If you’re in a hurry, don’t visit Micanopy.
It’s not that there’s so much to do here. On the contrary, there is very little to do here.
But if you rush, you’ll miss the point, which is this: Slow down.
Just 10 minutes off I-75, Micanopy is a good stop on a Florida road trip north. It’s the oldest inland town in Florida, full of Old Florida scenes and experiences. It’s tiny: It has 600 residents and its main street, lined with huge moss-draped live oaks and historic buildings holding antique shops, is only a few blocks long.
If visiting Micanopy is for you, you’ll enjoy browsing antique and gift shops, sipping a beverage at an oak-shaded café, strolling side streets and perhaps visiting the historic cemetery.
The complete Micanopy experience requires an overnight at the grand 1845 Herlong Mansion on the main street , dinner at The Yearling restaurant nearby and a tour of Cross Creek, the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings State Park.
Micanopy was found in 1821 and has been continuously occupied. The town, just 10 minutes from Gainesville, is nearly all historic district, with many buildings marked with plaques explaining their history.
The jewel of Micanopy is the elegant Herlong Mansion, a bed and breakfast operated by folks who’ve run historic B&Bs for years. (They owned a B&B in Key West before moving here.)
While many B&Bs were once just houses, the Herlong Mansion does indeed feel like a mansion. It is best viewed from the street, where it is meant to wow you. Set back from a road, you see a landscaped walkway to the front door framed by elaborate Corinthian columns. It’s the Hollywood vision of a southern mansion – Tara, but with fancier columns.
There are expansive porches on both the first and second levels that are ideal for reading. The B&B is furnished throughout with antiques and period pieces. We visited on Halloween and the Herlong Mansion was decorated to the max. (The Christmas decor, we are told, is quite something.)
Rooms ($119 to $189) have high ceilings and continue the handsome period décor, with features like claw-foot bathtubs, fireplaces and antique brass beds.
Guests are offered a complementary glass of wine around 5 p.m. and a full breakfast in a sunny dining room.
With the Herlong Mansion as base, you can explore little Micanopy on foot. With about a half dozen stores, you can go in every one. Most are antique shops, some with specialties. There’s an antique book store, an antique shop that has an impressive collections of cameos and a home-décor store with a vast choice of collectibles. (In addition to seasonal décor, there’s a peacock area, a chicken area, a section with “beach-house” items, stuff for cow collectors, items for owl collectors; the list goes on and on.)
There are two popular places to get lunch, a snack or beverage – the Mosswood Farm Store and the Old Florida Café, both on Cholokka Boulevard, the main street. Like Micanopy itself, they’re both long on atmosphere.
There are few choices for dinner, but luckily one of those is an excellent complement to a Micanopy getaway: The Yearling restaurant, adjacent to Cross Creek, the home of Pulitzer-Prize-winner author of The Yearling, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.
The Yearling restaurant was founded in 1952, when Rawlings was still alive and writing. The 61-year-old restaurant celebrates the Florida Cracker culture that so enchanted Rawlings when she came to Cross Creek. We found the food excellent and loved the atmosphere. It’s one of Florida’s classic historic restaurants.
But the best part of it is the nightly entertainment: legendary blues singer Willie Green, who performs live most nights. Green, son of Alabama sharecroppers, is a recording artist who once opened for music greats like Eric Clapton. After some hard living, he ended up on the streets, where the Yearling’s owner found him and offered him a gig 10 years ago. This short video tells the story and gives you a sample of Green’s talent.
Here’s a recipe for a great Old Florida night: A bottle of local Swamp Ape IPA, Willie Green singing the blues and some delicious cheese grits at The Yearling.
Micanopy Fall Festival is Oct. 29-30, 2016. Tiny Micanopy attracts an estimated 30,000 people to the Micanopy Fall Harvest Festival on the last weekend in October. In 2016, the festival will celebrate its 42nd year. Each year it attracts more than 200 vendors offering arts, crafts, antiques, plants and foods.
More things to do in Micanopy
- If you like historic graveyards, Micanopy has a good one. A few blocks outside the little downtown, it’s evocative, with crumbling headstones, draped Spanish moss and a general air of disrepair. The address is 4412 NW 76th Terrace.
A must-do: Visit Cross Creek, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings home, now a state park. Here’s a Florida Rambler report on the spot. (We loved it.) It’s only a few miles from Micanopy
- Nearby Paynes Prairie State Park offers extensive hiking plus shaded sites for tents, trailers or RV camping. The park is known for its birdwatching, alligators, wild horses and bison.
- History lovers might want to visit the Micanopy Historical Society Museum. You’ll see a turn-of-the-century silk wedding gown and exhibits on the turpentine industry among others.
Resources for your Micanopy visit
The Herlong Mansion
402 N.E. Cholokka Boulevard
Micanopy, Florida 32667
(352) 466-3322 or 1-800-437-5664
The Yearling Restaurant
14531 County Road 325, Hawthorne, FL 32640
Open for lunch and dinner Thursday through Sunday; closed Monday to Wednesday.