1. The Food
I already wrote about this back in the summer. Tallahassee is an older city, so it has more small independent restaurants and fewer chains. That means more variety and good prices. We don't go out all that often, but when we do, we always enjoy it. So far, here is my favorite dining finds. (And, yes, they are different than my last coverage of this.)
- 1 Fresh Stir Fry - This is my favorite place in Tallahassee. It is amazing. You can get bowls of rice or noodles, with meat, sauce, and any variety of toppings. I like the versatility. You can go for Italian with penne, marinara, chicken, and veggies. You can do Mexican with rice and steak, salsa sauce, peppers, corn, and black beans. You can do Chines with noodles, chicken, teriyaki, and vegetables. Or you can get a wrap, quesadilla, bowl of soup, sushi - or any of a number of egg rolls or won tons. It also reheats just as good as the original, so a large bowl gets you two meals. And the kids like it.
- Barnaby's Family Inn - I talked about this place last time. It has awesome pizza. We all love it. It's our default pizza joint.
- Peppers Mexican Grill - Last time I mentioned how good La Fiesta is. Let's put it this way, since we tried Peppers, we haven't been back to La Fiesta. They have lunch specials that are VERY good deals. Tuesday night features free kids meals. They have fish tacos, which Heather thinks are awesome. That is one of my favorite meals, but I haven't even tried it since their steak burritos are so good. And they have awesome queso sauce and salsa. Oh, and they put veggies in their fried rice, which is very good.
- Piggy's BBQ - The only thing I really need to say is Feed Your Family Meal. $27.99 for four heaping servings of meat, four giant sides, and four drinks. It actually serves six. Awesome pulled pork, brisket, ribs. And they have a sweet potato casserole that is sooo good. The kids meals come with mini ice cream cones. All meals come with drinks. They just do things right.
- Canopy Road Cafe - Their sweet potato pancakes are so incredible that if that was the only thing they served, I would still have them ranked. Except they have an enormous menu with all kinds of pancakes, scrambles, sandwiches. Like a local IHOP that wasn't greasy or overpriced - and if it was run by weirdos. (The wait staff is pretty, uh, unique.)
- Honorable Mention - Rummy's Pizza, La Fiesta, Smokey's BBQ
- Honorable Dismention - Helen's Silver Bullet Cafe for closing down and making my kids sad. Boooo.
2. The Seasons
I remember growing up in West Palm Beach, we used to joke that there were only two seasons. There was Summer, which lasted for about nine or ten months. And there was Fallintering. This lasted for maybe two months, three if you were lucky. I badly wanted to have more cold weather. I don't like sweating or baking or broiling. I like to be able to walk down to the car without sweating like I ran a sprint. My dad was from Vermont. He once bought me a shirt that said "Vermont: Spring Summer Fall Winter Winter Winter." I thought that was funny, and I was jealous. Orlando, Tampa? No difference. Maybe Fallintering lasted three or four months. Well, up here there are definitely three seasons. Fallinter, Springter, and Summer. Summer lasts about six or seven months. It still gets ugly and nasty hot. But there actually is a point when the 80 and 90 (and 100) degree madness ends. I like having to wear long sleeve shirts, or being very comfortable wearing short sleeve shirts. It is nice being able to light a fire in the fireplace. And some days, gasp, I don't have to run the A/C at all.
3. The Kids' School
I was so nervous about putting the kids into public school. But their school is great. The kids have loved it and learned so much. But there also has been all kinds of special activities. They had a music/reading performance for the 2nd graders. There are monthly "late night media nights" in the media center. They also have monthly "parents' night out" events. Last night, they had a special free night at the Museum of Arts and Science for our school. On the 15th, all the kids in K-2 are going to see the Princess and the Frog for free at the AMC theater. I have been impressed at the number of corporate sponsorships this school has gotten, and how much stuff they do with the city and county. So far, the school is a huge win.
4. Local Government Programs
I have been very impressed at the number of activities, events, and facilities the local government has set up in Tallahassee. The number of parks here should embarrass cities like Orlando. They have REALLY nice parks. And they also have water parks with slides and huge pools, for like two bucks per person. The city funds a huge gymnastics/dance facility. My kids went this past semester, and would go back in the spring if we could get the schedules to work right. It cost less for us to do a 14 week series than it would to do two weeks at a private gym. There are city-wide pep rallies before every home game. There is a winter festival downtown next week. I am very impressed how much is going on - really adds to the small town feel.
5. The Big School in Town
I love UCF and Orlando. I really do. And I know that UCF is the biggest school in Florida now. [HA HA - suck on THAT!] But the way Orlando grew, it grew up in sections. There is Disney and the tourist side. There is downtown. There is UCF and East Orlando. And there soon will be the Medical City on 417. They don't interact. Now that UCF plays on campus instead of the Citrus Bow, UCF could be in a different city. That is NOT the case in Tallahassee. If you haven't been here, FSU is basically the heart of the city. If FSU wasn't here, the city would be a shell, for the most part. Being a person who has worked with college students for a long time, I love the feeling of having a school so close. You know when there is a home football game because the traffic picks up, the stores get busy, there is a buzz. And that is cool. Tally actually has two big schools, since FAMU is also here. And that just adds to the collegiate air.
FEW MINOR THINGS I'M NOT SO FOND OF
- The traffic is frequently really annoying - and SLOW.
- There is not a lot to do for a family. I hear there is a great art scene. An 8, 6, and 2 year old could care less about art scenes. I think art is super, but I don't go to museums. And the malls are lame. Not a big fan of that.
- No 4 Bedroom Apartments. Seriously, I can't find a place that has four bedroom apartments that are not rented out to four different people. It is so weird.
- The drive anywhere else. It used to be so easy to take a quick jaunt to visit someone the weekend. Two hours, three at the most, would land us in in Jacksonville or Tampa. Now, it takes four-five hours to get to Tampa or Orlando and 2.5-3 to get to Jacksonville. That doesn't sit well with kids.
- My storage unit is in Orlando. I don't think a day goes by that we don't wish our storage unit was up here. We have so much cool stuff that we would use. But it's in Orlando.
So that is my quick update on life in Tallahassee. It is going well. The first half year has been good. And we are looking forward to Christmas. Heather has a whole month off, which will be great for all of us.