A wonderful trip to Pensacola in May of 2011 lead us to stop in Tallahassee to tour the Florida State Capitol. It is an architecturally and historically significant building, having been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. What we found interesting is that there are actually two buildings. We eagerly decided to tour both, if we could. When we arrived, we found out that they do have guided tours, but we missed the last one for the day, but were able to pick up a self-guided tour brochure and found our way around this amazing capitol building.
Sometimes called “The Old Capitol,” the Historic Capitol, built-in 1845, was threatened with demolition in the late 1970s when the new capitol building was built. Having been restored to its 1902-version in 1982, the Historic Capitol is located directly in front of the new Capitol building. Its restored space includes the Governor’s Suite, Supreme Court, House of Representatives and Senate chambers, rotunda, and halls. Its adapted space contains a museum exhibiting the state’s political history.
Since the construction of the New Tower behind the original building, the building is the third largest capitol building in the United States, after the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., and the Texas State Capitol in Austin. The Capitol is usually referred to as a twenty-two-story building with a height of 345 feet. However, including the 3 underground floors, it is a 25 story building. The New Tower, which opened on March 31, 1978, houses executive and legislative offices and the chambers of the Florida Legislature (consisting of the Florida Senate and Florida House of Representatives).
The Plaza Level holds several items of note besides the offices of the Governor and the Cabinet. In the Rotunda, a copy of the State Seal is cast in bronze and mounted on Terra Verde marble sits. This is not the current seal, but one in use when the building was completed. It is surrounded by five smaller seals representing the nations and kingdoms that exerted sovereignty over all or parts of Florida. I have been fascinated with the state seals since the beginning of our quest to see the capitols, and always find it enlightening to see how each state is so different.
There is an observation deck on the twenty-second floor of the Florida State Capitol building. The deck is 307 feet above the Plaza Level and 512 feet above sea level. In the east wing is an art gallery featuring a rotating display of artwork by Florida resident artists and a series of bronze plaques on the inductees of the Florida Artists Hall of Fame. The southern side is the Freedom Shrine. The views from up there were amazing. We were able to walk around and take pictures from all sides. We were even able to see our rental car down below, lol. It was a great place to just sit back, relax, and enjoy the view.
As you can see the Florida State Capitol is deep in history. We were very happy to be able to finally get to the Tallahassee area and see the capitol. Here is a link to their website with hours and tour information. If you’d like to learn more about some other tall capitols, please check out these posts: Louisiana Capitol, Nebraska Capitol, and North Dakota Capitol.
Florida State Capitol Visitor Information
400 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32399
Mon-Fir 8 am – 5 pm
Self guided tours are free during normal open hours
Weekday guided tours are available for large groups by contacting the Florida Welcome Center. Bookings for guided tours during Legislative Session should be made several months in advance.
From Tallahassee Regional Airport
- Exit the airport parking lot and turn left. This is Capital Circle Southwest.
- Travel about six miles on Capital Circle past several traffic lights where you’ll see a Shell Oil gas station on the right. Immediately past the Shell station turn right onto Interstate 10 eastbound.
- On I-10 travel east about six miles to the second exit, Tallahassee/Thomasville, US 319, Exit #203. Exit I-10 here and turn left (north) at the traffic light.
- For remaining directions from this point see “From Interstate 10” below.
From Interstate 10
- Exit I-10 at the Tallahassee/Thomasville exit. (U.S. Highway 319, Exit #203). Travel north on US Highway 319 (also called Thomasville Road) about 3/4 mile through several traffic lights, passing a Publix and Walgreen’s Drug store on your right.
- At the light just past the Walgreen’ turn right. This is Killarney Way. You’re heading east.
- Head east 1.4 miles on Killarney Way to the Circle K/Shell gas station at the roundabout traffic circle, where you will turn right. You’re now on Shamrock South.
- Travel 1.3 miles on Shamrock South. FAIA’s office is on your right opposite Fellowship Presbyterian Church and Celebration Baptist Church.
From U.S. Highway 90 (Mahan Drive)
- Where U.S. 90 intersects U.S. 319 (Capital Circle) head north on U.S. 319 for 1.4 miles past a few traffic lights to the light at Centerville Road, also called County Road 151. Turn right on Centerville Road, heading northeast.
- About 100 yards later, turn left at the traffic light, still on Centerville Road.
- Head northeast on Centerville road for 3.7 miles until you reach Shamrock Drive South. Turn left (west) on Shamrock Drive South.
- FAIA will be on your left in about 200 yards.
Visitor parking in the Capitol area is limited to either metered street spaces or designated lots. The City of Tallahassee manages two parking garages (Kleman Plaza and Eastside Parking Garage) and one surface lot (near Duval and Gaines). The Department of Management Services (DMS) manages two lots (Lot E and Lot 4). Spaces for visitors with disabilities are located on the west side of the House Office Building in the north side loading zone. There are more spaces located in the parking lot south of the Knott Building. If you’re parking outside these lots in a non-metered spot, please ensure that the spot is marked for visitor parking. Cars parked in employee spaces will be towed.
Visiting during Session Rules
The Florida Legislature normally convenes its annual regular session on the first Monday after the first Tuesday in March. In even-numbered years, the Legislature can move this date forward. Regular session lasts for 60 consecutive days. Special sessions can last up to 20 days and are convened at the request of the Governor or Joint Proclamation by the Speaker of the House and the Senate President.
If you or your group wishes to observe the Legislature after the completion of the tour, please refer to the following guidelines:
- Gallery seating is limited, and availability is dependent upon the length of the daily session and the number of visitors seeking admittance.
- Teachers who wish to visit the viewing gallery of the House or Senate chambers should inform the staff outside the galleries and notify them of the number of students in their group. It may be necessary to wait before entering.
- Once inside, most groups have 15 minutes to observe the lawmakers in action.
- Students should be reminded that important state business is being conducted in each chamber.
- All visitors to the galleries must remain seated and quiet and may not applaud.
- All phones, pagers and other electronic devices must be turned off before entering the gallery.
- No one is allowed to lean over the gallery railing from the first row.
- Flash photography is not allowed in the gallery.
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