Florida State Capital: Tallahassee
Tallahassee is an Apalachee word meaning “old fields” or “old town.” It was given its name by Octavia Walton, the teenage daughter of Florida’s territorial secretary George Walton, who believed it meant “beautiful land.” In fact, though Walton is credited with officially suggesting the name in the 1824, the Apalachee had been calling the area Tallahassee since the 16th century. The city was chosen as Florida’s capital for its location midway between St. Augustine and Pensacola, two major population centers at the time. The young Octavia Walton, meanwhile, went on to become a prominent 19th century writer and socialite, known by the more exotic nom-de-plume Madame Le Vert.
Challenger Learning Center: The best parts about the Challenger Center are the planned group activities. Summer camps are wonderful, and field trips are lots of fun as the class is split between mission control and astronauts with tasks to complete. For individuals, though, the planetarium is the most interesting part. CLC does a bang up job of putting you in the mindset of Mission Control and NASA. The training exercise is very well done and the sets are very well done.
Florida State University: Walking through the gates to the fountain with the palms and castle like building is a beautiful way to begin your campus tour. You can get around very easily and people are very friendly and helpful (students and staff). The architecture was very nice. It has a very historical, home feel. Home to the College Football Champions, the Florida State Seminoles; the beautiful campus, is one of the best laid out campuses. Really doesn’t feel as big as you would expect for such a large school but wow! The stadium is huge!
St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge: A wonderful place to hike and to view scenery and wildlife. Great for birding, hiking, alligator spotting, fishing from shore, kayaking with your own or a rental/borrowed kayak or canoe. Very knowledgeable staff can answer any question or find the right answer. Great visitor center. The Florida Trail goes thru the refuge and you can also see a historic lighthouse. The best time to go is November thru May to avoid the bugs.
Mission San Luis de Apalachee: Part park, part museum, part reenactment… all of this makes it a great place to visit! Visitors of all ages can go there many times. Each time you’ll see and learn new things. Easy to find, easy parking. You will be impressed. This place is great, has a great intro video, then a guided tour. The employees are dressed in era clothing, and have great presentations. There is a fun scavenger hunt for kids. The property is clean and the staff knowledgeable.
You’ll walk into the 17th century at this beautiful location on a hill overlooking Florida’s Capitol city. Reconstructed period buildings: chapel, small fort, governor’s house, black smithy and extremely impressive huge round palm thatched roof council house this being the capitol for the Apalachee Indians of that period. Friendly costumed interpreters and demonstrations. Very easy walking around the complex, in the museum and auditorium with excellent introduction to both the Spanish Mission and the Native American cultures on this very site.
Cascades Park: This 24-acre park in downtown Tallahassee is beautiful, and a great place to spend time outdoors. The kids like playing in the Imagination Fountain, a play area. There are also miles of multi-use trails, an amphitheater for performances, and a Korean War memorial. The park is also a storm water management facility, with a network of underground channels, open streams, and retention ponds. Designed to flood, giving relief to nearby neighborhoods during major storms. Cascades Park is a very well-done outdoor area that is great for a morning/early evening stroll and hosts some fun festivals throughout the year, as well. The landscaping is very beautiful and well maintained. You can work up a good sweat with a more intense walk, or just enjoy a casual stroll. There is a cafe and restaurant if you’re in the mood.
Tallahassee Museum: This is not a typical museum. It is more like a historical zoo. Fantastic outdoor scenic pathways wind around what is ecologically typical for Florida. You pass large spaces for different kinds of animals, birds and reptiles found in Florida. There are fun, colorful dinosaurs planted along some of the pathway, making it very kid friendly. There are displays of real buildings you’d have seen in the 1800s Florida. -a store, farm house, work barn and farm. They have a ropes course that runs through the park. People of all ages can participate. Bring your camera!
Little did we dream that small building was the gateway to another world. Fifty-two breathtaking acres provide a stunning backdrop to about thirty permanent exhibits. In the museum’s “Old Florida” exhibit, you can board a railcar and travel back in time to the 1800’s: Restored historic buildings include a lovely old church and a one-room school house, just waiting for a new generation of students to occupy its desks while learning something new. In addition to the museum’s “Old Florida” exhibit, the half-mile Nature Trail loops through several expansive and diverse habitats, affording hikers inspiring views of native plants.
The museum is also home to the beautiful Bellevue Plantation house, which is original to this site and houses period furniture as well as some interactive exhibits children can enjoy. This is probably the closest they’ll come to hauling buckets of water for drinking and bathing. The lawns surrounding the plantation house were lush and green, even in January. Little wonder the grounds are a popular venue for weddings and community events.
The Museum (or Zoo-seum, as tour guides like to call it) also serves as a wildlife refuge for animals who would not survive in the wild. Many of the residents have been rescued and rehabilitated, including panthers, wolves, river otter, white-tailed deer, grey foxes, bears and alligators. One of the favorites is a friendly little duck named Perky who, after being shot by a hunter in a neighboring town, was sent to live at the Tallahassee Museum by the hunter’s wife, who’d opened her refrigerator to discover the poor thing was still alive! The museum is also home to Jim Gary’s 20th Century Dinosaurs. These colorful creatures, made from abandoned automobile parts, look right at home among in the swamplands amid all towering cypress trees and tropical foliage.
Yet another fascinating exhibit at the Tallahassee Museum is Big Bend Farm. On weekends, history comes alive with costumed interpreters demonstrating period crafts such as spinning, weaving, and candle dipping. For in addition to its accredited preschool program, the museum sponsors all sorts of educational classes for all ages, including hands-on courses in blacksmithing, gardening, cooking with herbs, quilting, and a host of other skills.
However, the thing that will make you wish you lived closer is the Tree-to-Tree Adventure Course, hands down! The adventure course is designed in such a way that once a child is hooked onto the cables, he cannot get off until his feet are safely back on the ground. That’s why you’ll be completely comfortable letting our six-year-old daughter complete the course along with the rest of the children — there was no chance of falling! Have a blast on the course wearing headlamps; that prospect sounds amazing who wouldn’t love that?
Museum of Florida History: The museum is a purrrfect addition to your Florida Vacation Package. It does a great job with Florida’s ancient history and native people and then colonization. It does not get into much past WWI. There was a terrific exhibit of art depicting the Seminole Indians of the past and today. Be sure to check out the bronze sculptures on the far side of the building. They depict three different native families of different time periods. The museum tells a very thorough story of the history of Florida; dating from 1513 going forward, the state has a very lively history of ownership, fights, and ancient civilizations. Hallways wind through many rich exhibits that display all manner of artifacts. There was no charge to tour the museum either. There is a deli in the lobby area.
There is a lot to see in our Florida capitol and plenty of places to stay. We will be glad to help you put a Florida Vacation Package together for you. Just give us a call at 352-277-7300
THE Top 5 Hotels in Florida are:
5. Ritz-Carlton, Naples: This U-shaped resort with two orange Mediterranean-style towers overlooks the Gulf of Mexico and is near the Naples Zoo. Antiques and artwork embellish interiors, as do Waterford chandeliers and Asian carpets. The resort’s daily interactive environmental programs for children include nature walks, microscope time in the kid-size lab, and field trips. Rooms in buttercream and light green have dark-wood furniture. Nibble on fresh nigiri rolls at the Sushi Bar or opt for Gumbo Limbo’s bar, the best place for a burger on the beach.
4. The Kimpton Hotel Zamora, St. Pete Beach: A stylish 50-room spot with bayou-side pool and patio and Spanish-inspired architecture, the hotel also has an open-air rooftop bar and lounge. Loaner PUBLIC-brand bikes are a nice added touch for exploring St. Pete Beach and downtown St. Pete is only 20 minutes away.
3. Casa Monica Hotel, St. Augustine: Built in 1888, the landmarked Casa Monica embodies the Moorish Revival style, with intricate wood and wrought-iron balconies on its facade, frescos, Moroccan-style archways, fountains, and chandeliers in the splashy lobby. The Cobalt Lounge is a local hangout. Ask Mr. Foster, the country’s oldest travel agency (now part of Carlson Wagonlit Travel) was once headquartered here.
2. The Pillars Hotel, Fort Lauderdale: Situated along the Intracoastal Waterway, the hotel is an interesting mix of British Colonial architecture and 1930s Art Deco flourishes. With only 18 rooms, you might think you were staying in a private mansion. The Secret Garden restaurant, open only to guests and club members, serves Moroccan-influenced food. The beach is only a five-minute walk away, and the hotel even has a yacht to charter for sailing on nearby Lake Sylvia.
1. The Alfond Inn, Winter Park: Couples and business travelers are both satiated here: The inn offers workstations, 10,000 square feet of meeting space, and comfortable down beds for harried road warriors. Dogs are allowed too, provided they’re registered in advance. The hotel also hosts guided tours of its more than 100 pieces of art from The Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art at Rollins College nearby.