Like Austin, Tallahassee is a capitol city and like Austin, Tallahassee is the place for live music, great food, craft beer, and family friendly attractions for all ages. Florida State University is a strong part of the allure but there is more to do in and around the city than Seminole football games.
Mini Austin, with Rain
Tallahassee has a popular live music scene, along with excellent food and craft breweries. It’s a vibrant hip town with a funky vibe. In Railroad Square Park, colorful railroad cars house locally owned shops and bars like Proof where you can play cornhole and choose from tons of different beer options. We learned how beer was made and how cans keep the beer fresher tasting than bottles. Every month thousands of Tallahassee residents gallery hop and support the local working artists in the Park.
Tallahassee embraces its Apalachee Indian heritage and celebrates its history with fantastic museums and live history attractions like Mission San Luis. The Mission is an active archaeological dig where you can explore the passage of time. The Mission San Luis dates from the 1600s and you start a tour in the gigantic council house. There aren’t a lot of interpretive signs, so our guided tour with was extremely useful and entertaining.
Deputy Governor Jacinto Roque Perez was our guide throughout the mission, introducing us to his friends, the blacksmith, the archer, baker and the Apalachee woman in the council house. Senor Perez will explain how the Spaniards were intent on converting Apalachee Indians to Christianity, what they learned from each other and what a mestiza is.
The blacksmithing workshops sell out quickly and the baker is known to make 3 Sisters Soup, marinated rabbit and other foods that were popular in the mission. The Mission has one of the few atlatl makers in the world; we learned how to use it. It’s is the leverage tool that throws a spear. There are also workshops on soap making, historic gardening and pine needle basket making. If you are into noise, you can take the cannon or musket training classes. Check here for the calendar and be sure to request a scavenger hunt and bird spotting guide.
Wildlife in Tallahassee
The Tallahassee Museum and Wildlife Center also offers a guided tour. I highly recommend it. Guides know about all the animals, many of whom are on rehabilitation treatments. We learned about a pair of ducks who lived through being shot and put in freezer; now they are on their second life. There’s no petting zoo, but this place is great for families with little kids. There is a raised wooden bridge that meanders through the entire place with fences on both sides so little kids can’t fall through. They can run on their own. There is also a zipline and an obstacle course for views from above.
Museum of Florida History
We spent the better part of a day in this high-touch museum that explores Florida from the early 1500s to World War II. There are hands-on family programs on Saturdays, as well as a printable history hunt booklet, like a scavenger hunt, available when you enter. There are a lot of interactive exhibits that bring kids and teens into the story. The museum does a great job telling the story of Florida, and how the native Americans were treated. Instead of mannequins, the museum used life cast models of real people that are so real looking that when the five year old son of one of the models saw his father’s life cast, he wasn’t sure who was real and who wasn’t.
Free Things to Do in Tallahassee
The state capital lets you in for free, and you can go to the 22nd floor to look out over the whole city. No, it’s not the Empire Sate Building, but it is free.
Where to Stay in Tallahassee
Our home base was the Sheraton Four Points, an ironic name since the hotel is a funky circular building, right in the middle of the city. Our spacious room offered a view of the city and a free shuttle, for attractions within a 1-mile radius (or a little further if they’re not busy) which let us ditch the car.
With a teenage son, I always have to make sure food is plentiful and I usually prefer to stay in a hotel that includes breakfast. However, the Sheraton offers a a fresh, yummy buffet breakfast for just $10 and it was perfect: real eggs, bacon, waffles, fruit, yogurt. We got our money’s worth. We were centrally located at the Sheraton. We used the free shuttle but we still needed a car to get to various attractions and restaurants. Parking is free and driving in Tallahassee is easy.
Eating Around Tallahassee
We had a fantastic meal, based on seasonal ingredients, at The Edison, a historic utility building that is the showcase of a new greenway, Cascades Park. This is the type of farm-to-table restaurant that makes its own pickles. Everything we ate was delicious.
Lofty Pursuits is just fun. It is an authentic ice cream shop and vintage candy store that makes everything from scratch. Owner Greg Cohen is originally from New York and he is passionate about keeping the art of making ice cream and candy alive. He is a yoyo champ (thus the in-store yoyo museum) and there are loads of oddball games for customers to play and a pay phone that responds to famous phone numbers (like Jenny’s). His vegan and gluten free options are off the charts delicious. His secret-recipe vegan mint chocolate chip ice cream can compete with any non-vegan ice cream.
Lofty Pursuits is a place to unplug, order an ice cream, a weird board game and sit down and laugh for a while.
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Momo’s Pizza advertises “slices as big as your head.” My Italian son is a pizza connoisseur and the pizza passed muster with him. Momo’s also has its own craft brewery and offers a vast selection of local craft beer.
Wakulla Springs State Park
This park has miles of trails, and though it was raining, we went for a hike. We also took a pontoon boat tour on the Wakulla River where we looked for the 14 foot long alligator that lives there, osprey and other birds. The spring is 75 feet deep and has an underground cave, making it a perfect location to film the Creature of the Black Lagoon in 1953.
The Lodge at Wakulla Springs is a step back in time to the 1930s. The spectacular lodge has original furniture in the lobby (with renovated guest rooms) and a seasonal restaurant where we ate local oysters and had more of the wonderful ice cream from Lofty Pursuits.
The weather was not great while we were so we did not get to the beach. But honestly, we had so much to do we did not feel like we missed out on anything.