North Central Florida features lots of learning opportunities in the form of museums, parks and trails. Spend a day among them to better understand the everyday present and past life and culture of the area.
Depot Park, a 32-acre family playground and cultural center on the site of Gainesville’s historic railroad station, is fully accessible to adults and children with physical challenges. On hot days, get wet in the splash pad. At the water’s edge are art galleries, food truck rallies and frequent festivals. Come here any day to find outdoor grills, picnic pavilions and nature trails.
An exceptional network of hiking, biking and equestrian trails is well maintained and mapped, thanks to the Florida Trail Association. Gainesville’s Loblolly Woods offers a peaceful breather from the bustle of the city. The two-mile-long Hogtown Creek Greenway loop trail rewards all with views of woods, waters and wildlife seemingly untouched by urban sprawl.
Despite its modern look, Tallahassee is one of the South’s oldest communities. The Spanish settlement at St. Augustine traded with the Apalachee tribe here 500 years ago. When the British won Florida from the Spanish, the tribe fled west and burned their village. Now it has been reconstructed, a living replica of Spanish and Indian life. The Mission San Luis de Apalachee in Tallahassee is a busy village peopled by Spanish “soldiers” at the fort, “friars” at the church and native townspeople who raise crops, weave, make horseshoes, feed chickens and meet at the council house. A faithful restoration, based on original Spanish records and placed on actual sites, the Mission re-creates the Indian village when the tribe and their Spanish friends fled approaching English armies in 1704.
In Tallahassee, Goodwood Museum & Gardens began as a 2,400-acre corn and cotton plantation in the 1830s. The stately home was owner-occupied into the 1920s and its furnishings reflect its many layers of history. The gardens have been returned to the original, 19th-century plantings of heirloom roses, bulbs and sago palms. Something is in bloom all year in a setting of towering live oaks.
Although the Tallahassee Automobile and Collectibles Museum has more than 150 vehicles, it’s about much more than cars. The 100,000-square-foot building holds one of the nation’s largest displays of Steinway pianos, plus extensive collections of jukeboxes, knives, vintage sports items, dolls, Native American relics, old toys, railroad memorabilia and rare oddities. Plan to spend the day here.
The Challenger Learning Center in downtown Tallahassee is a university-led outreach for students from kindergarten age to 12. Adults are welcome. See eye-popping IMAX documentaries and attend planetarium shows.