by the Editors | March 12, 2024

From Past to Present: Tallahassee’s Bicentennial Celebration Brings History to Life

Tallahassee is hosting festivals, parades and parties all year round to commemorate the past 200 years and establish the foundation for 200 more.

A historic map of Tallahassee from the nineteenth century, featuring the Leon Hotel and the Morgan, hotels from the 1800s that eventually perished in two separate fires. Photography courtesy of Visit Tallahassee.

For 200 years, Tallahassee has sat at the crossroads of politics, art, culture and innovation. Once simply serving as the meeting place between Florida’s two seats of power, Pensacola and St. Augustine, the state’s capital was officially founded on March 4, 1824. Its inhabitants were ambitious from the beginning, and it’s still a magnet for political and educational changemakers. In celebration of 200 years of success, take a trip through Tallahassee’s historic neighborhoods, picturesque college campuses and storied halls of government, during this vibrant festival season, to better understand the moments that have made the Sunshine State capital the place for leaders, free-thinkers and visionaries that it is today. 

Political Firsts

Since its founding, Tallahassee has been a breeding ground for political pundits and changemakers, from activists on the front steps of the Capitol building to lawmakers meeting in the Florida House Chamber. Years after being declared the capital by Territorial Governor William Duval in 1824, Tallahassee has welcomed centuries of progress, becoming a platform for all voices to be heard. It fostered political firsts, like James Ford, the first elected Black mayor of a United States capital city in 1971, and gallant acts of bravery, such as when students Carrie Patterson and Wilhelmina Jakes refused to move to the back of a city bus, sparking a city-wide civil-rights bus boycott, propelling people into action during the 1950’s and 60’s. 

Tour the Florida’s Historic Capitol building. Photography courtesy of Visit Tallahassee.

Academic Allure

In more recent decades, the city has been a strong conduit for advanced research and scientists looking to carry out their work or teach budding scholars, possibly due to Tallahassee’s educational might—or the pull of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, the largest and highest-powered magnet lab in the world, which opened in 1994 at Florida State University. Long before this global achievement, the West Florida Seminary was established in 1857, eventually becoming the Florida State College for Women and then Florida State University. The school was once home to Pulitzer Prize-winner theoretical physicist Paul Dirac, namesake of one of the university’s libraries. Just a few miles away from FSU sits the nation’s top historic Black university, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, also known as FAMU, founded in 1887 by Rep. Thomas V. Gibbs and Thomas D. Tucker. In addition to being one of the most prestigious historically Black colleges, FAMU houses the first Carnegie Library, home to the Meek-Eaton Black Archies Research Center & Museum, built on a Black land-grant college campus.  

Cascades Park is located near the historic district of Smokey Hollow, once a primarily African American neighborhood. Photography courtesy of Visit Tallahassee.

Celebrate Tallahassee’s Bicentennial

To honor these 200 years of ambition and academics, Tallahassee is hosting many festivals, parades and live concerts all year long, plus an array of historic sites to visit. Signature events like the 24th annual LeMoyne Chain of Parks Art Festival, an upscale, open-air culmination of local artists and the spirited downtown scene unfolding just a few blocks from the Historic Capitol building (and ranked one of the top 100 fine art festivals in the nation) offer the perfect way to experience the best of Tallahassee’s arts and culture. For a soulful sojourn, groove to some of the biggest, Grammy-winning voices in gospel music like The Clark Sisters, Todd Dulaney, Yolanda Adams and more at the Jubilee Gospel Music Festival in Cascades Park or rock your rainbow with a performance by Academy Award-winner Melissa Etheridge to kick off Tallahassee’s week-long Pridefest. Walk the same steps as Tallahassee’s original inhabitants at Mission San Luis, where Apalachee natives and Spanish missionaries lived in 1656, or learn about African American history and culture at the John Riley Center & Museum, which was originally built in 1890 for John Riley, an inspiring Black educator. Tour the Union Bank Museum, the oldest bank building in Florida, originally built in 1841 and later used as headquarters for the National Freemans Savings and Trust Company. Take part in a Capital City tradition during Springtime Tallahassee, one of the region’s most beloved festivals for over 50 years, featuring live music at Kleman Plaza, an outdoor arts festival and a Grand Parade with dancers, marching bands and Springtime Krewes.

This year, experience the revelry, beauty and history of Tallahassee’s Bicentennial as it celebrates the past 200 years and paves the way for an ambitious 200 more. For more information, visit