Day 24 & 25: The Florida Panhandle

We have visited Florida many times.  We've been to Jacksonville, Orlando/Kissimmee area, Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach, St. Augustine, Pensacola, Cape Coral/Fort Myers, and many roads in between.  But, we had never been to Tallahassee, the capital city of Florida.

So, on our way home to Houston, TX from Columbia, SC we decided to take a couple extra days and add Tallahassee to our route home.  We got up on Day 25 and headed over to the current Capitol and the Old State House that sits next door.  We parked nearby in a parking garage and walked over to the Capitol.  We found out there are museums around the capitol complex, including the Museum of Florida History that has FREE admission.  The Brogan Museum is near the capitol and is part of the ASTC passport program and FREE to reciprocal members.  They are currently in a period of transition at the museum.

The current Capitol is a tall building with a beautiful water feature and dolphin statues outside.  Across the street is their Supreme Court building.  In the capitol you can tour the plaza level, the 5th floor and the 22nd floor.  Their Department of Agriculture office is on the plaza level and they have fish tanks and a stuffed Florida Black Bear on display.  The 5th floor is where you would enter the Senate and House galleries.  The gallery doors were locked, but the walls were glass, so we could see inside.  However, the chambers were dark.  Not wanting to miss out on seeing the chambers, I went to the Clerk of the House office and asked about it.  At first, the man sitting in the office said everything was closed because they weren't in session and seemed unwilling to help us.  I mentioned that we were used to seeing the Senate & House chambers when we visited state capitols and a woman in the office stepped up and said she would call someone to turn on the lights.  With the lights on we were able to see the chambers.  The new capitol was built in the 70's and the chambers look very office-like and do not have much decoration.  The House chamber did have some large paintings along the walls, but we could only catch a glimpse from up above.

Florida's current Capitol

One of my favorite outside features at a state capitol

The Florida Supreme Court

The House Chamber

The Senate Chamber

A large curved mural at the entrance to the Senate Gallery

We made sure to go back and thank the lady who helped us.  She asked us where we were from and offered the children mints and told me about some coloring books and activity books on the 4th floor.  Most of the people we met seemed to enjoy seeing kids in the building.

After getting the booklets from the 4th floor we rode the elevator to the 22nd floor which is an observation floor.  They are currently working on one side of it, but we were able to look out large windows on the other three sides.  It was a great way to see Tallahassee and we could clearly see the FSU campus.

FSU's Doak Campbell Stadium

From the capitol, we exited on the opposite side we entered and walked across the courtyard to the old state capitol.  It now houses the Florida Historic Capitol Museum.  They gave each of the children a scavenger hunt sheet with pictures of items to find on the first and second floors.  They also gave our oldest a harder worksheet that we found took a lot longer to complete.  The little ones really enjoyed the scavenger hunt.  The staff member at the reception desk also told us a little about the history of the building and it was interesting to hear about how it was almost demolished in the 70's when the new capitol was built.  They have exhibits about the capitol and Tallahassee history as well as an exhibit about the Girl Scouts.

The Old Capitol

Our youngest son with his scavenger hunt paper and pencil tucked behind his ear

Upon leaving the capitol we drove over to FSU's campus and went to their football stadium.  Evan and our oldest two children went in the adjoining visitor's center and were able to walk through out to the field.  We have made it a habit to try to see as many Division 1 football stadiums as we can, so we were able to add one more to our growing list.

You can walk out to the field from the visitor's center

Bobby Bowden Statue- The Winningest Coach in Division 1 history
A fun thing to do on TripLearning adventures is to pick something you are interested in and find all the locations.  We have several goals that we are trying to complete:
           State Capitol Buildings (FL was my 20th)
           Gutenberg Bibles (3 of the 11 complete copies in the U.S. as well as 2 partial copies)
           Division 1 Football Stadiums (mainly FBS schools)
           Military Colleges (the only one we have left to see is Air Force)
           Historical Forts
           All 50 States
The National Park Service has a passport book you can purchase and stamp at every location you visit, so that is another fun one to try to complete as an individual or a family.

We needed to head to Pensacola, so we headed out of town after seeing FSU's campus.  We gained an hour on our drive to Pensacola as we crossed over from the Eastern Time Zone back into the Central Time Zone.  That gave us a little more time, so we decided to add Fort Pickens to the day's itinerary since it was close to where we wanted to eat supper.

We had visited Pensacola about 4 1/2 years ago on a day trip from Orange Beach, AL, so we were looking forward to going back with the twins this time.  But, we had never been to the fort.  We drove to the Northern end of Santa Rosa Island and visited Fort Pickens.  I was a little disappointed that the site for Fort Pickens did not have a Fees & Reservations section, so it did not mention anywhere on their site that there was a charge to enter the park.  (I have since found it by going to the Home page and looking on the right hand side.  They don't have it listed in the normal place as other parks I have researched.)  The cost was $8 which isn't a bad price especially if you are staying in the area for awhile because the pass lasts for 7 days.  There are lots of trails, beach access, the fort and another museum on the property.  We only had a couple hours, so we headed straight to the fort.  The visitor's center gave the kids Junior Ranger booklets and crayons for the little ones for FREE.

The fort was very interesting and fun to walk through.  It is an old fort that has stood so long on a sandy beach because of intelligent engineering.  There is obviously a lot of water seeping through in places inside the fort and it has caused stalactites and other cave-like formations on some of the ceilings and walls.  The whole family enjoyed walking through the fort.

Our youngest daughter was saluting.  The kids really enjoy exploring forts.

Stalactites forming on the ceiling

Cave-like formations on the walls

Exploring Fort Pickens

They used reverse arches throughout the fort to support the walls on the sandy ground

Our plan for supper was to return to Peg Leg Pete's, a restaurant on the island, but by the time we got back to it from the fort, it was packed and there was a 2-hour wait.  Since, we weren't willing to wait for 2 hours, I used my phone to search for other restaurants back on the mainland as we drove back towards our hotel.  That's how we found the Oar House Restaurant.  It is a Tiki Bar sitting on Bayou Chico.  It was a family-friendly place with sand volleyball and corn hole as well as several seating areas to choose from.  We chose to sit under the large Tiki roof and with the fans, it was quite comfortable.  Their bathrooms were in another small building nearby and were nicer than many indoor restaurants.

We were looking forward to some seafood, so my husband got the crab cake & shrimp special while the older kids and I got bowls of their gumbo.  The twins ate their homemade fish sticks.  Everything was delicious.  I had not had gumbo in years and it was addictive.  They also said the kids were welcome to play in the sand volleyball and corn hole area.  We had a wonderful dinner with immediate seating and they also had a pirate statue like Peg Leg's, as well as The Legend of Jezebel.  It is tucked back by a marina away from the busy tourist area, but I recommend tourists get off the beaten path and try it out.


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