17 Reasons Tallahassee Should Be Your Next Florida Vacation Destination

Downtown Tallahassee, Florida
Downtown Tallahassee, Florida | Photo Credit: Adobe Stock - SeanPavonePhoto
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With its vibrant capital city ambience, wealth of historic and cultural attractions, and easy access to natural wonders, Tallahassee in Florida’s Panhandle offers an appealing blend of big city amenities and small town charm. This unique destination features historic sites spanning Native American mounds to the oldest continuously occupied state capital. There are also museums showcasing regional art and artifacts, fun annual events, and abundant outdoor recreation in lush state parks and forests. Whether you crave the energy of a college town, southern hospitality and grace, or natural panoramic vistas, Tallahassee has something for every interest and taste to make it a can’t-miss Sunshine State destination.

Table of Contents

State Parks

1) Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park

Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park, Tallahassee, Florida
Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park, Tallahassee, Florida | Photo Credit: Wikipedia – Douglas Furiato

Address: 3540 Thomasville Rd, Tallahassee, FL 32309

Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park is a floral wonderland featuring brick walkways, secret gardens, reflection pools, walled gardens, and hundreds of vibrant camellias and azaleas first planted in 1923 by Alfred B. and Louise Maclay on their winter home property. The peak blooming season at Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park runs from January 1st through April 30th, with a special fee to tour the historic Maclay House and gardens during this floral showcase. Beyond the ornamental gardens, visitors to Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park can swim, fish, kayak or canoe on Lake Hall, picnic at lakeside pavilions and grills, hike two short woodland trails overlooking the lake, or walk, bike, or ride horses on six miles of shared trails and five miles of dedicated biking paths encircling Lake Overstreet. Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park also hosts annual events like May’s Tour of Gardens, October’s Scarecrows Festival, and December’s Camellia Christmas to provide additional seasonal activities.

2) Lake Jackson Mounds State Park

Lake Jackson Mounds State Park, Florida
Lake Jackson Mounds State Park, Florida | Photo Credit: Wikipedia – Tim Ross

Address: 3600 Indian Mound Rd, Tallahassee, FL 32303

Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park is home to six preserved Native American ceremonial earthwork mounds dating back over 5,000 years, with two ancient temples available for public viewing at the park. Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park also features an interpretive trail through Territorial and early statehood ruins from the 1800s Lake Jackson estate, along with a nature trail winding past native sandhill foliage and the remnants of a 19th century grist mill. Visitors to Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park can picnic amidst panoramic views of the ceremonial mounds or explore historic Florida wildlife and diverse bird species surrounding beautiful Lake Jackson via the hiking paths and walking trails.

3) Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park

Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park, Tallahassee, Florida
Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park, Tallahassee, Florida | Photo Credit: Wikipedia – Ebyabe

Address: 7502 Natural Bridge Rd, Tallahassee, FL 32305

Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park encompasses the sinkhole-riddled St. Marks River and the location of Florida’s second largest Civil War conflict, wherein local Tallahassee Confederate soldiers and civilians – including elderly men and young boys – banded together in 1865 to staunch the advance of Union forces at the Natural Bridge site. Their unlikely victory forced the Union retreat and left Tallahassee singularly unconquered among Southern capitals east of the Mississippi. Modern-day guests of Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park can ponder history while witnessing the Confederate memorial, picnic in the serene woodland-shrouded riverside, cast fishing lines into the shadowed waters, attend the park’s annual battle reenactment each March, or embark on interpretive guided tours that fully illuminate this unique state park’s military legacy for visitors.

4) Lake Talquin State Park

Lake Talquin, Tallahassee, Florida
Lake Talquin, Tallahassee, Florida | Photo Credit: Wikipedia – Tim Ross

Address: 14850 Jack Vause Landing Rd, Tallahassee, FL 32310

Lake Talquin State Park is a scenic nature preserve situated on bluffs overlooking the shores of the 10,000-acre Lake Talquin just west of Tallahassee. Visitors can enjoy excellent freshwater fishing, kayaking and canoeing on the lake, walking the interpretive trail showcasing ravine systems and panoramic views, wildlife watching for native species like deer and turkey plus visiting bald eagles and osprey, picnicking in the pavilion and at tables across its peaceful natural landscape – making Lake Talquin State Park an outdoor recreational destination for nature lovers of all ages wanting to experience the natural riches of northern Florida.

Historic Homes

5) Riley House Museum

John Gilmore Riley House, Tallahassee, Florida
John Gilmore Riley House, Tallahassee, Florida | Photo Credit: Wikipedia – Ebyabe

Address: 419 E Jefferson St, Tallahassee, FL 32301

The John Gilmore Riley House is a historic 1890s two-story wood-framed vernacular home located in downtown Tallahassee, Florida that stands as the last remaining evidence of the former thriving Smokey Hollow African American neighborhood in the area. John G. Riley, for whom the house is named, was a prominent educator and community leader who overcame slavery to pursue an education, serve as principal of Lincoln Academy for thirty-four years, lead the state’s NAACP chapter and Negro Business League, and accrue extensive land assets making him a millionaire by the time of his death. His modest home nearly succumbed to demolition in the 1960s before activist efforts succeeded in saving and restoring the structure. Now operating as the John G. Riley Center/Museum of African American History and Culture and featuring Riley animatronics from Disney, the museum offers guided tours and interactive exhibits spotlighting the house’s namesake, the achievements of African Americans in Florida, and preserving the legacy of the vanished Smokey Hollow community.

6) Knott House Museum

Knott House, Tallahassee, Florida
Knott House, Tallahassee, Florida | Photo Credit: Florida Memory – Gerald Ensley

Address: 301 E Park Ave, Tallahassee, FL 32301

The Knott House located in Tallahassee, Florida was originally constructed in 1843, likely by free Black builder George Proctor, as a residence for attorney Thomas Hagner and his wife Catherine Gamble before serving as the headquarters for Union Brigadier General Edward M. McCook in 1865 when he declared the Emancipation Proclamation in effect for the Tallahassee area. Later owned by Dr. George Betton followed by the politically influential Knott family in 1928, the Victorian-style furnished home where State Treasurer William Knott lived alongside his artistic wife Luella. The home became known as the “The House That Rhymes” for her decorative poems embellishing the interior. Though William Knott lost a contested 1916 governor run, the residence was renovated to convey power and success when he returned to Tallahassee as auditor in 1927, with Luella adding the stately front columns still seen today. Now operated as the historic Knott House Museum since its 1985 bequest by the Knotts’ son and 1992 public opening, the 1843 house provides a glimpse into the lives of 19th century Tallahassee trailblazers, leaders and artists.

7) Goodwood Museum & Gardens

Goodwood Museum & Gardens, Tallahassee, Florida
Goodwood Museum & Gardens, Tallahassee, Florida | Photo Credit: Florida Memory- Beatrice M. Queral

Address: 1600 Miccosukee Rd, Tallahassee, FL 32308

Goodwood Plantation is a former 1850s cotton plantation and current historic house museum that was originally part of a French land grant to Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette before being purchased and developed in 1834 by North Carolina tobacco farmer and plantation owner Hardy Croom. After Croom’s death at sea, his brother Bryan expanded the plantation to over 8,000 acres and around 150 enslaved people, completing construction of the 10,000 square foot Italianate style mansion circa 1850. Following a lengthy legal battle, Bryan Croom’s niece sold Goodwood in 1858 to merchant Arvah Hopkins who continued operations until 1865. Later owners like wealthy northern widow Frances Tiers and Indiana Senator William C. Hodges expanded and modernized Goodwood in the early 1900s. Today the 19-acre historic house museum and gardens feature the mansion’s original antique furnishings and artifacts while the former guest cottages and other buildings stand as a testament to the site’s plantation past.

8) The Grove Museum

The Grove Museum, Tallahassee, Florida
The Grove Museum, Tallahassee, Florida | Photo Credit: Wikipedia – Ebyabe

Address: 902 N Monroe St, Tallahassee, FL 32303

The Grove is an antebellum Greek Revival plantation house that was built around 1840 by territorial Governor Richard Keith Call. It later served as the home of Call’s daughter Ellen and her family followed by Ellen’s granddaughter Reinette Long Hunt. Reinette converted the home into a hotel in the 1920s. In 1941, future Florida governor LeRoy Collins and his wife Mary Call Darby Collins, a descendant of the Calls, acquired and restored the deteriorating property. From 1955-1957, while the new Governor’s Mansion was under construction, The Grove served as the temporary executive residence. The Collins family owned The Grove until 1985 when the state purchased it to create a historic house museum, allowing the Collins continued residency until their deaths in the 1990s and 2000s. The two-story brick mansion, designed in a Georgian floorplan, features Gothic Revival elements like a central spiral staircase, pedimented windows, and columned portico overlooking the Call Family Cemetery and original 19th-century gardens. After extensive modern restoration, The Grove formally opened as a public museum in 2010, interpreted to the era of Ellen Call Long and telling the story of territorial Florida’s leaders.

9) Florida Governor’s Mansion

Florida Governor's Mansion, Tallahassee, Florida
Florida Governor’s Mansion, Tallahassee, Florida | Photo Credit: Wikipedia – Tim Ross

Address: 700 N Adams St, Tallahassee, FL 32303

The Florida Governor’s Mansion, also known as The People’s House, is the historic official residence of the Florida governor located in Tallahassee. Originally built in 1907 to a design by Henry John Klutho, the Neoclassical style mansion served fifteen governors before a new larger residence was constructed in 1956 to plans by Marion Sims Wyeth modeled after Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage. The current mansion features 30 rooms on 1.5 acres of landscaped grounds and a 14 room Georgian interior, whose antique furnishings are inventoried and maintained by the Governor’s Mansion Commission. Guided public tours are available year-round spotlighting the state rooms. Additions over the years include the Florida Sun Room funded by the Florida Governor’s Mansion Foundation, a 550 square foot library, solar-heated swimming pool and hydrogen fuel cell. The mansion was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006 to celebrate its 50th anniversary as the centerpiece of modern Florida governance.

Museums

10) Tallahassee Automobile Museum

Tallahassee Automobile Museum, Tallahassee, Florida
Tallahassee Automobile Museum, Tallahassee, Florida | Photo Credit: Violet Sky Adventures

Address: 6800 Mahan Dr, Tallahassee, FL 32308

The Tallahassee Automobile Museum first opened in 1996 to showcase local collector DeVoe Moore’s array of rare and unique automobiles, which has now grown into an extensive 100,000 square foot exhibition housing over 160 vintage cars ranging from a 1900 Snell to a 2010 Pontiac Trans Am-inspired Camaro, alongside a vast collection of diverse Americana including Abraham Lincoln’s horse-drawn funeral hearse, multiple Batman movie vehicles, an 1860s Native American artifacts collection, rare adding machines and cash registers, a record-holding assembly of exquisite Steinway pianos, and much more – this non-profit museum has been recognized as the #1 antique car museum in the country for preservation and provides an enlightening glimpse into beautiful examples of craftsmanship and design spanning decades of mechanized history.

11) Tallahassee Museum

Tallahassee Museum, Tallahassee, Florida
Tallahassee Museum, Tallahassee, Florida | Photo Credit: Wikipedia – Tim Ross

Address: 3945 Museum Rd, Tallahassee, FL 32310

The Tallahassee Museum is a private non-profit organization with the goal of educating visitors about the natural environment and cultural history of the Big Bend region where the Florida Panhandle meets the Florida Peninsula. Situated on 52 acres between Bradford and Hiawatha Lakes, the museum features expansive exhibits including a recreated 1880s rural north Florida town with houses, farms, gardens and more; enclosures showcasing native Florida wildlife like black bears, white-tailed deer and endangered panthers alongside regularly scheduled animal encounters; historically significant buildings including the 19th-century Bellevue Plantation, 1937 Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church, an 1897 schoolhouse and 1920s caboose. There are also nature trails and cypress habitats, aquariums in the Fleischmann Natural Science Building and rotating art and culture displays in the Phipps Gallery. All of these things to do provide an enriching overview of the diverse ecology and development of north Florida over the past centuries.

12) Museum of Florida History

A mastodon skeleton on display at the Museum of Florida History, Tallahassee, Florida
A mastodon skeleton on display at the Museum of Florida History, Tallahassee, Florida | Photo Credit: Wikipedia – Tim Ross

Address: 500 S Bronough St, Tallahassee, FL 32399

The Museum of Florida History, located in Tallahassee’s R.A. Gray Building, serves as the state’s history museum featuring rotating exhibits and galleries that collect, preserve, and interpret Florida’s cultural heritage from prehistory to the present day. Opened in 1977 and administered by the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, the museum spotlights the ways diverse people have shaped Florida through one-of-a-kind artifacts spanning its development and roles in broader events. The Museum also operates the historic 1843 Knott House (listed above), which briefly served as Union Army headquarters where emancipation was declared in 1865, later housing Florida’s first African American doctor. Through compelling exhibits, artifacts, programs and state-focused research, the Museum of Florida History reflects the many intersections of nature, society and identity that made the Sunshine State what it is today.

13) Old Florida State Capitol Museum

Florida Historic Capitol Museum, Tallahassee, Florida
Florida Historic Capitol Museum, Tallahassee, Florida | Photo Credit: Violet Sky Adventures

Address: 400 S Monroe St, Tallahassee, FL 32399

The Florida Historic Capitol Museum, located in the 1845 Historic Capitol building at the heart of Tallahassee’s modern government complex, brings the state’s political history and democratic traditions to life through exhibits spanning from Florida’s territorial days to the present across 21 thoughtfully restored rooms – including the 1902 Governor’s office and historic chambers of the House, Senate and Supreme Court. Featuring over 250 artifacts as well as photographs, recordings and multimedia displays illuminating the people and events that shaped the Sunshine State across the decades, the museum serves as an interactive journey through representative governance in Florida past and present, shining light on the crucial connections between the public and their institutions while preserving the ornate architecture of this icon of Florida government.

14) Mission San Luis

Mission San Luis, Tallahassee, Florida
Mission San Luis, Tallahassee, Florida | Photo Credit: Flickr – Mission San Luis

Address: 2100 W Tennessee St, Tallahassee, FL 32304

Mission San Luis was a Spanish Franciscan mission and Apalachee settlement founded in 1656, home to over 1,400 Native American and Spanish residents at its height before being destroyed in 1704. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960, today San Luis is the only reconstructed Spanish mission in Florida and serves as a living history museum devoted to the 17th century community, with costumed interpreters demonstrating traditional skills and activities across a meticulously recreated landscape featuring the fort, church, council house, and archaeological artifacts actually found onsite. Through exhibits, tours, cultural demonstrations, and special events, visitors are transported back to 1703 colonial Florida to explore the intersections of Apalachee and Spanish life.

Other Things to Do

15) Cascades Park

Cascades Park, Tallahassee, Florida
Cascades Park, Tallahassee, Florida | Photo Credit: Wikipedia – Larcolt

Address: 1001 S Gadsden St, Tallahassee, FL 32301

Cascades Park is a vibrant 24-acre public space along Tallahassee’s downtown stream and stormwater channel featuring the Adderley Amphitheater which hosts concerts and events. The park also features the Imagination Fountain which has choreographed water shows, engaging children’s play areas, miles of walking trails, historical commemorations of Smokey Hollow and the Korean War, and flooded ponds and waterways. The park creatively transforms infrastructure into an engaging landscape while paying homage to the site’s past, providing active entertainment alongside peaceful natural respites in an inviting setting. The park was recently enhanced through public art installations like the Voice of Trees audio walking tour celebrating Cascades Park through local poetry.

16) Florida State University

Wescott Building at Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida
Wescott Building at Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida | Photo Credit: Pixabay – ernie114

Address: 156 S Copeland St, Tallahassee, FL 32304

Florida State University, also known as FSU, is a public research university that was chartered in 1851, making it the state’s oldest continuous site of higher education. FSU comprises 16 separate colleges and over 110 centers and institutes that offer more than 360 degree programs to over 45,000 students from across the U.S. and 130 countries. The Florida State Seminoles athletics program has won 20 national championships across various sports.

17) Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail

Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail, Tallahassee, Florida
Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail, Tallahassee, Florida | Photo Credit: Wikipedia – Ebyabe

Address: 4778 Woodville Hwy, Tallahassee, FL 32305

The Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail is a 16 mile rail trail through northern Florida along the route of the original Tallahassee Railroad from Florida’s capital to the Gulf Coast fishing village of St. Marks. Designated a Florida Scenic Trail, the paved path accommodates bicyclists, walkers, joggers, skaters and equestrians with adjacent parking at trailheads in Tallahassee, Woodville, Wakulla Station and the St. Marks terminus. Nearby recreational opportunities branch off the main trail like the Munson Hills mountain biking trails, J. Lewis Hall Park baseball fields in Woodville, Wakulla Station playground, and San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park in St. Marks. The trail also hosts events like the Tallahassee Marathon and is open daily from 8am to sundown, providing an engaging journey through Florida’s past and present as well as opportunities for outdoor recreation and fitness.

Conclusion

From expansive nature preserves ideal for hiking and wildlife viewing to historic homes offering insight into Florida’s past, Tallahassee’s diverse attractions and warm community vibe provide memorable experiences for visitors of all ages and interests. The destination offers an enticing blend of small town warmth, college town vivacity, historic southern charm and natural panoramic beauty that makes Tallahassee an essential inclusion on your Florida travels. So come discover why the state’s capital hub should top your Florida vacation list as it continues to reveal its rich stories and scenery to newcomers.

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