You don't have to visit the State Capitol in Tallahassee to be reminded of all the reasons you love Florida. But it helps.
Great weather? Check. The hottest tourist destinations? Roger that. More than 500 years of continuous civilization? Florida's got it, too.
But a visit to the Florida Historic Capitol Museum in Tallahassee, which once served as the state's capitol, helps you understand the fascinating past that shaped what we now know as the Sunshine State -- warts and all.
The exhibits here and at the nearby Museum of Florida History, take an unflinching look at the 27th state, from its ambiguous role in the American Civil War to the controversial 2000 election.
Nothing illustrates the changes in Florida like the contrast between the former capitol and the present one. To accommodate a quickly growing population, the new capitol building towers high above Tallahassee, like an enormous rocket patiently waiting on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral.
The hallways of the new capitol offer a timeline of the many changes the Sunshine State has witnessed, including the extension of the railroad, the arrival of Disney World, the space program as well as tributes to Florida's agriculture and ranching traditions.
It's hard to really understand this state until you visit Tallahassee and see the old next to the new and the exhibits that show how Florida became Florida. It's pretty remarkable.