Welcome to good ole Tallahassee! I would consider this my hometown after living here for 15 years, I even attended the famed Florida State University where i earned my B.S. in Interior Architecture & Design. (Sorry, gator fans.)
A little bit of history about Tallahassee: It is currently the capital of Florida. In 1824, the two largest cities in Florida were Pensacola and St. Augustine. However, Govenor Duval got tired of alternating his meetings between the two, so he chose to establish the halfway point as the new capital of Florida. Do I smell laziness? Currently, Tallahassee is the 7th largest city in Florida, and the largest city of the Panhandle.
Tallahassee is a popular and well known college town. Home to Florida State University, FAMU, and Tallahassee Community College, it is home to an eclectic mix of retirees, working people, and millenials. After living here for so long, I have watched the entire town develop into an artistic city. What used to be a run down and almost abandoned street that no one wanted to drive down, Gaines Street, is now one of the most popular places to take a drive and has literally turned into a major part of “Collegetown”. There is even a central parking garage with Collegetown plastered across the front in GIANT letters.
What is Collegetown?
Collegetown is dedicated to Florida State and the surrounding community. It is comprised of some of the most trendy and energetic restaurants, bars, and shops in town. Don’t let the name fool you. ANYONE can have fun in collegetown. In fact, some places were created to cater to the young adult crowd – 21+. The first restaurant built was Madison Social, about five years ago. It is one of the most popular bars in Tallahassee. It features an industrial escape, with garage doors that open to sweeping views of the intermural fields and Football Stadium. The most popular item on their menu is the BLT Dip. You HAVE to try it. It has become so popular that they started mass producing it to sell for Holidays. Every month Madison Social does a different pancake stack for brunch, a drinking challenge, and trivia every Tuesday.
Its sibling bar, Township, opened directly across the street with an identical atmosphere. Township offers over 93 beers on top, and they serve their beers in some of the biggest steins I’ve ever seen. The have stein-holding competitions every month, and the flip a coin to win a free drink every Thursday. They serve “Big Daddy Pretzels” and Bratwurst. Really they have a little something for everyone. They even have a beer garden with life size jenga and connect four.
Next to Township is an Americanized taco joint called Tin Lizzy’s Cantina. For those who don’t like typical tacos (like me) they have soft-shell tacos stuffed with everything from lobster to philly cheese steak. My ultimate favorite is the Chicken Con Queso. I order at least one of those every time I go. Back across the street located directly next to Madison Social is an Italian restaurant called Centrale, which is known for pizza and wine. They often do a girls night out on Wednesday’s. Another notable spot is Magdas, which is right next to Centrale. Magdas offers a creative take on ice cream and ice cream sandwiches. They serve inventive eats such as the Fluffy Puffy Bun (a scoop of ice cream, cookie butter, and fluff inside of a brioche hamburger bun), cereal milk lattes, and fun toppings such as fruity pebbles and cold brew brownies. Their decor is feminine, bringing you a retro take on a 1960’s Miami vibe. They feature flamingos, palm trees, and black and white tile floors.
But wait, there’s more!! On top of these restaurants is jamming club called Recess. It’s coolest feature? The glass wall swimming pool / dance floor. Swimming pool by day, dance floor by night. Until they open up the floor and those that may have drank a little too much dive in. I have another article dedicated entirely to experiencing collegetown by day and night.
Cones in Magdas
Interior of Centrale
Waking up, grab some morning coffee and head out to breakfast at Maple Street Biscuit Company. They serve a variety of chicken, eggs, and home made jellies on biscuits! They have a farm-to-table concept. Items on the menu are named like “The Squawking Goat” and “The Farmer”. Every sauce and jelly they have is organic and preservative free. My favorite is the Farmer, which comes with fried chicken, a slice of american cheese, and home-made apple jelly. The biscuits are the perfect level of warm and flaky. Not too hard, not too soft. When you order they ask a question, and your answer is how they call you to claim your food. It’s such a fun atmosphere.
After breakfast, checkout Cascades Park. It’s a great spot to relax, take a stroll throughout the park, and see some of the cool installations they have built. There are plenty of spots to sit, a beautiful lake, and even an amphitheater. When you leave Cascades Park, head to Gaines Street. Take in the graffiti art, sights, and cute shops along the road. Pull over in any paid parking spot, or squeeze into the tiny free lots and pop in to some of the local boutique stores. Taking a left (coming from the capital) along Railroad Rd will take you into another portion called Railroad Square. Park and take a peek at the multitude of art shops, curios, and weird stuff it has to offer. Railroad square usually has music and and an abnormally lively atmosphere on the first Friday of every month – it’s actually called First Fridays. Go back to Gaines Street, continue on toward the Football Stadium, and at the roundabout take the first right., Then take the first right on Madison St. If you can get a paid parking spot, take your time walking through this part of Collegetown. Grab a bite to eat for lunch at Tin Lizzy’s and try a trifecta of tacos. By the way, they give out free queso when it’s raining.
When lunch is over, explore Florida State’s Campus. It is such a beautiful place. The red brick, lush green plants, and brightly colored flowers are expertly placed. There are some really cool photo spots, such as in front of the iconic Westcott Fountain, on Landis Green, or under the tree canopy on the brick walkway. If you’re lucky you might find the Rock Garden and let out your inner child! (Hint: it’s by the Garnet and Gold Bookstore). Go back to the hotel, freshen up, and get ready to go out! Grab a pre-dinner cocktail at Level 8 Lounge and a fancy dinner in Shula’s 347 Restaurant. If you’re looking for something more casual, grab dinner at Spear It and after dinner drinks at Proof of Grasslands Brewing Company.
Feeling fancy? Visit the Blu Halo for breakfast! They have bottomless bubblies for $8, and that includes every flavor – pineapple, peach, orange, grapefruit, or mango. I have probably tried every thing on the menu ( I worked there for a bit), and I can vouch for EVERYTHING. Their food is soooo good. I could go on forever about them. If you could, take the time to visit again, and eat there for dinner as well. They feature a new special every night, a different homemade nitrogen ice cream every week, and some of the tastiest dinner plates, with the best service in town. I think I tried 30+ flavors of the course of time I worked there, and not a single flavor was repeated twice. My favorite brunch menu items are the eggs benedict and their larger than life cinnamon roll. It’s the size of my head. For dinner you have to try the lobster mac and cheese – even if you hate lobster. For dessert, just order one of everything on the menu!! The carrot cake is served with enough for four people, the creme brulee’s are the best in town, and the chocolate nitrogen martini is delectable.
If you’re just passing through, some nice places to venture to today would be the Govenor’s Square Mall, the Centre of Tallahassee, or the brand new Cobb Theatre. The Centre of Tallahassee is a new, open-air concept. It is home to the AMC, a few miscellaneous shops, and a warehouse with multiple dining concepts under the same roof. The warehouse is called The Urban Food Market. It is an Italian inspired place, with a pasta restaurant, pizza spot, fine dining, bakery, and butchers stall. There’s even a gelato stand!
If you’d like to go out tonight, check out Midtown. Here you’ll discover Fire Betty’s Arcade Bar and Finnigan’s Wake. There are always bands and other artists playing at Finnigan’s.
Where to Stay
- Hotel Duval – The most luxurious hotel Tallahassee has to offer. It is also centrally located on the corner of North Monroe and Tennessee Street. It is a five minute drive to Florida State’s Campus, and about a 10 minute drive to the Governors’ Square mall. It’s beds are actually clouds, but seriously they are so comfy.
- Home 2 Suites by Hilton – This hotel is convienently located on Apalachee Parkway, within walking distance to a few newly build restaurants. It’s modern, has a great breakfast buffet, and sits back off of one of Tallahassee’s main roads. It’s a two minute drive to the Governor’s Square mall.
- The Aloft Hotel – a trendy, lifestyle hotel with a goal of keeping you out of your room and mingling in the lobby with other people. Fun colors and good branding gives this hotel an artistic vibe.
Where to Eat
Bada Bean Cafe – They can get really busy, really quick so get there early! Give their chocolate muffin a try.
Township – They do the facebook-famous “push the melted cheese off the giant cheese wheel” thing
Canopy Road Cafe – They have a list of flavored pancakes and french toasts that goes on for miles
The Good Berry – one of the only places to get acai bowls in town. They also serve avocado toasts!
Riksha Tacos – An asian street food joint with delicious food. I have no idea what I ate, but it was so good!
Cool Beans Cafe – a very unusual selection of food that changes seasonally. Located in the heart of midtown!
What to See
- Rated #1 in Florida, go check out Tom Brown Park. They have everything from sand volleyball and soccer, to playgrounds, and disc golf. They also have an RC Car Racing Track, Mountain Bike Adventure Trails, and even a few lakes with docks for fishing!
- Wakulla Springs is an extremely popular spot, only 45 minutes from the center of Tallahassee. It is full of rich history, has crystal clear water, and they even have glass bottom boat tours. Stop by the ice cream shop on your way out! The scoops are huuuge.
- Stroll through the gorgeous blooms at Maclay Gardens or Dorothy B. Oven Park. There are plenty of picture perfect backgrouns, and even a reflecting pool. During Christmas they deck it out in Christmas Lights.
What to Do
- Grab an over the top milkshake from the Sugar Rush bar. Located at 414 All Saints St, this dessert bar create fashionable, heavily topped milkshakes in cups with frosting rims, decorated to the brim with candy, cake slice, and chocolate syringes!
- Go for a bike ride in Tom Brown Park on the Cadillac Trail. It is meant to be a challenging trail, and has some neat secrets to find. The trail has an intermediate skill level, but anyone can ride it. There are plenty of exits to get back onto shared use trails and beginner loops, but also intertwines with other trails to keep you biking for as long as your heart desires. It loops around a large lake, and has logs, rails, and even a wooden roller coaster to ride over. It’s a great way to spend a day in the park.
- Zipline at the Museum of Florida History.