2023 Tallahassee Visitors Guide
Long before Tallahassee, Florida had political aspirations, or became the center of all government for the fourth most populated state in the Union, is was, and is, a florid, lush tropical environment near one of the most beautiful bodies of water in the world, the Gulf of Mexico.
The land that would eventually become the capital of Florida was the home to Native Americans and later was traversed by explorers as the new world made way to trade and exploration.
When finally settled, the town was originally part of both Escambia County and Jackson County, and later a part of Gadsden County, created by the Territorial Legislature in December 1824 as the seventh county in the State of Florida. Now, it is part of Leon County, named for Ponce De Leon, a Spanish explorer, and was one of the most populous and prosperous counties in Florida prior to statehood.
Tallahassee, named for the “old fields” that it once encompassed, earned the title early in the 16th century from the Apalachee Indians who inhabited the area. Legend says that the final spelling was chosen by Octavia Walton, daughter of the territorial governor of Florida.
Today, Tallahassee exemplifies not only the influence of the Indian but also that of the Spanish, French, and English who occupied the area in succession. The City of Tallahassee, the county seat and only incorporated city in Leon County were established in 1825, following a decision by the legislature to locate the capital of the new Florida Territory between the population centers of St. Augustine and Pensacola.
In 1834, the Tallahassee-St. Marks’ railroad was built. Florida became a state in 1845, and the West Seminary was opened, which is now Florida State University. During the Civil War, Florida, a Southern state, seceded from the Union, and Tallahassee remained the only southern state capitol not to be captured by the North during the war.
The City of Tallahassee has had a long history of annexation activity as a means of achieving growth. During its first 150 years, Tallahassee expanded from one-quarter of a mile in size to 26.15-square-miles, at the beginning of 1979 and during the last 20 years has seen an incredible increase in size, with 75 additional square miles having been added during that time, swelling the size of Tallahassee to more than 100-square-miles.
Tallahassee is nestled among the rolling hills of northwest Florida and is at the center of the eight-county “Big Bend” area.
Geographically, Tallahassee is close to both the Gulf of Mexico, 20 miles to the south, and Georgia, 14 miles north.
Its rolling landscape is unique to most other Florida cities with some of the downtown areas including the Capitol complex, City Hall and the County Courthouse, exceeding elevations of 200 feet.
Closer to Atlanta than Miami, Tallahassee is often called “The Other Florida” because of its attitude, topography, climate and lifestyle.
Best known as Florida’s capital, Tallahassee is an intimate small, metropolitan city where the state government, the academic and the artistic are complemented by subtle, old-fashioned Southern charm. It is the perfect two- or three-day diversion for the more than 41 million annual visitors to Florida.
Tallahassee Recreation and Attractions
Rich in cultural diversity, Tallahassee boasts more than 31 community established performing arts groups. Local cultural attractions include Springtime Tallahassee, the Winter Festival of Lights, the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra, the Tallahassee Ballet, LeMoyne Art Foundation, The Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science, the Tallahassee Museum of History and Natural Science and Shakespeare in the Park.
An undisturbed natural environment allows Tallahassee residents to enjoy the many recreational resources in the area. The popular Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail is a 16-mile long trail, which was once the oldest operating railroad in Florida. Stretching from Tallahassee to the Gulf of Mexico, the trail offers bicyclists, skaters, hikers, joggers and equestrian’s miles of natural scenery to enjoy.
The Florida Trail in the Apalachicola National Forest is a 68-mile trail that offers some of the most remote hiking available in Florida. A 5.5-mile Leon Sinks Trail, part of the Apalachicola National Forest, offers the tranquility and beauty of several sinkholes. Many other parks in the Tallahassee area offer hundreds of miles of off-road bike and scenic trails and other recreational outlets for those who love the outdoors.
The Tallahassee area offers numerous events throughout the year including the Downtown Market Place open March through November features fine arts, crafts, visiting authors, writers and poets, live jazz, chefs, children’s storytelling and a farmer’s market.
Whether festivals, dances, music, golf tournaments, costume balls, carnivals, parades or fairs, there seems to be something for every type of person in Tallahassee.
Additionally, Leon County is home to wildlife reserves where the hunter can take his pick of quail, turkey, duck, geese, squirrel and whitetail deer. Numerous lakes are available for freshwater fishing including Lake Jackson, Lake Talquin, Lake Iamonia, and Lake Miccosukee.
Also, there are the Capitol buildings to see, which seem to epitomize Tallahassee’s heritage. At the New Capitol, visitors get a glimpse of government in action and a view of the city from the 22nd-floor observatory. The Old Capitol stands restored to its 1902 appearance with candy-striped awnings, stained-glass dome, and historic displays.
America’s largest concentration of original plantations that encompass 300,000 acres and 71 plantations are between Tallahassee and Thomasville, Georgia, just 28 miles away.
And there’s bird watching, archeological sites to visit, the governor’s mansion, museums, Civil War battlefields, the Tallahassee automobile museum, federal preserves, and fishing charters, to name a few things to do.
From fast food to five-star, Tallahassee serves up a wide selection of tantalizing restaurants. Tastes buds will be satisfied with area specialties ranging from homemade country sausage and melt-in-your-mouth steaks to wild game and succulent seafood fresh from the Gulf.
Many local restaurants feature live music and dancing. Plus, many local clubs have an interesting atmosphere and a variety of fun menu items.
Tallahassee Business & Economy
As a political and major college town, Tallahassee enjoys a stable economy and comparatively low unemployment. While winter is high season for tourists in South Florida and summer attracts the most visitors along the Florida Panhandle, Tallahassee’s busiest months occur in March and April when the Legislature is in session. As the state government center for Florida, Tallahassee is home to more than 2,000 registered lobbyists and more than 300 professional and business organizations.
Fifty-six hotels and motels, many with meeting facilities, offer nearly 5,000 rooms. Additional meeting and exhibit space are available at the Tallahassee/Leon County Civic Center, the University Center Club and the FSU Conference Center.
The City’s government is made up of a city commission of a mayor and four at-large commissioners; all elected to staggered four-year terms. The City owns the local electric utility, which contributes substantially to the city’s revenues.
Leon County is governed by five districts and two at-large commissioners, also elected to staggered terms of four years. The Chair of the County Commission rotates annually among commissioners. The Clerk of the Court, Sheriff, Tax Collector, Property Tax Appraiser and Supervisor of Elections also are elected to terms of four years.
Other than politics as usual and academics, Tallahassee has become a haven for filmmakers who are looking to capture the small-town feel of the old South alongside a burgeoning small city.
Some of Tallahassee’s features include southern plantations, open fields, fields of cotton, corn, and wheat, southern oaks, pine forests, oak hammocks, canopied country roads, farms, rural communities, and an old town feel. Also, there are cypress swamps, bayous, and assorted plants and animal species add to the look of this distinct area.