County is rural and stuffed with pure freshwater springs, rivers, and
pleasant individuals. Lake Metropolis, as soon as referred to as Alligator, is the county seat and was
the primary house of the College of Florida—wager you didn’t know that! Fort
White is the opposite massive city in Columbia County.
At this level, I’m beginning to really feel just like the
proud guardian of a baker’s dozen. And also you’ve simply requested me who my favourite is!
All these counties are my “favourite”—it simply will depend on what day you ask!
Suppose you need to be exterior within the Florida solar, respiration within the freshest
air within the South, with a giant ole smile plastered throughout your face. In that
case, Columbia County is the place you should be. Sshhhh, don’t inform the
1. Rum 138
Rum 138 is
the go-to spot for kayaking, paddle boarding, or canoeing the Santa Fe River.
They may promote you tools, or simply lease it to you for the day. They may even
shuttle you to the river (and again once more!) And there may be an artwork gallery that
options regional artwork created by native artists.
It is a superb venue for performers too. On the again of the property, there’s a stage, constructed to seem like a cave! I missed the Candy Sounds of Jamaica Music Fest by three days! So remember to test their occasions calendar, you then received’t be unhappy (like me.) Meals is offered on the grounds solely throughout reside music occasions.
Rum Island is so named due to its candy
water spring. Add sugar cane, and you’ve got the right place and product for a
prohibition enterprise. Possibly this is the reason Al Capone had a spot simply up the highway!
2. Plaaaay Ball!
Possibly you’re headed to Columbia County for a
huge sports activities event. The Southside Sports Complex is a 500-acre soccer advanced, nevertheless it doesn’t
cease there. There are 26 diamond fields for softball and baseball. Youth sports activities
occasions draw groups from up and down the east coast. After I say it’s a huge
place, you don’t must take my phrase for it. Simply have a look at the car parking zone.
Southside has 827 paved parking areas, however don’t panic. You received’t must stroll
a mile to the sphere; they’re unfold out in 4 completely different places, near
the assorted actions (they usually do run a tram.) In the event you’re within the space, test
out their schedule—you simply may watch the subsequent Hank Aaron enjoying!
3. Marion Road
Marion Street is a sizzling spot for locals, serving lunch and
dinner. It’s a bistro and brewhouse, nevertheless it has a tremendous number of blended
drinks and wines, too. On Saturday nights, native musicians carry out quite a lot of
4. Sugar, Sugar!
I occurred upon the Sugar Dessert Shoppe by chance. Like Bob Ross says, it was a “blissful little accident.” The store is in the identical strip mall as Phish Tails Restaurant—how handy! It has a show case that’s certain to please, and the chocolate bombs are, effectively, da bomb! Cease in and see what Holly is as much as. She’s all the time attempting out new concepts, and chances are you’ll be fortunate sufficient to style one! Don’t reside anyplace close by? No drawback, she ships!
5. Float on Down the River
Springs State Park has
tons to supply. You possibly can paddle the river in a rented kayak or canoe, arise
and paddleboard, or simply float alongside on a tube. Your selection. They don’t name it
Florida’s Pure Lazy River for nothing! You possibly can spend the night time (or all week)
on the park in a cabin. There’s an interactive show within the Training and
Exhibit Heart so you may be taught extra about Florida’s pure spring waters.
The Ichetucknee Head Spring is a Nationwide Pure Landmark. Together with eight different springs, it feeds the Ichetucknee River and retains the water at a snug 72 levels. You possibly can swim or snorkel on the Head Spring or Blue Gap Spring, each on the North Entrance. Blue Gap additionally affords scuba diving year-round, however you have to be cavern or cave licensed.
You’ve heard the time period, “Share the highway” which implies automobiles should share the highway with bikers. Nicely, within the springs you must “Share the spring” whenever you paddle in from the river you must look ahead to divers who pop to the floor unexpectedly.
There are two “deliberate” journeys obtainable at
the park. You possibly can paddle 3.5 miles (about 2 hours, relying on how briskly the
river is operating) and take the shuttle again to the North Entrance. Or, you may
take the prolonged journey for extra skilled kayakers and go down the
Ichetucknee into the Santa Fe. This 9-mile (4-6 hour) journey ends on the bridge
Guy Lemmon Memorial Park in
6. Benefit from the Music Man
OK, possibly you received’t be as fortunate as me, nevertheless it
occurred like this…(actually! I can’t make these items up!)
I used to be staying on the Lake
City Holiday Inn—very good,
by the best way—and on my second night time, I used to be standing out entrance ready for my host
to choose me up for dinner. I observed a man checking into the lodge with a guitar
case on his baggage cart. Naturally. I mentioned, “What time’s the
live performance??” And he says, “What time would you like it?” At all times a
quick thinker, I mentioned, “7:30! I’m going out for dinner now, however I’ll be again by
then.” It turned out he was on his method to report a conga observe for his new
report. (THE finest conga participant, Wayne Maxwell, lives in Florida—who knew!?) and
he wished to follow that night time anyway, so he requested the bartender if he might
arrange and play at no cost that night time. After all, she mentioned sure! So that’s how
there was a personal Jo Clark’s Paul Jones Live performance! To listen to him for your self,
simply try Bootleggers
I’m from South Carolina, and he’s from Ohio,
however his daughter graduated from The Citadel in Charleston, SC, final yr. I
know ONE individual on the Citadel, and she’s going to graduate this yr, and…watch for
it…they had been in the identical firm! What are the chances??
Ethical: ALWAYS speak to strangers!
Now, concerning the lodge. It was contemporary, clear,
quiet (effectively, apart from the live performance, which they reduce off at 9:30 so it would be quiet for the residents.) There was a big
indoor pool, and you could possibly order breakfast. And there was a pleasant bar with beer,
wine, and even blended drinks…and reside music that night time! *smile*
7. Take a Tour and Choose Your Brew
Repeat after me: Oatmeal Raisin Stout. Simply
bear in mind to repeat that to your bartender. Oh. My. Goodness. It’s so
scrumptious. Like dessert in a glass (or a can if you happen to purchase some to convey house! Not
that I did that!)
Halpatter Brewing Company in Lake Metropolis has a outstanding number of beers. Holly and Jonny Frazier run the brewery. I’m a self-proclaimed wine lover, however I did a full tasting at Halpatter and located multiple tasty brew to refill my glass! They’ve a useful menu that lists all of the beers—almost 30 in all! And the checklist additionally reveals two columns of numbers: the ABV (alcohol by quantity) quantity and the IBU (Worldwide Bitters Unit.) Now, for the primary time, I do know why I don’t like beer—it’s too bitter! Casey helped me uncover that I used to be a cheerful drinker so long as that IBU was below 20!
you occur to have a tea-totaler within the group (or a delegated driver). In that
case, in addition they make a imply cream soda and a fairly tasty root beer!
Fascinating tidbit: Halpatter means alligator in Seminole, and the brewery is
named for Halpatter Tustenuggee, one of the best recognized Seminole Indian within the space.
There’s a lite fare menu, too, so that you don’t
must rush off to get dinner someplace else. And most weekend nights, there
is reside music exterior on the bandstand. So go, keep, and luxuriate in! It’s a brief
stroll again to The Blanche.
8. Spend the Evening with
No, Blanche isn’t
an individual; she is a superb, just lately renovated lodge in downtown Lake Metropolis.
She has been a landmark for over 100 years. Downstairs areas are used for
gatherings, conferences, dinners, receptions, or dances, with entry to a beautiful
outside courtyard. There are separate retail areas alongside the entrance and facet of
the block. There’s a grand stairway that individuals “lease” to make use of for portraits.
Higher flooring maintain enterprise workplaces, convention rooms, and lodge rooms.
9. Down Upon the River
The Suwannee River flows lazily by way of the three-county
space of Suwannee, Hamilton, and Columbia. The realm is named the Suwannee
River Valley. There are outfitters who will lease tools to you, or plan the
total day and supply the whole lot, together with a information. You possibly can spend a day on
the well-known river whereas soaking within the sights of outdated Florida.
The 246-mile Suwannee originates in Georgia and flows to the Gulf of Mexico. 170 of these miles make up the Suwannee River Wilderness Path and join preserves and wilderness areas to Florida State Parks.
The Suwannee has so many twists and turns you lose your psychological “map” of simply the place it’s and the place it’s going. My artist good friend, Ann, invited me to return again and go to her when she might take me on an extended hike within the woods behind her home. That turned out to be a significant mountain climbing path alongside the Suwannee. What an attractive place to reside! And there was a small waterfall there. I’m maintaining this one our little secret!
Fishing within the native rivers means pulling in
Massive Mouth Bass, Suwannee Bass, Mullet, Blue Gill, Solar Fish, and Channel
Catfish. Fishing in Alligator Lake has related choices, with just a few freshwater
11. Pure Cuban Cooking – Meals Truck Café
The TKO Cuban Café is a meals truck. You possibly can’t
miss the purple truck in a vacant lot in Fort White. It’s a great spot to cease
in your method to paddle the Ichetucknee River. And so they have a number of objects that
are straightforward to hold out and eat in only one hand. And don’t neglect dessert—the
maduros (sweetened fried plantains) are a delight!
12. Eating Out
Phish Tails Bar & Grill is a favourite spot with locals. They’ve a big selection of dishes for lunch, from phish philets to mahi bites to a rooster topped salad.
Prohibition! I do know, it sounds prefer it needs to be a bar, and it
is, however additionally it is an awesome place for small plates. It’s a “tremendous consuming”
institution with leisure and meals. And, it’s proper in The Blanche! How’s that for
comfort? The oysters on the half shell had been divine, and the wine choice
made me smile!
13. Go to a Native Gallery
The Gateway Art Gallery is an exhibit middle for over 50 North Florida
artists and artisan crafters. You’ll find work, sculptures, blended media,
pictures, pottery, and jewellery within the store. Plus, you’ll meet a few of the
artists as a result of they take turns working within the gallery!
Every vacation season, the gallery additionally holds
reception for brand spanking new galley openings and a big Mistletoe Magic Craft Market.
Native artists additionally supply courses, that are
introduced earlier than the start of every month. Latest studying alternatives
included alcohol ink portray, acrylics, woodcarving, and jewellery making.
After I visited, I used to be captivated by stunning
steel wall hangings. I used to be invited to satisfy the artist, Ann Opgenorth, who cuts
the steel, welds the shapes utilizing Oxy-Acetylene welding, after which paints the
completed merchandise. She can be a gifted sculptress, artist, stained glass
craftswoman, and quilter! I shadowed her for a day whereas watching this wonderful
lady work. And, she is a captivating conversationalist, too!
14. Buying on the Sq.
On the sq. round city, there are a number of
eclectic outlets. Furnishings on Marion feels like a furnishings retailer, nevertheless it holds
farmhouse and vintage furnishings, present objects, jewellery, and even goat’s milk
cleaning soap. Cease in and browse!
Simply up the block is The Blue Goose Studio, the place you will see that these one-of-a-kind items.
From handmade cleaning soap to hand-painted furnishings to the kitchen sink, you’ll
have a good time wanting by way of the nooks and crannies of the shop.
15. Stroll Up an Urge for food
Strolling and mountain climbing trails criss-cross the county. At Ichetucknee Springs, you may hike to Blue Gap Spring two methods—alongside the river or by the use of Pine Ridge Path. The park’s North Entrance has three trails to choose from, and at South Entrance, you’ve gotten two decisions. All supply quite a lot of birdwatching since it’s a part of the Great Florida Birding Trail. You’ll have an opportunity to identify water birds, American kestrels, pileated woodpeckers, and barred owls. You’ll additionally see numerous turtles.
Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park has a
one-mile path. It has interpretive indicators that comply with the battle strains. You possibly can
get in your train, get pleasure from nature among the many longleaf pines (and search for
a number of colonies of red-cockaded woodpeckers,) and increase your thoughts!
At Alligator Lake, there are twelve miles of trails that begin close to the restrooms or playground and wind alongside the lake and thru 1,000 acres of wetlands and forest. The longest is the Montgomery Path loop that begins on the canoe launch and circles the lake.
After all, you may all the time simply keep on the town
and use the pedestrian lanes to stroll round Lake DeSoto. And you’ll set a line
right here and take a look at for a bass or bluegill!
16. Consuming on the Sq.
There are additionally a number of spots for a meal on the sq. round city. Cease in at Frankie’s Place. This domestically owned restaurant is within the outdated DeSoto Drug Retailer. The Italian delicacies is unbelievable!
17. It’s A Household Affair
Like I’ve mentioned, the individuals in Pure North
Florida are simply downright pleasant. The “love thy neighbor” sort of
friendliness. After I was spending time in Jefferson County, I crashed a Chamber
After Hours gathering
(sure, I admit it—it was tons of enjoyable, too!) Anyway, whereas chatting with all
these pleasant people, I used to be “ordered” to go get morning doughnuts at
Johnston’s. After I met Mr. Johnston a couple of minutes later, he discovered that I used to be
headed to Lake Metropolis the subsequent day. His pleasure was evident, and he mentioned,
“Then you’ve gotten GOT to cease and see my mates Dell and Cindy Dicks at Fifth
I’m so glad I bought that tip. The “farm” is
really a giant retailer—the farm is down the highway a chunk (as we are saying within the
South). Delbey and Cindy Dicks have numerous their very own produce and meats. They
additionally accomplice with different household farms and native companies to hold an in depth
checklist of specialty merchandise. Every little thing from uncooked honey to peanuts to clam
chowder to wine!
I visited simply earlier than Thanksgiving, they usually
had been sampling all of the tasty objects you could possibly order in your personal “home-cooked
vacation.” It was all scrumptious, however I stored reaching for “only one extra”
cornbread casserole and *sigh* one other piece of Pecan Praline Pie! Is your
mouth watering but? Oh, and their pulled-pork BBQ? Nicely, some of it made it to my subsequent cease!
They’ve one other era coming alongside
properly. I see a reputation change sooner or later!
18. Life within the Gradual Lane
Take a journey on one of many two on-road bicycle trails. You
can use the bike lanes to circle Lake DeSoto downtown. It’s a well-liked spot for
biking. You’ll most likely spot this household of geese in your journey.
well-liked biking spot is Alligator Lake, with a number of paths, and a loop round
the complete lake.
19. Get pleasure from an Alligator Hunt
Alligator Lake is close by, with most of it inside town limits! Sure, it has alligators (this is Florida), however on this tremendous fall day, there wasn’t a single one in sight. I did spot a snake, however largely I used to be there to benefit from the stroll and birding. The anhingas had been having an awesome afternoon fishing, and the egrets had been taking all of it in. The lake has a small boat ramp, and there’s a 2-mile stroll on the dike.
Duck looking and fishing are well-liked on the
lake. You might anticipate to catch Largemouth
bass (a 13 pounder has
been recorded on the catch
and release site), Bluegill, Redear
sunfish, or Black
20. Mr. B’s BBQ
Open 7 days per week, for lunch and dinner, Mr. B’s is a favourite amongst locals. The servings are massive, so in case you are paddling the subsequent day, these additional ribs will feed you and your folks at lunchtime. (Take my phrase for it!)
21. Osceola Nationwide Forest
A cypress swamp and pineland protect of extra
than 200,000 acres lie between Columbia and three different counties, Hamilton,
Bradford, and Baker. However about half of the forest is in Columbia. The forest
contains campsites and trails for mountain climbing, biking, and horseback using.
22. Historic Battlefield
The Battle of Olustee was fought right here in February
1864. The battle resulted in almost 2,800 troopers’ deaths, largely Union
troopers. To be taught extra about this historical place, you may examine it or come to the battlefield
in February for the re-enactment. Historical past comes alive whenever you see it in motion
on President’s Day Weekend. Scenes for motion pictures such because the 1989 film Glory have
been filmed through the re-enactment The Olustee Battlefield Interpretive Heart
shows artifacts from the battle and reveals a brief video.
23. Historic Church
Falling Creek Methodist Church and Cemetery are close to Falling Creek Falls. The log
church began its life as a Baptist church, and in 1866 the Methodist congregation
took over the constructing. Within the Eighteen Eighties the log church was changed by the wooden body
constructing you see as we speak. The church remains to be holding common providers and
guests are welcome.
24. Falling Creek Falls
At Falling Creek Falls, you’ll view one in all Florida’s few waterfalls. Falling Creek Park has picnic tables and an elevated boardwalk which provides you wonderful views of the 12-foot waterfall. The water is stained sweet-tea shade by the pure river tannins and spills over a limestone ledge.
There have been only a few individuals on the falls after I visited with my artist good friend, Ann. She says that only a few individuals come as a result of they don’t know there’s a stunning waterfall in Florida!
25. Be part of within the Festivities
Occasions are plentiful in Columbia County and
the encircling space. Spring
R Us tries to maintain them
all corralled on their web site, so periodically test their listings! A few of
the highlights to look at for are:
- Olustee Battle Pageant & Re-enactment
- Florida Gateway Professional Rodeo
- Gateway Metropolis Craft Beer and Wine Pageant
- Infinity Con
- Suwannee River Jam
- Florida People Pageant
- Suwannee Hulaween
- Columbia County Truthful
- Previous Tyme Farm Days
- Pageant of Lights