Tallahassee chose me… three times. The first was in 1977 when I was born at the hospital my great grandfather helped create 30 years earlier – Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. From there, I grew up northeast of Tallahassee at the Miccosukee Land Co-op, a legendary intentional community started in the 1970s by a group of creative thinkers looking for community-based living. My parents were among the founders of the Co-op, giving me the most amazing place to grow up where I could roam the woods, catch crawdads in the creeks, canoe in my yard when it flooded, and best of all, bounce between neighbors’ houses with a crew of friends.
After high school and a semester working abroad, it was time for college and that’s when Tallahassee chose me for the second time. I’d been a Seminole for as long as I could remember… some of my favorite childhood memories are from football games with my dad and then later with my friends. So when FSU chose me, it hardly mattered what other options were available. I said Yes… but I also said I’d leave after college.
And I did leave, but only for 7 years until Tallahassee chose me for the third time – but really, it was the other way around this time. I was living in St. Pete with a new husband, a big group of friends, and a great career. But as my husband and I started to plan for a family, we realized something was missing. We didn’t feel connected to our community, our downtown home had no room for children, we desired better public schools, and we really wanted the kids to grow up near grandparents. The decision was easy – Tallahassee had everything we were looking for and more that we didn’t even know we wanted. We moved back to Tallahassee in 2006 and now we can’t imagine living anywhere else.
In each of these three chapters of my life in Tallahassee, I have experienced the city in different ways… as a child, as a college student, and now as a mother/wife/professional/community advocate. Tallahassee has been good to me during all these chapters and while each experience has been quite different, there are some common favorites that make this City so special to me…
Community! Tallahassee is the perfect size town for feeling a sense of community. It’s common to run into friends at events and see familiar faces at the store. You can meet your elected officials – or you can become one. You can usually find common connections after just 5 minutes with a new acquaintance. People are friendly and eager to connect. Enriching volunteer opportunities are everywhere and our non-profit sector is strong.
Nature! We have countless options for biking, swimming, running, paddling, boating, and exploring. (And side note: I have never been more thankful for our outdoor spaces than I am during this strange time of quarantining and social distancing.)
Festivals & Events! We have incredible festivals and events throughout the year, but Spring is my favorite time of year in Tallahassee because of the festival line up. Chain of Parks Art Festival earns its Top 5 national ranking and is a must-attend annual event. Word of South and Southern Shakespeare have become family traditions for us. Plus Springtime Tallahassee, Red Hills Horse Trials, and so many more festivals and events pack the Spring with something to do every weekend. And it’s not just Spring – the cultural climate in Tallahassee has exploded during my lifetime… there’s always something to do and for a wide variety of interests.
So Much More! I could go on & on…. I love how close the beaches are – and how you can find a deserted beach an hour away or reach clear blue water in two hours while enjoying the amenities of vacation towns. I love watching college sports – the skill of the student athletes and the fun of tailgating. I love the beautiful trees, the canopy roads, and the countless parks & trails.
I love my hometown of Tallahassee so much that I even started a podcast to showcase our great city. When I started Let’s Get Local, Tallahassee podcast, I thought my 35 years of living in Tallahassee meant I already knew most of what our city has to offer. Wrong! Every single episode has opened my eyes to even more special aspects of our community, allowing me to fall in love with Tallahassee all over again.
by Vanessa Rowse