163 miles W of Jacksonville; 191 miles E of Pensacola; 250 miles NW of Orlando
As a University of Miami alumna, I was practically taught to hate Tallahassee, just because it's the home of the Miami Hurricanes' biggest rivals -- Florida State University's Seminoles (or 'Noles, as locals refer to them). Because I couldn't care less about football, I just chalked up Tallahassee as the state capital and, later in life, as command central for that pesky 2000 election bug known as the chad. But it's not just about football and hanging chads. There's a ton of charm and other history, as well.
Tallahassee was selected as Florida's capital in 1823 because it was halfway between St. Augustine and Pensacola, then the state's major cities. That location puts it almost in Georgia -- and, in fact, Tallahassee has more in common with Macon than with Miami. There's as much Old South ambience as anywhere else in Florida. You'll find lovingly restored, 19th-century homes and buildings, including the 1845 Old Capitol. They all sit among so many towering pines and sprawling live oaks that you'll think you're in a forest. The trees form virtual tunnels along Tallahassee's five official Canopy Roads, which are lined with historic plantations, ancient Native American settlement sites and mounds, gardens, quiet parks with picnic areas, and beautiful lakes and streams. The nearby Apalachicola National Forest is a virtual gold mine of outdoor pursuits.
While tradition and history are important here, you'll also encounter the modern era, beginning with the New Capitol Building towering 22 stories over downtown. Usually sleepy Tallahassee takes on a very lively persona when the legislature is in session and when the football teams of Florida State University and Florida A&M University take to the gridiron.
If you're inclined to give your credit cards a workout, the nearby town of Havana is Florida's antiques capital.