Tallahassee, Capital of the Sunshine State

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Taking a paddle in a pristine natural setting and watching manatees swim placidly by, or listening to a musical performance in a splendid concert hall with perfect acoustics? A quiet cocktail while watching the sun set or a night of nonstop dancing? A country-fried blue plate special or an exquisitely crafted four-course dinner? Fun with the kids, playing golf on the rolling hills of a challenging course or a shopping spree that requires wearing your “eight-hour” shoes?

Who says you have to choose? Nestled in the heart of Florida’s Panhandle, Tallahassee offers visitors metro-style cultural experiences along with history, natural wonders, a smorgasbord of food choices and shopping galore. And while the attitude here is cosmopolitan, we serve up our pleasures with a side of Southern hospitality — all under the area’s famed oaks.

Here, we give a nod to the past with our eyes on the future. In 2013, Florida celebrated 500 years of Spanish presence in the state, and Tallahassee is home to some significant entries in that history. One of the New World’s earliest explorers, Hernando de Soto, wintered here during an expedition in 1539 in a spot serendipitously rediscovered about 25 years ago just a mile away from the current Capitol building. And for nearly three generations in the 1600s, Mission San Luis served as an example of coexistence between Spanish settlers and the native Apalachee people. The site, atop one of Tallahassee’s tallest hills, has been faithfully recreated and populated by historically dressed interpreters to share a slice of life long ago.

Tallahassee also was important in African-American history, including downtown’s Knott House, where the Emancipation Proclamation was announced in 1865. Established in 1887, Florida A&M University is one of the premier Historically Black College and Universities in the nation! The campus is home to the Southeastern Regional Black Archives Research Center, and a wealth of historical information also can be found at the John G. Riley House and Museum.

The Tallahassee Museum offers a glimpse into pioneer life, with several restored period buildings on site. It also includes several animal habitats reflecting our rich natural world. The museum recently added the thrilling Tree-to-Tree Adventures, a series of climbing challenges and zip lines providing the chance for experiencing Tallahassee from 50 feet high. If you’d rather enjoy nature while keeping both feet on the ground and your heart beating at a more normal rate, take a ride down one of the area’s canopy roads. On these historic routes traveled by the area’s earliest inhabitants, trees on either side of the road meet overhead, creating a topiary canopy. Or visit one of several nearby state parks, including Maclay Gardens or the uniquely beautiful Wakulla Springs, where you can swim, gaze into its 185-foot depths or take a leisurely jungle cruise. The five other rivers and numerous lakes in the area are perfect for paddling, fishing and other water sports.

If indoor fun is more your speed, take a trip to the Tallahassee Antique Car Museum. Local businessman DeVoe Moore displays more than 140 cars, as well as many of his other Americana collections, from cash registers to spark plugs. Florida State University averages 500 musical performances each year, and with the Tallahassee Symphony, three ballet companies, student and community theater troupes, cabaret performances, gallery nights, opera, Broadway shows and more, there’s always something enlightening to enjoy.

Day and night, there’s also something delicious to enjoy too. Order sweet potato pancakes at Canopy Road Café, or get yourself some gourmet delights on wheels during Food Truck Thursdays. Dig into some Mackin’ Cheese under the big oak tree at Food Glorious Food or make your way downstairs to the subterranean Andrew’s 228, a downtown spot where restaurateur Andy Reiss has been serving up something delicious for 40 years. Come visit us and stay awhile. Whatever your pleasure might be, Tallahassee offers you a warm welcome and a memorable stay. Tallahassee is “where it all comes together.”

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