Tallahassee is Florida’s capital city, best known for its beautiful nature and notable historical and political sites. It’s also the largest city in the state’s Big Bend and Panhandle regions.
The United States founded the city of Tallahassee in 1824 to be the new Territory of Florida’s center of government and policy-making. Today the capital city is contemporary and bustling, yet it also recognizes its deep historical roots. While in the Sunshine State be sure to do some sightseeing to make the most of any vacation.
Here are the top historical places near Tallahassee, FL, in no particular order:
Florida Historic Capitol Museum
Despite no longer being the center of Florida’s government, the Florida Historic Capitol Building has been a valuable part of the state’s laws and policies. Today, it’s also a museum that tourists can explore while admiring the old building’s architectural features.
Florida originally constructed a state capitol building in 1826. However, this structure was never finished, and it was then destroyed in 1839 to make space for the current building.
The Florida Historic Capitol Building was finally completed in 1845. Multiple expansions were also made over the years. This is where the state government, including the House and Senate, met and worked on local laws and policies.
A new, more modern Florida Capitol Building was completed in 1977. Visitors can still experience the historic capitol by experiencing a self-guided tour of the many photographs, artifacts, and interactive displays available here.
400 S Monroe St, Tallahassee, FL 32399 | 850-487-1902 | flhistoriccapitol.gov
Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park
The Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park is in Leon County, about a 25-minute drive away from Tallahassee. It’s an official Florida State Park full of outdoor activities. It’s also the site of an important Civil War battle.
On March 6, 1865, Confederate and Union soldiers fought the Battle of Natural Bridge on this land. The Confederates defeated the Union troops, which kept Tallahassee as the only southern capital city east of the Mississippi River that remained under Confederate control.
In remembrance of this battle, the Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park runs reenactments every March.
Additionally, this is the perfect place to enjoy various outdoor activities throughout the year, such as camping, boating, hiking, horseback riding, and wildlife viewings. Events such as family reunions and weddings also commonly occur on this property.
7502 Natural Bridge Rd, Tallahassee, FL 32305 | 850-922-6007 | floridastateparks.org/…
Old City Cemetery
Tallahassee’s oldest public cemetery, Old City Cemetery, was established in 1829. The city acquired the cemetery in 1840. Since then, it has become a notable historic sight integral to the city’s public health.
The Old City Cemetery was once the only public cemetery in the area, so people from all social classes were buried there. These people included slaves, governors, and veterans alike.
Visitors today can walk through the cemetery, viewing the many different historic grave markers and paying their respects to those who have passed.
400 W Park Ave, Tallahassee, FL 32301 | 850-891-8712 | talgov.com/realestate/res-coc-oldcity
Florida Governor’s Mansion
As the name suggests, the Florida Governor’s Mansion is where the state’s governor and family reside while in office. It’s also available for tours on select days and times.
The first Florida Governor’s Mansion was built on this property in 1907. However, in 1955, this building was torn down due to structural issues, and the new mansion was completed the following year.
Since then, the home has been occupied by the state’s governor and first family. They use it as their private residence and a space for entertaining guests.
The Florida Governor’s Mansion was constructed in a Greek Revival style. Unique highlights include a screened swimming pool, six staterooms, a brick patio, and a rose garden.
During the Regular Legislative Session, visitors can take a 30-minute guided tour of the mansion according to the appointment schedule. The property also offers tours for school groups when notified in advance.
700 N Adams St, Tallahassee, FL 32303 | 850-488-4661 | floridagovernorsmansion.com
St. Marks Lighthouse
St. Marks, FL, is about a half hour away from Tallahassee. One of the city’s most prominent symbols and structures is the St. Marks Lighthouse.
Because St. Marks was once an important coastal town with an active port of entry, Florida’s governor requested funding for a lighthouse. It provided more visibility of the area at night and prevented boats from getting stuck in the mud or on land.
In 2013, the U.S. Coast Guard transferred ownership of the St. Marks Lighthouse to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, St. Marks NWR. They then completed a renovation in 2014, when the lighthouse temporarily stopped shining light for the first time since the Civil War.
The St. Marks Lighthouse is still lit seasonally, but it no longer provides a constant light source to boats in the area. Guests can also visit the lighthouse between 10 am and 2 pm on the second and fourth Saturdays of most months.
St Marks, FL | 850-925-6121 | fws.gov/refuge/st-marks/historic-st-marks-lighthouse
Knott House Museum
The Knott House was built in Tallahassee in 1843 as the residence of Attorney Thomas Hagner and his wife, Catherine Gamble. It was later occupied by Florida state politician William Knott and his wife, Luella.
In 1865, the Knott House became an influential part of the Civil War’s end. It was used as a temporary headquarters for the Union Army, and on May 20, this is where the Emancipation Proclamation was read in Florida.
Since being used as a home and military headquarters, the Knott House has been restored to what it would have looked like in 1928 when the Knotts lived here.
Note that the Knott House Museum has been closed to visitors since November 2021 due to renovations on the property and its visitor experience.
301 E Park Ave, Tallahassee, FL 32301 | 850-922-2459 | facebook.com/KnottHouseMuseum
Mission San Luis de Apalachee
In 1528, the Spanish conquistador Pánfilo de Navárez was the first recorded European presence in the Apalachee Province area. The Mission San Luis de Apalachee was then built in 1656 as part of Spain’s Christian evangelization efforts.
This mission to convert the Timucuan and Apalachee Native Americans to Christianity continued until 1704. It was then destroyed to prevent its use by other groups.
The Mission San Luis property was designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1966. In 1996, reconstruction began to restore the mission buildings. Now, visitors can explore Mission San Luis through a series of exhibits and reenactments.
2100 W Tennessee St, Tallahassee, FL 32304 | 850-245-6406 | missionsanluis.org
Florida State University
Florida State University (FSU) is a public higher education institution consisting of eight schools and eight colleges. It has a 485-acre campus in Tallahassee.
FSU originally opened in 1851 as West Florida Seminary. Over the years, it changed names several times and began admitting other groups of students, including women and people of color.
Today, FSU is well-known for its football team and academic programs. History lovers can explore the many historical markers on campus to learn about how the school has grown and developed over the years.
Additionally, FSU’s admissions department offers guided tours and a self-guided walking tour app download.
600 W College Ave, Tallahassee, FL 32306 | 850-644-2525 | fsu.edu
Pebble Hill Plantation
Pebble Hill Plantation is located in Thomasville, GA, just a 40-minute drive from Tallahassee. It dates back to 1825 when Thomas Jefferson Johnson bought the land.
Many slaves worked on this plantation. In 1830, the census recorded that 21 enslaved people lived and worked here. Over the years, they grew crops including tobacco, cotton, and sugar cane.
Long after slavery had been abolished, in the late 1800s, Howard Melville Hanna purchased the property as a winter home. It was passed down through the family until being opened to the public.
Pebble Hill Plantation visitors can explore The Main House’s Neoclassical and Colonial Revival architecture and admire the museum’s American and British Sporting Art collection.
1251 US-319 S, Thomasville, GA 31792 | 229-226-2344 | pebblehill.com
Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More
The Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More began as a simple chapel for Florida State University’s Catholic student ministry. It still serves this purpose, though it’s now much larger and has attracted a vibrant community of parishioners.
This church was originally designed with a mid-century deco style with Spanish mission influences. It was rather simple overall, with a few art pieces, and opened in 1967.
In 1975, its purpose shifted from a student parish to the Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More. A large renovation began in 2019 following an arson attack on the church. Now, the centerpiece of the cathedral is a simple yet beautiful altar, which is framed by paintings and sculptures behind it.
The Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More holds Mass daily, as well as a weekly Student Mass that is sponsored by FSU’s Catholic Student Union.
900 W Tennessee St, Tallahassee, FL 32304 | 850-222-9630 | cocathedral.com
While many Florida vacations involve beaches and amusement parks, there is no shortage of historical attractions here as well. The Tallahassee area is the best place to learn about the state’s government, Spanish roots, and involvement in the Civil War.