“Experiential travel” has been the buzz phrase for the last couple of years—you know, getting a more in-depth feel for a destination, rather than just taking a peek at the sightseeing highlights.
Well, we had our own experiential trip in an unexpected Southern city, Tallahassee, where we digged deep into local dishes and hung with the locals at top eateries. This is a city that’s held onto its Southern style while growing into a political and cultural hub of its own. Here, travelers can appreciate all the highlights of a cultural mecca with tangible Southern hospitality. And on our recent visit to Florida’s capital city, we found the city to also be a gastronomic delight; a place where “farm-to-table” isn’t just a phrase, it’s a practiced way of life.
Just a 3-hour drive from many cities in Florida, Georgia and Alabama, Tallahassee can be your client’s next weekend getaway, full of fresh eats and cozy, comfortable accommodations.
On our recent trip, we stayed at Aloft Tallahassee Downtown, a Starwood Hotels & Resorts property (alofttallahassee.com) whose name says it all—its location is dead-center in Tallahassee’s downtown area, and well, the Aloft name is synonymous with modern contemporary accommodations.
Staying here starts at $99 per night, a steal that provides guests with high-speed wireless Internet, “Touch-and-Go” check-in kiosks, re:fuel restaurant, w xyz lounge, re:charge gym and splash pool, all in an environment lined in pink and blue neon lights, where comfy green- and yellow-striped pillows invite guests to sink in and soak up quietly energetic tunes piped into the background noise. Guestrooms are modern with a hint of minimalism—all of the essentials with none of the “fluff.”
We also stopped in at Hotel Duval (hotelduval.com), with seasonal rates from $129 per night, for a little look-see, though, and we must admit, the property captured our hearts. Where Aloft Tallahassee Downtown is modern and hip, Hotel Duval is top-notch luxury. Three blocks from the center of the city’s downtown, Hotel Duval is an Autograph Collection hotel featuring the award-winning Shula’s 347 Grill and Level 8 bar and lounge. At Level 8, guests can sip cocktails on the open-air patio while enjoying panoramic views of the city.
Accommodations here are just as appetizing—117 rooms and suites span six floors, where each floor offers a different color palette and aromatic stimulant to match the guest’s mood—based on availability, guests can choose from serene green, peaceful neutral, exhilarating red, energizing citrus, uplifting yellow and refreshing blue upon check-in.
Now, getting on to the good stuff…there’s a lot of good eatin’ to be had in the downtown and midtown areas of Tallahassee, and in addition to the fresh menus, many of these eateries are family-owned and -operated, each with a heartwarming start-up story of its own.
Paisley Cafe is a guaranteed bet for brunch, featuring whipped buttermilk scones with apple butter jam that together form the beginning of a very happy morning. A tasty lunch can be had at Mozaik, where dishes are made from scratch and menus change daily. For dinner, we recommend Avenue Eat & Drink or Cypress, both of which are dedicated to serving up meals sourced as locally as possible.
For a delicious snack any time of day, we rate Lucy & Leos Cupcakery a 10. Made fresh from organic ingredients, cupcakes at Lucy & Leo’s come all decked out in amazing variety, with options including vegan and gluten-free, and happy hour specials such as Margarita, Amaretto Sour and Guinness.
Nearby in Monticello, Tupelo’s Bakery & Cafe is worth a visit, too. At Tupelo’s, your clients can look forward to fresh-baked treats and light bites, served up with greens sourced locally from Green Industries and Monticello Vineyards, honey from Full Moon Farm, meats from Golden Acres Ranch and cheese from Sweet Grass Dairy.
It’s a good thing those beds at Aloft and Hotel Duval are so comfy. After all that eating, your clients are going to need to put on their elastic-waisted PJ’s and sleep off the food coma.
getting to tallahassee
Just seven miles away from Tallahassee’s downtown area, Tallahassee Regional Airport (TLH) is a (fairly) convenient option for clients visiting from afar. Unfortunately, we found out the hard way the TSA agents in Florida’s capital city are serious about their jobs—meaning long lines to get through security and—we’re convinced—a higher than normal chance that your clients’ bags will be opened and investigated. Add to that, most of the flights offered are commuter flights hopping back and forth from Tallahassee to Tampa, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami and Atlanta—which often get delayed, and then in our experience, delayed again—we think it might just be easier to drive in. Luckily, Tallahassee is great for the drive market, with a location just a few hours away from clients in Florida, Georgia and Alabama.