Travel Guide to Exploring Native American Heritage in Tallahassee

As a Florida resident, I must say I have spent much less time in our state’s capital than I’m proud to admit. So, when I went on assignment to explore Native American heritage in Tallahassee, I didn’t know what I would find. What I didn’t expect was to be immediately charmed and intrigued.

Visit Tallahassee and you’ll quickly see why. With its mild hills and adjacent Apalachicola National Forestthere’s a beauty that seems to hold this city into place. And in its downtown historic district, even more charm awaits on streets lined with 19th-Century homes and trendy restaurants within walking distance. But there’s a much deeper history here than what meets the eye.

In this article I will discuss the Apalachicola National Forest, Mission San Luis, the Museum of Florida History and the Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State ParkI will also share my recommendations on where to stay and eat.

Native American Heritage, Tallahassee, Travel Guide, Apalachee

First Things to Know About Visiting Tallahassee

  • The temperature is cooler in the winter months than popular coastal destinations.
  • The busy season is November through May, but keep in mind it is the state capital and legislative sessions can bring crowds so plan ahead.
  • Bring comfortable hiking shoes and bug spray if you want to explore the forest.
  • Allow yourself three days for this trip.
I packed more fun with the Darth Vader hard case carry on from American Tourister!

I packed more fun with the Darth Vader hard case carry on from American Tourister!

Where to Stay and Dine in Tallahassee

The Park Avenue Inn Tallahassee, Where to stay in Tallahassee

The outside of the Park Avenue Inn.

I thoroughly enjoyed staying at a historic bed & breakfast in town called the Park Avenue Inn. The property was perfectly detailed with historic charm. Our room was big and very comfortable. The innkeeper is very nice and recommended an awesome restaurant just two blocks walking distance away called The Southern Public House. The menu selection was very contemporary with flaires from all over the globe. The food was delicious, the staff very friendly and the restaurant welcomes pets. I highly recommend this venue. If you’re up for something a bit quicker than a sit-down, they are opening a noodle bar next door, or there is a sushi restaurant just down the street.

The Park Avenue Inn Tallahassee, Where to stay in Tallahassee

Our suite at the Park Avenue Inn.

Understanding the Native Americans of Tallahassee – The Apalachee

Native American Heritage, Tallahassee, Travel Guide, Apalachee, Mission San Luis

An Apalachee carved shell at the Mission San Luis Museum.

You may not know this but the Apalachee are different than the Apalache and are actually once were the Alachua.

Apalachee is the name that the Spaniards gave to the Muskogeans of the Florida Panhandle. According to Charles Rochefort, these people called themselves the Alachua. They traded regularly with the real Apalache (from the north), but had a different language, government and religion. –PeopleonFire.com

 

Northern Florida was home to one of the most powerful and advanced indigenous chiefdoms in the North American southeast. Before European contact they were vast, up to 60,000 according to the University of South Florida. They lived in widespread villages and like other Florida tribes, their leaders assigned work. Everyone had a role. They were fierce warriors, and protecting their tribe was their most important objective.

Native American Heritage, Tallahassee, Travel Guide, Apalachee, Mission San Luis

Learn all about how they ate, hunted and farmed.

Native American Heritage, Tallahassee, Travel Guide, Apalachee, Mission San Luis

A medicine chest at Mission San Luis.

The Apalachee tribe was reduced greatly in size due to disease and encroachment after the Spanish settled in what is now Tallahassee. Here are some key points about the Apalachee:

  • They grew corn, beans and squash.
  • Like the Timucua, men prepared the fields and women tended to crops.
  • Men also hunted while women gathered.
  • Men wore deerskin loincloths while women wore Spanish moss skirts. At battle men painted their bodies with red ochre and wore feathers in their hair.
  • They used bows and arrows for hunting and fighting and made dugout canoes for traveling on water.
  • Like many other Native Americans in Florida, they played a sacred ball game. They played during the spring and summer in dedication to the gods of rain and thunder to ensure rain for their crops.
  • They had massive ceremonial mounds. Some had structures on top. It is believed the largest mound with a structure was the chief’s house.
  • They were great storytellers, farmers, hunters and fishers.
  • Dance and prayer were very important to them.

The state-issued publication on Florida’s Native American Heritage Trail is a great guide if you’re looking for a deeper understanding of the Apalachee.

Native American Heritage, Tallahassee, Travel Guide, Apalachee, Mission San Luis

A massive hut shows you how the natives gathered. There’s a giant fire pit inside.

Muskogean Myths and Legends

There is no shortage of legends  coming from the Muskogeans, many of them passed along from the Creeks. Storytelling was very important to them and continued as they transitioned to the Apalachee tribe. For the sake of keeping this post short, I’ll share some interesting characters that come from these myths.

Mythological Figures

  • Lodge Boy and Bad Boy – Mythical twins born while a monster killed their mother. They are portrayed as advantageous slayers of monsters who wreak havoc in the wake of their slayings.
  • Chufi – A trickster rabbit.
  • Kolowa – A giant, hairy man-eating ogre.
  • Tie-Snakes – Water spirits with immense strength. They were thought to live beneath the surface and were feared by man for drowning people.
  • Insti Papa (Man-Eater) – A massive cannibalistic monster.

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Things to do in Tallahassee to Explore Native American Heritage

Native American Heritage, Tallahassee, Travel Guide, Apalachee, Leon Sinks Trail

The Apalachicola National Forest.

The Apalachicola National Forest is a pristine echo of life during the time of the Apalachee, and a step into the city and a little further north yields even more of their heritage.

Apalachicola National Forest – Hike

Native American Heritage, Tallahassee, Travel Guide, Apalachee, Leon Sinks Trail

The little climbed to the top of this sinkhole at the Leon Sinks Trail.

Native American Heritage, Tallahassee, Travel Guide, Apalachee, Leon Sinks Trail

One of the trails at Leon Sinks.

At Florida’s largest National Forest you can bet there’s plenty to do. From kayaking, canoeing and hiking to scenic drives and camping, there’s plenty of eco adventure to be had in over half a million acres of forest. We chose Leon Sinks Geological Area to explore its sinkholes, a geological phenomenon many don’t even know exists in Florida.

Mission San Luis – Educational Heritage Park

Native American Heritage, Tallahassee, Travel Guide, Apalachee, Mission San Luis

Mission San Luis is a beautiful heritage park dating back to the 17th-Century. It was the western capital of Spanish Florida from 1656 to 1704. This reconstructed mission tells the story, through costumed guides, colonial buildings, exhibits and archaeology, of the Spanish converting the Apalachee to Christians.

Native American Heritage, Tallahassee, Travel Guide, Apalachee, Mission San Luis

Inside the museum at Mission San Luis the cases are filled with artifacts.

Here you can explore a museum with Native American and European artifacts found at this site as well as an Apalachee council house, a Franciscan church, a military complex and multiple displays of heritage on its 60 acres.

Native American Heritage, Tallahassee, Travel Guide, Apalachee, Mission San Luis

Heading to the Franciscan Church.

Native American Heritage, Tallahassee, Travel Guide, Apalachee, Mission San Luis

In Medieval music, the Guidonian hand was a mnemonic device used to assist singers in learning to sight-sing.

Native American Heritage, Tallahassee, Travel Guide, Apalachee, Mission San Luis

A replica of the living quarters at Mission San Luis.

Native American Heritage, Tallahassee, Travel Guide, Apalachee, Mission San Luis

The little pretends to cook.

Native American Heritage, Tallahassee, Travel Guide, Apalachee, Mission San Luis

Such an enjoyable experience for any age.

The park is located in town and very close to the city center. Please note, do not mistaken Mission San Luis for San Luis Mission.

The Museum of Florida History- Educate

Native American Heritage, Tallahassee, Travel Guide, Apalachee, Leon Sinks Trail

A diorama at the Museum of Florida History. By Tim Ross via Public Domain

The Museum of Florida History is known for its preservation and interpretation of heritage. The permanent exhibit, “Forever Changed La Florida 1513-1821.” makes learning about Florida history and heritage a great experience for any age. Through the use of text panels, murals, scenes, artifacts and hands-on activities, visitors will leave with a deep understanding of the ages of Native Americans northwest Florida.

The museum is located downtown, just blocks from the Park Avenue Inn.

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Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park – Hike and Educate

Native American Heritage, Tallahassee, Travel Guide, Apalachee, Leon Sinks Trail

Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park. By Ebyaybe Wikimedia Commons

One of Florida’s most important archaeological sites, the Lake Jackson Mounds is home to four temple mounds. Two of these mounds are open to the public. There are two trails for visitors to explore the site, an interpretive trail and a nature trail. The park is a great place to explore local wildlife as well.

The mounds are located just north of the city.

Explore more of Tallahassee’s History and Heritage here:

When I began my journey to discover Native American Heritage in Florida I had no idea there was so much to explore in an around Tallahassee. Knowing now what a lovely city it is, I’m looking forward to another visit. And, I look forward to uncovering more about Florida’s Native American Heritage in this great Sunshine State.

For more information on trip planning to Florida, please visit the Florida Tourism site.

This article was made possible by:

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What do you think about exploring Native American heritage in Florida?

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of VISIT FLORIDA. The opinions and text are all mine.

This guide is presented by American Tourister. Our travel philosophy is to pack more fun into every moment and every bag, like our Star Wars, Disney and Marvel luggage collections. Keep up with us by keeping an eye on #PackMoreFun!

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About Christa Thompson

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Christa Thompson is the Founder and Senior Editor of The Fairytale Traveler. Christa has been traveling the world since 2003 when she attended a summer abroad study at the University of Cambridge in England. Since then, her wanderlust has been fierce. Her three passions in life are her son, traveling, and being creative. The Fairytale Traveler brand gives Christa the opportunity to do all of these things and to live intentionally every day. "It's never too late to believe in what you love and to pursue your dreams." -Christa Thompson

14 Comments on this post

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed my visits to Mission San Luis and the Museum of Florida History, as well as a walkabout in Tallahassee’s Historic District, in February of last year. The Alachua and their forebears, the Muskogeans, had an elaborate and well-functioning social structure, very similar to the cultures elsewhere in the South and to those of the lower Midwest.

    righteousbruin9 / Reply
  2. I love learning about Native American culture. We have so much Native American history in our area.

    Stacie @ Divine Lifestyle / Reply
  3. This is wonderful! A great way to teach our children history through travel! Thank you so much for sharing!

    kelli@3boysandadog.com / Reply
  4. This is the kind of place I love exploring. What a beauty!

    Chubskulit Rose / Reply
  5. I have always wanted to stay at a bed n breakfast.

    I have travelled through Tennessee but didn’t get a chance to explore. I would love to visit one day, you have shared a few things that interest me.

    Up Run for Life / Reply
  6. Our family loves exploring towns or cities that are full of history. We would love to visit that place someday.

    Lynndee / Reply
  7. My goodness, Tallahassee looks like a wonderful place to visit. The forest, that awesome museum & every picture you have shared here tells the history of this wonderful place. Would love to visit with my husband.

    Lisa Rios / Reply
  8. This sounds like a worthy trip. I love the pictures, you really captured the moment. I’m coming to Florida later this year, I need to put this on my radar.

    Mimi Green / Reply
  9. […] its mild hills and adjacent Apalachicola National Forest, there’s a beauty that seems to hold Tallahassee into place. In the downtown district, even more […]

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