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April 12, 2006


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Politics to plantations in Tallahassee
Florida's capitol city offers something for everyone
Touring one of only four "tower" capitol buildings in the country. Checking out a legislative session in the public gallery of the House or Senate chambers or walking through the hallways with the political movers and shakers of the state.  Taking an elevator ride to the top floor for a panoramic view of the city.

Or for the history buffs, walking across the street to the historic capitol building to see how government worked in days gone by. Catching a guided tour with a costumed historian and looking at displays from some of the state's more notable political periods.

Heading along the plantation trail to stop at one of the many historic homes open to the public from Tallahassee to Thomasville, Ga. Driving through the canopy covered roads and enjoying the sites in this Southern wonderland.

From politics to plantations, Florida's capital city of Tallahassee offers something for everyone. Nature lovers are also in luck as many attractions feature wildlife and lush, scenic views.

A great stop for those interested in the early history of the state is the old capitol. Exhibits of notable elections over the years, as well as political artifacts, photographs and recordings are found in the capitol. Be sure and arrange a tour with one of the costumed guides.  For more information on touring the old capitol, call (850) 487-1902.

Just a short walk away is the new capitol where legislators are busy at work this month as the session kicked off just a few weeks ago. Visitors can sit in the public area of the House of Senate chambers and get a close up view of government in action.

Near the capitol buildings is the Challenger Learning Exhibit, which is a great stop for those interested in space exploration. A simulator space station is offered, as well as a planetarium. School groups are invited to visit, and space camps are held in the summer.

An IMAX theatre is also located in the complex, with movies such as Harry Potter offered in 3-D. For a classic, check out "Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon." It is actually very relaxing, while still being a thrill ride for the senses. Some of Pink Floyd's hits have been choreographed to full dome high definition video.

For more information, go to www.challengertlh.com or call (850) 645-7777.

PLANTATIONS

The Goodwood Museum and Gardens is a great first stop for those who love touring historic homes and gardens. The estate began in the 1830s as a cotton and corn plantation that was once 2,400 acres. The restoration efforts focus on the country estate era of the 1920s. A tour of the grounds includes the main house, roller skating rink, pool, old kitchen, guest house, girls' cottage, laundry room, stables, water tour, greenhouse and other buildings.  For more information, call (850) 877-4202.

Another plantation in the Tallahassee area that is worth checking out is Pebble Hill Plantation, located in nearby Thomasville, Ga. It could easily take a few hours to explore the house and grounds, which include the barn, stables, carriage house, kennels, nurse's office, fire engine house, carpenter's shop, dog hospital, log cabin school, cemetery and gardens.

The furnishings and art in the home are wonderful, with the art of such notables as John James Audubon and John Emms on display. For more information, go to www.pebblehill.com or call (229) 226-2344.

Maclay Gardens, which has a historic hunting lodge on the grounds, is another must stop while in Tallahassee. The lush gardens provide a relaxing, serene stop that will make you want to spend as much time at Maclay as possible. It's also a beautiful spot for a wedding.

Among the highlights on a walk through the gardens are the Camellia Walk, the walled garden, the pine needle path, the Azalea hillside and the Oriental Magnolias. For more information, go to www.ssnow.com/maclay.

For a great up close look at nature, be sure and visit Wakulla Springs Lodge and State Park and take one of the scenic boat rides. This is one of the world's deepest fresh water springs. On an hour-long river boat ride, I spotted more alligators than I have ever seen, as well as many different birds and turtles. Our guide took us up close and personal to the wildlife.

Wakulla also has a beautiful lodge and restaurant where you can try some Southern dishes, such as fried oysters and grouper sandwiches.  For more information, visit www.floridastateparks.org/wakullasprings or call (850) 224-5950.

Another spot to see nature up close and personal is the Tallahassee Museum, a 52-acre natural habitat zoo. Florida panthers, red wolves and a white squirrel are among the unusual animals you will see while walking through the complex, that also provides a scenic view of Lake Bradford.  For more information, go to www.tallahasseemuseum.org.

Mission San Luis, Florida's only reconstructed Spanish mission, gives visitors a great look at 17th century living history. Three centuries after they were destroyed by fire in 1704, two of early America's most important structures have been reconstructed at the mission. The site is a National Historic Landmark, and is where the principle village of the Apalachee Indians was located, as well as the site of Spanish Florida's westernmost military, religious and administrative headquarters.

Among the highlights of a visit to the mission are the council house, the largest historic period native building archaeologists have found to date in the southeast; the religious complex that features a mission church constructed by the Apalachees and the Spanish village.

For more information, go to www.missionsanluis.org.

WHERE TO EAT

Plenty of great food choices are to be found in Tallahassee, including seafood, elegant dining and country cooking. A few spots to check out include:

•Nicholson Farmhouse Restaurant, an original 1900s farm house, is where you will find the best steak around. A special is the heart shaped "sweetheart steak" for two. The two ribeyes are served in the shape of a heart. Other steaks on the menu include prime rib, porterhouse, T-bone, New York strip, sirloin and tenderloin or beef. The desserts are also a treat with the key lime pie a house speciality. For more information, casll (850) 539-5931.

•Dinner at Chez Pierre is an elegant night of fining dining in a beautiful setting. On a warm night, be sure and sit outside under the canopy oaks.

•Lunch at Andrew's Downtown is a favorite for Tallahassee residents and tourists. It is a classic stop for sports, politics and great food. Local politicians are recognized with menu items such as the "Governor's Gobbler" and the "Gra-HAM burger."

•Barnacle Bill's, which is known for its fresh oysters. Other standouts on the menu include the fried pickle and corn fritter appetizers and the shrimp. This is a great stop for a casual night out for some good seafood. For more information, call (850) 385-8734.

•For a unique souvenirs , pick up some of Barb's Gourmet Brittle, which is brittle in many unique and delicious flavors. The sunflower seed and chocolate one is very tasty. Barb has a shop at the Cottages at Lake Ella, (850) 385-9839. Her candy can also be ordered from her website, www.barbsbrittles.com. Another unique souvenier, which is only available for a limited time, is some Nole Aid. This drink is an example of young entreprenership, as it is a result of a fifth grade project. It helps that two of the students are the sons of a member of a couple who own a local distributor of Anheuser-Busch products. The drink is a lime flavored water drink.

WHERE TO STAY

For a great central location to stay during your visit, try the Park Plaza Hotel, located at 415 North Monroe Street. It is in a prime downtown location and is only minutes from the capitol complex. The hotel has a warm, inviting atmosphere and provides plenty of hospitality from its staff.

The rooms are spacious, and a business center, sauna and fitness center are offered.  For more information, go to www.parkplaza.com or call 1-800-814-7000.

For more information on Tallahassee, go to www.seeTallahassee.com.

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