Culture

Runcation Destination: Tallahassee

This panhandle capital is a runner girl’s Southern charm.


Free of beaches but full of character, Tallahassee isn’t what you think of when you think of Florida. Nestled between the Alabama and Georgia border, this panhandle city has a campy-fun vacation feel, mixed with the energy of a college town. And for runners, there are pancake-flat trails aplenty.

“I consider Tallahassee a premier place for running,” says local runner Amanda Heidecker. “Year-round mild temperatures and lush green landscape make it comfortable and visually appealing. There are more than 600 miles of trails with varying surfaces—sand, clay, grass, shell, board-walk and asphalt—all within a 20-mile radius of downtown.”

Plus, this little Sunshine State gem harbors a ton of history. Lucky for us—the moss-draped canopy roads and accompanying paths built back in the 18th century allow for some seriously gorgeous running.

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Run

Tallahassee–St. Marks Historic Railroad Trail
An obvious choice is the Historic Railroad Trail, which runs 16 miles between Tallahassee and St. Marks. Run north 4.5 miles through the city—an option many FSU students take for a quick out-and-back. Or head south, where the majority of the trail lies. You can stride a straight shot all the way to St. Marks, or opt to deviate onto one of the many trail tangents if you’re feeling adventurous.

Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park
Located in northern Tallahassee, this park contains a lovely series of twisting trails, so it’s best to go with an experienced local who can point you in the right direction. Signs are present at the main trailhead on Miller Landing, sending visitors off in many directions, including the popular 3-mile Red Bug Trail. There’s plenty of parking in the area, and with trails up to 10-plus miles inside this network, you’ll definitely appreciate the short walk back to your car.

Apalachee Regional Park
If you’re in the mood for a shorter jaunt, Apalachee Regional Park offers a quick 3-miler. Created specifically with runners in mind, the trail plays host to many of FSU’s cross-country meets. Pack sunscreen, as the route climbs uphill toward a shade-less stretch where runners can spot model planes soaring through the air.

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Fern Trail
Dirt lovers and trail nerds will dig this singletrack wonder, running from downtown Tally to Tom Brown Park and offering a mix of rural and urban aesthetics. Runners can sweat it out parallel to the railroad tracks as they climb beneath Capital Circle, or diverge into the woods for a more secluded feel. Regardless of your direction, the journey runs behind major businesses before finishing in the park, never leading you too far from civilization.

Before You Go
Take a gander at trailahassee.com, the go-to website for popular trails and excursions around the city. With links to bloggers’ reviews and info about stops for clothing and gear, this site is a great online source for the Tally outdoors.

Eat

Riverside Cafe
After you exhaust your legs on the St. Marks trail, reward your taste buds at this fun cafe, located—literally—on the Wakulla River. Oysters are aplenty, and when in season, we definitely recommend the stone crab claws that walk fresh off the surrounding shores. There’s patio seating, but even inside feels like the outdoors with large windows opening onto the rambling water.

Paisley Cafe
This tiny cafe packs a big, beautiful punch with its delicate presentation and use of seven ingredients or fewer with every dish (no high-fructose corn syrup allowed!). Definitely don’t skip the slutty brownie—the intense chocolate in every bite raises more eyebrows than the name of the dessert.

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Canopy Road Café
For a good ol’ American diner, head to this 10-year-old establishment in Midtown Tallahassee. Known for its generous breakfast portions, the two-sided menu may cause heavy drooling. Whether you’re seeking a Southern fave slathered in gravy or a gigantic omelet with pretty much any fillings you desire, your post-run cravings will be left satisfi ed. Try the cinnamon roll combo—you might as well splurge!

Tally-Ho!

Tree-to-Tree Adventures
Test your limits along one of Tallahassee Museum’s zip line courses, cruising over cypress wetlands and local wildlife. Beginners should try the Canopy Crossing course, a 20-foot-tall cinch, with only two small zip lines. If you want to really fly, Soaring Cypress reaches 60 feet above the ground.

T-n-T Hide-a-Way Kayaking
Give your gams a break and work out your arms during a three-mile guided kayaking tour down the Wakulla River. The local guides definitely know their stuff and can maneuver any kayaks that go astray. The waters are calm, so don’t be afraid to get lost in the peaceful ambiance of floating slowly down the waters and spotting native wildlife. If you’re lucky(?), you might spot a gator!

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Wakulla Springs Jungle Cruise Boat Tour
Take an off-day and hop onto a jungle cruise down the Wakulla River, passing creaky docks and ghostly yet beautiful riverside homes. Trees droop low like the necks of the vultures waiting for their next prey. Keep your camera handy and voices low: You’re in luck if the feeding manatees surface—they are way too adorable to not snap a shot.

Tuck-in Time

Exhausted from steamy runs? Lay your pretty head down at Aloft Tallahassee Downtown, a Starwood Hotel property. Resting in the heart of the bustling city area, rooms are as comfortable as the rates, and the Re:Fuel bar downstairs is perfect for a quick caffeine grab or snack as you head up for the evening.

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