Tallahassee by Land and Sea

Kayaking wakisa river
Kayaking the Wacissa River, in Tallahassee, Florida. Renee Jones photo

Tallahassee Florida on Mountain Bikes and Ziplines

By Anne Braly

Tallahassee may be best known as home to the Seminoles of Florida State University or the capital of the Sunshine State, but what you may not know is it’s one of the top places in the state for adventure-seekers.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we’re all anxious to begin traveling but hesitant to spend much time indoors.

A trip to Tallahassee offers the ideal solution: fun in the outdoors where social distancing is no problem; hotels that adhere to CDC guidelines, such as the new Hotel Indigo (ihg.com) in the heart of FSU country; and dining at restaurants with plenty of alfresco options — even in the winter, this is Florida, after all.

Go For A Ride

Mountain biking in Florida? Don’t laugh. You don’t need massive mountains to go mountain biking. With more than 700 miles of trails, Tallahassee is better known among the outdoor community as ‘Trailahassee.’ And one of the top ones for biking is the Magnolia Trail, a 2.5-mile loop that skirts Apalachicola National Forest at Tom Brown Park.

Tallahassee has trails that test your skills — the kind where boulders get in the way, trees dart out from nowhere and narrowing trails that make passage difficult, at best. The Magnolia Trail, for example, has twists and turns with moderate inclines that present a challenging yet doable ride for those with basic bicycle skills. Florida’s a big state, but not everything’s wide open. And North Florida is certainly not flat.

St. Marks Historic Trail is a good option for those who want a more leisurely ride. It runs 21 miles along an old railroad line from just south of Florida State University all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. The trail is paved and mostly flat, making it more easily navigated by less-skilled bikers.

Grouper sandie at Madison social
A grouper sandwich at Madison Social

Bring your own bike or arrange for a rental from The Great Bicycle Shop (www.gbs.bike).

Zipping Through the Tallahassee Canopy

Tallahassee Museum (www.tallahasseemuseum.org) is a celebration of endurance, nature and history.

* Test your endurance on the ropes course and zip line that take you through the canopy above the museum’s wetlands.

Tallahassee Tree to Tree features obstacles such as bridges; swinging logs; tight ropes high in the air — think of those men in tights at the circus. Get the picture?

tree to tree
Ziplining with Tree to Tree.

The dozens of challenges are met with zip lines in between. The course takes about an hour to complete.

Wear sturdy shoes and get ready for an experience that, when you slide down that final zip line, leaves you with a sense of relief and accomplishment. And you may be asking yourself, “Wow, did I really do that?”

The museum is a nature center with 52 acres of native flora and fauna that can be seen along nature trails, in the butterfly garden and from a raised boardwalk that takes you around large natural enclosures where deer, turkey, bobcats and other animals native to the area roam.

Mountain Biking in Tallahassee, Florida. Anietra Hamper photo.
Mountain Biking in Tallahassee, Florida. VisitTallahassee photo.

History is brought to life with 14 historic buildings that tell the story of life as it once was around North Florida, including the Bellevue Plantation House, a Tallahassee cotton plantation that was once home to George Washington’s great-grandniece.

Paddling the  Tallahassee Waterways

While Tallahassee isn’t on the coast, it offers a wealth of watery possibilities, from paddleboarding to kayaking the rivers that run through it.

The Wacissa River has an easy current that requires some paddling, but no difficult moves. It’s the perfect experience for beginner paddlers but is also good for those with more experience.

The sights and sounds of nature are all around you. Alligators, jumping fish, maybe a snake slithering onto a bank, herons, bald eagles.

mountain lion
Florida Panther

The Wacissa is a scenic wonder — wide and open. But venture off the main channel where the river branches off. I was fully expecting to see Tarzan swinging through the ancient trees chasing the creature from the black lagoon.

It’s an eerie feeling, but you’ll want to continue paddling because in several places, there are some great swimming holes. Big Blue Spring is one and has a rope swing for those of you brave enough to jump into the seemingly bottomless hole.

Harry Smith Outdoors (hsmithoutdoors.com) is one of several outfitters who will arrange a kayaking experience for you. They’ll bring your kayak to the river and take it back when you’re done.

Tallahassee Eats

Il Lusso steak
Il Lusso steak in Tallahassee.

After a day in the outdoors, hunger hits, and Tallahassee has the answer. This is a college town, after all, so visit the area around FSU if you’re looking for good bars and casual dining choices.

Madison Social www.madisonsocial.com is a spot with a good bar scene and the kind of food you’d expect — burgers, sandwiches, salads.

And if you’re a fan of the Seminoles, the view isn’t bad, either. Right out the door is Doak Campbell Stadium.

Another suggestion is Table 23 (www.table23tally), a favorite place for locals, so you know it’s doing the right thing. The fare is Southern with a twist — pecan-crusted okra, pimento cheese with a side of guacamole, or pork chops brined in sweet tea. Get the picture?

Then, there’s Il Lusso (www.illussotlh.com). Make reservations for this place, then get ready for an unforgettable evening. From the impeccable service to the presentation to the wine list, I can’t say enough about an evening spent here. Plates are made for sharing, so don’t be shy.

Il Lusso is a steakhouse; an Italian eatery; an experience in dining. It’s the kind of place you’ll want to take your time and savor every bite, every sip.

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