Tallahassee: Recreation


Tallahassee offers the visitor a handsome vista of rolling hills, abundant trees, and an interesting variety of Southern architectural styles. The downtown district was formed according to the plan of William DuVal, governor of the Florida Territory. The major symbols of the state of Florida's government are its Old and New Capitol Buildings. The old Greek Revival-style 1845 building was expanded in 1902, with the addition of grand porticoes and a majestic dome. The New Capitol, erected in 1978, is an example of the "new classicism" style. A fifth-floor observation deck allows visitors to watch the legislature in session.

Within the Park Avenue Historic District, visitors can stroll along streets lined with graceful ante-bellum and turn-of-the-century homes, explore the Old City Cemetery, and enjoy the newly renovated city parks. The district's historic Knott House Museum is known as the "house that rhymes," for the poems attached to its Victorian era furnishings. The Calhoun Street Historic District, once termed "gold dust street" because of its wealthy residents, is home to the 1856 Brokaw-McDougall House and Gardens.

Other historic houses worth noting are the Governor's Mansion, patterned after Andrew Jackson's The Hermitage, and the LeMoyne Art Foundation, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Free tours are offered on the grounds of the Goodwood Plantation's house and gardens. Fine crystal, porcelain, and period furniture are among the collections of the Pebble Hill Plantation, which features gardens, a kennel, a fire house, a log cabin schoolhouse, and a cemetery. Nearby Alfred B. Maclay State Park displays flowers and shrubs in a setting of reflecting pools, bubbling fountains, and a natural lake.

Driving tours along the lush, moss-draped "Canopy Roads" of the region (so named for their arching trees overhead) include the Native Trail tour, which focuses on architectural history; the Cotton Trail, which traces the impact of the area's cotton trade; and the Quail Trail Tour, which highlights the ante-bellum hunting estates that dot the landscape.

The Museum of Florida History allows visitors to climb aboard a reconstructed steamboat, examine sunken treasures, and march to a Civil War musical beat. The Mission San Luis de Apalachee, site of the only reconstructed Spanish mission in Florida and a Native American village, offers ongoing excavations, exhibits, and living history demonstrations. Animals such as red wolves, Florida panthers, and alligators thrive on the 52 acres of the Tallahassee Museum of History and Natural Science, which offers a nature center, an 1880s farm, a child friendly Discovery Center, and special events throughout the year.

Fun and exploration in the world of science are the focus of the Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science. The Challenger Learning Center features a planetarium, IMAX theater, and programs for students K–12, featuring mission control and space station simulators. The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory on the Florida State University campus offers tours of its state-of-the-art facility where such high-tech procedures as magnetic resonance imaging and tests with semiconductors and super-conductors are performed.

Arts and Culture

Tallahassee's Civic Center and college auditoriums are the site for many musical and theatrical events throughout the year. The Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center plays host to touring Broadway shows during its main September-through-March season. The renowned Florida State University (FSU) School of Theatre offers productions at its three facilities: the Mainstage, The Lab, and the Studio Theatre. The university's School of Music presents more than 400 concerts, recitals, and opera performances annually. FSU's Ruby Diamond Auditorium plays host to the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra, whose season, which includes a Masterworks Series and a holiday concert, runs from October through April. The Tallahassee Ballet Company, also housed at FSU's Ruby Diamond Auditorium, presents three major performances annually, and provides ballet lessons for the community. Florida A & M University hosts a variety of concerts in the Foster-Tanner Fine Arts Center recital hall. The Tallahassee Little Theatre produces a September-through-May season of offerings as well as its avant-garde "Coffeehouse Productions."

Festivals and Holidays

Tallahassee welcomes spring with March's Jazz and Blues Festival at the Tallahassee Museum of History and Natural Science, and the Springtime Tallahassee celebration, spanning dates in March and April. A parade kicks off the spring events, which include six stages of entertainment, and more than 250 food and craft vendors. The Flying High Circus, an actual circus found on the campus of Florida State University stages shows in Tallahassee during the first two weekends in April before moving to Callaway Gardens for the summer.

The spirit of the Renaissance inspires the Southern Shakespeare Festival, which culminates with a free performance of Shakespearean plays at Downtown Capitol Commons. July events include the area's largest fireworks display on July Fourth at Tom Brown Park, and the Swamp Stomp at the Museum of History and Natural Science, featuring guitar music in all its variety. Calypso rhythms and the smell of jerk chicken and salsa fill the air at the Caribbean Carnival, which takes place downtown during August.

The crafts and culture of the Seminole, Miccosukee, Creek, and Choctaw are the focus of the Native American Heritage Festival each September. The "World's Largest Free Fish Fry" lures visitors to the Florida Forest Festival in October. Autumn is also the time for the North Florida Fair with its livestock shows, performances, and carnival rides, and the Halloween Howl with its ghost stories and trick or treating on a circa-1800s farm. November brings Market Days at which 270 artists and craftspersons display their wares. The joys and lights of Christmas brighten up December's Winter Festival downtown, and at the Knott House Candlelight Tour. The early history of Tallahassee takes the spotlight at January's Hernando DeSoto Winter Encampment, which focuses on the Spanish and Apalachee cultures. In order to keep the Spanish speaking culture alive in Tallahassee, the North Florida Hispanic Association hosts a yearly Hispanic festival.

Sports for the Spectator

Although Tallahassee does not field any professional teams, watching college sporting events is very popular—so popular, in fact, that the city sponsors Downtown Get Downs, high spirited, themed block-parties, on most Friday nights preceding college home football games. The free events feature food vendors, live entertainment, arts and crafts, and more. Football, baseball, and other intercollegiate sports are played by the Florida State Seminoles and Florida A & M Rattlers.The Nike Tallahassee Open takes place in April at the Golden Eagle Country Club.

The Tallahassee Sports Council is involved in hosting multisport and community partnership events, such as the hosting NCAA basketball and tennis championships and the Sunshine State Games. The Sports Council also serves as agent to such local sports entities as the Tallahassee Soccer Association, the Amateur Sports Association, and the Center Classic.

Sports for the Participant

An undisturbed natural environment adds to the enjoyment of the many recreational resources in the area. In 2004, Tallahassee's Parks and Recreation Department won a Gold Medal Award from the National Recreation and Park Association, naming it the best in the country for cities with populations of 100,000 to 250,000 residents. The city has more than 2,700 acres of parkland. The popular St. Marks Trail, extending from Tallahassee south to the coast, is available to cyclists, skaters, hikers, and equestrians. The St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge is a popular eco-tourism attraction, with its undisturbed coastal marshes and a preserved lighthouse. A stretch of parks in the downtown area spans some five blocks. Several ocean beaches are less than seventy miles away, and Tallahassee has its own freshwater beaches. Lake Hall at Alfred B. Maclay State Park and Lake Bradford offer public beach access, swimming, boating, fishing and other water sports. Golfers can enjoy the city's several municipal and public courses as well as award-winning private courses. Three local parks provide lighted tennis courts.

Shopping and Dining

Downtown Tallahassee offers a collection of specialty and gift shops at Downtown Market Place on Park, where fine arts, crafts, authors, writers/poets, live jazz, chefs, historic chats, children's storytelling and a farmer's market can be enjoyed on Saturdays from March to November. The Tallahassee Mall boasts more than 90 specialty stores. Governor's Square is home to over 100 stores and restaurants, anchored by four full-line department stores, and a 500-seat Food Court. Bradley's 1927 County Store is renowned for homemade sausage and Southern goods and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Restaurant offerings in the city range from the international cuisines of France, Italy, and Thailand, to seafood in all its variety, classic American cooking, and steak and barbecues.

Visitor Information: Tallahassee Area Visitor Information Center, 106 East Jefferson Street (across from City Hall); telephone (850)413-9200 or (800)628-2866; fax (850)487-4621; email vic@mail.co.leon.fl.us