Welcome to Florida's capital, a city that combines history, southern charm and family fun.
Why is the capital city of Tallahassee, located 25 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico, affectionately known as “Florida with a Southern accent”? Here’s some food for thought: you could drive to Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas, North Carolina or South Carolina in less time than it would take to drive from Tallahassee all the way south to Key West. Florida is a big state, and while the capital city is a regular destination for state legislators and Florida State students and fans, it should not be overlooked by traveling families. The friendly variety of together-time activities contributes to the city’s distinctly Southern charm. For more information about visiting the Tallahassee area, be sure to contact the Convention and Visitors Bureau by calling (800/628-2866) or visiting www.seeTallahassee.com.
Family Savings Alert!
This destination participates in the following savings programs that give families access to tours and attractions at discounted prices. Check out what’s available:
The Old Capitol Building
Monroe Street at Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32301
Beautifully restored Supreme Court, House of Representatives, and Senate chambers, as well as a Governor’s Suite, are part of what you’ll see in Florida’s Old Capitol Building. What makes this the perfect destination for the young U.S. history student, however, is the quality of the interpretive exhibits, many of which are interactive and very honest about both the glories of state governments past and setbacks, such as segregation and the 2000 presidential election. The core of this building has been standing since 1875, and it was resurrected from shambles after the new Capitol Building was completed, directly behind it, in 1977.
While you’re there, considering pursuing a visit to the new Capitol Building as well. There’s a striking contrast between the old classical and new skyscraper-esque buildings, but that doesn’t make the new legislative chambers any less stately and grand to walk into. A gallery on the building’s top floor offers a great view of the city. You might even pick up a copy of the “Senate Kids” activity book, woven through with enough facts about Florida’s history and government. Call ahead at 850/488-6167 to see about scheduling a tour.
Maclay Gardens State Park
3540 Thomasville Road
Tallahassee, Florida 32309
Maclay Gardens have been a state park since the 1950s, and are open year-round. Visitors can picnic in the designated area or take a stroll. Both native and exotic plants, often bursting with colorful blooms, line the pathways. A lovely central walled garden attracts brides for photographs in the spring and summer. This is the place to spend a peaceful, fragrant couple of hours at a slower pace, but more intense hikers and bikers can take advantage of the multi-use trails winding through the woods. Family-friendly ranger programs are available throughout the year; call ahead or check the online calendar for details.
Goodwood Museum and Gardens
1600 Miccosukee Rd
Tallahassee, FL 32308
If visiting an old plantation is on your checklist, Goodwood is open to the public right in Tallahassee. This estate began in the 1830s as a cotton and corn plantation, eventually developing into an elegant private residence. Its succession of owners included several widows and Florida Senator William C. Hodges. The old Main House is now a museum, with all furnishings original to the house. It’s also fun to walk around the grounds, which are scattered with oak trees that are centuries old.
Wakulla Springs State Park
550 Wakulla Park Drive
Wakulla Springs, Florida 32327
“Hey y’all, we’re now pulling into the shell station, y’all!” the river tour operator exclaims as he steers the boat near a cluster of turtles sunning themselves on a log. Herons, buzzards, ducks, and other birds appear among the vegetation, which is lush and thick with Spanish moss. But the main attraction for all ages on the 40-minute Wakulla Springs Boat Tour is the alligators, and there are plenty to be spotted resting along on the shore. They don’t call that route “Alligator Alley” for nothing, and it makes one wonder if these creatures were once a concern while filming portions of “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” and the old “Tarzan” movies in the Wakulla area.
While the River Tour is a definite highlight, it’s not the only thing to do at Wakulla Springs State Park, which is a 30-minute drive from downtown Tallahassee. When water visibility conditions cooperate, Glass Bottom Boat Tours float over the bowl of the park’s namesake, a natural spring full of immense underwater caverns. Nature trails, an alligator-free swimming area, and a lodge serving three meals a day round out the experience.
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