June 17, 2014 - by

is Tallahassee

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 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

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 year-round.

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

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 its1902 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 the40-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 even100 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 fresh water 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 Florida.”

Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy adventures including
boating and fishing area lakes, rivers, ponds and the Gulf – just 30
minutes away. Lakes Seminole, Jackson and Talquin are renowned in the
bass fish- 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 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 East Coast Hockey League, Tallahassee Thunder of Arena 2 football
league. And always a sure bet are the nearby greyhound races.

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.

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