7 Things You Should Do in Tallahassee's Gaines Street
By Florence Snyder
Tallahassee's Gaines Street Corridor is a foolproof destination.
You can't get lost.
You can't go wrong.
You can get anywhere from anywhere on Gaines Street in Tallahassee. It doesn't take long... if you can resist the nooks and crannies and side streets.
The G Street area is recently renovated, surprisingly sophisticated, and a destination venue for anyone in search of a low-cost, high-impact experience. The Street itself forms the spine of the campuses of Florida State University to the north and Florida A&M University to the south. It's also the heart and soul of the local arts, music, food and fashion communities.
Gaines Street is a three-mile stretch that begins at Cascades Park and works its way west to Doak Campbell Stadium, home of FSU's defending national championship football team. Whether you're looking to fill a solitary hour or savoring a weekend in Tallahassee with family and friends, there's something for every age and interest.
So turn off your GPS and try one of our Gaines Street itineraries, or wander into an adventure that's all your own.
A walk in the park ... or a sit in the shade
Cascades Park is the perfect place to start or end your day in the Gaines Street Corridor. A 1,500-seat amphitheater and festival lawn are surrounded by playgrounds, jogging paths, picnic tables and shade trees. It's a relaxing basecamp for people interested in visiting historically significant sites such as the Old Waterworks, the George Firestone Building (which once housed the Old City Jail) and the Union Bank Building (now home to the Southeastern Regional Black Archives Research Center and Museum). Reflect on nature, and your place in the universe, at the Prime Meridian Marker, which marks the intersection of the guide meridian and the base parallel from which all Florida land surveys are calculated.
It's all about the bass ... and lots of treble
Musicians, and fans of great music, are on Gaines like gravy on rice. FSU and FAMU are home to world-renowned music programs, and many of the kids who came to study decades ago have never left. You can hear them, and every year's new crop of talent, playing every genre of the musical alphabet, from alternative rock to zydeco, at the corridor's bars, restaurants, pool halls and pubs. See what's playing at places such as St. Michael's; The Side Bar; Fermentation Lounge; and The Warehouse. And check out Retrofit Records for vinyl, CDs and tapes — yes, tapes — you won't find in your hometown mall.
A night on the town with your special date ... or your favorite aunt:
The dress code on Gaines Street is college kid casual. But when you've sprung for tickets and dressed to the nines to see the likes of violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman at FSU or opera megastar Kathleen Battle in recital at Florida A&M, you'll feel right at home starting your evening at Nefetari's Fine Cuisine and Spirits, where you can eat like a Pharaoh for the price of a downtown steakhouse burger. Nefetari’s hosts a monthly Monday at the Movies showcase for indie films. The FSU Student Life Cinema offers a mix of old masters, avant-garde, and current box office blockbusters, as you'd expect from a university with bragging rights to one of the country's great film schools.
All Saints Cinema, home of the Tallahassee Film Society, is located in the city's old train station, retrofitted to feel like a private screening room. The Film Society offers movies you won't see at the multiplex and the best popcorn in town.
The Corridor is within shouting distance of the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center, a regular stop for nationally known recording artists and Broadway touring companies. And, for little or no money, you can see the stars of tomorrow at FSU and FAMU, where student theater, dance, opera and every kind of band stages shows, recitals and the occasional open rehearsals, every month of the year.
Five restaurants and a retailer:
If you like places to sit and people-watch while the shoppers in your party explore the new and Tallahassee-centric Urban Outfitters, the plaza area at CollegeTown was made for you. CollegeTown is one of several mixed-use residential developments recently opened or under construction in the Corridor. It's located across from the stadium, and offers simple family fare at Brooklyn Water Bagels and the Pomberry yogurt shop, along with options for discerning diners at Madison Social and Cantina Tacos and Tequila.
Get a running start on your holiday and birthday shopping:
Shop the old-fashioned way at places like Avant Garb Vintage; Olde Fields Clothing Co.; Phaze One Skate Shop and any of the arts and crafts stores and kiosks that dot the Corridor. The shopkeepers are knowledgeable and friendly and will help you select something unique that looks more expensive than it is. "First Friday" is a great time to shop under the stars and enjoy music, food and craft beer at Railroad Square Art Park’s signature monthly block party.
Can't break free of business?
Well, then, bring your device over to the All Saints Cafe, a coffee house that never closes. The wi-fi is free and the baristas will help you choose a caffeinated concoction that will bring out the best in your brain cells.
If you leave Gaines Street hungry, it's your fault:
The two dollar breakfast special at Savannah's Country Buffet will keep a construction worker going 'til lunchtime, and the regular menu has attracted local movers and shakers for decades, and not just because it used to be the only place to eat on the Street. Most of the new places for Tallahassee dining in the Corridor are locally owned and strive for local sourcing, good nutrition and affordability. Vegetarians and vegans are right at home in the Corridor. Local favorites include Bread and Roses; The Grain; Merv's Melt Shop; the Crepevine, Gaines Street (Pizza) Pies; Voodoo Dog: Leo's Cupcakes; and Kubano, a food truck that dishes up Cuban comfort food that impresses even folks who live in Miami.