By: Erin Marvin

Follow in the footsteps of early history makers in Florida's state capital.

This article is brought to you by Leon County Tourist Development Council and Tallahassee Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.

History is made every day by those who venture off the beaten path to forge new thoughts, new ideas and new ways of life. For centuries, explorers and entrepreneurs, Native American chiefs and captains of industry, soldiers and society mavens have all left their indelible mark on Tallahassee and its surrounds.

Tallahassee preserves the legacy of these people and their cultural contributions in area museums, historical preserves and state parks. On your next trip to the capital city, follow in the footsteps of these early history makers to do some exploring of your own.

Begin at the Beginning

Your adventure begins, well, at the beginning, when Florida was founded. Step back in time at the Hernando de Soto State Archaeological Site, where de Soto arrived in 1539 at the abandoned Apalachee village of Anhaica. It was here that he celebrated the first Christmas Mass in North America; a reenactment of his winter encampment takes place each January.

If you want to experience what life was really like back in the days of Spanish conquistadors and Native American chiefs, a visit to Mission San Luis is definitely in order. Interact with costumed interpreters, who recreate life at this 17th-century Spanish mission and Native American settlement, and walk through buildings reconstructed to look like they originally did 200 years before Florida became a state. History is still being uncovered here every day: ongoing archaeological excavations have uncovered more than 950,000 artifacts so far.

Panthers, Plantations and Prehistoric Creatures

Next, travel off the beaten path and to the Tallahassee Museum where, along with a 52-acre natural habitat housing red wolves, Florida panthers and other wildlife, you'll find Bellevue, the original plantation home of Princess Catherine Murat, wife of Napoleon's nephew. Check out the mid-19th-century pieces inside the (surprisingly) unassuming plantation house and the reconstructed slave quarters to get an idea of how people lived back when cotton was king.

In fact, more than 71 plantations – the largest concentration in America – exist between Tallahassee and Thomasville, Ga. You can almost see Scarlett O'Hara surrounded by suitors at the sprawling Goodwood Museum estate. The 8,000-square-foot, Italianate-style plantation house finished in the early 1840s reflects a style and sophistication rare in frontier Tallahassee.

Back downtown, meet the city's most prominent resident; at 9 feet tall, Herman is hard to miss. A towering mastodon skeleton inside the Museum of Florida History, Herman was found in nearby Wakulla Springs in the 1930s; the mastodon is a tribute to just how far back Tallahassee's storied history stretches. In the days when he roamed the Earth, Herman likely weighed about 5 tons, but don't be intimidated by the size of his tusks: Herman was a herbivore.

Past and Present Collide

A few blocks away, The Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science has two floors of interactive science exhibits as well as an art gallery that showcase everything from dinosaurs to Dalí. It's one of the first small museums to exhibit OUR BODY: The Universe Within (through May 25).

On the edge of town, the Tallahassee Automobile Museum showcases history of a different sort. Now one of the most extensive car collections in the world, you can view the first Plymouth Prowler to roll off the assembly line, the hearse believed to have transported President Lincoln and four (four!) Batmobiles.

Tallahassee's past history mixes with present-day politics in the shadow of the Historic Capitol building. The red, candy-striped awnings and American Renaissance-style façade stand as a symbol of the area's political contributions and deep-rooted Southern heritage. The historic Tallahassee icon (built in 1845 and restored to its 1902 appearance) is open to visitors with interactive exhibits, a video about Florida government and free self-guided tours of the complex.

Who knows – while you're here, perhaps you'll become inspired to make history yourself!

To plan your own cultural getaway to Tallahassee visit www.visittallahassee.com or call 850-606-2305.

Sponsored listings by VISIT FLORIDA Partners

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