What to Do in Gainesville
If you're getting ready to pick up and move to Gainesville -- either for college or for some other reason -- you're probably wondering what you're going to do with all of your free time.
Well, wonder no more! Here are our 11 favorite things to do here:
- 1. UF Sporting events
Millions of people visit Gainesville during the Fall and Spring semesters for one reason -- sports! Not only are the Florida Gators in Division I, but they're also part of the Southeastern Conference -- arguably, the toughest conference in all of college athletics. That being said, you can probably imagine just how exciting their games are!
Adding to the excitement are Albert and Alberta, the two Gator mascots. And if you're into big live performances, you'll love watching the award-winning UF marching band play at halftime of the football games.
While Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (where the football team plays) and the O Dome (where the basketball teams play) tend to be the loudest, most intense places to watch the Gators play, it's also a lot of fun to root for the less talked-about teams -- like the tennis team, the volleyball team, the swim team, or the gymnastics team.
2. Paynes Prairie
If you're a history buff, you'll love Paynes Prairie! Designated a National Natural Landmark, this was Florida's very first state preserve. Inside, you'll be able to meet and interact with all kinds of local wildlife -- from birds, to horses, to alligators (seems appropriate for Gainesville, right?!). Practically every step you take on any of the eight walking trails will make for a great photo op.
If you'd rather get a birds-eye view of the sights and sounds, you can do it from the 50-foot observation deck. You can also learn more about the animals you've seen in the audio-visual exhibits inside the Visitors' Center.
Don't want the fun to end just yet? Luckily, Paynes Prairie is home to a number of camping areas and lodging accommodations!
3. Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park
Not to be outdone by Paynes Prairie, Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park is yet another Gainesville-area National Natural Landmark! But instead of checking out wildlife on walking trails, you'll get to do it here by looking down into a 120-foot deep sinkhole!
There are several hiking trails that can take you in and around the sinkhole, or you can enjoy the limestone and greenery from a more passive place -- as you sit and enjoy an afternoon picnic.
4. Gainesville's Art and Craft Festivals
In addition to all of the college students, Gainesville is home to a number of talented artists who want to show off their creations. Luckily, every year in the fall, there's an event that lets them do just that! During the two day Downtown Festival and Art Show, Gainesville's downtown area turns into a haven for artists and art fans with displays from 250 or more of the nation’s most talented artists. The Santa Fe Spring Arts Festival is also hosted downtown in the Gainesville historic district every year.
The Thornebrook Village Shopping Center hosts a two-day GFAA Art Festival every fall, which showcases more than 100 different artists. Kanapaha Botanical Garden hosts a Spring Garden Festival with crafts and local plants and there is also a Craft Festival at the Stephen O’Connell Center every year with lots of crafts just in time for Christmas giving. The Hoggetowne Medieval Faire and the GFAA Tioga Winter Art Fair are events of interest too.
5. Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art
Want to experience great art in between festivals? Simply head to the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art! You'll find it sitting on the outskirts of the UF campus. It's open six days a week (all but Monday), and best of all, it caters to small student-sized budget by offering free admission.
The exhibits here are always changing, but as of the end of 2013, there were 10 different exhibits on display -- Much Ado About Portraits, All the World’s a Frame, Plants and Medicine: Art and Science in Botanical Prints, String of Pearls: Traditional Indian Painting, Bird Mothers and Feathered Serpents, Joan Miro, Contemporary Art from the Harn Collection, Highlights from the Asian Collection, Highlights from the Modern Collection, and A Sense of Place: African Interiors.
6. Bat House and Bat Barn
While you're on the UF campus, be sure to check out the Bat House and Bat Barn. This is a popular spot for visitors, but even the locals never seem to get tired of it! You'll find it on Museum Road, across from Lake Alice. Inside the two giant wooden structures there is a capacity for 750,00 bats and presently there are more than 300,000 bats living there.
What makes them so interesting?
About 10-15 minutes before sunset, people start lining the fence. A few minutes later, the bats swoop out of their home, fly around in the sky eating insects, and stay out all night. Seeing all of them leave for the night is truly a one-of-a-kind experience!
7. Lake Alice
We just mentioned it in our directions to the Bat House and Bat Barn, but Lake Alice is so special that it deserves are more detailed mention!
Lake Alice is a special place for UF students, because it represents the pride they have in their university -- as well as their sports teams. However, you don't have to be a UF student to enjoy the beauty, wildlife, and nature trails at Lake Alice. Spend some time here, and you'll see why it instantly perks up any Gator's mood!
8. Butterfly Rainforest
Believe it or not, there is actually MORE natural beauty on the UF campus! Around the outskirts, you'll find the Butterfly Rainforest -- an exhibit that's home to various butterfly species and other free-flying birds from around the world.
As they flutter around the trees and flowering plants, the view is absolutely spectacular, but if you want to get up close and personal with the butterflies, it's easy to do. All you have to do is buy a small container of special liquid food, and they'll come to you!
9. Kanapaha Botanical Gardens
In the mood for more natural beauty? Kanapaha Botanical Gardens aren't located on the UF campus, but they have been voted one of the best attractions in Gainesville! Inside Kanapaha's 62 acres, you'll find two dozen major botanical collections. Because it's so beautiful, Kanapaha is the perfect place to spend an afternoon, but it's also a popular spot for weddings and other important ceremonies.
10. Friends of the Library Book Sale
During one week of each semester, (April and October) the Friends of the Library of Alachua County host a giant sale. Of course, there are lots of books to choose from (about 500,000 if you're counting!), but you can also find great deals on games, DVDs, magazines, posters, CDs, and even records.
Best of all, you'll get to bargain-hunt knowing that your money is going to a great place. Specifically, the proceeds are used by the Alachua County Library District to make improvements and a number of community literacy projects.
11. Springs around the Gainesville area
Ginnie Springs in High Springs, Florida is about thirty miles from Gainesville. The crisp 72-degree water is perfect for swimming, snorkeling, tubing, scuba diving and cave diving because of the clear water and sand and limestone bottom. There is also an extensive cave system for certified cave diving.
Ichetucknee Springs State Park in Fort White, Florida is around thirty-nine miles from Gainesville. These springs are Florida’s most popular tubing destination. Manatee Springs State Park in Chiefland, Florida is around forty-four miles from Gainesville and is known for the West Indian Manatees that swim upriver to the warmer water in the springs during the winter months.
Fanning Springs in Fanning Springs, Florida is around thirty- eight miles from Gainesville. Swimming is popular here for families because of the clear bluish water and shallow sandy areas in the springs. Silver Springs State Park is the most widely known springs near Gainesville and it is around forty-two miles away in Ocala, Florida. Silver Springs is known for their glass-bottom boats and is one of the largest Florida springs with an average water flow from the group of springs of over 510 million gallons per day.