Tallahassee, Florida: Museums, Manatees, and More
A wonderful place to visit for homeschoolers, or those seeking a city with lots
of educational opportunities, is Tallahassee, Florida. With historical sites,
museums, and an abundance of natural beauty, everyone in the family will
find something to their taste.
Mission San Luis, located at 2100 W. Tennessee St., is a National Historic
Landmark. It has one of the largest collections of 17th century Spanish and
Apalachee Indian materials, including thousands of artifacts. What really
brings the history of this era to life are the dedicated staff and volunteers at
Mission San Luis. Through the reenactors dressed in period costumes, it was
easy to imagine life on this Spanish mission.
Workshops (soap-making, blacksmithing, etc.) are available throughout the
year. For guided group tours, you must make reservations. Note that Mission
San Luis is closed on Mondays. Hours of operation are Tuesday through
Sunday, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Check the website for schedule and cost of
Challenger Learning Center of Tallahassee honors the seven crew members of
the Challenger STS - 51L. Challenger Learning Centers all over the world
ensure that students get hands-on learning in science, technology,
engineering, and math.
The CLC is located at 200 S. Duval St.
Homeschool Days at the Challenger Learning Center are held the second
Friday of each month, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. for Grades K - 5.
The cost is $20.00 per student per program, and pre-registration is required.
An incredible offering through the Center is a free monthly Planetarium Show.
Created by Bill Skelley and the Tallahassee Astronomical Society, students
get a heads-up (no pun intended) on what to look for in the night sky. I can't
think of anything more likely to ignite the love of astronomy in children. Also,
check out their varied selection of IMAX movies.
Cascades Park, located in downtown Tallahassee, has trails, an amphitheater,
and an interactive fountain that shoots water out of 73 jets. Walking through
the park, you get a feel for the city and its people. No one seems to be in a
hurry...well, maybe the runners, but even they look relaxed.
There's a lot of history to learn at Cascades Park! Be sure to check out the
Prime Meridian Marker. It's the beginning point for all land surveys in Florida.
Also, you'll learn about Florida's history at the Smokey Hollow
Commemoration. It's in remembrance of the African American community
founded here after the Civil War. The John G. Riley Museum, next door, gives
more information on this time period.
Cascades Park also includes a Korean War Memorial.
The Edison is a unique restaurant over-looking Cascades Park. It has live
music and both indoor and outdoor seating. Once a power plant, the spacious
building has retained its architectural splendor. I can highly recommend the
Wild Blackened Salmon. Also, if you're overwhelmed by all the dessert
options, you can't go wrong with the Strawberry Shortcake! The Edison is
located at 470 Suwannee St.
Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park is a 14 - mile drive south of
Tallahassee. Wakulla Springs is one of the deepest freshwater springs in the
world. This place is a nature lover's paradise. Give the kids sketch books, and
have them draw what they see! If you go on the river cruise (believe me, it's
worth it) you'll come away with some amazing photos. I finally had to put my
camera aside, just to breathe in the river air, and appreciate the sight of birds,
alligators, and manatees. You may or may not see manatees, depending on
the season, but we got lucky! My visit was in early April. Park hours are 8 a.m.
until sundown, open 365 days a year.
We had lunch at the Wakulla Springs Lodge, which is listed on the National
Register of Historic Places. The Lodge was built in 1937, and has an old-world
elegance. The dining room is beautiful, with tables covered in white, high and
ornate ceilings, and a view of Wakulla Springs. The menu has a large selection
of seafood. Fresh Gulf grouper is available, along with crabcakes, and Gulf
The Museum of Florida History has four permanent exhibits: Florida in the Civil
War, World War II, Naval Ships Named Florida, and Forever Changed: La Florida
1513 - 1821. My favorite exhibit was Forever Changed: La Florida 1513 - 1821.
This exhibit highlights the many cultures that influenced Florida, including the
Calusa, Apalachee, and Timucua Indians. The exhibit uses features to draw
kids into learning, such as life-size examples of village life, and lots of artifacts
and hands-on opportunities.
The Museum of Florida History is located at 500 South Bronough St.
Tallahassee Museum is a great place to learn about the culture and natural
history of North Florida. Kids will love the 1890s schoolhouse and the red
wooden caboose. It's much more than just a museum. Situated on Lake
Bradford, it has several nature trails, ziplines, and animals native to Florida. A
good reason to go on the zipline is for the view. This museum sits on 52 acres.
Homeschool Programs are offered at the Tallahassee Museum from
September to May. Pre-registration is required. The price is $7.00 per student
plus admission fee.
Gulf Specimen Marine Lab brings the ocean to kids (and adults) in a big way.
You can get to know a variety of marine life through the touch tanks. It's
amazing to be able to hold a starfish. A lot of the staff are interns from Florida
State University, and I loved their enthusiasm. They had so much patience
with all the questions, and shared their knowledge generously. You'll see
crabs of all kinds, sea horses, tiny shrimp, and even sharks. Gulf Specimen
Lab is located 30 miles from Tallahassee. Their address is 222 Clark Dr.,
During my trip to Tallahassee, I stayed at Aloft Tallahassee Downtown, located at
200 N. Monroe St. I was on the 4th floor, and enjoyed having a view of the
swimming pool. I liked the snack and coffee shop, and the European style of
the lobby. The hotel has some great environmental initiatives, including the
option of hanging a card on your door if you're willing to reuse towels and
linens. I admire Aloft for their effort to help with water conservation.
My trip was sponsored by Visit Tallahassee, the official Destination Marketing
Organization for Tallahassee and Leon County. All of the opinions expressed
in this article are my own.
Amy Parker, 2016
Homeschool Travel Resource
Photos are my own, unless otherwise noted.