Visit the panhandle area for some excellent outdoor budget friendly and free things to do in Tallahassee. Here in the capital of Florida, you will feel as though you have left the state famous for its beaches and theme parks, and entered a quaint town surrounded by pine tree forests. If you love hiking, mountain biking, and the outdoors, this is the place for you to visit! Here are our top choices from the area surrounding Tallahassee, and please view the map at the bottom of the page that shows all the locations.
1 ) Wakulla Springs State Park – $6 per car
Wakulla springs is best known for it’s swimming hole. It has a large swimming area with a platform that you can jump straight into the springs! With a fairly constant temperature of 70 degrees year-round, it makes for a choice spot to cool off in the hot summer heat. At the swimming area, there is a boat tour (with additional cost- $10 per adult and $5 per child) that takes you down the waterway to look at wildlife in the water.
Water activities aren’t the only thing at this park! During the winter, manatees frequent the spring. You can observe these manatees from the platform (see picture above). There are also two well known hiking trails at the park for walking, running, and biking. One is a roughly 4.5 mile long one way trail that runs behind the historic lodge at the park. The other is Cherokee Sink Hole Trail, a shorter 1.4 mile trail that leads to an 80ft sinkhole lake.
2) Downtown Driving Tour and Goodwood Museum & Gardens – FREE
While you are in the area, be sure to stop by downtown. Although several of the historic museums are closed due to CoVid19 (as of January 2021), you can still take a drive by of both the Capitol building and the Governor’s mansion. There is one open historic spot, called the Goodwood Museum & Gardens. It is an old plantation that they remodeled in the 1920’s and preserved. See the old swimming pool, historic house, and even hockey rink! you can walk around the property for free. They do offer tours of the house as well for a cost ($12 adults, $6 children).
3) Lake Jackson Mounds State Park – $3 per car
Another on the top of my list of budget friendly and free things to do in Tallahassee is Lake Jackson Mounds State Park. Tucked away just outside the city, is this nice trail area with a lot of history. There are several Indian mounds on site, as well as a short 1 hour hiking trail that leads to the remains of an old grist mill (pictured above). The park is dog friendly and also has an exhibit under the pavilion on the Native Americans that once lived at Lake Jackson.
The Tallahassee St. Marks Historic Railroad Trail is a 16 mile long nice and wide paved path leading from the capital to the small fishing town of St. Marks. It ends at a beautiful waterway. If you are looking to not spend a dime, this is one of the best free things to do in Tallahassee. You can ride the whole path, or pick it up at several parking areas along the way. There are restrooms along the path as well. When my family and I rode this trail, we started at mile 12.5 and rode it all the way to the end. You can read more about it in my blog post about our panhandle trip.
5) St. Mark’s Wildlife Refuge and Lighthouse – $5 per car
This one is a little drive from the center of Tallahassee, but worth it. Sitting on the Gulf of Mexico, St. Mark’s wildlife refuge is a large, grassy wetlands. It is on the Florida birding trail list. Here you can view hundreds of birds, among other wildlife. You can drive through the refuge or you can get out of your car to explore one of the many trails. At the end of the roadway you will find the Gulf of Mexico and the Lighthouse.
6) Other Places to Explore
There are two other trail locations that were on my list of spots to stop in Tallahassee, but that I didn’t get to check out. The first one is Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park, just outside of downtown. This park is supposed to have some excellent shared used trails for equestrian, mountain biking, and hiking. You can find their trail descriptions here.
The other trail location is on the other side of downtown at Lafayette Heritage Trail Park. There are some excellent mountain biking trails here that wind around Piney Z Lake. The trails range from beginner to difficult, and include the Cadillac Mountain Bike Trail and the Lafayette Heritage Shared Use Trail. There are paddling trails here as well for the kayakers out there!
That wraps up our list of budget friendly and free things to do in Tallahassee. There are so many more, that I will have to add to this list at a later date! If you have a favorite spot, feel free to add it to the comments!