Top Reasons To Retire In Tallahassee, Florida

Retirees in this sunny city play a vital community role.

If you think only of beach towns when you dream of Florida, think again. There's a lot happening inland that deserves your attention if you are looking to retire. The Sunshine State's capital city is one of those spots that deserves a second look. Despite having a population nearing 200,000, Tallahassee still has a small-town feel. That's thanks to its location along the Big Bend where the state's panhandle meets the peninsula. This places it away from the sprawl of Central and South Florida, and the climate is mild year-round. Plus, the Gulf's white-sand beaches are just 40 minutes to the south, and golfers can always find a tee time.

Tallahassee is home to a large community college and two major universities—Florida State and Florida A&M, the latter of which is one of the leading public Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Along with lots of high-level sports from Tallahassee's big colleges, locals enjoy something extra from Florida A&M—performances by the Marching 100, one of the world's most innovative and influential marching bands. But that's just one of many reasons to relocate to Tallahassee.

Tallahassee, Florida
Sean Pavone Photo/Getty Images

Grow And Learn

Retire to Tallahassee and you'll find that the universities and community colleges offer classes, events, and other opportunities for enrichment to those with free time and a desire to grow and learn. And the learning goes both ways. The AARP recently partnered with a shared workspace named Domi to create an innovation incubator program called Third Act, which taps into the expertise of people 50 and older.

Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park in Tallahassee FL
Michael Titus/Florida State Parks

Enjoy The Outdoors

You'll also find a bunch of great outdoor attractions in and around Tallahassee. At Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park, there are 1,176 acres to explore. The property is both a botanical garden and a historic site with nature trails, biking trails, and shared-use trails along with stunning gardens. (Peak bloom usually falls in mid-to-late March.) The park hosts special events from live jazz to Camellia Christmas.

Running, walking, horseback riding, bird watching, and cycling are all welcome on the 17-mile J.R. Alford Greenway Trail. You'll find gorgeous views of Piney Z Lake and lots of wildlife there. For a vibrant urban experience, walk or check out a performance at Cascades Park, a city greenspace that stretches 24 acres along the St. Augustine Branch stream.

Explore Florida's History

The Tallahassee Museum has outdoor trails across its 52 acres, with a historic farm, one-room schoolhouse, and native animals on exhibit. And if you've ever wanted to learn how to blacksmith, weave, or make bacon jam, there's bound to be an educational program for you.

Another must-visit spot is Mission San Luis, a Spanish Franciscan mission built in 1656 that has been reconstructed for a living history museum. Visitors can see reconstructions of Apalachee and Spanish structures and learn about the history and archaeology of the site.

Railroad Square Craft House in Tallahassee, FL
Railroad Square Craft House is part grub pub, part entertainment venue. Lydia Belle

Experience The Arts

The city also has lots to recommend it in the way of arts and culture. There's always something happening at the Railroad Square Art District, where galleries, shops, and monthly First Friday festivals celebrate the visual arts as well as live music. It's also a destination for antiques and cafes. Grab a sandwich from the Crum Box Gastgarden, Tallahassee's only restaurant residing in a caboose.

Visit Tallahassee

Eat Local Fare

The city has hundreds of locally-owned restaurants serving food in every cultural tradition imaginable. Tallahassee Foodies has an extensive directory that will get you salivating over them all. For breakfast, you can load up on eggs, grilled pecan smoked sausage, cheese grits, and Elvis toast (French toast slathered in peanut butter and bananas) at The Bada Bean. Le Cordon Bleu Peru-educated Chef Martín Araujo Bohorquez serves beautifully plated Peruvian classics for lunch and dinner at Café de Martín. The menu also includes four varieties of Tres Leches cake, which you can savor with a cup of Peruvian coffee. Brothers Tyler and Jesse Rice take farm-fresh food to another level at Backwoods Crossing. Their weekly Garden Creations menu features fare from local producers as well as their own 3-acre farm (they estimate their chicken coop produces 18,000 eggs a year). It's also the only place you can get the Black and Bleu Boar Burger.

Play Pickleball

Given these and other selling points (including the fact that Florida has no state income tax), Tallahassee has always been a popular place to retire, but the city and its civic leaders are pouring energy into attracting retirees. "We have one of the nation's best parks-and-recreation departments," says Gregg Patterson, who's executive director of Choose Tallahassee, a nonprofit organization promoting the city as a relocation destination. "You can play pickleball and also take free lifelong-learning classes."

You're more likely to find Patterson taking a stroll than playing pickleball. He and his wife have walked across Spain, Portugal, and Scotland, and he also leads Move Tallahassee, a thriving local walking group. He says he's nearing retirement himself and is happy he won't have to move. "I came here to go to Florida State in the 1970s and never left. After four children and four grandchildren, I'm here for good," he says. Visit Tallahassee, and you just might be tempted to say the same.

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