Tallahassee is perhaps best known as Florida’s state capital and the home of several major colleges, including Florida State University and its winning football legacy. But it has more to offer than politics and pigskin. There’s history and culture galore to explore, along with outdoor adventures found down shady backroads. It’s full of both laidback old-Florida charm and bustling big-city energy, the latter deliciously exemplified in its diverse dining and drinking options that run the gamut from established fine-dining favorites, to hip new bakeries and breweries. Here are a few highlights to help you discover as much as possible during a two-day visit.
48 Hours in Tallahassee, Florida
If you arrive in town just in time for happy hour, you’ll be glad, indeed. You’ll be in an even better mood after a visit to Proof Brewing. Founded in 2013, it moved to its current sleek space, with the working brewery in back and tasting room-plus-chill lounge up front, in early 2019. Choose a bold hoppy brew or one of its sour styles (both Proof specialties) off the chalkboard menu, before stretching out on a mod, mid-century-style sofa or playing a little cornhole on the lawn off the patio.
When hunger strikes, head to Kool Beanz in Tallahassee’s Midtown neighborhood. The eatery has long been packed with locals every evening, and dinner there is a low-key way to settle into the city. The cozy interior is alive with art, and the brilliant colors of the works and the walls themselves are matched by the vibrant flavors coming out of the kitchen. Dishes like duck breast with Thai green curry, blackened catfish with crawfish butter, and lime-garlic mojo salmon showcase the wide range of global cuisines influencing chef and owner Keith Baxter.
Stay up for a nightcap and take an elevator up to Level 8 Lounge to enjoy it. This buzzing rooftop bar downtown boasts stellar views of the city skyline and posh craft cocktails.
Start Saturday off on a French-inspired foot, with a morning meal at Au Péché Mignon. Coffee is a given, and the options are endless, but you can’t go wrong with a classic café au lait. Pick a pastry or two to down with your drink, and even though they’re not a typical breakfast choice, you should definitely consider treating yourself to a couple of the bakery’s rainbow-colored, cream-filled macarons. Flavors like champagne, raspberry and blood orange melt in your mouth, disappearing far too soon.
Fortified with energy (aka caffeine and sugar), venture beyond Tallahassee’s borders for a bit, to step back in time at Bradley’s Country Store — founded in 1927 — and immerse yourself in the relaxed pace of the rural Red Hills region that’s just north of the city. The drive takes you along one of Tallahassee’s multiple canopy roads, pathways wrapped in shade and dappled sunlight, as thick branches of oak trees on either side reach across and connect into living tunnels. As soon as you arrive at Bradley’s, you’ll smell the spot’s claim to fame — sausage made fresh on-site, from the family’s secret and all-natural recipe. If you’re ready for more food, snag a sausage dog — either a fresh or smoked link in varying levels of spice — and enjoy it while perusing the store’s other wares, old-timey treats like pickled green tomatoes and stone-ground grits (also made on-site).
Back in Tallahassee, continue your tour of area history at two magnificent estates-turned-museums. A walk through Goodwood Museum and Gardens offers a glimpse of almost 100 years of life, with 20 structures spanning 1835 to 1925 and showcasing a range of architectural styles. Once a 2,400-acre cotton plantation, the now 20-acre site is on the National Register of Historic Places and features the restored white-columned main house full of original furnishings, china and art; a greenhouse; multiple cottages; a reflecting pool; a carriage house and more. The grounds are as lovely and as vintage as the buildings, with hundreds of shrubs and flowers scattered among live oaks, all heirlooms themselves, since there’s nothing growing now that wasn’t there in 1929.
Gain a different perspective at The Grove Museum, an institution dedicated to specific pieces of Florida’s past. The Call-Collins house, an 1830s Greek Revival mansion, is the site’s centerpiece, but it’s not set up as a “house museum.” Instead, exhibits and displays (some are interactive) in each room use the stories of the home’s former residents to examine the roles that they, and Tallahassee, played in the state’s heritage. From slavery to the Civil Rights movement, it pays close attention to the amazing efforts of enslaved craftspeople who erected the imposing house nearly two centuries ago. And there’s more than education on offer; the 10.5-acre respite on the edge of downtown is a calm oasis of green that’s frequented by folks just looking for a pretty place to sit a spell.
For lunch, head a few blocks over and ask for an outdoor table at Jeri’s Midtown Cafe, where you can refresh with mint-infused iced tea and nosh on a grown-up grilled cheese sandwich (thick slices of cheddar, smothering roasted tomatoes and fresh basil) or a Jill Bird, a croissant stuffed with tarragon-spiked chicken salad, salami and muscadine preserves.
Now, you’re ready for some retail therapy at a unique concept called Hearth & Soul, where the store is set up like a house, with apropos items for sale in the men’s and ladies’ closets, the kitchen, the library, even the laundry room. It’s truly a one-stop-shop. Need a new dress or some comfy PJs? Done. A pewter platter, some locally roasted coffee and a mug made by a Tallahassee potter? No problem. How about some throw pillows and the latest Southern lit bestseller? It’s all inside. But it’s not only Hearth & Soul’s highly diverse and carefully curated inventory that’s gained its throngs of loyal fans (both locals and visitors). Thanks to a welcoming atmosphere, the warm experience at the shop draws community gatherings like book club meetings and more.
If all the previous activity leaves you on empty, refuel and relax in luxury at IL Lusso, a steakhouse with Italian flair. Natural light streaming through glass walls bathes the refined dining room and sets the tone for an evening of elegance that only builds with every bite. Don’t forgo starters — opt for succulent braised pork cheeks resting on creamy butternut and chili puree with the crunch of tart apple — but don’t fill up either. Next is the pasta course, followed by a stellar selection of beef cuts with opulent embellishments like truffle butter and foie gras.
Your last stop takes the ambiance in the opposite direction, but what the Bradfordville Blues Club may lack in decor, it makes up for with authenticity and serious live music. The small cinder-block building, which fronts a cornfield, is a real-deal juke joint, hosting local and legendary musicians and earning inclusion on the National Blues Trail; it’s the only spot in the state to carry this distinction.
Undo a little of yesterday’s indulgence with a morning stroll through Cascades Park, a 24-acre multi-use space in the heart of downtown, with an amphitheater, miles of paved trails, a moving Korean War monument and more.
Next, drop by the chic, white-washed digs of SoDOUGH for an airy yet dense brioche donut (slicked with chocolate glaze) and a lavender-vanilla cold brew, before heading back outside of Tallahassee’s limits to visit the wonderland of Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park.
Home to the world’s deepest and largest freshwater springs, this 6,000-acre wildlife sanctuary is well worth the short drive. After a look around the historic 1930s-era lodge (and maybe a snack from the soda fountain), hop aboard a covered pontoon boat for an hour-long Jungle Cruise. And ready your camera. As the boat slowly glides across the clear Wakulla River flowing south toward the Gulf of Mexico from the spring head, watch the water and the banks of the surrounding cypress swamplands; up-close sightings of herons, bald eagles, turtles and toothy alligators of all sizes are almost guaranteed. And if you’re lucky, you might encounter a manatee. These elusive gentle giants often come to the springs to bear and raise their young.
Following this itinerary makes for a packed two days, and there’s still plenty more to see and do in Tallahassee. So if you’ve got the time, extend your stay and find out why the hashtag #ihearttally is always trending.
Learn more about this spectacular Southern escape at visittallahassee.com.
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