Located in the central portion of the state between the panhandle and peninsula, Perry is a small city of about 7,000 residents in Taylor County.
It’s in one of the most remote and least inhabited areas of the state but is a great place to explore, especially for lovers of history and nature who prefer to avoid the crowds.
The city was named after the state’s fourth governor, and the surrounding area was home to a number of significant Civil War battles as well.
Due to its relative remoteness, having access to a car would be a good idea.
Below are 15 things to do in and around Perry, Florida.
1. The Parkside Café and Coffee
The American south is dotted with small, quaint towns; for those traveling between Tallahassee and Gainesville, Perry is one of the most inviting.
It’s also a great place to stop for a quick bite or a cup of energizing coffee, and the Parkside Café and Coffee on East Ellis Street has both.
Previous guests have noted that the café was comfortable, inviting, reasonably priced, and offered a full menu of traditional southern dishes and lots of light fare like salads and sandwiches as well.
2. Saint Marks National Wildlife Refuge
Comprised of nearly 70,000 pristine acres, Saint Marks National Wildlife Refuge is one of the area’s largest tracts of preserved land; it’s also one of the oldest of its kind in the country.
The refuge was established in the early ‘30s and includes a variety of coastal habitats, like islands, marshes, and tidal rivers and creeks.
There are a variety of activity options for those who choose to visit; wildlife viewing and photography are a few of the most popular.
A range of migratory, predatory and wading birds are commonly seen, as are coyotes, gators, and even the occasional bear.
3. Johnson’s Bakery
Though fresh baked goods are some of their biggest draws, Johnson’s Bakery on South Jefferson Street in Perry features an extensive menu that puts most traditional bakeries to shame.
From salads and burgers to French fries and donuts, there is an abundance of both sweet and savory items to choose from. Regulars appreciate their ample portions and moderate prices.
Much of Johnson’s business is takeaway. For those traveling with large groups, there’s no better way to keep them full and content than by picking up one or two dozen donuts to take on the road with you.
4. Smokin’ in the Pines BBQ Festival
BBQ is a mainstay of southern cuisine, and no matter where you find yourself in the south and southeast, you’re never far from BBQ in all its delectable forms.
Smokin’ in the Pines BBQ Festival is an annual event held in Perry that features not only fantastic food, but live music like country, rock, and the blues. There’s also arts and crafts, an antique car show, and lots of family and kid-friendly activities that have been known to keep guests busy for hours.
There are also a number of BBQ competitions that draw competitors from all over the country, and general entry is free.
5. Florida State Bluegrass Festival
For such a small, rural town, Perry has more than its fair share of fairs and festivals; many of them take place in the spring when Florida’s weather is often sunny, mild, and just about perfect.
For nearly two decades, Perry has been hosting the Florida State Bluegrass Festival in Forest Capital Park.
The festival includes a popular chili cook-off, lots of live entertainment, and an all-around fun and festive environment that’s appropriate for adults and kids.
It takes place each year in early April. Single and multi-day tickets are available.
6. National High Magnetic Field Laboratory
It’s not a widely-known fact, but Tallahassee is home to the largest magnet research facility in the world, and it’s open to visitors.
The facility houses many of the most powerful magnets ever made, and according to rumors, the electricity required to power the behemoths costs nearly 10 million dollars annually.
For science-minded travelers who find themselves in the area on the third Wednesday of the month, free public tours are offered; they’re appropriate for both children and adults.
Keep in mind that in order to join the tour, guests will need to have close-toed footwear, so leave those sandals and flip-flops in the hotel for another day.
7. Wakulla Springs
During the summer months, the heat and humidity in Florida’s north-central region often conspire to make being outside downright unpleasant, but Wakulla Springs is the perfect place to cool-off: it’s full of natural beauty and historically significant attractions as well.
The springs are among the world’s largest and deepest and have been attracting both humans and animals for eons.
The spring’s water bubbles to the surface at a constant 69 degrees regardless of weather and season. For lovers of history and culture, there are several archaeological sites nearby that include artifacts and fossils from humans and other animals.
8. Airport Cemetery
For aviation enthusiasts and lovers of roaring jet engines, it’s often difficult to get close to the action considering the tight security at airports these days. But for those in Tallahassee who don’t mind venturing off the beaten path, there’s an opportunity to get up-close-and-personal.
While Tallahassee International Airport isn’t as busy as some others in the state, it’s still a bevy of activity, and there’s a small public cemetery at the southern end of the facility that’s often referred to as Airport Cemetery.
It’s located just off Springhill Road, and though it’s near many ‘Restricted Entry’ signs, it’s open to the public and is a great place to experience planes making their descents.
9. Lake City Loop
For much of the year, Florida’s weather is absolutely perfect for nature lovers and outdoorsy types. Lake City’s Loop is the ideal place to stretch your legs, burn a few calories, and experience the great outdoors without spending hours in the car driving to state and national parks.
The multi-use loop stretches for nearly 20 miles through a variety of natural and urban areas and is open to bikers, walkers, and runners.
Much of the loop is paved, making it popular with travelers with children, though the unpaved portions are best left to the young and fit.
There are several access points to the trail, and free maps are available near trailheads.
10. Tallahassee Museum of History and Natural Science
The Tallahassee Museum of History and Natural Science is one of the capital city’s most popular attractions. With such a variety of exhibits and activities, it’s one of those places that tends to monopolize more of travelers’ time than expected.
The museum is located on Museum Drive near downtown and includes historic buildings, a science center, and a small zoo.
Visitors will learn about the Native Americans who lived in the area for generations before it was officially settled, in addition to the region’s wildlife and history. Many of the exhibits are interactive and were designed with children in mind.
11. Olustee Battlefield State Park
Florida was a key state during the Civil War years, and many historically significant battles were fought in the area around Perry.
In February of 1864, more than 10,000 Union and Confederate soldiers met on the battlefield near Olustee and fought for nearly five hours before the northern troops began to retreat.
There were nearly 3,000 dead and wounded, and now Olustee Battlefield State Park is a memorial to those men that’s a popular attraction for history and Civil War buffs.
The park is open year-round but hosts a popular battle reenactment in February that’s among the largest of its kind in the south.
12. Challenger Learning Center
From a planetarium and IMAX Theater to a flight simulator and a dizzying array of interactive exhibits, Challenger Learning Center is in a class by itself when it comes to engaging young minds.
The center is a community outreach facility managed by Florida A&M University. It’s comprised of more than 30,000 square feet of exhibits that touch on engineering, science, animals, and the natural world. For those traveling with kids, it’s a must-visit attraction.
In addition to their permanent exhibits, the center’s staff offer a variety of fun and enlightening activities and programs for little ones; many of them are free, so check out their website before making a special trip.
13. The Alligator Warrior Festival
For much of its existence, the town that’s now called High Springs was officially called Alligator, Florida.
The Alligator Warrior Festival is an annual event that’s a celebration of the town’s past, and the now-famous Seminole warrior-chief who was the Native American people’s leader in the early part of the 19th century.
The festival is a three-day event that includes Civil War battle reenactments, Native American music and dancing, and lots of costumed characters going about their days much the way people did in centuries past.
It’s not only entertaining but educational as well. Many guests end-up spending an entire day or two experiencing all the festival has to offer.
14. Osceola National Park
At nearly 200,000 acres, Osceola National Park is one of the region’s largest natural attractions. It’s comprised of a variety of pristine environments including swamps, woodlands, and pine ridges.
Camping, hiking, mountain biking, and wildlife viewing are popular activities, and though many visitors choose to show themselves around, there are a variety of full-service tour options available as well.
Some activities like hunting and fishing require permits and are only open seasonally, so check their website carefully for restrictions.
The park is home to an approximately 24-mile section of the Florida National Scenic Trail as well.
15. Tallahassee Automobile Museum
The Tallahassee Automobile Museum is located on Mahan Drive and has been open for more than 20 years.
It features one of the area’s most extensive collections of vintage cars, most of which were made in the United States, and some of which stopped rolling off production lines decades ago.
The museum features nearly 100,000 square feet of space and a collection of automobiles approaching 150.
The Bat-mobiles are big hits, and there are non-car items too – like knives, Native American artifacts, and other historically significant paraphernalia that add to its already eclectic collection. Most guests spend a few hours on-site.