12. August 2012 · Comments Off on Florida Discoveries 33: A Visit to Tallahassee · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , , ,

After a 3 hour car ride, the kids were ready to do some running around!

It had been on my to-do list all summer: to take the boys to Tallahassee to visit the Museum of Florida History and see the Capitol Complex.  It’d also be a chance to try out my new camera in some new settings.  We had put it off numerous times, and last Friday — our last Friday before school orientation — we made it out the door nice and early for the three-hour drive.

Except I forgot a critical planning factor: the one-hour time change.  So we were out the door at 8am and I was thinking we’d get there in time to enjoy lunch somewhere and then get in 4-5 hours worth of sightseeing.  We were on the outskirts of Tallahassee when I noticed that the clock on our truck was reading about 11:55am instead of 10:55am and I thought to myself, “Oh crap…”

So we blasted through a Taco Bell drive-through just off of Florida State’s campus and then as the kids ate I negotiated my way downtown and parked in a garage next door to the Museum.

This is a nice overhead shot of the Gray Building from the 22nd floor of the New Capitol building…the museum is only on the ground floor of this building.

The Museum of Florida History is located in the bottom floor (basement?…I’m not quite sure it’s a basement, but it’s the lowest level) of the R.A. Gray Building across the street from the Florida Supreme Court building.  The Gray building has numerous other offices, plus the state Archives, so when you’re staring at the building thinking, “Wow!  That’s a lot of Museum!”, you might be disappointed.  The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, this is not.

Nonetheless, the museum is free to visit (they request donations) and it’s very well laid out.  At the check-in station, visitors are asked to sign a visitors’ register, and they can then pick up maps.  There’s also a scavenger hunt program for the kids, so they can search for hidden gems within the exhibits.  At the gift shop you can pick up a token that will cover the $5 parking charge for the downtown parking garage next door.

The gentleman on the far right is “Mick”, a museum volunteer who escorted us through the entire museum and had so many awesome tidbits of extra information. He told us that the King and Queen of Spain are invited to Tallahassee this April for Florida’s 500th Anniversary.

One of the gentlemen sitting at the front desk offered to walk with us and one other group (another mother with her own kids and a niece and nephew visiting from England).  Mick was his name and he could answer ANYTHING you tossed out at him.  The kids had a good time asking questions of him.

The permanant exhibits are laid out approximately chronologically: starting with the native peoples and the mastodons they hunted, and you are greeted in the first exhibit with the crown-jewel of the museum: an 11-foot mastodon skeleton that was found in nearby Wakulla Springs, Florida in the 1800s and was recovered in 1930.


This is “Herman”, the Wakulla Springs mastodon. He’s 11′ tall.

Then guests are guided through a new exhibit about the Europeans’ influences in Florida history.  This newest exhibit is in place just in time for Florida’s 500th Anniversary.  Phase 1 of the exhibited opened this part March and it’s expected to be complete in time for the anniversary commemoration in April 2013.  The kids really enjoyed this section, with the mock-up of a Spanish explorers’ ship complete with knot tying and navigation hands-on activities.

Jacob enjoyed the knot-tying hands-on activity.

Timmy tried to use the “Traverse Board” which helps the sailors track their distance and direction. Neither he nor I could really figure it out…

The Florida in the Civil War exhibit features Florida’s unique roles during the war, complete with donated artifacts from the mid-1800s.  The Civil War Trust has placed a touch-screen computer in this exhibit where guests can search for relatives who might have been involved.

The Florida in WWII exhibit is very similar to the Florida in the Civil War area, featuring information, artifacts and activities pertaining to Floridians’ roles in World War II.

This is the only Florida regimental flag carried in the Battle of Gettysburg that wasn’t captured by Union troops.  Apparently, years ago, one of the museum curators took this flag home to show a friend and he died before bringing it back. It was found weeks later among his belongings when folks were clearing out his estate. Oops…

There are numerous other smaller exhibits throughout, including a section about the citrus-packing industry, Florida’s role as “America’s Playground” and a sizable exhibit about Silver Springs, which is a resort near Ocala.

This is a lovely model of the Silver Spring Resort, near Ocala, complete with a model of the Silver Springs & Western Railroad, which took guests to the resort.

We made it through the entire museum in just over an hour, and we even went back to re-visit several areas.

After the Museum of History, we walked to the Capitol complex.  First we visited the “new” Capitol, which was built in the late 1970s and is 22 stories high.  We visited the 5th floor (home of the State Legislature chambers) and then went up to the 22nd floor, which is just a viewing area…the current Capitol is the tallest building in Tallahassee and we got great views of the city, including the Florida State University campus and Doak Campbell Stadium.

The new Capitol building isn’t very historical looking, but inside has a lot of wonderful art and inscriptions that are worth seeing.

My homemade panorama of one side of the “Florida Facts” inscribed in one of the rotundas.

The boys in front of the (empty) Senate Chambers.

There are murals honoring Florida history throughout the hallways.

We then went across the street to the “Old Capitol” which is the original capitol building and has been beautifully restored to its 1902 decor and appearance.  The building now serves as the Florida Historic Capitol Museum and I iked this museum better than the entire Museum of Florida History.  The Capitol Museum serves to educate about Florida’s government — the history and some of the key social and political issues that Florida has brought to the national spotlight, such as the 2000 Presidential Election and Gideon v. Wainwright, the famous Supreme Court case that guarantees court-appointed counsel if you so request one.

This is the Old Capitol Building. The rotunda’s restoration was just finished in April 2012.

There’s far less in terms of interactive things that the kids liked at the Old Capitol’s museum, but this was something they had fun with. They argued over who had to stand in as a girl…I have pictures of both of them in each position and just randomly picked this one for the blog.

As much as I loved the latter museum, the kids were far less interested.  Jacob is barely old enough to understand most of the concepts and Timmy just wanted to run up and down the hallways (which is what most of the other elementary-aged kids were doing).  We probably spent the most time in the hall of governors’ portraits looking for Easter eggs in the more modern portraits.  You can see an example below with Jeb Bush, but I also want to point out Lawton Chiles’ portrait, where you can see a rocket launching in the upper right corner.

This was an exhibit dedicated to the 2000 Presidential election.

There’s a hallway with the official Gubernatorial portraits. A couple of them had some fun Easter eggs. Jeb Bush’s portrait had a couple that I’ll show you.

His is the only portrait that had a portrait of his family painted into it. As well as the only portrait with his Blackberry.

This is also in Governor Bush’s portrait, a sampling of his favorite books. Starting with the bible on the far left.  1776 is one of my favorite books too.

We spent about one hour in the Old Capitol building.  Then it was time to drive home in time for dinner with Dave.