Tallahassee was a stop-over point on my Big Gay Florida Road Trip between St. Augustine and the Florida Panhandle. I didn’t expect to explore the region much, as I was more focused on catching up on my sleep. But alas, the city offered too many hidden treasures to uncover.
I arrived in Tallahassee in the late afternoon, after a three-hour drive from St. Augustine. I had stopped in Jacksonville earlier in the day for lunch after leaving Florida’s First Coast.
Although not within easy walking distance to anything of interest, I enjoyed the central location of Hotel Duval.
I spent the evening exploring the city and was beyond excited to note that I needed to engage my parking brake in this hilly, northern Florida town. Those who live in flat Florida will best understand why this excited me.
Since I was in town for such a short time and didn’t want to miss a thing, or a bite, I had two meals – one vegan and one more traditional. Keep reading for my foodie reviews.
Overall, Tallahassee welcomed me with open arms (and a midnight fire alarm). Although it’s often overlooked as a road trip destination, I highly suggest spending a night or two in this politically rich city.
How Gay is Tallahassee?
While the government in Tallahassee leans red, the city itself leans blue. Although there are plenty of Republicans that are LGBTQ-supportive, a blue region often means a more progressive and welcoming place for LGBTQ residents and visitors. Tallahassee’s inclusive nature is significantly driven by Florida State University which has one of the oldest LGBTQ Student Unions in the country.
Gay adults in Tallahassee aren’t nearly as out and open as the youth in the region, but if you follow the rainbows you’re bound to find them.
University LGBTQ Clubs
Florida State University has had an LGBTQ Student Union for over 50 years. Established in 1969, Pride Student Union is Florida State University’s largest and most prominent LGBTQ+ student-run organization. Pride Student Union emerged in 1969 as the People’s Coalition For Gay Rights in response to the Stonewall Riots, known by many as the catalyst of the LGBTQ+ rights movement. The People’s Coalition For Gay Rights changed its name several times throughout the 1970s-2000s, finally becoming Pride Student Union in 2005.
In contrast, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University’s newly minted LGBTQ Club Spectrum was created in 2017 for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer plus students in order to raise awareness about the culture, history, rights, beliefs, and roles of the LGBTQ+ community. FAMU is a public, historically black university in Tallahassee, Florida. Given the challenges faced by black queer people, specifically black transgender women, the timing of this new club couldn’t be more ideal.
LGBTQ Bars and Clubs
Although Florida’s capital city is home to thousands of progressive students at Florida State University and Florida A&M University, it might shock some to know there are few gay bars in Tallahassee. In fact, there’s only one – 926 Bar & Grill. Gay-owned and operated, 926 Bar & Grill is the local LGBTQ hangout for people of all ages, genders and sexual orientations. Currently, the bar is offering both socially distanced in-person and live stream events.
Where to Stay in Tallahassee?
Tallahassee is not a tourist hot-spot like Orlando or Fort Lauderdale, so the regional hotels cater more to visiting politicians and corporate employees. But you can still find a place to unwind and relax while in town.
415 North Monroe Street
Take a break from the bustle of the state capitol and settle into this historic boutique hotel. Hotel Duval has been updated to a stylish, modern Marriot Autograph Collection property. Amenities are decent and some rooms feature separate living areas with sleeper sofas.
Enjoy a beverage at the rooftop cocktail lounge or dine at the hotel’s Shula’s 447 Grill. Work off your calories at the state-of-the-art fitness center or with a stroll to nearby historic sites and attractions.
This wasn’t my favorite Florida property, but it was comfortable enough to highlight and perfect for a one-night stay in Tallahassee. The AC was a little loud for me and the fire alarm went off in the middle of the night, sending all of us downstairs at 4 AM, but this isn’t a norm.
I like Marriott properties because they are usually very welcoming to LGBTQ guests.
Check with the hotel to find out if the restaurant or rooftop bar is open. Both were closed during my visit. Breakfast was also not being offered, but I imagine this has changed since July. Also, parking is limited. I parked along the wall near the entrance. If parking is not available there, ask the front desk for options nearby.
Where to Eat & Drink in Tallahassee
I had fun exploring the gay-friendly foodie options in Tallahassee. I started at All Saints Cafe for a coffee, headed to Bark for a vegan sandwich and finished my feast at Savour with fresh seafood and cocktails.
All Saints Cafe
903 Railroad Avenue
Head to this comfy, quirky cafe for custom coffees, tasty baked goods, vegan snacks, vegetarian bites, and a welcoming vibe. It’s also the perfect stop to begin a gay Tallahassee visit.
This popular LGBTQ community hang out is a great spot to connect with old friends, make new ones, read, study, or just feel at home. Find out hours, daily coffees, and seasonal specials like vegan all fruit gelato here.
Insider Info: All Saints Cafe is also a popular meeting space for LGBTQ teens and the local PFLAG group. Although the gathering spaces were closed during my visit, the venue is large and spacious – the perfect place for events, entertainment and gatherings.
507 All Saints Street
Since opening in 2017 The Bark has been a place where all are welcome. The Bark is all bite when it comes to eating up their innovative contemporary fusion dishes. The menu includes amazing vegetarian and vegan options.
It’s also a great place to relax after a day on the road. Sip some tea (or beer!) and enjoy the mellow ambience of friendly patrons and cool murals by local artists. Check out their menu, including fresh daily specials here.
My Tip: Currently, The Bark is operating as a delivery and to-go establishment. And it’s worth the visit! You won’t believe that the food here is vegan. It tasted that good! I ate the Tofu Bahn Mi with fried tofu, pickled carrot, cucumber, cilantro, jalepeno, scallions, vegan mayo, siracha, peanut & sweet pepper sauces on a baguette. Both vegan and gluten free, this sandwich blew my minds…and my taste buds.
115 East Park Avenue
Settle into the charming, eclectic vibe of this hidden gem of a dining spot. Before dinner enjoy a classic cocktail or choose from the impressive wine list.
Sumptuous appetizers include a charcuterie and cheese board of local and imported artisan items. Seasonal entrees feature local produce and quality seafood and meat. Save room for a slice, or two, of “Adult Key Lime Pie” made with Grand Marnier and a tequila custard! Plan a dinner experience you can savor here.
My Tip: Sip on an Old Fashioned and try the Crab and Brie Stuffed Trout with Blistered Corn & Tomato Salad. I spoke with the chef who shared his fishmonger experience and assured me that all seafood at Savour is top-quality, even if not local to the region.
320 East Tennessee Street
Take comfort in the innovative southern-inspired comfort food at Cypress. This inviting modern space gets its charm and ambience from the artwork of talented locals lining the walls.
Indulge in local favorites including seasonal entrée salads, house made biscuits topped with oysters in a cream sauce. The unique menu includes vegetarian and gluten-free offerings, craft beers on tap, and a nice wine list. Check out the menu here.
What to Do in Tallahassee
To be honest, I didn’t explore many of the tourist activities a gay Tallahassee road trip has to offer, because I left early and continued to The Florida Panhandle. But I look forward to a return trip when possible.
In July, several venues were closed due to COVID. Most have reopened since, but check with each location to stay updated on hours and restrictions.
Florida Historic Capitol Museum
400 South Monroe Street
Florida’s historic 1902 capitol building has been lovingly preserved to connect Floridians with the political institutions that have shaped the state. The Museum tells Florida’s political story through interactive exhibits, artifacts, and public programs.
Tour the “Old Capitol” on your own or with a knowledgeable guide. Learn everything you ever wanted to know about Sunshine State politics from establishment in 1845 to the “hanging chads” of the 2000 Presidential election and more! Plan your visit here.
While the town doesn’t offer a formal mural tour (that I could find), Tallahassee is packed with unique works of art on buildings throughout the city. I’ve posted a few of my favorites below, but Visit Tallahassee has provided a more comprehensive guide. Also make sure to check out our OutCoast Mural Art Tour of Florida for a more in depth look at murals throughout the state of Florida.
St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and Lighthouse
Highway 98 at Wakulla Beach Road then check directional signage
Escape the bustle of the state capitol and head 40 minutes south to this unique 80,000+-acre coastal wildlife refuge and recreation area. The area was established in 1931 to protect an array of migratory birds throughout the year. It’s also home to various mammals, snakes, butterflies, and even alligators – oh my!
There’s plenty to see and experience here. Borrow a pair of binoculars from the Visitor Center and check out the Florida Birding Trail. Hikers can choose from numerous trails of varying lengths and levels. Hop on your bike and explore the 49.5 Florida National Scenic Trail. Anglers will appreciate access to fresh and Gulf waters with opportunities for boating, fishing, and even crabbing. Seasonal hunting is permitted with advanced application and approval. Visitors can participate in guided hikes, educational programs, and even camping in the refuge. Get all the details here.
At the southern point of the refuge you’ll find the St. Marks Lighthouse. This beacon has been protecting vessels navigating the Apalachee Bay for over 170 years and has been in its current spot since 1842. Stop by the Visitor’s Center to view the original 1800s lens and tour the Keeper’s House to learn more about life at St. Marks over the past 170 years. Find out more, including the tour schedule, here.
Tallahassee Automobile Museum
6800 Mahan Drive
What do 160 mint-condition antique cars, rare musical instruments, vintage boat motors, sports memorabilia, the largest collection of case knives in the U.S., and three Bat Mobiles have in common? They’re all waiting for you to check them out at the Tallahassee Automobile Museum!
Visitors of all ages and interests will enjoy exploring this 100,000 square-foot specialty museum. Simply put, the Museum houses an eclectic collection of really cool Americana and craftsmanship. Plan your visit to this shrine to craftsmanship and collecting here.
Museum of Florida History
500 South Bronough Street
Take a break from the road and get caught up on your Florida history. This well-organized and updated museum gives visitors of all ages access to Florida’s natural and human history going back 12,000 years!
Learn about the Sunshine State’s fascinating, sometimes intense, history. Go back in time with authentic artifacts, award-winning exhibits, and original artwork. Learn more about what awaits you including special exhibits, events, and programs here.
Tallahassee COVID Initiatives
As Tallahassee and surrounding areas of north Florida reopen information is frequently being updated to best meet the needs of the community and ensure safety for residents and visitors.
During this unusual time please travel safe. Check with your hosts, restaurants, and other venues in advance to learn their current plans and regulations.
Check here for Covid19 related safety updates and advisories: https://www.talgov.com/publicsafety/covid-19.aspx
Plan Your Gay Tallahassee Road Trip
Tallahassee has been serving centuries of Floridians as the state’s capital since 1824. Despite being the largest city in the northern “Big Bend” region of Florida and the center of Sunshine State politics “Tally” retains its southern charm and natural features – inluding some of the biggest hills in the state!
The city is also a true “college town” with over 70,000 college students in residence. Tallahassee’s balance of history, political energy, higher education, and beautiful natural areas make for a vibrant, welcoming community with something for visitors of all interests. Start planning your gay Tallahassee Road Trip today.
For more ideas on what to do in Tallahassee and the Florida Panhandle, click here.