Tallahassee is best known as Florida’s capital city and is home to the Capital complex which houses the current capital building as well as the restored Historic Capital Museum. But Tallahassee is so much more. Roughly translated as “old fields” or “old town” from the Muskogean Indian language, Tallahassee has a deep-rooted history and culture, Colleges and Universities and scenic parks, offering something for everyone.
My interest in visiting Tallahassee originated from the fact that my son, a sophomore in college, is attending Florida State University. A weekend trip to visit was a perfect opportunity to explore the city. Here are my 5 picks for spending a weekend in “Tally”!
Tallahassee boasts 7 colleges within 50 miles of the city. The largest and most well-known is Florida State University (FSU) The University is located 2 miles from the city center and offers both undergrad and graduate programs. The campus is nestled among majestic southern live oak trees dripping with Spanish moss. The FSU Legacy Walk is a historical tour of campus that focuses on the university’s history, architecture, statues and gardens.
Mission San Luis
Be transported back to 1704 as you discover Mission San Luis, one of Florida’s first missions, located a few miles from downtown Tally. From 1656 until 1704, Mission San Luis served as the principal village of the Apalachee Indians and was the Spaniard’s westernmost military and religious capital. It was home to more than 1400 residents including an Apalachee chief and Spanish Deputy Governor.
The mission was part of Spain’s effort to colonize the Florida Peninsula and to convert the Apalachee Indians to Christianity. The mission lasted until 1704 when it was evacuated and destroyed to prevent its use by an approaching Creek Indians and South Carolinians.
As you wander through the mission you will hear the traditional music being played, smell food cooking over an open fire, experience the largest historic-period Indian building found in the Southeast and greet the friar worshiping in the church. The buildings surround a central plaza where the Apalachee played their traditional ball game, a game dedicated to the native gods of rain and thunder. It was a violent game, sometimes resulting in death.
Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and $2 for children 6-17
The Museum of Florida History is located downtown Tallahassee near the Capital building. The museum collects, preserves and showcases past and present cultures in Florida. The museum offers a glimpse into Florida’s heritage and a greater appreciation of its history and people.
Exhibits include Florida during the Civil War, World War II and Naval ships named Florida. One of my favorite exhibits was Forever Changed: La Florida. Forever Changed chronicles a period in Florida’s history from 1513-1821, including the landing of Juan Ponce de Leon which marked the beginning of the Spanish and African presence in Florida to Florida’s adoption as a United States Territory.
The museum also provides a deli and gift shop. Admission to the museum is free but donations are accepted.
Florida Historic Capital Museum
Tallahassee was chosen as the territorial capital in 1824 with the first capital building being constructed in 1826 and then torn down. The present building was constructed in 1845 with the first expansion added in 1902. Additions were added, including two new wings for the House and Senate chambers and a marble interior. In 1970 the new capital building threatened demolition of the old building. The old capital was saved through the citizen’s actions and was restored to its 1902 appearance.
Restored areas include the Governor’s office, chambers of the House of Representatives, Senate and Supreme Court. The two-story building contains exhibits, photographs and more than 250 artifacts located in 21 different rooms. I wandered through the exhibits, and despite my minimal interest in politics, found the history of Florida’s government fascinating.
Admission to the Capital Museum is free and donations are accepted.
Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park
Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State park is located only a few miles out of the city but feels like a world away. There are two short hiking trails and miles of bike trails meandering through the woods overlooking the lake. The gardens feature a brick walkway, a reflection pool and magnificent flowers including camellias and azaleas. Although I didn’t have time on this trip, Lake Hall is perfect for kayaking and offers kayaks and canoes for rent.
Admission is $6 per vehicle.
With rolling hills, picturesque canopy roads and distinct “seasons”, Tallahassee feels very different than the rest of Florida. Whether you are in town for a football game, Go Noles!, searching for cooler weather and hiking trails, or interested in Florida’s history, Tally has something for everyone!
I’m a freelance writer and photographer living in SW Florida. I have a love of travel and photography. Living in Florida, my backyard is a travel destination with crystal clear water, beautiful beaches, quaint towns, and amazing wildlife. Wander with me…