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The Ever So Lovely Lafayette Park in Midtown

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By Ashley Hopkins

Driving down Gadsen as you are approaching Midtown, Lafayette Park is impossible to miss. Zooming past businesses, churches and neighborhood, this forested oasis located in the heart of the city beckons to those caught in the hustle and bustle every life to take pause to enjoy, if even just for a moment out your car window as you pass. This park has so much to offer, it is most certainly worth the visit next time you are looking for an easy urban hike or nature experience.

Trails, trees, fantastic birdwatching, a playground for the kiddos, tennis courts, a community center. What’s not to fall completely in love with at Lafayette?
I know my family sure has. This park is easily one of our favorites in town and we ride our bikes to it (from the Tallahassee Mall area) on a weekly basis. The park itself is nestled back in the historic Midtown neighborhood and just riding to it is a delight. A gorgeous and totally attainable .8 mile trail winds throught looming pine trees and ancients oaks dripping with Spanish moss. Grassy areas with plenty of shade invite park goers to lay out a picnic blanket and enjoy a good book. Perfectly spaced trees are practically begging to host a portable nylon hammock or two. After exploring the trail, my husband and I will often sit under the shade on a picnic table while our daughter plays on the shaded playground, shade off course being a hot commodity most times of the year 'round these parts. After of our day of park going, often times will make the quick trek on other to Midtown for a little treat: coffee, cupcakes, pizza, tacos, drinks for the grown-ups, you name it. Mother Nature and the convenience of city living? Yes, please!

The one thing that most certainly keeps us coming back again and again is the biological diversity we see whenever we visit. The trail, while located in an urban environment, is full of sights, sounds and smells one would expect to only find further from the metropolis. Pines, oaks, poplars, walnut trees, sweet gums, magnolias. The staples of Floridian forestry are found throughout, dappling the ground with sunlight. If you tread lightly and listen intently, you can hear the park’s resident pileated woodpecker’s pecking away, or the hoot of the occasional barred owl. I've also spotted ladderback woodpeckers, eastern towhees, pine warblers, woodtrushes, cardinals, chickadees, and hawks. And this park is only 1 mile from the Florida state capitol building!

Along with the gorgeous sceneary, this park also has an active city run community center that hosts art classes, open to the entire community for a small fee. My 7 year old daughter has been attending classes there for years and they have become a treasured part of her week. The variety of offerings for children (both homeschooled and public schooled) is fabulous! Pottery, story telling, drawing, and sewing, just to name a few. Adult courses are also offered, with evening options for those with daytime jobs. Pottery, stained glass, crochet, sewing, jewelry making. Tons of fun options to inspire those looking for a new hobby. For a full list of course offerings (that changes throughout the year), check out the Lafayette Art Center website.

Next time the lure of Lafayette Park beckons on your drive home, stop for a quick nature fix and enjoy this delightful gift our beautiful city gives us every day.

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