It’s a place where ideas are born. It’s a place where ideas are brought to life. Across this 10-acre park dedicated to arts and culture, the creator to layperson ratio is at least 2:1. Hands down, and hands on, the coolest part about Tallahassee’s highest concentration of talent is that it’s open to the public. The toughest part? It’s easy to lose track of time in Railroad Square Art Park. Here’s why.
Less than five miles from Tallahassee International Airport, Railroad Square Art Park sits on prime real estate with easy public access. This former lumberyard is within a one-mile radius of Downtown Tallahassee, Florida’s Capitol Hill and two universities—Florida State and Florida A&M. Railroad Square Art Park is also as lovely as it is lively. The block’s eye-catching colors—some straight out of a Dr. Seuss book—and communal layout make it clear that this neighborhood was once someone’s lofty vision. Fortunately for Tallahassee’s artist community, its locals and visitors, Railroad Square Art Park became a reality.
Today, it is home to more than 50 galleries, boutiques, antique shops and working art studios—some converted from industrial warehouses. True to its namesake, Railroad Square Art Park also boasts a retired red caboose—now The Crum Box Gastgarden, where servers crowned with conductor hats hand out homemade hoagies. The park is also a stone’s throw from Tallahassee Station, a train depot built before the Civil War. But despite the area’s historical significance and influence, Railroad Square Art Park bleeds contemporary.
Railroad Square Art Park is like a modern-day Renaissance fair. It’s not unheard of to need a pair of 3-D glasses for viewing art. Nor is it strange to buy a piece of driftwood furniture that you’ll like so much you’ll want to design the rest of your house around. Here, repurposing things is a lifestyle. The more alternative and experimental, the better. At the mom-and-pop, often artist-owned boutiques, job titles include master herbalist, comic book connoisseur and spiritual counselor. Every store and storeowner has a story. You could even encounter your first psockologist! Psockology not only sells hand-painted socks so cool you’ll refuse to wear shoes, it also hosts sock and stocking knitting classes.
Many Railroad Square Art Park tenants open their studios to the public, even teaching visitors their trades. Whether you want to learn how to read your future in the tarot cards, blow a molten glass bubble into a vase or drop in for a dance, yoga or martial arts class, it’s probably possible. The hardest part is finding the time. Railroad Square Art Park isn’t the kind of place where you’ll want to run in, find what you need and be out in five minutes. You’ll want to explore.
For one thing, the shop names are like click bait. There’s Super Secret Bonus Level (a vintage video game marketplace), Crystal Portal (a metaphysical emporium), Tally Yakkers Outfitters (kayak sales and tours) and After the Fox (antique furniture experts). There are even more retailers to lure you in since Breezeway Market opened in the historic House of Plywood in November of 2017. The idyllic, colorful indoor main street—complete with cottages and picket fences—offers a uniquely intimate shopping experience and more opportunities to get face time with local artists and artisans.
Railroad Square Art Park also celebrates the performing arts. In the brick-and-mortar department, it offers cabaret fans the infamously famous Mickee Faust Club. The alternative theater, housed in a barn, bills itself as a “community theater for the weird community." It’s a humble, yet unforgettable venue best defined by the voices that fill it.
Outside—in the street, in the park and on the patio of Proof Brewing Company, Tallahassee’s first and largest independently owned brewery—more live entertainment takes place year-round. There are jam sessions (Black Dog on the Square has a “house guitar” in addition to hosting literary nights), drum circles and even fire-breathing. You name it and if it exists in the arts and culture realm, or has a place in the future of the scene, it can probably be seen here.
Although there’s no bad time to visit this happening hub, the best time to “circle the square” is on a First Friday. Tallahassee’s longest-running monthly festival takes place on the first Friday of every month when Railroad Square Art Park closes its streets to vehicle traffic (except for food trucks) and shops are open until 10 p.m. or later. Many working studios also host open houses and offer free tours. It’s pretty much a who’s who of Tallahassee meets the here’s how of arts & crafts. Everyone is invited. And it’s free!
On any day of the week, and for locals and out-of-towners alike, the creative energy at Railroad Square Art Park is contagious. It’s a beautifully envisioned (and beautifully executed) breeding ground for creative concepts featuring just the right amount of unconventional. Come for a class, stay for the shopping or simply spend the entire day relaxing in the sculpture garden. Whatever your idea of quality time is, you can have it here.