Tallahassee gems

When I first moved to Tallahassee in fall 2008, I couldn’t even comprehend what had driven me to move 17 hours away from my family to a small city where I knew absolutely no one. (It was a job.)

I didn’t know quite where I fit in. The town seemed an odd fit for a young professional. There was the college side of town with all the kids from Florida State or FAMU. Then there were my older, married colleagues.

And on top of that, my first impression was that the only thing to do in Tallahassee was to drink or go to the movies.

It felt completely foreign to me. Nothing like Pittsburgh, where I’d grown up.

But, four and a half years later, I begrudgingly admit that the town has grown on me and I’ve discovered there are things to do other than drink, though I’d still say the nightlife options are limited.

And Tallahassee has a few gems that are definitely worth pointing out.

These five stand out:

1. Bradfordville Blues Club

The tiny blues club on the north side of Tallahassee is tucked away at the end of a dirt road. If you aren’t paying attention/driving in the dark (or in my case, listening to my friend give terrible directions) you’ll miss it.

But once you get there, you won’t regret the trip. The venue is small and intimate, yet attracts blues acts from around the country. And don’t expect to stay in your seat.  Dancing may as well be a mandatory part of the evening.

2. Food Truck Thursday

I have a special place in my heart for Food Truck Thursday. I first went to the weekly gathering of Tallahassee-area food trucks because I was writing a story and wanted to take in the atmosphere. Now, I’m addicted.

In an empty lot on Tharpe, across from the Lake Ella Publix, eight to 10 food trucks gather every Thursday night to feed eager Tallahassee customers. Gourmet grilled cheese, wood fire pizza and pulled pork sliders topped with chipotle mac ‘n’ cheese are just some of the items you could sample while listening to live music. Oh, and for dessert, a local cupcakery is there with its own truck, ready to serve customers.

Make sure you have cash though. Not all of the trucks take plastic. Also, bring your own folding chairs and some beer so you can sit and  listen to whoever is playing that night.

3. Kool Beanz

OK, more food.

I don’t even know the first time I went to Kool Beanz, but I probably went because everyone told me how amazing it is. And they don’t lie.

I have a horrible habit of finding my favorite item on a menu and sticking to it. So at Kool Beanz, I routinely order the flank steak, which is accompanied by a glorious helping of mashed potatoes and onion rings. (Truth be told, I’d rather have a vegetable than the onion rings, but oh well.) I did branch out this last time and ordered trout, which was equally wonderful as the steak.

Oh, and you’ll want an appetizer of oysters if they’re on the menu when you go.

4. Tom Brown Park/Lake Lafayette Park/J.R. Alford Greenway

My favorite form of exercise has long been walking. It’s the best way to get to know a new place and it burns calories.

Luckily, my best Tallahassee pal Lynn thinks the same way.

On weekends, you can usually find the two of us logging several miles in Tom Brown Park. (Our record is 10 miles, which we’ve only done twice. Usually it’s in the six to eight mile range) We can log so many miles because Tom Brown connects its trails to another park, Lake Lafayette Park. If you go far enough in Lake Lafayette Park, you can cross over the lake on a man-made land bridge and eventually make your way to the Alford Greenway. The Alford Greenway has all sorts of trails of its own that Lynn and I are still trying to figure out. (We got a little lost a few weeks ago.)

But the  bottom line is the parks are beautiful and the trails are well maintained. If you like hiking, trail running or just a nice leisurely walk, go to this park.  If you’re more adventurous, you could take your bike on the trails.  I’m personally too much of a chicken to do that and only stick to the paved trails with my bike.

5. FSU’s Seven Days of Opening Nights

Confession: I’ve known about FSU’s Seven Days of Opening Nights since my first year and last Thursday was the first time I’ve gone to one of the events.

I actually did want to go last year, but the performance I wanted to see had quickly sold out. Cest la vie.

Anyway, Florida State holds a performing arts festival every year that stretches over several months, but the majority of events take place in February and March. They get amazing acts. This year’s lineup includes Bernadette Peters, Wynton Marsalis and Hilary Hahn.

Gray and I went to see Hahn Thursday night. Now, given that I started playing the violin when I was eight, I was geeking out a little bit about seeing Hahn play. I had seen her once before in Pittsburgh when I was in high school.

But her performance was truly amazing (Gray agreed). She played both some standards (Bach) and newly commissioned pieces. And during the whole performance, I internally scolded myself for not making more of an effort to come to some of the performances in past years.

Tickets are $40 for adults and $10 for students.

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