales at all. People living in areas where alligators also live have to be careful. I remember my mother telling me the story about my dad and her driving through the Everglades in their motor home. They had stopped to let their dogs outside to do their "business." The dogs were leashed. All of a sudden what they thought was a log nearby made a slight move which caught their attention. That "log" was an alligator! They were very close and they made a hasty retreat back to their motor home and left. Scary!

Alligators can make swift lunges at a pretty good speed for short distances to capture their prey...i.e., food.

The good thing is that (in general) most of them shy away from people if given a chance unless startled or cornered. Still...one must be alert, because there is always that chance...

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 13, 2010:

Hello MaryRenee,

Nice to know that you enjoyed this virtual visit to the Alfred B. Maclay State Gardens in Tallahassee, Florida. I think that every National and State Park all across our land always offers something of special interest and this one in Florida was no exception to the rule. Thanks for the 1st comment.

heymcs from Utah and DC on July 13, 2010:

I went to FSU in Tallahassee and was fortunate to see the beautiful State Park & Gardens many times. I've always been drawn to trees covered in Spanish moss and you are right - in March when the blooms are fullest, it is stunningly beautiful. We used to see plenty of gators there but I'm sure that's dwindled now. I always learn something new from your hubs & I enjoyed learning more about the family/man & the history of Maclay. Very nice, thanks.

Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on July 13, 2010:

Another scenic tour. I think sometimes that I need a nature interpreter. I would probably overlook much of this if I were on my own. Working on Arsenal Island one one has coworkers from around the country. One southerner used to tell me stories about alligators but darned if I know if they were true or like the catfish stories. Just tall tales.

MaryRenee on July 12, 2010:

Peggy: Wow! How beautiful! I'm a little jealous that i haven't seen this! Lol! What a breathtaking place! Awesome hub, Peggy! Thanks for sharing! :)