The Discovery Continues
There's much to see and do as Florida commemorates the 500-year anniversary of Ponce de León arriving on its eastern shore.
Florida's First Beach - Pensacola Bay Area
Start your quest at the part of the state known as the Florida Panhandle, where history, culture and Southern hospitality shine alongside miles of sugar-white beaches. In fact, the Pensacola Bay area is considered to be “Florida's First Beach,” having been discovered by Spanish explorers in 1559, making it the first major settlement attempt in the United States.
Since then, five flags have flown over the area — Spanish, French, British, the Confederacy and the United States. History comes to life here in landmarks such as Historic Pensacola Village, the Museum of Commerce, the Pensacola Lighthouse, Fort Barrancas, Fort Pickens and numerous churches, art galleries and cultural centers along the African-American Heritage Trail.
Linking America's early colonial past to Spain's history of exploration and discovery, Gálvez Day in early May will honor Bernardo de Gálvez and his role in the Battle of Pensacola. A distinguished Spanish delegation will join the celebration of their native son.
Capital Celebrations - Tallahassee
Traveling east from Pensacola, an abundance of historical treasures are on exhibit in Florida's capital city of Tallahassee.
A visit to Mission San Luis transports you back to 1703 and a community where Apalachee Indians and newcomers from Spain lived together. Mission San Luis is the only reconstructed mission site in the Southeast and the only surviving site open to the public of the state's original 100 missions. Mission San Luis includes a reconstructed Franciscan Church, Spanish fort, living quarters and five-story-tall Apalachee council house.
Artifacts from Mission San Luis, gold and silver coins, jewelry, porcelain and other period items uncovered throughout Florida and surrounding waters are on display at the Museum of Florida History's exhibit “Forever Changed: La Florida 1513-1821.” A 16th-century Spanish ship display chronicles the era of Spanish exploration.
The Florida Historic Capitol Museum hosts an exhibit called “Navigating New Worlds: Identity, Perception, and Politics in Florida,” highlighting rare maps (one dates back to 1493 and another is one of only four in existence) from the Michael and Linda Fisher collection.
Bring your beret and celebrate Florida's French influence on May 31 when the Florida Historic Capitol Museum premieres a digitally animated short film based on the historic Jacques LeMoyne and Theodore de Bry engravings of early Florida. The film is narrated by renowned Florida historian Dr. Michael Gannon. Theodore de Bry descendant John de Bry will provide context for the iconic engravings and their influence on Europeans' perceptions of La Florida.