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Day 219: Geek out on science at the Mag Lab’s Open House

27 Feb

Science geek or not, you shouldn’t miss the once-a-year opportunity to peek inside one of Tallahassee’s most prized assets: the Magnet “Mag” Lab. The formal name is the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory at Florida State University. The 370,000-square-foot magnet research complex is at Innovation Park, home to other research-oriented businesses. The lab brings in researchers and visitors from all over the world because of the size and complexity of its magnets. For instance,the lab’s most powerful magnet produces fields more than a million times stronger than the Earth’s magnetic field. The open house, held once a year, attracts thousands of visitors and is free. I went with my Lil’ Sis who has said many times she wants to be a scientist when she grows up. There are dozens of demonstrations on different scientific principles, from biology to chemistry to geology. Think of it like as a long buffet of cool science tricks. Though it is aimed at kids, I was also kept entertained by some of the demonstrations, too. We saw a “comet” being made, a colorful display on ocean currents, pet animals brought in by the Tallahassee Museum, colorful chemical reactions, and what had to be my Lil’ Sis’s favorite, a demonstration of how silly putty is made, which she got to take home with her. My only advice is to get there early because the more popular booths get crowded.

Address: 1800 E. Paul Dirac Drive


Day 208: Cheer for the Seminoles at an FSU football game

13 Sep

This is the quintessential thing to do in Tallahassee. Locals have been raised on a steady diet of Seminole battles, but I had resisted going for years. I finally buckled when Big Brothers/Big Sisters gave away free tickets for me and my lil’ sis to Florida State University’s opening game against Louisiana-Monroe. I was intimidated by the traffic and parking headaches, but it turned out to be a cinch. I paid $7 to park at the Civic Center and took the $5 Spirit Express to the stadium. (Though if I weren’t with my little sister, it was an easy four-block walk.) I liked the pre-game festivities outside the stadium, with inflatable bounce houses, face painting and food galore. I made the mistake of not bringing enough cash, so I had to use the costly ATM once inside the stadium. Definitely bring about double the money you think you will need. The food was typical stadium fare – nachos, hot dogs, popcorn and sodas. Watching my little sister’s reaction when we first walked from the bowels of the stadium to our seats was priceless. She was awed by the sight of thousands of cheering fans decked in garnet and gold. Once seated, even a diehard Longhorn fan like me got into the pageantry of the game, from the cheerleaders and band, to the Tomahawk Chop chant and Chief Osceola and Renegade prancing on the field. The Seminoles won and I left wondering why I had waited so long to partake in this Tallahassee ritual.

Address: Doak Campbell Stadium, Stadium Drive

Day 205: Watch an FSU student film

24 Aug

Florida State University has one of the best film schools in the country. It’s claim to fame is it pays for the cost of allowing each graduate film student to conceive of and direct their own 15-minute thesis film. I wrote an article about the making of a student thesis film awhile back for Tallahassee Magazine. Each spring, graduate students in their second year at the Film School embark on a four-month process of making roughly two dozen student films. The production process starts in January and ends about May and then the students spend all summer editing the film. In early August the films debut in “graduation ceremony” that is actually a free screening of the films in Ruby Diamond Auditorium. It is open to the public, though it’s not well-publicized and most of the audience knows or is related to one of the filmmakers. I went to the screening this year and was blown away by the talented films. The films were beautifully done and incredibly gripping. The actors, many of which were flown in from Los Angeles or New York just for the films, were phenomenal. Many of the films definitely are R-rated so be careful about taking kids to a screening. This year, the screening was split into two showings, one matinee edition and an evening show. One last thing – if you can snag an invite to the after-part at the actual film school, it’s well worth it. The music, delicious food and chance to mingle with filmmaker is priceless.

Address: Ruby Diamond Auditorium, 600 Copeland Street

Day 75: Cheer on the FSU baseball team

16 Mar

Other than the blooming azaleas and fragrant magnolias that are throwing bursts of color around town, one of the surest signs of spring in Tallahassee is at Dick Howser Stadium on the edge of the FSU campus. ┬áThe men’s baseball season is at full throttle. So on Saturday night, the lush, manicured field at Mike Martin Stadium was the scene of a blowout Seminoles victory over Boston College before a respectable-sized crowd of a few thousand highly enthusiastic college baseball fans. For $6 a piece, we shared a relaxing evening of outdoor entertainment on a humid-less night. The seats were comfy (at least by stadium standards) and our view of the action on the field was great (right along the first-base side). We took in the typical baseball game fare of nachos, peanuts and soft drinks, but there were other tempting snack options, including warm chocolate chips. The stadium is a clean and family friendly. The stadium opened in 1983 and is considered one of the top college baseball facilities in the country with a video scoreboard and a huge roof over the grandstand. (And for trivia buffs…) Dick Howser Stadium is named after the late Kansas City Royals and Florida State manager who was also FSU’s first-ever baseball All American. -Mark Hollis

Address: Mike Martin Field at Dick Howser Stadium.

Day 57: Go bowling at Crenshaw Lanes

26 Feb

There’s several places to go bowling in Tallahassee and I’ve been to all of them. There’s Capital Lanes on Capital Circle, which is popular with families and large groups. There’s Seminole Lanes on Tennessee, which is frequented by students and is also where the Florida A&M University women’s bowling team plays. And there is Crenshaw Lanes, which is a bowling alley at FSU’s Oglesby Student Union. It is also where FSU’s bowling team plays. I went during my lunch hour, which I would not recommend. Parking was a major hassle and surprisingly, the alley was pretty crowded. That might be because its prices are the lowest in Tallahassee. I paid $3.49 for a game and shoes. (I think my baby face let me get the student discount). Usually it’s $3.25 per game and $1.50 for a shoe rental for the general public. Bowling itself was a blast – I had one of my best games ever. The ball seemed to easily glide toward the pins, and I got several strikes and spares, as did my bowling companion April. Crenshaw Lanes also sells beer and is open until 2 a.m. on the weekends.

Address: 104 CRB Student Union, FSU campus

Day 54: Watch a Seven Days of Opening Nights performance

23 Feb

Each year around mid-February, Florida State University sponsors the “Seven Days of Opening Nights,” festival. This quirky event features an eclectic mix of musicians, artists, dancers, actors, comedians, writers and other performers. Usually there are one or two really big names that sell out quickly. This year, comedian Bill Cosby was a huge draw, as was funny food writer Anthony Bourdain. The organizers do a good job of finding a diverse group of performers that will appeal to a wide audience. This year, I was thrilled that “This American Life” host and storyteller extraordinaire Ira Glass was going to be a Seven Days performer. I wrote a bit more about his show and Seven Days in this Tallahassee Magazine article if you want to learn more. Glass’ Seven Days performance was spellbinding. He gave attendees a peak inside the inner workings of his show, explaining the type of story structure they look for and how they pick music. He also poked fun at himself and the standard straight news reporting often found on NPR. I left inspired and convinced of the power of radio.

Address: Most performances are at FSU’s Ruby Diamond Auditorium, which is at the intersection of College and Copeland streets.

Day 52: Learn something new from an FSU speaker

21 Feb

Let me clarify what I mean by “FSU speaker.” I’m on Florida State University’s media mailing list and it seems almost weekly I receive notices that someone is coming to speak at the university who is well-respected in their field. For example, David Sanger, Washington correspondent for the New York Times, spoke at FSU in 2009. The best part is, all of these talks are free and open to the public. Sometimes they are held at inconvenient times, like 4:00 p.m. on a Tuesday. But often, one can attend a speech in the evening. One I recently attended featured Bill Bishop, a former Austin American-Statesman reporter (just like me!) and author of the book “The Big Sort,” which describes how people are increasingly living in ideological clusters and the ramifications of that. I was tickled to find free desserts to nibble on and coffee to sip at the event. (It doesn’t take much to wow me). Bishop’s PowerPoint-fueled talk was interesting, though the question-and-answer session got a bit unwieldy after too many people asked off-topic questions or just wanted to spout off about their own political opinions. If you happen to be reading this entry on Feb. 21 – good news! At 3:30 p.m. you can hear David Makovsy, an expert in the Middle East, give a talk about opportunities for Arab-Israeli peace at FSU’s Claude Pepper building.

Address: Florida State University. To learn about when these events are check FSU’s press releases, which are posted online at