st. marks light house
located on the southern tip of the road through the st. marks wildlife refuge is the st. marks lighthouse. it is an interesting place to visit. the lighthouse was built in 1829. on the way to the lighthouse there are numerous opportunites to see florida wildlife. there is a boat ramp near the lighthouse. there is a $5 fee to enter the refuge. from tallahassee take hwy 363 (woodville hwy) to US 98 east just past newport. a very interesting place to visit when in the tallahasse area. a good website to visit is http://www.fws.gov/saintmarks/lighthouse.html
- Historical Travel
- National/State Park
the wacissa spring is located south east of downtown tallahassee. the wacissa is one of north florida's most beautiful wild and scenic rivers. you can rent kayaks at the spring to explore the river. there also is a swiming area at the spring. parking at the spring is free. to get to wacissa spring take apalachee parkway east (US27 south) about 15 miles to hwy 59. take hwy 59 about 5 miles south to wacissa. in wacissa hwy 59 takes a sharp turn west to hwy 98. do not take the turn just follow the dirt road straight to the spring.
- Sailing and Boating
located on the river in st marks is the riverside cafe. they offer seafood and burgers on a covered deck overlooking the st marks river. a fun place to have lunch. on weekend nights they offer country and western bands. a typical old florida fish camp type bar and restaurant. inexpensive. located on the river in st marks. 69 riverside drive. from downtown tallahassee take hwy 363 (woodville hwy) south about 35 miles to st marks.
- National/State Park
Student art exhibitions at Florida State
Florida State University has a very strong fine arts program. There are always opportunities in Tallahassee to enjoy the fruits of students' academic pursuit, be it by attending a concert, a play or an art exhibition.
The local newspaper, the Tallahassee Democrat, does an excellent job of keeping the public informed about such happenings on almost a daily basis. (Confidentially, it's one of the few things the Democrat does well) When you're in town, find some of these (usually free) offerings that suit your taste and check 'em out.
The accompanying photo shows my wife (Bonnie) and daughter (Sara), along with VT member Juliana (Vela Candela). We attended an exhibition recently featuring Juliana's photos. Juliana is pursuing her Ph.D. in fine arts at Florida State.
The old Carnegie Library/Springtime Tallahassee
In the tip above, and in my travelogues, I mention Tallahassee's huge annual springtime celebration. TLH bills itself as "the city where spring begins".
One very nice trend in TLH is that government and civic organizations are choosing to restore old historical building for their headquarters and such. Among such undertaking are our Old Union Bank building (the oldest bank in Florida, and now a small museum honoring civil rights), and our Chamber of Commerce, located in a circa 1830s mansion called simply "The Columns".
Just a block east of Monroe Street on Park Avenue is the old TLH Carnegie Library, which was founded as part of the Carnegie reading and library philantropy of the early 20th century. The library itself is long gone, having been closed before I was a teenager. However, the early 20th century building remained and was converted in the headquarters for the Springtime Tallahassee Committee. So, if TLH is really where spring begins, here is where we start it. :)
First Presbyterian Church, our oldest building
The oldest public building still standing in Tallahassee presently houses the First Presbyterian Church. Located at the corner of Adams and Park Avenues, this lovely old sanctuary was begun in 1835 and finished three years later. The historic marker for the building, located one block west of the structure in the center of Tallahassee, denotes that the structure was often used as a place of refuge for women and children during the pre-Civil War "Indian Wars". It's also noted that the church building contains its original slave seating galleries. Remember, this church was built in the pre-war south, at a time that many wealthy landowners and farmers were owners of slaves. These galleries were special places in which the slaves could sit during services.
This is another example of my personal conflict with organized religion. I think all of us would agree that people 150 years ago were probably, on the whole, more "religious" than most of us are now. Definitely more than me. :) And yet, here are these fine God-fearing people building a structure, the house of God...and including a special section for slaves.
Go figure that out.
But, I'm just making an overall observation about my personal "issue" with what I see as so many conflicts in religious practice and actuality. The times of slavery are long gone, consigned to their sad corner of history.
The Lewis Park May Oak, RIP 1986
Lewis Park is one of a string a parks that run throughout the center of Tallahassee. Approximately two blocks east of our main thoroughfare, Monroe Street, Lewis Park has a long history in Tallahassee celebration. For almost 80 years, the annual "May Celebration" including a May Pole dance for young women, was held in Lewis Park, under one of the most stately oak trees in the city. Known of as the "May Oak", this grand old tree was a fine example of the mighty oak at its grandest. Back when I was only 13, our junior high school marching band (Elizabeth Cobb Junior High School, home of the "Cobb Cubs") held a spring concert underneath the branches of this oak in May of 1970. I still have a cassette recording of the event. We weren't very good. I remember that we played the "Colonel Bogey March", which some of you may know as the "whistle song" from the classic 1957 film, BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER KWAI. Anyway, the Lewis Park May Oak played a big part in Tallahassee's spring celebrations for many years. The May Dance ended in 1974, and was shortly replaced by a larger Springtime Tallahassee festival. (See photos on my Tallahassee travelogues). The old oak continued to shade folks as they enjoyed picnics, or maybe a little early evening quite kiss-kiss session with their sweethearts.
Sadly, on August 9, 1986, the May Oak finally just collapsed, its massive bulk no longer able to be properly supported by its trunk. The city maintenance crews sadly sawed up and removed the grand old tree. Today, a marker, denoting the tree's history in Tallahassee remains in Lewis Park, along with the massive stump.
There are other fine old oak trees in Tallahassee and Leon County. But in 1986, we lost one of our most special ones.
If you want more exotic animals......
There is an interesting animal exhibit at Tallahassee's Museum of Natural History. (otherwise known of in Tallahassee by it's old name, the "Junior Museum") But, if you'd like to see more exotic animals, you might want to motor over to Valdosta, Georgia, some 90 miles away. Wild Adventures Amusement Park and Animal Park has a nice collection of exotic wild animals in a well-maintained and reasonable spacious habitat.
Now, I agree with most of you..... animals in a zoo are not what makes me really happy. Nothing compares to seeing them in the African bush. But, zoos do important research and serve their purpose. I have no issue with zoos so long as the animals are healthy and cared for. This is the case at Wild Adventures.
For more information on Wild Adventures, see my separate tip.
Summing it up, I"m not sure that Wild Adventures is worth the drive if you ONLY want to visit a zoo. (If that's the case, I'd suggest driving the 160 miles to Jacksonville, Florida). But if you'd like to enjoy an amusement park, a water park, some good live music AND a zoo, check out Wild Adventures.
- Family Travel
Beauty and peace after the storm.
A lot of people have asked me about hurricanes and such. Sure, they're a pain, and can be deadly. But one thing that is almost magical..... after a storm passes, the weather becomes so incredibly serene and beautiful. It's almost as if we've passed some sort of heavenly test. Hmmmm.
The same is true when we have one of our frog-choker (remind me to put that on my Southern Sayings list...) storms. After a few hours of torrential rain and blasting thunder/lightnening, it's as if peace returns in all her glory. Look around, and take in the beauty and calm after the storm.
Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves
One of the first things I noticed when I moved to Tallahassee in 1968 was that we had an official gypsy fortune teller in town. Sister Fay has been in business locally for well on 35 years, a regular pillar of the community. As for the tramps and thieves part of the title, I really don't know of any trampish behavior on the part of Fay over the years.
As for thievery.... let's just say that if collecting money for dubious services is a crime, then the phone company would be in maximum security right now.
I've never had my palm read by the good madame, but I've heard that she's big into getting you to "come back" because she's seen some "unclear issues" in your reading. Hmmmmm.
But, if you're in the mood for something really silly, have a couple of beers and go see Sister Fay. I'd tell you to say hi for me, but why bother? Since she has special powers, she's probably already hearing me as I type now.....
Attend the pre-football game "Skull" sessions
As mentioned in one of my sporting tips, college football is HUGE in Tallahassee. This community loves its Seminoles!
As many of you may know, my son plays in Florida State University's marching band (The Marching Chiefs). The "World Renowned Marching Chiefs" (as they are known) always put on a bang-up halftime show, entertaining the crowd with a variety of musical styles and marching techniques. (There is a picture of the entire Marching Chiefs band on the field in my FSU football sports tip)
However, IF you come to an FSU game, try to come a few hours early. The Chiefs hold what they call their "pregame skull session" over at the FSU baseball stadium. This is an opportunity for the band to make final preparations for the show of the day. And, it gives the crowd a chance to sit down and enjoy some musical fun and hijinks to boot.
In addition to playing through most of the day's halftime music AND the school fight and spirit songs, the individual instrument sections work up their own little "cheers", which are actually student-arranged songs. For the most part, the subject matter borders on the silly and humorous. (For example, something like "The Jetsons Theme Song" and such) One particularly weird and funny cheer involved the 18 members of the tuba section (aka the "Royal Flush") playing "The Hokey Pokey song".
So, if you ever find yourself attending an FSU football game, arrive at least two hours prior to kickoff. Go to the baseball stadium (just next door) and enjoy the skull sessions. It's completely free and comfortable, thanks to the outstanding seating at the baseball facility. You'll have a blast.
SPECIAL NOTE. IN THE PHOTO ON THE LEFT (AND SLIGHTLY ABOVE), MY SON IS THE 9TH SAXOPHONE FROM THE LEFT IN THE LONG LINE. HE'S WEARING A GARNET COLORED BASEBALL CAP, AND HIS SUNGLASSES ARE ON THE BILL. And although he won't share such private information, he seems to have more than a casual interest in the lovely young lady who is 10th in line. : )
The Florida State University School of Music
The School of Music at Florida State University produces a never-ending supply of excellent concerts and theatrical events. Many are actually free to the public, and even those involving an actual ticket price are inexpensive.
On a personal note, my son Jeff is a junior at Florida State, in the School of Music. He is studying Music Education and will someday be a band leader or orchestra conductor.
The last concert that my wife and I attended at FSU was October 20, and featured the university's VERY hip Jazz Ensemble. Among the songs performed were..
Lazy Bird (John Coltrane)
Groove Merchant (Jerome Richardson)
Main Stem (Duke Ellington)
My Brotha (Carl Allen)
Everyday I Have the Blues (Joe Williams)
Mean What You Say (Thad Jones)
At many of these concerts, very renowned guest artists take part. For the concert I described above, NYC jazz drummer Carl Allen sat in with the ensemble. He had spend the day at FSU conducting several workshops and sessions with the highly-motivated and talented student body of the School of Music.
C'mon out and enjoy the music at Florida State!
Churches in Tallahassee
I visited Tallahassee on a Sunday, when the city is very quiet, compared to the weekdays when the downtown area is teeming with state government workers. On a peaceful Sunday morning you'll hear church bells ringing from the numerous churches in the downtown area. As I was searching for a peanut brittle store that I had heard about, most other people walking around seemed to be going to or coming from church.
Most, but not all. Not everyone in Tallahassee goes to church on Sunday. Others are content with more secular activities, like taking a walk through nearby Lafayette Park, sitting under a tree, and simply enjoying being in such a natural setting.
- Historical Travel
Drive down to Wakulla Springs!
Just 20 miles from Tallahassee is the little-known (to the outside world) wonder of Wakulla Springs.
One of the most pristine preserved natural springs in Florida, Wakulla Springs pumps 15,000 gallons of crystal-clear and cool (68 degrees F year round) water into the resulting Wakulla River.
There is a swimming area and a historic lodge on premises. The lodge has an excellent restaurant, where you can enjoy local specialties from the Gulf of Mexico, or maybe some "Southern Fried Chicken".
And, if you're into birding or nature hikes, Wakulla is your place. Entrance to the park is cheap, only US$3.50 per car. To reach Wakulla from Tallahassee, drive south on State Highway 61. At the intersection of State Rd 61 and State Rd 267 (approx 20 miles from Tallahassee), turn east. The entrance to Wakulla is about 1/2 up State Rd 267.
- National/State Park
- Adventure Travel
Tallahassee City Parks, home to small wonders
It's always relaxing to visit one of Tallahassee's many city parks. All have areas that can be considered heavily grown, and are home to numerous small animals, as well as lovely foliage and plants.
Springtime is an especially great time to stop and smell the roses.....not to mention a good opportunity to enjoy a few lovely butterflies!
- Hiking and Walking
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