By Carrie McLaren
History, nature and nostalgia – that’s what you’ll find when you visit Florida’s capital city, Tallahassee. It’s perfect for families that enjoy learning and discovering new places.
During my family’s recent visit, we explored five spots filled with historic landmarks and wildlife, and took a look back at the old days with a modern twist.
Explore the outdoors at the Tallahassee Museum, a 52-acre living museum featuring North Florida’s history, wildlife and nature.
Located along the shores of Lake Bradford, the museum is home to Florida panthers, black bears, white-tailed deer, alligators, wild turkeys and more. The cypress trees along the waterfront, towering over the boardwalk, are breathtaking.
If you’re looking for a thrill, check out the Tree to Tree Adventures – where you’ll zip through tree tops and the swamps. There are 19 zip lines and 70 obstacles throughout the course.
Take time to explore Old Florida and see a 1920s red wooden caboose train, an 1890s schoolhouse and Bellevue – the Tallahassee cotton plantation home of George Washington’s grand-niece. An 1880s farm with live blacksmith demonstrations and animals provides visitors with an up-close look at the early days.
Mission San Luis
Designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1960, Mission San Luis is the only reconstructed Spanish mission in Florida. This living museum tells the stories of the Spanish and Apalachee residents who lived on the lands from 1656 to 1704.
Throughout the grounds of the property, visitors can discover blacksmiths at work, gardeners tilling the land and maybe even archeologists at work.
Inside the museum, don’t miss the opportunity to admire and learn from the artifacts – all the items were found by archeologists on the grounds of the museum. Plates, cups and even arrowheads are on display.
Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park
Looking to spend the day at the lake? Lake Hall is surrounded by picnic pavilions, grills and a great playground with plenty of lakeshore spots available to play in the sand and the water. If you’ve got a boat – bring it along, there’s a boat ramp right at the park, too!
The Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park is home to more than five miles of hiking and bike trails. Each trail makes a loop through the park providing some great scenery.
During your visit, be sure to explore the gardens overlooking Lake Overstreet. With magnificent views and foliage, the Maclay house is also open daily for visitors to tour. While the gardens are spectacular year-round, if you’d like to visit while the flowers are blooming, park rangers consider Jan. 1-April 1 to be the high blooming season.
Tallahassee Automobile and Collectibles Museum
Take a step back in time at the Tallahassee Automobile and Collectibles Museum. The museum features an enormous collection of more than 140 antique and classic cars on display.
From the 1860 horse-drawn funeral hearse reported to have carried Abraham Lincoln, to three Batmobiles (two of them originals), this museum is a car lover’s dream.
And it’s not just cars – the collectibles on display are just as impressive. I was smitten with the Barbie dolls, recognizing many of the same ones I had as a child.
The toy cars and pedal cars were a big hit with my kids, too. Other collectibles on display include outboard motors, fishing lures, breathtaking pianos, golf balls and a remarkable amount of sports memorabilia.
The museum’s slogan is “It’s more than a museum…it’s a journey through history” and they couldn’t have been more correct.
Museum of Florida History
Discover history and explore the early days of life at the Museum of Florida History. From tales of Native Americans settling in the state to the 248,000 Floridians who served in World War II, the exhibits tell the story of Florida.
Grandma’s Attic provides children a way to have some hands-on fun with dress-up clothes and classic toys. It’s a fun way for kids to learn and have fun.
Don’t miss seeing the giant Mastadon skeleton – they once called Florida home, too!
Florida Historic Capitol Museum
Restored to its 1902 appearance, the Florida Historic Capitol Museum features more than 250 artifacts and interactive exhibits.
Visitors can discover the original Governor’s office and chambers of the House of Representatives, Senate and Supreme Court. Visiting the museum takes you through time from 1902, through the civil rights movements up to the voting scandal of 2000 with a ‘hanging chad’ voting booth on display.
When touring with kids, be sure to pick up the scavenger hunt booklet at the welcome desk. It’s a great way for children to learn about Florida history and have fun too.
To plan your Tallahassee adventures, go to www.visittallahassee.com
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