City life throbs too, thanks to major universities in Tallahassee and Gainesville. International students and faculty bring diverse cultures, ethnic cuisines and youthful energy to cities known for Old South heritage, food and hospitality. As the state capital, Tallahassee also hosts national and international political power brokers. In this region, variety is the spice of life.
In the region’s two major cities, student hangouts account for a large slice of nightlife. Abundant choices are found in affordable and supercharged restaurants, sports bars, coffee houses, jazz joints, open-mike nights, dance clubs and pubs.
In Gainesville, the mother of all hangouts for every manner of Gator bait from University of Florida students to elderly alumni is The Swamp near the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium where the Florida Gators football team draws huge crowds.
Since 1994 the eatery has been serving the faithful with food, drinks, reunions and cheering sections indoors and out. The front lawn is paved with commemorative bricks. The place to go pub-crawling is West University Avenue, south of Main Street, where a dozen hot spots are mere yards apart.
Opening in phases throughout 2017 is Celebration Pointe, a 225-acre shopping, dining and entertainment center anchored by a Bass Pro Shop, a 137-room hotel and a multiplex movie.
Newly rejuvenated in 2016, Bo Diddley Plaza is a community cultural center in Gainesville’s Historic District. By day it’s busy with lunchtime concerts and a weekly farmers’ market. Free concerts happen every Friday.
As the home of Florida State University, Tallahassee has a youthful buzz and football mania. And, as the state capital, “Tally” hosts travelers from all over the world. Here, nightlife venues range from ear-shattering clubs favored by students to more sedate places for political deal making. A must-see is the Bradfordville Blues Club, the only Florida club on the National Blues Trail. Set your GPS and follow the dirt roads until you come to the bonfire and hear the wail of the blues.
Krewe de Gras has a Cajun theme and live music in the capital. Also known for drinks, late nights, high energy and live music are Bullwinkle’s and The Moon. Level 8 Lounge in the elegant Hotel Duval is popular for both after-work and after-dinner drinks, tapas and live music.