Near, but far from the glaring strips of neon amusement, and the
castles and crowds of Disney, lies another magical place in the
Sunshine State — one of pow-wows, plantations, politics and great
pride. Often described as “The Other Florida” with its deep-rooted
history, rolling hills, canopy roads of moss-draped oaks, cool climate
and Southern-style hospitality; it is a Florida few have seen. It is
Tallahassee — Florida with a Southern accent.
Best known as Florida’s capital, Tallahassee is an intimate
neo-metropolitan city where the power of state government, the
academic and the artistic are complemented by subtle, old-fashioned
charm. It is the perfect two- or three-day diversion for the more
than 41 million annual visitors to Florida and 13 million residents.
Tallahassee touts a menagerie of sights including one of the
world’s deepest freshwater springs, site of America’s first Christmas,
a wildlife habitat, Capitol buildings, fascinating museums of history,
sprawling plantations, highly acclaimed fishing and hunting adventures
and nearby beaches. Spirited area festivals range from celebrations
of Tallahassee’s spectacular spring and swamp stomps to genuine
rattlesnake roundups and seafood festivals.
With the Gulf of Mexico just 20 miles south and the Georgia
border only 14 miles north, Tallahassee rests between the foothills of
the Appalachian Mountains and the juncture of Florida’s panhandle and
peninsula. Nearer in miles to Atlanta than to Miami, Tallahassee more
closely resembles its Southern neighbors than Florida in topography,
climate and lifestyle.
Accentuating Tallahassee’s Southern persona are lush rolling
hills, likened to the seven hills of Rome, and five “official” canopy
roads of patriarch oaks. The fertile, rich soil and four distinct,
yet pleasant, seasons breed floral brilliance and natural vitality
Like the city itself, the story of how Tallahassee was chosen
as the state capital is rich in history. In 1823, two explorers set
out — one on horseback from St. Augustine and the other by boat from
Pensacola — to find a permanent, central location for the Legislature
to convene. The two met at a beautiful site that the Creek and
Seminole Indians called “tallahassee” — derived from the words
“talwa” meaning town and “ahasee” meaning old. The rendezvous point
remains Florida’s capital.
The “old town” has undergone many changes, but one thing
remains the same — it is still a government town fiercely proud and
dedicated to preserving its heritage. The Capitol buildings, both old
and new, epitomize Tallahassee’s perseverance.
The 22nd floor of the New Capitol provides a panoramic scope
of a sophisticated Southern city awash in a sea of flowering azaleas,
snowy dogwoods, towering pines, fragrant magnolias, and hundreds of
shimmering lakes, springs, swamps, rivers and sink holes. Special
legislative viewing galleries are open during the legislative session.
Below, in the shade of giant live oaks, proudly stands the
Old Capitol, originally constructed in 1845 and restored to its 1902
splendor complete with red-and-white candy-striped awnings, a dome
adorned with stained glass, antique furnishings and political
Across from the Old Capitol are the 40-foot twin granite
towers of the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, and the blue stone Union
Bank, Florida’s oldest surviving financial institution. The nostalgic
Old Town Trolley, a replica turn-of-the-century street car, carries
passengers through restored Adams Street Commons to numerous other
historical downtown shops for free — unheard of even 100 years ago.
Minutes from downtown lies the Governor’s Mansion, which
resembles the home of Florida’s military hero Andrew Jackson; and the
52-acre natural animal habitat and 1880s farm of the Tallahassee
Museum of History and Natural Science, which provide the rare chance
to walk and talk with native Florida animals.
Tallahassee remains firmly linked with the past as evidenced
by the unearthed 1539 winter encampment of Spanish Hernando de Soto,
the site of the first Christmas celebration in America. Visitors
travel back through time as they stand in the shadow of a giant
12,000-year-old American Mastodon at the Museum of Florida History or
explore other historical spots including The Knott House that Rhymes,
The Columns, San Luis Mission, Lake Jackson State Archaeological Site,
Natural Bridge Battlefield, First Presbyterian Church,
Brokaw-McDougall House, Goodwood Plantation and Adams Street Commons.
Nearby, alligators lazing in the sunshine and anhinga “snake
birds” perched on twisted cypress branches are seen at Wakulla
Springs, one of the world’s deepest freshwater springs and site of
many underwater scenes in the “Tarzan” movies with Johnny Weissmuller
and Maureen O’Sullivan. Safaris aboard glass-bottomed and jungle
cruise boats whisk visitors within arm’s length of “The Other
Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy adventures including boating and
fishing on area lakes, rivers, ponds and the Gulf — just 30 minutes
away. Lakes Seminole, Jackson and Talquin are renowned in the bass
fishing world for yielding the “big ones,” and dense forests offer an
abundance of prize-winning game. Local wildlife areas such as the
Florida National Scenic Trail, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and
Apalachicola National Forest are among many spots for camping,
picnicking, swimming, biking and exploring.
Appealing to the strokes of different folks, Tallahassee also
features 99 holes of golf on six courses and a proliferation of tennis
centers. Sideline athletes cheer the nationally-ranked Florida State
Seminoles, Florida A&M Rattlers and the Tallahassee Tiger Sharks, of
the East Coast Hockey League. And always a sure bet are the nearby
A sport of sorts, shopping at two regional malls and many
specialty centers offer many “playing options” — from popular chains
to curiosity and antique shops.
Cultural interests are sparked by widely-acclaimed museums
and galleries and elaborate entertainment at the 14,000-seat
Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center.
Tallahassee is a collaboration of power-play politics and
classical character splashed with a twist of Southern beauty and
charm. Tallahassee is Florida with a Southern accent.