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Florida Travel Tips

FLORIDA TOURIST INFORMATION: (904) 487-1462

Statehouse (New Capitol) Tallahassee (850) 488-6167
Built in 1977 the 22-story "New Capitol" is the fourth statehouse constructed on this site. The first was a log cabin built in 1824 when Tallahassee became the territorial capital. In 1826, a year after achieving statehood, the log cabin was replaced by a two-story wood framed structure. The third Capitol (now the Old Capitol Museum) was completed in 1845, with its east and west wings added in 1902. The New Capitol skyscraper, designed in the New Classicism style to reflect modern Florida, towers directly behind the 1845 Capitol in an architectural juxtaposition of old and new. (Florida is one of the four states to incorporate the highly functional tower design, the other states being Louisiana, Nebraska, and North Dakota.) The first five stories of the Capitol contain the State Welcome Center, the Executive Offices of the governor and his cabinet, the Heritage Chapel, and the legislative chambers of the House and Senate. The remaining floors are dedicated to state agencies. The building is capped with an enclosed Observation Deck rising 307 feet from the street level which provides visitors with a panoramic view of the many trees and rolling hills of Tallahassee, a unique sight in the normally flat state of Florida, and one of the reasons Tallahassee was chosen as the state capital. (The other reason was that Tallahassee was smack in the middle of the 400-mile trek between the pre-territorial capitals of Pensacola on the west and St. Augustine on the east.)

Check it out . . .Florida is one of only a few statehouses containing a chapel dedicated as a meditation room upon its completion in 1980. The Heritage Chapel could also be called the "Florida Room" because unlike the rest of the walls in the building, made of Italian travertine marble, the chapel is made exclusively from materials found in Florida. The walls, for example, are made of coquina from beaches between Jacksonville and St. Augustine. The ceiling is made of tidewater cypress and the fount and table are made of keystone, quarried in Florida City.

Old Capitol Museum, Tallahassee (850) 487-1902
Restored to its 1902 appearance the Old Capitol today showcases earlier state furnishings and architecture. Its silver exterior dome, frosted stained glass skylight rotunda, double curved staircase, marble wainscoting, and turn-of-the-century windows dressed in candy-striped awnings (so uniquely Florida!) represent the essence of early Florida. The main body of this 1845 building witnessed 150 years of Florida's wars, political intrigue, and cultural upheavals. Its history is beautifully told through the restored rooms, furnished in such a way as to tell a story in each room, supplemented by old photographs, artifacts, newspaper clippings and exhibits that embellish the tales and complete the historic picture.

Tip: Visit the Old Capitol Museum before visiting today's New Capitol for a culture shock between old and new Florida.

Museum of Florida History, Tallahassee (850) 488-1484
Permanent exhibits include a nine-foot mastodon, dioramas of prehistoric Florida and American Indian cultures, including an instructive step-by-step demonstration of how to build a dugout canoe. Exhibits also show Spanish galleon treasures, artifacts from the brief period of British ownership, Civil War memorabilia, a reconstructed 1920s citrus packing plant, and an original 1927 Model A Ford, converted into an RV, referred to as a "tin can tourist." A reconstructed 1900 riverboat allows visitors to get onboard and pretend to be an early 20th century passenger, pilot or the captain. In addition to these permanent exhibits are traveling shows, such as today's "Myth and Legacy," and a movie poster room of all the movies made in Florida, and a photographic exhibit of Ernest Hemingway's life in the Florida Keys.

Maclay State Gardens, Tallahassee (850) 487-4556
Enchanting, ornamental floral gardens surround the 1930s home of New York financier Alfred B. Maclay. When he died in 1944, his wife continued his garden and donated it to the state in 1953. The grounds feature 200+ floral varieties plus hiking, biking, and nature trails as well as boating, fishing and swimming on the lake. High blossom season is January-April, with the peak period "Azalea time" in mid-March.

Riley Museum Center of African American History, Tallahassee (850) 681-7881
The last vestige of an 1890 middle-class black community, this house now serves as a cultural center for African American history.

Canopy Roads Loop Tours, Tallahassee (850) 487-4621
Radiating out of Tallahassee are 60 miles of roads lined with live oak trees, dripping in lacy Spanish Moss. They follow earlier trails forged in the 16th century when Spanish missions dotted the panhandle from Pensacola to St. Augustine, and later, were furhter enhanced as antebellum cotton trade routes.There are three different Canopy Road Loop Driving Tours. The first is the Native Trail which links the area's archeological sites, such as ceremonial lakeside Indian mounds, a recreated Spanish mission, and the deSoto 1539 winter camp. The Cotton Trail has some churches and plantations from the antebellum period when Cotton was King. The Quail Trail travels along pine forests, through an area that became a favorite hunting spot in the early 1900s. Many family-owned hunting lodges still exist as architectural testimony to these happy hunting days. Below is a brief listing of some of the sites open to the public.

*deSoto State Archeological Site (850) 922-6007
In the 1980s, archeologists made a tremendous discovery on this hilltop. The olive jar fragments, coins, chain mail and other artifacts were not from Spanish missions, as they had originally thought, but were from the 1539-1540 winter encampment of Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto and his entrada of 600 soldiers. This was also the site of the First Christmas celebration in the New World. Plans are underway to create a museum and interpretive center. *FREE*

*Mission San Luis (850) 487-3711
After the Spaniards settled in St. Augustine in 1565 they set out to establish a chain of missions from the east coast to the western edge of Florida. Mission San Luis, located at the half-way mark between the easternmost and westernmost missions, served as the capital of the Spanish mission system from 1656-1704. On Saturdays, costumed Interpreters enrich the historic experience. *FREE*

*Lake Jackson Mounds State Archeology Site, (850) 922-6007
At one time the Lake Jackson complex consisted of six temple mounds and a large village with a central plaza on the shores of Lake Jackson.Today three mounds and part of a village remain as the only evidence of this Native American village, part of a large cultural/socio-religious /trading complex throughout the southeast known as the "Southern Cult" from the period of 1200-1500 AD. *FREE*

*Goodwood Plantation (850) 877-4202
Built in 1841, the Goodwood Plantation was once a 2400-acres cotton plantation. Planter Bryan Croom built the elegant mansion, and planted the dozens of live oaks that today give the mansion and gardens their Southern gentility. This magnificent estate hosted social and political functions for decades. (Note: Currently being restored, almost finished. Will be open to the public on April 6, 2000. Visitors are welcomed to visit the extensive gardens, begun in 1831 and recently restored.)

*Bradley's 1927 Country Store (850) 893-1647
Family-owned for three generations, this old-time country store sells many southern specialties, including handmade sausage from their own hogs "right out back," and spiced with Grandma Mary's special ingredients. Rocking chairs line the front porch of the store, allowing customers to take their purchased goods outside to snack and chat with others under the canopy of the beautiful live oak trees.

St.Marks National Wildlife Refuge, St. Marks (850) 926-6121
Surrounding the historic 1831 St. Marks Lighthouse, still in use today, are 68,000 acres of salt marshes, bays, swamps, woods, islands and estuaries of seven rivers stretching along the Gulf Coast. The refuge is home to migrant and resident wildlife, including pelicans, egrets, bottlenose dolphins, bobcats, bear, deer, mink and more than 2000 American alligators. The refuge provides hiking and biking trails, hunting, boating and both fresh and saltwater fishing.

Wakulla Springs State Park, Wakulla Springs (850) 224-5950
Florida's deepest freshwater spring was discovered in 1513 by Ponce de Leon who believed it to be the Fountain of Youth. Today the Wakulla Springs hold two distinct attributes: Having been explored to a depth of 250 feet, it is considered the state's deepest, and with an average flow of 576 million gallons a day, it is considered the largest daily discharge of pure crystal clear water. The early Seminole Indians knew of the springs for its abundant wildlife, for which it is still known today. In 1937 a financier and railroad magnate built his 27-room lodge on the banks of Wakulla Springs, the most serene place he had ever seen in all his international travels. The lodge still stands today and is open to the public. Its spacious lobby, vaulted ceiling with hand painted cypress beams, massive fireplace, marble floor and elegant arched windows provide a glimpse into Florida's 1930s resort life. The park provides picnic areas, swimming (including high-diving into the depths of the spring), and guided glass bottom boat rides where visitors can gaze into the amazingly clear water at the submerged limestone cliffs, the abundant fish, and the remains of mammoth bones of the unfortunate prehistoric drowning victims.

Tip: Wakulla is an Indian term meaning "Strange and Mysterious Waters." We found that we were pronouncing it wrong, saying, "Whacoola" like "Water-Cooler," but then we overheard a Park Ranger at St. Marks pronounce it "Wakkalla" like "Walk-a-lot." And then when we took the boat cruise, our Captain said the proper pronunciation is "Wha colla" Like "Wha Color" is that?

OUR CAMPSITE FOR THE WEEK

Big Oak RV Park, Tallahassee (850) 562-4660
Not only is this campground immaculately clean, convenient to all the sites, and very reasonably priced, it's also one of the friendliest and homiest we've seen. A common green area surrounded by live oaks, park benches and swings, gives the park a community, neighborly feeling to it. Every morning a chorus of birds awakens the park to a happy, sunny Florida day. Just lovely.

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