Florida may be famous for its beaches and theme parks. But Floridians like myself know that some of the state’s most pleasant places to visit are its pedestrian-friendly small towns, among which Tallahassee—the vibrant state capital—stands out.
College towns always beckon me, with their pretty parks, stream of entertainment (from speakers and plays to concerts and sports) and lively student populations. And strolling the pleasant, tree-lined streets of downtown Tallahassee, you can’t help but bask in the energy of all the accumulated brainpower and cultural offerings bestowed on the place from nearby Florida State University, Florida A&M and the area community college, too.
Under the shade of an oak draped with Spanish moss near Florida’s state capitol building, I spy a gaggle of young students on a school trip. Like me, they’re surely bound for the capitol’s 22nd floor observation deck, with its dazzling views over town.
A short stroll away, in leafy Cascades Park, parents push strollers in the dappled light of late afternoon and stop to let their kids play in the Imagination Fountain splash pad. I feel a pang of missing my own little ones, then decide to quell it with some much needed me-time at nearby Lake Ella, where cute cottages line the lakefront path. It’s Thursday evening and time for the weekly gathering of food trucks. I browse the options before settling on a tasty falafel sandwich. Then I find a spot in the grass to sit and enjoy the live band that’s taken to the stage.
It’s a different kind of Florida from the postcard beach scenes that make tourism headlines, to be sure, but Tallahassee has its own rewards. Here are some of the best downtown Tallahassee hotels to make your home base as you explore the state capital’s charms.