Tallahassee, Florida

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Personal bias: I was born and raised in Tallahassee. After finally living elsewhere and traveling internationally, I have realized that the town's atmosphere and thinking are very sheltered while the economy offers very little development or reason to return for young professionals. Having said that, I still love the town and accepted an offer to go back there for grad school.

Florida's state capitol. Supposedly a site that was explored by Hernando DeSoto during his expedition in 1539. A town dominated by government and higher education (Florida State UniversityFlorida A&M University, and Tallahassee Community College). There are also technical schools Lively Technical Center and Keiser College).

If you are interested in the town, go see the official City of Tallahassee website. Utilities can be connected, disconnected and transferred online.  If you're new to the area, check out this Google Maps collection of local links done for FSU grad students.

My Apt/Housing Searches: 

  • The Off Campus Housing website that was mentioned by Joseph is good and doesn't seem to pick up much spamming of places. 
  • Apartments.com is the Tallahassee Democrat's (local newspaper) default place to look but is sparse.
  • Tallahassee Craigslist hasn't taken off very fast...the town tends to only slowly adopt technological advances.
  • My preferred local apartments that you can probably find through Google: Osceola Ridge (850-575-5001), west10 (1-888-816-9717), Campus Walk Apartments (850-681-3809), Campus Lodge Apartments (850-514-4000) (CampusLodge is known for some pretty good parties and used to be a popular place to be for undergrads), Boardwalk at Appleyard (850-574-0003). The Pines has also been doing a lot of advertisement and rental deals but is kinda far out. 
  • Apt magazines that you can have sent to you: College RentalsRental Guide Apartments (1-800-277-7800)
  • Local Realtors: Century21Re/MaxColdwell Banker
  • A few other places: Realtor.comForSaleByOwnerHomesbyOwner.com
  • FINALLY: Heritage Grove Apartments is almost brand new on FSU's land but financed by private $. It's had mixed reviews of being riddled with fraternities, noise, and poor management and then others have enjoyed it. Perhaps the draw is that it's really cheap, has Publix (regional supermarket) next door, can be fully furnished, and dead close to campus. I tried to e-mail them but that didn't work.
  • There was a link that I used to have for an FSU page with options like Osceola Village, Heritage Grove, etc. but it wasn't that great and just included a few dorms that the page didn't acknowledge were dorms intended for undergrads. 

Housing areas to avoid:

There are three areas to avoid (I'm putting links through GoogleMaps) in town if you're headed to FSU.  

  • One is around FAMU's campus.  As you pull up GoogleMaps and zoom out, you'll notice a train track that splits FSU and FAMU.  Stay NW of that.
  • The second is Frenchtown.  This typically reigns in most of Tallahassee crime stats and is riddled with crack houses and a few gangs.  The approximate borders are east border as N Duval St, south border as Tennessee St, west border as N Woodward Ave, and north border around 4th Ave or 7th ave (4th Ave used to be a prominant local gang).
  • The third is around Rickards High School.  The square that is encompassed by the south border as Paul Russel Rd, east border as Jim Lee Rd, north border as W Orange Ave and the west border as S Monroe St.

We have a few national brands and some locals: Bank of America, Wachovia, Capital City Banking, Peoples First...FSU has a credit union that is linked through the Florida Credit Union. I've only observed frustration and grief with it so I would suggest a private account. Since I'm a customer, I know that BOA allows free student checking (and perhaps savings) and if you say I referred you, we can work out a deal where I think they deposit some $ in your account and give me $10 or $20. I'm fine with going down the middle for anybody that wants free cash...but you gotta give them my name when signing up for it to work. One thing to note is that ATMs are not prevalent in a ton of areas around town so get your $ when you have a chance. Everywhere accepts plastic.

Must See Local and Area Attractions 

The top floor of the state capital (23-stories high), Jr. Museum (our attempt at a mini zoo), Museum of Natural History, the IMAX theatre downtown in Klingman's Plaza, Maclay Gardens to the north of town (the flower gardens are amazing in the spring and it has a bike trail around Lake Overstreet that connects to other paths across Meridian Road), Tom Brown Park (for the 4th of July and other days), Spring Time Tallahassee Parade (obviously an event in the spring), and Apalachee National Forest.  You can do most of that in a few days.  Some of Florida's best beaches are within a short drive, too.  St. George Island used to be pristine but has suffered from some development.  The Ft. Walton Beach-Destin area is still sporting crystal clear waters (some of my favorite).  You can always go to the tourist trap of Panama City.  Oh, and there is river tubing (hop on an inflated tube and go down a river with some beers in a cooler) that is close by off I-10 (which runs west all the way to California and east to Jacksonville).  Another more high-class river is theItchetucknee Springs State Park down by Gainesville (UF is 2-2.5 hrs away). 

Misc other comments

When you look at places to live, you'll often see "close to campus."  9/10 of the time, it's a lie.  Most of those places are out off North Monroe Street by I-10, near the Tallahassee Mall (the other mall we have).  Tallahassee without traffic takes maybe 20 minutes to get from FSU to any corner so it's usually a hop-skip-and-a-jump.  However, with traffic, it used to take me 90 minutes to go 6.5 miles home from my high school.  On game days, you aren't going anywhere fast in a car.

You'll also read about how everywhere is close to a bus line.  Tallahassee's public transportation is worse than that of most 3rd world countries (and I have lived in a few).  There is a special bus line for FSU students that passes most apt complexes close to campus.  Plus, some apts around town DO truly locate near the TalTran (name of the bus line) stops but the routes may not be direct or even come back your way the same way you go.  I wrote an op-ed a few years back about the horrendous design and some efforts were made to improve it but I have no doubt that it is still sub-par. 

With that said, Tally has no other form of public transportation.  Biking to campus isn't a great idea in most areas away from campus because the town is a sprawling, urban mess and drivers seem to veer toward bikers and motorcyclists.  The downtown is superbly designed with one-way streets and you can shave off dozens of minutes if you know the gridded roads but, when you get out of that area, the hills (the city was founded for its 6 or 7 hills...that's the name's translation in an indigenous language) and lack of straight directions would be overbearing.  Plus, it rains...a lot.  If you want to bike, it's not a lost cause---just make sure you locate yourself within a mile or so of campus and you'll be happy.  There's now a bike path that was made from the old railroad tracks so you might be able to put that to use.  I'll put in some sidenotes at the end of my e-mail about it and some other local places. 

For transportation, I'd suggest that you come to town with a car...or, if that's absolutely impossible, then get a place close to campus.  Stay away from the alumni village apts.  They're in terrible shape and are saunas during the hot summers.

If you don't want to head to the east side of town by the Governor's Square Mall or out Mahan (inside the Capital Circle loop), I would suggest you try to get northwest or west of the campus.  Places between FSU and TCC are typically cheap and ok (but not great quality).  Avoid N/NE of campus (Frenchtown).  Don't go near the airport...it's hot, swampy, and you'll feel like you are in the boondocks. 

FYI: The area with all the bars is Tennessee Street between Dewey Street and N Copeland.  You won't want to live anywhere slightly north of there...shady neighborhoods.  All of the bars sit on Tenn St right in front of the campus.  I guess that's nice for undergrads.  They're dirt cheap ($10 all-you-can-drink, penny pitchers, and nickel beers) but you get what you pay for in terms of atmospheres and appearances.  I guess those places might help to stretch your loans or stipend, but I would suggest you head downtown to some of the lounges or to pubs and wineries in Midtown.  The higher costs will price out lower-end clients and put you around young or middle-age professionals.