by Wesley Garrity | Photography by Remi Escudie
If your best friend asked you where you could go vintage clothes shopping, visit a couple art galleries, see a play in an intimate setting, and eat a homemade sausage dog from a converted train caboose while listening to live music, you might guess (with some confidence) Munich or New York. If they added spending a of couple hours top roping at a climbing gym, playing bocce ball at a craft brewery, and thumbing through some long sought after Wolverine comics in that same block, then you would wisely change your answer to some hip place in Colorado or Southern California. If they continued their torment by adding Jujitsu or Kung-Fu training (your choice), grabbing a cappuccino at a local coffee bar, custom ordering wooden archery arrows, visiting a boutique herb and spice shop, chartering guided local outdoor adventures, helping out your awesome beard at a specialty barber shop, and setting some high scores at pinball arcade that has an all-day play rate cheaper than your lunch, all in that small radius — you would start to think he is having a laugh!
If he then says this block is also walking distance form a charming urban park connected by a designated walkway, two bicycle shops, a local grocer, another coffee shop, another craft brewery, a pizza place, the best sandwich shop in town, a record store where the records are actually organized, and a college football stadium where the best team in the country plays, depending on the Saturday, then you would have to guess the holodeck on the Starship Enterprise and Commander Riker has been messing with the settings, because this place could not exist. But it does, and it’s right here in Tallahassee, Florida.
Railroad Square has got to be hands down my favorite place with pavement in Tallahassee. It would really be hard to craft a more authentic place, in a better part of the city, stuffed with more local shops. Fun local shops. There is so much going on in Railroad Square I recommend several trips of course! None of the amazing stuff in the above historical fiction hypothetical sci-fi conversation is indeed fictitious. It’s all there. Looking for hard to find seasonings for the curry recipe filled with things you didn’t know existed? Visit Athena’s Garden. Want to teach your kids the lost art of “the nudge” on a real pinball machine? Head to Flipping Great Pinball Arcade for that tactile interaction that the digital world just can’t seem to replicate. Then there is Proof Brewing Co., Tallahassee Rock Gym, The Crum Box, and the list goes on and on. But the best way to experience it is to explore it yourself.
Of course getting there is half the fun. I wanted to see truly how easy it was to get from Cascades Park using the Monroe St. pedestrian bridge to Railroad Square. I biked to downtown from the Northside of town, taking many back roads through Betton Hills and Midtown, eventually finding my way onto Franklin Ave. The improvements made to Franklin are amazing and very friendly for active transportation. If you approach downtown this way, take a few moments to visit the ‘spirit’ houses on Franklin. They stand to remind and educate residents what life was like for many in Tallahassee. There are public bathrooms, water fountains and several places to sit to take in the place. Cascades Park is just across the street and Railroad Square is a pleasant 10 minute pedal from there. Adjacent to Railroad Square along this paved walkway is an extraordinary playground and parking. It had some pretty cool looking stuff including a giant rope like structure that will make moms worry and dads proud.
I know Railroad Square has gone through some changes. It still has First Friday, which happens as is were on the first Friday of every month from 6pm-9pm. I know the Florida State Bachelor of Fine Arts warehouse is no longer there. I watched the city tear down some of the surrounding trees to make way for the walkway that connects RRS to Cascades Park. I know all these things and I still love Railroad Square. I love it even more. Things change, and usually that change means plowing down a bunch of trees on Park Avenue for more mattress stores, or plowing down a bunch of trees to build a warehouse club so you too can buy things in bulk, or plowing down a bunch of trees… you get the idea. Railroad Square is 100% local, and such a breath of fresh air from everything that you may feel is taking the beauty and charm away from this wonderful city. It is truly a unique place that one would be hard pressed to find anywhere else, and it’s here, right here in your town. Now go out and get lost in Railroad Square!
Wesley Garrity has lived in Tallahassee for more than 20 years. He loves the outdoors and tries his very best, though often unsuccessfully, to get lost wherever he goes.