Tallahassee’s Native American Heritage
The Fairytale Traveler
As a Florida resident, I must say I have spent much less time at our state’s capital than I’m proud to admit. So, when I went on assignment to explore Native American heritage in Tallahassee, I didn’t know what I would find. What I didn’t expect was to be immediately charmed and intrigued.
Visit Tallahassee and you’ll quickly see why. With its mild hills and adjacent Apalachicola National Forest, there’s a beauty that holds this city into place. And in its downtown historic district, even more charm awaits on streets lined with 19th Century homes and trendy restaurants.
But there’s a much deeper history here than what meets the eye.
Things to Know About Visiting Tallahassee
- The temperature is cooler in the winter months than in coastal destinations.
- The busy season is November through May -- but keep in mind this is the state capital and legislative sessions can bring in crowds. Plan ahead.
- Bring comfortable hiking shoes and bug spray if you want to explore the outdoors.
- Allow yourself three days for this trip.
The Native Americans of Tallahassee
Apalachee is the name the Spaniards mistakenly gave to the Muskogeans of northwest Florida who, according to historian Charles Rochefort, called themselves the Alachua.
These original northwestern Florida residents were one of the most powerful and advanced indigenous chiefdoms in the North American southeast. They lived in widespread villages, were fierce warriors, and protecting their tribe was their most important objective.
The state’s Florida’s Native American Heritage Trail is a great guide if you’re looking for a deeper understanding of the Apalachee and other native tribes.
And here are four ways to experience the culture in person:
Apalachicola National Forest
From kayaking, canoeing and hiking to scenic drives and camping, a wide variety of eco adventures can be had in over half a million acres of forest.
We chose Leon Sinks Geological Area to explore its sinkholes, a geological phenomenon many don’t even know exist in Florida.
Mission San Luis
Mission San Luis is a beautiful heritage park dating to the 17th Century. It was the western capital of Spanish Florida from 1656 to 1704. This reconstructed Mission, through costumed guides, colonial buildings, exhibits and archaeology, tells the story of the Spanish-Apalachee convergence.
Here you can explore a museum with Native American and European artifacts found at this site as well as an Apalachee council house, a Franciscan church, a military complex and multiple displays of heritage on its sixty acres.
The Museum of Florida History
The Museum of Florida History is known for its preservation and interpretation of heritage. The permanent exhibit, “Forever Changed La Florida 1513-1821,” makes learning about Florida history and heritage a great experience for any age. Through the use of text panels, murals, scenes, artifacts and hands-on activities, visitors will leave with a deep understanding of the ages of Native Americans in northwest Florida.
Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park
One of Florida’s most important archaeological sites, the Lake Jackson Mounds Archeological State Park is home to four temple mounds. Two of these mounds are open to the public.
There are two trails for visitors to explore the site, an interpretive trail and a nature trail. The park is a great place to explore local wildlife as well.
Where to Stay and Dine in Tallahassee
I thoroughly enjoyed staying at a historic bed and breakfast in town called the Park Avenue Inn. The property was perfectly detailed with historic charm.
Our room was big and very comfortable.
There’s an awesome restaurant just two blocks walking distance away from the Park Avenue Inn called The Southern Public House. The menu selection is contemporary, with flairs from all over the globe. The food was delicious, the staff very friendly and pets are welcomed.
If you’re up for something a bit quicker than a sit-down, they are opening a noodle bar next door, or there is a sushi restaurant just down the street.
Photos by Christa Thompson