In North Florida, there is a city just waiting to welcome you and your family. If you want a quick getaway with your kids that will give you all the opportunities to unplug from the busyness of real life and reconnect with each other, Tallahassee is the place for you. Florida’s capital city is the perfect destination for a long weekend. In just three days you can slow down and make the kind of unique memories that last a lifetime, and all without breaking the bank. We want to share with you our favorite family friendly fun in Tallahassee.
Tallahassee is well known for being the capital of the State of Florida. This city is also home to the Seminoles of The Florida State University and The Rattlers of Florida A&M. However, this city is so much more than a governmental or university town. Tallahassee is full of trendy little neighborhood restaurants, natural beauty, history, and more. You can bring your family here to unwind and you won’t be fighting large crowds. A trip to Tallahassee doesn’t require you to take out a second mortgage either. You get more bang for your buck when you bring your family here, and your experience will be rich and enjoyable from start to finish.
Table of Contents
Ways to Unplug
Kayaking with Harry Smith Outdoors
If you struggle with getting your kids to put their devices away, and if you’re on your iPhone a little too much, you need a family activity that will force you all to pack up the screens. Launch into another world and live on river time for awhile by taking a kayaking trip with Harry Smith Outdoors. Even preschoolers can enjoy a trip down a Florida river by riding tandem with a parent, and Harry has everything you all need for your adventure. There are several experiences to choose from when taking an outdoor adventure with Harry. If you have young children, we recommend the two hour trip down the Wakulla River. It’s exciting enough to hold a preschooler’s attention, but not so long that they don’t enjoy every moment.
Older kids who can paddle on their own will feel so wild and free in their kayak on this picturesque river. The water is calm, and the scene is serene. No one will even think about checking their smartphone. You will all be too busy checking for birds, turtles, and even manatees all around you. Harry is very knowledgable about the native plant and wildlife. This guy lives and breathes the Florida outdoors, and his passion for the Tallahassee area is contagious. The two hours will fly by, leaving you wishing for more, and everyone in your family will now feel like Harry is their new best friend. Your kids will be begging to return to take another kayaking trip with Harry, and you won’t mind giving into that request at all. If you have a large group, Harry Smith Outdoors can accommodate you. No kayaking experience is needed. Just put on some sunscreen, put away your phones, and let the river take control.
We know what you’re thinking. Your crazy kids don’t want to walk through some boring museum. You’re right, they don’t. But this is no boring museum. The Museum of Florida History is a world class museum that was thoughtfully designed to educate and entertain people of every age. No matter when you visit Tallahassee, the museum is a great stop on your trip. It is open every day of the year except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Here’s the best part, admission and parking are FREE. There is so much more to the sunshine state than theme parks. This state has a rich history dating back to the dinosaurs, and you will get a taste of it all during your visit to the Museum of Florida History.
The exhibits are laid out so that you can experience it all chronologically. Right from the start your kids will be enthralled, because the first thing you walk into is a giant prehistoric armadillo the size of a rhino. Around the corner you then meet up with a mastodon skeleton before moving into human history. Every area of the museum has interactive features designed for kids. Tie sailor knots as you learn about Spanish maritime history. Shoot a virtual cannon while learning about Florida military history.
See artifacts from Florida’s participation in all the American wars. There is a large Civil War exhibit. There is also an exhibit with treasure from a shipwreck. Florida is, of course, famous for orange groves, and your family will learn about the history of this industry. You can also learn about Florida’s biggest industry, tourism, including the Tin Can Tourist camps that are worlds away from Florida’s luxurious resorts today. The Museum of Florida History is well organized and can be visited in a couple hours. With all the interactive exhibits, your kids will excitedly head from one section of the museum to the next and you will all leave this place feeling impressed by Florida and all that has happened in the sunshine state.
Mission San Luis
Visiting the Mission San Luis is like taking a time machine back to Tallahassee in 1703. This historical experience is smack dab in the middle of downtown, but you are instantly transported to another time when you walk onto the property. This living history museum will teach your family about a community where Apalachee Indians and missionaries from Spain lived together. This is a living history museum because the property is a painstakingly accurate re-creation of what this place looked like, down to the handmade nails used on the buildings.
As you tour the property, your children will interact with the “locals.” Encourage them to ask questions, touch, and take it all in. This National Historic Landmark is on 63 acres, and there is a lot to take in, so reserve a few hours for your visit. Inside the “modern” building, you will find priceless artifacts like a famous crystal cross that was recovered during the excavation of the site of the original church. Even the museum-like artifacts are displayed in a kid friendly way. Get the scavenger hunt sheet for your child, and he can check off everything he finds on the list. There is a sheet for inside and outside.
Everyone here will answer the questions and show your children what life was like in the 1700s in Tallahassee. And they don’t just lecture your kids. That would be boring. They play the part and play it convincingly. You forget you are talking to someone who is an expert on mission living, and you feel as if you are talking to an actual Apalachee Indian or Spanish newcomer from that day and time. Learn about how the different buildings were made. There is a mix of Spanish and Apalachee building styles represented. The Apalachee council house is massive and made of dried palm fronds. Make sure to spend some time chatting with the blacksmith. If he’s making nails, your kid might be able to take one home! The monk at the Franciscan church is very friendly and will jokingly offer you all some turtle soup. Visit the gardens. Walk through the fort to learn how they would have defended the mission. The guard of the armory, Winston, will not let you through to where they store their weapons and ammunition. He takes his post seriously! Learning firsthand about every little detail of life in 1703 is fascinating and gives you an appreciation for modern life as well. You will leave your time at the Mission San Luis yearning for a quieter, simpler existence, but at the same time you will appreciate the air conditioning and comfy bed in your hotel when you remember that the Spanish missionaries slept on mattresses stuffed with spanish moss!
River Cruise at Wakulla Springs State Park
For a lazy afternoon that is still a ton of fun, head on over to the Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park. This state park was created by a private citizen, Mr. Ball, who protected the land and created this place for future generations to enjoy. Wakulla Springs is one of the largest and deepest freshwater springs in the world, and you can experience it only a short drive from downtown Tallahassee. There are a variety of activities at this state park, and they vary by season, making this a place you must visit more than once. In the summer, your kids can splash, swim, and even jump off the swimming platform near the shore. In the fall and winter, explore the nature trails to see rare plants and old growth trees.
The centerpiece of the park is the Wakulla Springs Lodge. This handsome building was built in 1937, and you will love the architecture. Plan to hit the lodge when you are hungry. Inside your family can sit down for a nice meal, right there in the park. The dining room is spacious, and the menu has lots of delicious options, including family friendly appetizers like fried green beans! The seafood is excellent as well. A meal here is great right before you take a cruise on one of their river boats. If you don’t need a meal and just want a snack, there is a snack bar and ice cream shop in the lodge.
The guided riverboat tours at Wakulla Springs Park are relaxing and exciting at the same time. Even in the Florida heat, you are covered while on the boat so you can sightsee out of the sun. The cruise winds around the springs where you will spot a large variety of birds, fish, turtle, deer, and even alligators! You will see a lot of alligators, and your kids will love it. The boat captains take their time. They know everyone wants to get a good look at everything and everyone that you run across. You may even spot a manatee nearby.
The guides know anything and everything about all the natural wonders of Wakulla Springs. Your family will learn fascinating details about the plant life and the wildlife, and you will also hear about how some famous movie scenes were filmed in Wakulla Springs, including several early Tarzan films. Bring your camera, sit back, and enjoy. This river cruise is a great way to explore the waters of North Florida without getting wet.
EXPLORE AND CONNECT
The Tallahassee Museum has served as an iconic Tallahassee landmark for more than 50 years, sitting on 52 acres of breathtaking Florida foliage. Ranked as one of Florida’s top museums, the museum’s living exhibits of native Florida wildlife, nature trails, and native gardens are renowned by visitors of all ages. The museum encourages guests to discover and learn about North Florida’s natural environment, rich history, and diverse cultural communities. From amazing native animals and rare historic buildings to beautiful natural scenery and exciting public programs, special events, and educational programs, there’s something here for everyone.
This museum is especially exciting thanks to Tree to Tree Adventures on site there. There are zip lines, aerial games, and obstacles. You can soar over Tallahassee. Choose from three courses for different levels of challenge. We love that there is a course for little kids too. The Tremendous Adventures Course is for children 39” to 60” tall and takes approximately 45 minutes to complete. This course has a small zip line, and you go over bridges and tightropes. Your young children will feel so brave taking on the course, and you will all see nature from a different angle here.
Dining for All
What kid doesn’t love a good hot dog? Hot dogs are the quintessential kid food. We associate hot dogs with the USA, and serve them up at every cookout and summer get together. However, you have never had a hot dog like you can order at Dog Et Al. This place takes the hot dog to a whole new level. One of their customers did some “hot dog math” with their extensive menu and came to the conclusion that Dog Et Al can serve a hot dog 10,230 different ways! That means you could order a different combination there and not order the same thing for 28 years and 3 days.
The menu includes a variety of sizes from the Little Dog to the Big Foot Dog. Corn dogs are fried when you order them and also come in more than one size. For a fancier option, Dog Et Al serves polish dogs, bratwurst, veggie dogs, and more. Order a combo and also enjoy fries or housemade chips with their delicious hand held apple pies. You can’t bring your kids to Tallahassee without eating here. Everyone is friendly, and you feel right at home chowing down on whichever of the 10,230 hot dogs you choose.
Family dining can and should be enjoyed by everyone in the family. Bella Bella is a lovely little Italian place in Tallahassee that will be loved by you and your kiddos. The menu is full of authentic Italian choices. You cannot go wrong with an order of Bubble Bread to start. Your kids will gobble it up while you sip on a handcrafted cocktail before your entrees arrive. Be sure to ask about the nightly specials.
The pasta is lovely here, but they also do seafood very well. Ask for the kid’s spaghetti if you have a young one who wants something simple. Bella Bella is open for lunch and dinner. We love that you can eat a very nice meal here, but it is still a pretty laid back, casual environment. You feel like a local dining in this neighborhood restaurant and will be so glad you skipped going to a boring chain restaurant. Your family will feel so comfortable at Bella Bella and everyone will leave full and happy!
Lofty Pursuits is a unique, eclectic place tucked into a Tallahassee shopping plaza, well known to locals. You can bring your kids here to experience sweet treats the old fashioned way. Lofty Pursuits serves up classic and new dessert creations. Come here for the old fashioned ice cream and soda fountain, as well as handmade Victorian candy. They also sell toys and trinkets. We said the place is eclectic, and we aren’t kidding. If you time your visit right, you can witness hard candy being made in front of you using techniques and tools from the late 1800s. The candy making exhibition is a lesson in candy history and chemistry all at once. People from all over submit custom orders for special events like weddings and birthdays.
When we visited Lofty Pursuits, some tutti frutti flavored candy was being created for an upcoming wedding and featured the first initials of the bride and the groom. Not many people make candy like this anymore. If you aren’t able to see this process in person, check out Lofty Pursuit’s YouTube channel for candy exhibitions anytime.
The ice cream selections are endless. They have 200 flavors that they rotate through. You can come here over and over and try something new every time. There are tons of flavors to choose from, as well as creative and delicious sundaes. At the soda fountain they serve up shakes, malts, ades, freezes, fizzes, floats, sodas, yips, egg creams, and other options. If you can’t decide what to try, order one of Lofty Pursuits’ ice cream flights, and if you are feeling extra adventurous and hungry, you can literally order the kitchen sink, which is actually a kitchen sink filled with enough ice cream to feed an army. If you want to check out Lofty Pursuits and don’t have a sweet tooth, they now serve breakfast.
This place is ridiculously delicious. Midtown Caboose serves up the best burgers, salads, and more in a very cool atmosphere with seating indoors and out. In fact, the patio is huge. There is a full bar, and you must order a craft beer or one of their cocktail creations. This midtown restaurant is conveniently located. You will regret not stopping here.
The kid’s menu features all the classics like mac and cheese, hot dogs, and PB&J. For those not ordering from that menu, the choices are anything but ordinary. Seriously, there is a spicy burger called “The Mother of Dragons”, and the “Oh Canada” is a burger covered in a fried egg, Canadian bacon, and a hash brown. We freaked out over how amazing “The Raegan” burger was, and if you are eating a little lighter, the Mimi Salad is delightful. Come here for happy hour and stay for dinner. They are also open for lunch.
Using a mix of great food, good music, and a casual atmosphere, Momo’s Pizza is an essential stop for students, locals, and visitors alike. Momo’s continues to fill bellies of college students and locals with “slices as big as your head” of made-from-strath, New York style, hand-tossed pizza and the best prices in town.
Besides the amazing pizza, you can choose from homemade calzones, salads, breadsticks, and more. Momo’s features two dining areas, as well as the best patio in town, to enjoy a slice and a pint in the perfect Florida weather. In 2012, Momo’s on Market Street became a brewpub, and continues to brew the best craft beer in the area. Your kids will flip for the giant slices of pizzas. You will love the beer, and everyone will leave here happy.
Your Place to Unwind
When you take a quick trip and pack as much into your itinerary as possible, you need a comfortable place to stay that is convenient to all your activities and restaurants. If you are using our Tallahassee recommendations to plan a three day family trip, please do yourself a favor and stay at the Four Points by Sheraton Downtown Tallahassee. This hotel’s location is ideal for every single activity and restaurant that we have recommended here.
It isn’t just the location that makes it great though. From check in until check out, everyone on staff you encounter is friendly and helpful. The rooms are bright, clean, and modern. Your kids will love snuggling up in the comfy beds as much as they love jumping on them. And let’s face it, jumping on hotel beds is one of the great joys of traveling as a child. Mom and Dad can enjoy happy hour at the bar downstairs. A full breakfast buffet is available for purchase everyday. The pool is fantastic. Let the kids swim while you relax in the hot tub with a drink from the poolside bar! This hotel is family friendly and fabulous.
EXPLORE AND CONNECT
Quit thinking about if you can afford to take a family trip or wondering where you should go. Get to Tallahassee and get there now. This city will let you unplug and unwind. Take a break from your kitchen and skip the chain restaurants with all the amazing local places in this southern foodie town. Tallahassee is all about authentic experiences that will expand your minds and bring you closer together. Visiting here will become a family tradition, because as soon as you leave, you will be ready to return.
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