Credit: Anthony Russo @focusedviews
After calling Tallahassee “home” for almost seven years, I feel like I finally know the ins and outs of this small, southern town with big city elements. It’s crazy to think I’ve been here that long. I arrived as just a 17-year old, right out of high school, to start the adventure popularly known as “Attending Florida State University”.
Many students would likely agree that it is easy to stick around campus area during your college years living in Tallahassee. It feels like a five-mile radius is the entire city of Tallahassee, especially when you’re a freshman and living in the dorms, never needing to leave your bubble of a home.
Once I graduated from Florida State University in 2014, and lived abroad in China with Luke, I landed my first adult job at VISIT FLORIDA. I do believe it was as much of a transition to stay in Tallahassee and get used to being a resident vs. a student as it would have been moving away to another city. I felt lost, unsure of where I fit in within city limits I had spent the past four years in, and like I was new all over again. All of my college friends had left, yet I was still here.
On the weekends, I knew I didn’t want to spend my hanging out time at classic college spots and was ready for something else. After just a little bit of venturing out and learning where the “post grads” and locals spent their time, I quickly learned that there is a lot more to a city I had categorized as a “college town”.
With more hole-in-the-wall incredible eats than you’d imagine, trendy bars popping up on nearly every corner throughout the past couple of years, and the natural beauty of springs and state parks nearby, there is so much to get to know and love in Tallahassee.
For this post, I have collaborated with a local Tallahassee travel blogger + dear friend, Rachel Houston, who is the voice and founder of Wandering Worldie, a travel blog that inspires women to empower themselves and take on the world, featuring wandering worldies and wanderlust-worthy moments.
Rachel is originally from Orlando, Florida and came up to Tallahassee to attend school at Florida State University, like myself. Upon her graduation two years ago, she started her career in marketing at VISIT FLORIDA, also like myself. As you can see, we have a lot in common, especially our passion for travel and sharing travel tips with our communities.
Rachel is about to start an exciting new chapter of her life, as she is moving to the UK in just a few short days! As she is looking forward, we’ve joined forces to look backward together on what we think makes Tallahassee a special place, and all of our favorite must-hit spots in town. Thus, our Tallahassee Bucket List was born.
Pick your poison, and plan your trip – this is The Tallahassee bucket list.
Where to Eat
If you like pad thai and/or sushi, check out this place – it’s arguably one of the best Asian eats in Tallahassee. Their pad thai is absolutely amazing, but don’t get spicy unless you like your mouth on fire as you eat. I would highly recommend their Trust Me Roll since you just tell the waiter what you like, and they’ll whip it right up.
Our mouths are watering just thinking about Paisley. This little cafe has all local ingredients that they make into the best dishes. Their atmosphere is eclectic and colorful.
Everything is presented very well when it’s served, and their combinations are rich in flavor so you’re never hungry after. It’s every Tallahassee girl’s dream Sunday to go brunch there with girlfriends on a Sunday morning.
This is the best place in town if you want to get dinner that’s on the lighter side and a crafty drink. Share a charcuterie board with your friends under dimmed lighting while you sip on a fancy cocktail for decent prices. Liberty Bar is a favorite, day or night, and conveniently located right in the heart of Midtown, a hip area of town where you’ll find locals and graduate students, alike.
Owned by the same geniuses at Liberty, this new and trendy Mexican restaurant serves authentic tacos of all types, and the best Spicy Paloma you’ll have in town. El Cocinero is a must-stop place to eat if you like tacos and tequila.
It doesn’t scream “upscale dining” from the outside, but once the menu is placed in your hands, you know you’re in for a treat. The best thing about Kool Beanz is that even though you read descriptions of the entrees on the menu, the surprise of the presentation always surpasses expectations. This place arguably serves cuisine that is known as the best of Tallahassee in a unique, funky setting with local artists’ work decorating the colorful walls.
Au Peche Mignon
This French pastry shop is quaint and charming. On any given Saturday morning, you’ll see locals and families seeded throughout the small breakfast shop, sipping on coffee and reading the morning paper. The pastries are to die for, and the coffee is even better. Quiches, breakfast sandwiches, and all types of sweet treats are served on dainty plate ware. If you’ve been to France, you’ll appreciate Au Peche Mignon even more.
Gaines Street Pies
Also associated with Midtown Pies and North Side Pies, this place serves the best pizza. There are all types of exciting flavors of pizza served at Gaines Street Pies, and the atmosphere is perfect to enjoy it with a beer in hand. Gaines Street Pies is located near campus and resides on the same street as many of the best campus-side bars in Tallahassee, like Madison Social and Township. Start or end your night out with some Tallahassee-classic pizza.
Tallahassee has caught on to the farm to table movement, and has mastered the concept with ease. Right off of the interstate entering Tallahassee, you’ll see Backwoods Crossing, known as “that farm to table restaurant” by many locals. The menu is surprisingly extensive – at least, I was surprised, expecting just a few options – but you realize why when you meander around the side of the restaurant to find gardens and a little greenhouse where produce is growing before you.
Crab cakes do not disappoint. Nor does “THE BEAST”, a burger bigger than you can imagine topped with flavorful goodies and curly fries. They have specials that they swap out frequently. And if you go for dinner time (or hey, get a drink at lunch, I won’t judge), there’s a lengthy list of crafty cocktails to choose from are super reasonable prices, between $8-10. The beer list includes craft and local alike, and there is a page for white and red wines, each.
*Disclaimer, these all have mimosa deals because what is brunch without a mimosa?
Featuring bottomless mimosas and a bloody mary bar until 3 PM on the weekends, you can go to Primetime, get an entree and buy a beverage package. This has a sports bar atmosphere, so it’s great to go to if you’re wanting to relax, have fun, and catch some sport games. You can anticipate spending around $30 here, a great time worth every dollar.
Rachel’s note: If you get the regular mimosas, the orange juice is freshly squeezed! But you could get cranberry juice with your champ and the refills come out quicker… just saying.
Wanting to step your brunching up a notch, but still get your booze on? Bonefish Grill has a great deal where you can get bottomless sangria, mimosas, and bellinis with an entree for a grand total of $20. Dress a bit nicer at this place and don’t get all too crazy – you can brunch for two hours here.
Or MadSo as the locals refer to it. Madison Social has indoor and outdoor seating, making it perfect for a nice, fall day. Grab a picnic table outside and possibly order up the month’s specialty pancake combo. You can get a pitcher of mimosas here for $15, which is worth it if you can sit outside and you’re brunching with your gals. If you try to come here on a Game Day, make sure you get there EARLY because those tables will be gone. MadSo is great because it’s located next to other bars, so after brunch you can bar hop if you’re yearning for a Sunday funday.
Are you wanting a dreamy atmosphere, or maybe somewhere a little more intimate? The Edison is your ticket. The gorgeous, warm industrial style with sky-reaching ceilings, Edison light bulbs everywhere, and fantastic lighting make you forget you are not in New York City. It’s a notable best-of-Tallahassee environment. You can sit at the bar and enjoy the mixology while you sip your unique cocktail, or go outside and look out over Cascades Park. Sometimes there are events going on at the amphitheater, well within earshot, so you may get to enjoy a show or concert with your drink.
Cypress has some of the best food in town. If you’re looking to impress, take your date here and get a swanky cheese board, some awesome crafted cocktails, and delicious, locally-fueled eats. I’ve never had a bad meal here. But, beware, a meal for two with entrees and drinks will easily take you over $100.
For a special occasion, contact the chef for the Chef’s Menu, a five-course meal that is custom-made according to a survey you fill out. List what makes your palette happy, tastes and flavors, and you will arrive to an experience you’ll never forget – or you might, considering each course is paired with a craft beer, fine wine, or sophisticated cocktail. Schedule this at least two weeks ahead, as the chef makes himself available to bring out every course for you and introduce to you the next most-amazing thing you’ve ever eaten.
If you’re wanting to have an intimate dinner, you must go here. From the outside it looks a little sketchy, but don’t let that sway you (I think it’s strategic so that it’s not overflowing with customers all of the time). When you walk in, there is dim lighting and you’re surrounded by a wine cellar + store. Walk a few more steps and you’ll see the small setting for tables. This place allows you to have hushed conversation with your loved one over a beautiful cheeseboard and tasty wine.
Bar at Betton
If you have sweets craving that needs to be satisfied, hit up Bar at Betton, a small hidden gem in Midtown area that is right above Food Glorious Food, another great place to dine. The dessert menu is to die for. Anything and everything you can order will exceed your highest hopes – trust us, we’ve tried it all. Carrot cake, baklava cheesecake, and marble cake are a renown choices. Betton Bar is perfect for dessert and drinks.
If you’re struggling to find out what to do on a Saturday afternoon, head over to Gordo’s on Pensacola Street. This hot spot boasts some delicious Cuban cuisine and is a Tallahassee bucket list favorite. Whatever you get, make sure you get a side of Gordo’s sauce (think addiction of Chick Fil A sauce, but with a ranch base) and if you’re feeling adventurous, a Gordo’s Smash. This concoction will immediately make your table the place to be as it’s guaranteed that after a few sips of one there will be more laughter, more talking, and fun plans being made to follow. Get close to finishing the rum-filled tropical drink? The moment you stand up, you’ll realize why it’s called the Gordo’s Smash.
Lucky Goat Coffee
Been working too hard? Studying too much? Lucky Goat is your refuge. Their naturally-lit industrial locations are home to the best iced coffee in town, that’s also roasted in the roastery locations (they’re now all over town due to high popularity). Lucky Goat’s iced coffee is keg conditioned with nitrogen, meaning it’s a bit sweeter, a lot stronger, and the flavor is noticeably prominent. Also – their muffins are amazing, specifically the pistachio. Just saying.
The perfect amount of low key and elegance, your average cheesy bread is no more – think bubble bread, and while you’re thinking about it get an order of it too. Specials here change daily, allowing for incredible Italian specialties to make an appearance, such as gourmet ravioli. Corporate luncheons, happy hour with your girls or a first date are all appropriate occasions to have at Bella Bella. The cocktails are always fresh, and the Italian cuisine always something to talk about.
Proof Brewing Co.
On a given Friday or Saturday night, or really any time or day of the week, you could find one of us (or both) at Tallahassee’s signature craft brewery, Proof Brewing Co. The friendly bar tenders welcome you with big, bearded smiles and are happy to share any stats or details on any specialty beer. Popular choices include their Mango Wit, the most refreshing drink in all the land during the hot summer months, their lager, and 850.
The outside environment is perfect for a summer night over dusk, with lots of yard games to participate in and some featured bands playing live music on occasion. The inside area is dimly lit and has a full view of the brewing area. The floor-to-ceiling windows are opened up on cool days, making it the perfect spot to sip on some suds throughout the entire year.
Best Happy Hour
This new Italian hot spot popped up about a year ago, and has some killer happy hour deals. Right now at Centrale, they feature Frose Fridays where, if you go on Friday between 4-7pm you get two pizza bombs, which are made of fresh mozzarella and pepperoni, wrapped in pizza dough and fried. Is your mouth watering yet?
The featured drink and food item changes up every so often to keep things fresh, and consistently delicious. They have Wednesday night specials where wine & house cocktails are “bogo” if you get involved on their social media. But, if you’re needing a pick me up any other day of the week, between 4-7pm they’ve got you covered with $6 wine cocktails, $4 wine, $3 wells, and $1 off draft beer. Three words: treat yo self.
Yes, I’m aware this is already listed but their happy hour deserves to be highlighted. It’s a fancy atmosphere with affordable prices from 6-8pm, with delicious bites like fish tacos and sweet potato wedges listed on their happy hour menu. Beers and wine are cheap. On the first Friday of every month, local musicians are featured right in the bar area for an intimate and artsy vibe.
Things to Do on The Tallahassee Bucket List
For the sports lover: Florida State Football
There is no football game like a Florida State football game. You don’t even have to be a sports fanatic to feel alive in the stadium, with hyped energy radiating throughout the crowd and onto the field. Chants get so loud it feels like an earthquake is happening beneath your feet.
Tradition is everywhere, from Osceola riding Renegade onto the field, proudly holding a flaming spear overheard to throw into the 50 yard line before kick off to the Garnet and Gold guys, covered in glitter on every inch. It’s worth adding this to your Tallahassee bucket list, no matter who you root for.
For the nature lover: Wacissa River and Lake Talquin
If you partake in a short 30-minute drive outside of downtown in any direction, you’ll start to be encompassed by natural beauty, from big, billowing oaks layered in Spanish moss to crystal clear, natural springs. Wacissa River is always a fun time, with kayak and canoe rentals at $30 per rental max. Kayaking down the Wacissa offers some beautiful scenery.
Take a detour on the route to Blue Springs, a spring of about 60 feet deep where you can peer over the side of your kayak and see straight to the bottom – that’s how clear the water is! If you’re brave, wear your bathing suit to jump off a tree swing into the spring, but be prepared for an ice-cold entrance into the chilly water!
Lake Talquin is an option for a fall or wintertime hike, as the weather is perfect to spend an afternoon outside. There are plenty of picnic stops along the trails, with beautiful scenery all along the way.
For the socialite: College Town and Midtown
It goes without saying that Tallahassee offers tons of options for places to go out to have a great night with friends, no matter your age. College Town has really upped its game over the last few years, with Madison Social, Township, War Horse, and Proof just down the street. You can have an entire bar crawl just on Gaines Street!
Midtown’s Fox and the Stag, Fire Betty’s Arcade Bar, and some quirky local favorites like Waterworks provide some walk-able options for a night out.
Rachel and I hope you enjoyed our collaboration on what we think are the best sports around on our Tallahassee Bucket List. This won’t be the last of the Weekend Wander Club + Wandering Worldie team! Stay tuned.
What do you think should go on the Tallahassee Bucket List?
Want another bucket list?