Pure and Simple
Step back in time in historic Micanopy, where making your own fun is part of the draw.
Locals describe Micanopy as a cross between Mayberry and The Twilight Zone. On the single main street that runs through town, the vibe is more pastoral than commercial, with circa early 1900s buildings shrouded by ancient oaks tangled in webs of Spanish moss. You may find yourself watching for the stagecoach to come through town, as it once did.
The name alone is fun to say: MICK-a-no-pee (rhymes with “dopey”). But a visit to the oldest inland town in Florida is even better. About 100 miles from Orlando, this side of Gainesville, tiny Micanopy is close enough for a satisfying day trip but intriguing enough to spend a night. After the shops close, it becomes “a tight little capsule of nothing to do,” says innkeeper Carolyn Stevens-West. And therein lies the attraction. When was the last time you had to make your own fun?
DAVID ULLOA/VALEO FILMS, INC.
Sourdough bread is baked three times a week in Mosswood’s wood-fired brick oven
MODERN-DAY TRADING POST With a long tradition in trade (the town started as a Seminole trading post in 1821), Micanopy’s shopkeepers count their years in business by decades, bringing a trained eye for quality antiques and modern interpretations of “something found.”
Dakota Mercantile feels as though you’ve stumbled upon a French flea market, with hand-dyed silk ribbons, scented cakes of French-milled soaps, special-occasion baby clothes and custom bedding. The resident finches chirp and a garden fountain gurgles, adding to the pleasure of exploring collections of new and vintage goods purchased by owner Sharon Conchiglio, who emphasizes family- and women-owned businesses.
Every storefront promises discovery. There’s an array of pristine iron tools at The Garage, just like those you remember from your grandpa’s workbench, and a mind-blowing collection of cameos at Delectable Collectibles; the owner is a collector who buys from all over the world.
Definitely visit the Micanopy Historical Society Museum, housed in the former warehouse of the J.E. Thrasher General Store. Filled with items donated by Micanopy families, it offers a look at early 20th century life. There’s also a segment devoted to the indigenous people who first lived here: The astonishing 18th century Seminole canoe certainly suggests the beginnings of our current stand-up-paddling craze.
Luxury U.S.-made custom bedding is one of the delightful finds at Dakota Mercantile
REFUEL AND RELAX When your stomach starts to grumble, there are two simple restaurants on the town’s main street (Cholokka Boulevard). The hot Reuben at the antiques-filled Old Florida Café is terrific, and even better when eaten under the oaks on the patio. Regulars head next door to Coffee & Cream for a warm welcome by owner Kelly Harris, and to dig into Aunt Sherry’s pecan-studded chicken salad, served in a vine-ripened tomato on a bed of greens.
Next door to the museum is Mosswood Farm Store and Bakehouse. Everything here is homemade, even the organic vanilla soft-serve. It has a buttery hue thanks to turmeric added for color, “and for its anti-inflammatory qualities,” says pastry chef Emily Piazza as she pulls from the oven a tin of four walnut, whole-wheat raspberry tarts. The place is loaded with goodness, from the brick-oven-baked sourdough bread served toasted with house-made jams, to the “purist” brownie whose crackled top is simply dusted with powdered sugar.The organic coffee is from Strongtree, a master roaster in Gainesville, and the mile-high quiche is made with eggs from the family’s own hens and kale from their garden.
STAY IN A LANDMARK HOME Come 5 o’clock, they really do roll the streets up in Micanopy. “Closed” signs are flipped over and day-trippers drain away. The few still wandering are likely spending the night at the Herlong Mansion Historic Inn and Gardens.
The graceful three-story brick Neoclassical mansion, with its four white pillars, covered porch and second-story verandah set perfectly proportioned in the manicured gardens, will take your breath away. Book one of the 12 guest rooms, and tote along a favorite bottle of wine to sip on the verandah. Stretch out on the swinging bed and crack open a novel, indulge your partner in a game of chess, or give in to a long soak in one of the deep tubs featured in many of the rooms. The house is quiet and you’re given a key to come and go as you please. It’s easy to imagine that the place is yours.
The paved Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail offers safe, easy bike-riding for all ages
MAKE YOUR OWN FUN Not ready to settle in? Bring your bikes and camera and explore the shaded side streets. There are 38 significant structures in the Micanopy Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the nearly 200-year-old cemetery will ignite your imagination. Come dinnertime, Blue Highway Pizza is a 10-minute walk from the Herlong. This family-friendly spot offers much more than pizza, with a range of dishes created from surprising ingredients, such as blood oranges or Cedar Key clams. Bring a flashlight for an enchanting walk or ride back to the inn. The streets are empty, the nightlife limited to insects that sing to the stars.
PLANNING YOUR TRIP
On two legs or two wheels, visit Micanopy this fall for a different twist on the usual antiques stroll.
Fall Harvest Festival Some 10,000 people converge on Micanopy for a weekend of food, crafts and fun during the Fall Harvest Festival, this year on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1. Booths loaded with handmade crafts line Cholokka Boulevard and spread out along the grounds of the Herlong Mansion. micanopyfallfestival.org
Rails-to-Trails Bike Ride Bring bicycles if you can. A perfect morning is spent on two wheels, enjoying any portion of the 16.5-mile Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail, a paved 10-foot-wide expanse that offers smooth riding for all. Wildlife abounds, from the resonant croaks of unseen gators to owls rustling in the canopy overhead. To get there drive seven miles from the Herlong to a parking area at the Prairie Creek Preserve called Witness Tree Junction (where CR 234 dead ends at CR 2082). Choose the Hawthorne direction for its level trail, or Gainesville for a challenge. Return to Mosswood Bakehouse for treats and call it a perfect day.