"I'll catch heat for this, but Florida State's tailgating is not up to par with the big tailgating schools," said Bud Elliott, managing editor at Tomahawk Nation and SB Nation's national recruiting analyst. "People are not going all-out or treating it like a sport. FSU's tailgating scene is fairly spread out. There's really no quad like you would see at Alabama. The campus is fairly small, and people tailgate all over the place. The hot spots are primarily booster lots outside of the stadium."
We've heard this sort of sentiment before, and it came from another football power in North Florida. When Alligator Army's Andy Hutchins described the Gators' tailgating scene last month, he called it "not crazy like at some of the other SEC schools, and not quite as popular as it used to be." Whether it's the heat and humidity or just an intense focus on football that blocks everything out, they do it differently in the Sunshine State. Providing a serious spread of homemade food isn't a big deal at FSU, but you're likely to find some fans who are down to party.
"This is really a mixed bag, depending largely on the age and demographic of the specific tailgate," Elliott said, describing what one might find at a typical Seminoles tailgate. "There are some who will start pounding liquor early on, and some who will take it a bit easier with beer. People definitely cook less at Florida State than at some of the more famous tailgates (LSU, 'Bama, etc.)."
While the tailgating scene is toned-down compared to the goings-on at schools that take it seriously, Tallahassee still offers a good college-town experience when it comes to locals. In addition to being home to FSU, the city is the state capitol and boasts nearby Florida A&M.
"The nightlife in Tallahassee is as good as any typical college town," Elliott said. "The bar scene has plenty for college kids looking to get wasted along the strip, there's Midtown for a bit older crowd, and the "College Town" area by the stadium is new as well and very popular."
As for the local bar and restaurant scene, we turned to a broader panel of experts:
@SBNationCFB Madison Social.— Randall. (@JRC_) October 31, 2013
@SBNationCFB The Palace Saloon— Blaine Gabs (@BlaineGabbertt) October 31, 2013
@SBNationCFB restaurants: Gordo's or Poboy's. Bars: bullwinkles or the palace. This assumes a non-freshman/sophomore type visitor.— jmnpb (@jmnpb) October 31, 2013
@SBNationCFB Monk's for burgers, Momo's for pizza— alyssa vazquez (@alyvazquez10) October 31, 2013
@SBNationCFB Gordo's— Steven Hadidi (@MinnNole08) October 31, 2013
@SBNationCFB Cypress. Best meal in town.— Jeremy R. Carter (@jeremyrcarter) October 31, 2013
@SBNationCFB Ken's is quintessential dive bar and personal favorite.— Jeremy R. Carter (@jeremyrcarter) October 31, 2013
@SBNationCFB late night Guthrie's.— Renegade Osceola (@AMFKNole) October 31, 2013
@SBNationCFB Momo's.— KilroyFSU (@KilroyFSU) October 31, 2013
@SBNationCFB Kool Beanz— rachel m. (@hymnforrachel) October 31, 2013
Bullwinkles. RT @SBNationCFB: Tallahasseeans, which one restaurant or bar do you most recommend to out-of-towners?— Scott Crumbly (@ScottCrumbly) October 31, 2013
@SBNationCFB For fast food right by campus, my favorite was Chubby's Chicken Fingers. For a nice sit-down, Ted's Montana Grill— FSUNoles27TS (@FSUNoles27TS) October 31, 2013
@SBNationCFB Poor Paul's is a great low-key bar. Very strict 21 and up. Great for just hanging out, playing pool, throwing darts.— FSUNoles27TS (@FSUNoles27TS) October 31, 2013
@SBNationCFB I'll 2nd Monk's for burgers. Bar suggestion off the beaten path: Waterworks; not college-y but I like the moody tiki atmosphere— Matt (@planetboombox) October 31, 2013
@SBNationCFB Proof.— Jeff (@saintwarrick) October 31, 2013
@SBNationCFB Kool Beanz— Jenna King (@jennamet) October 31, 2013
Whatever the tailgating atmosphere at Florida State is normally like, it should be turned up this weekend. Miami is in town, and for the first time in years, the rivalry has big-time national implications. Don't expect a light crowd.
"I think it will be FSU's best tailgate of the year, certainly, because it will likely be the only night game," said Elliott. "Miami did return 4,000 of its 10,000 ticket allotment, so I am not sure how many Miami folks will be tailgating. But it should be packed."