Ready to take the family on an adventure but don’t want to spend a fortune? Look no farther than Tallahassee, where you and the kiddos can dive into history, nature, food and fun over a weekend (or longer!), all without breaking the bank.
When most people think of Downtown Tallahassee, they think of the state capitol or government offices. However, the downtown area has a lot to offer families looking for entertainment and eats on a budget.
One of the most popular downtown attractions is the Museum of Florida History. Using lots of kid-friendly interactive exhibits, fossils, statues and displays, the museum takes you on a walk through the state’s past. Learn about prehistoric plants and animals, discover how native peoples lived, see real treasure from Spanish galleons, find out how a citrus washing machine works and more. Not only is it fun, it’s also free, which makes it a must-do on everyone’s list. Plus, the museum’s restaurant, Egg Express, offers convenient, light breakfast and lunch options for reasonable prices.
Just two blocks away is the Florida Historic Capitol Museum, which also has free admission. Beautifully restored to look as it did in 1902, it gives a peek into the legal and political history of Florida. Thanks to a ton of displays and period reproductions, both kids and adults will find something of interest. View a howitzer, cool flags, handmade dolls, old school items, arrowheads and election memorabilia—there’s so much to see! When you’re done inside, take part in a long-standing Tallahassee tradition by climbing to the observation deck on the roof. See who can get to the top first and get a bird’s eye view of historic Tallahassee.
Another downtown favorite is the Challenger Learning Center IMAX. Thanks to 3D technology and a 5-story screen, you can feel like you’re swimming with humpback whales, taking an exciting African safari, exploring outer space or walking with dinosaurs, all from the comfort of a cool, dark theater. When you’re done, head over to the Digital Dome Planetarium to see the wonders of the universe, or a fun-filled laser light show. General admission to the Digital Dome is $5/adults and only $4.25/child, and admission to the IMAX starts at $8/adult and $6/child. With its stellar technology, imaginations come to life as kids are transported to a new world of possibilities, so it’s a big bang for your buck!
After all that excitement, everyone will be hungry! Luckily there are kid-approved and budget-friendly eats within easy walking distance from the IMAX theater and history museum. Metro Deli has subs, sandwiches, wraps and salads to choose from, and you can get a Metro Box Lunch with a sandwich or wrap, cookie, chips and a drink for under $10. Have a picky eater? Goodies Eatery has a special kids menu with oldies but goodies: PB&J, grilled cheese and chips. Plus, they have a full lunch menu with salads and sandwiches, and a coffee bar for the parents.
A little outside of downtown, these must-see spots are popular with visitors and locals alike.
Called a “living museum,” the Tallahassee Museum immerses visitors in history and nature in an unforgettable way. Learn about the past through historic buildings, artifacts and real farm animals. On weekends, experience what life was like in the 1800s through demonstrations of chores like washing clothes, blacksmithing and cooking (everyone will better appreciate modern appliances). The museum also teaches about the natural world with an environmental center and native wildlife in natural settings. For the more adventurous, several Tree-to-Tree Adventures zip line courses run through the tree canopy and over beautiful cypress swamps. It’s history through activity, which means kids can play and learn—the perfect combo. Admission to the museum is less than $10 for kids, and you can add a ride on the zip line for less than $20.
Quality time with the kids is guaranteed at Fun Station, where the whole family plays together. Try a round of mini golf, run and scream like crazy in an exciting game of laser tag, challenge them to a go-kart race or see who can win the most tickets in the arcade. Each day of the week has a different pricing special (some less than $5), which will make you smile even more!
There’s nothing that screams summer vacation more than hot dogs, fries and apple pie. Dog Et Al has you covered with everything from simple $2 dogs and corndogs to Polish sausage and bratwurst. Best of all, kids can be their own chef and make a custom creation by adding as many toppings as they’d like for free—10,230 combinations exist, by the way. Creating original condiment combinations = pretty much the best thing ever! Family combo packs for three, four and five children save you even more money.
For an extra special treat, make sure to stop by Lofty Pursuits. Rated one of the best soda fountains in the country by The New York Times, this family-owned ice cream parlor and vintage candy making shop has every flavor and topping you can imagine, as well as sundaes, handmade sodas (get a custom flavor by your Fizzician), floats, freezes and so many other sweet delights. Best yet, many of these menu items are less than $10.
If you have a high-energy family, you know getting outdoors and letting the kids play in the sunshine means a happy, healthy and budget-friendly day for everyone. Thankfully, Tallahassee has some fantastic parks to explore.
Tom Brown Park is a 225-acre park on the east side of the city that has several playgrounds, a soccer field, tennis and volleyball courts, nature and bike trails, and even an RC car track! This park is also the go-to place for disc golf, with a free 24-hole course that winds through open areas and forest. Use any flying disc (or get special discs for the sport at the nearby Academy Sports + Outdoors for less than $15).
On a warm summer day, consider Cascades Park, a free downtown city park where you’ll find the Imagination Fountain. This kid-friendly splash pad has 73 jets that shoot water randomly, much to the delight of squealing children. At dusk, the fountains become a choreographed light show everyone will love. Cascades Park is also the home of the Discovery Playground, a play area designed around nature with climbing logs, hills, a butterfly garden, sand pit and more.
If you’re up for a more adventurous outdoor trip, just 30 minutes from downtown is the Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park. Containing one of the largest freshwater springs in the world, the park is home to all kinds of wildlife, which kids can spot along nature paths or on the guided Riverboat tour. They might even be lucky enough to see a manatee! If the water is clear, the park runs a glass-bottom boat tour that acts as an underwater spyglass. When you’re all done exploring, cool off in the park’s famous swimming hole, which is always a refreshing 69 degrees. With a $6 vehicle entrance fee and boat tour tickets for less than $10, all of the park’s natural wonders are at your family’s fingertips.
Tallahassee excels at offering a variety of affordable adventures and dining options for all ages, so your family can concentrate on making memories rather than guarding the wallet. This list is only the beginning of the memories families can make together for a small cost.Start making family memories for $10 or less.