Gainesville, Florida has a population of about 132,000 people making it a small town but it’s rich in culture and things to do. The beauty of small towns is people tend to be friendly, it’s hard to get lost and the cost of living is cheaper, which is great news for both tourists and new residents.
It is sunny about 224 days of the year and can get pretty humid which is perfect holiday weather meaning you have no excuse not to try out everything on this list while you’re in Gainesville.
1. Attend a Gators Game
Even if you’re not into sports, you’ve got to try it. The cheering of the crowd, singing chants, eating junk and the camaraderie of the crowd is so exciting.
The Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is located on the University of Florida’s Gainesville Campus. It’s popularly known as “the swamp,” and is a football stadium for the university’s team.
According to the Florida Gators website, games are scheduled to begin in August and run through till December. You can check the website to find out whether the games will be held at “the swamp,” on which dates and you can buy tickets online.
2. Visit the beautiful Lake Wauburg
Outdoor and nature lovers, this one’s for you. This beautiful Lake has a sandy beach where visitors can play soccer, throw Frisbee, sand volleyball, football, etc.
A trip to Lake Wauburg will probably be a whole day affair because there are so many activities to do. You can picnic, wake board, play disc golf, paddle boat, boat, swim, sailing (need a special sail pass), wall climbing, kayaking. Alligators live near the shore but they have a don’t bother us and we won’t bother you relationship with visitors to the Lake.
Also, if you’re looking for a place to work out, Lake Wauburg has a work out area.
3. Hike at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park.
This preserve covers 22,000 acres and is a registered national landmark which is home to alligators, deer, horses, bison, over 270 species of birds, and much more wildlife and livestock. It has a lookout tower which you should definitely visit to get a wider view of the park. It has 8 trails where you can hike, ride horses or bicycles. You can also camp.
It has helpful volunteers and it’s open from 9 am to 8 pm.
4. Tour the Butterfly Rainforest
The Butterfly Rainforest is a lush, tropical paradise located. It’s home to over 50 types of moths and butterfly species. It also has exotic birds, turtles, fish and tropical plants.
There are winding walkways that take you through the tranquil, green utopia as waterfalls cascade around you. You can watch scientists carrying out their research at the facility. This venue also offers wedding packages.
5. Visit the Cade Museum
This museum was the brainchild of one of the inventors of Gatorade. The aim of this museum is to, “inspire creative thinking, future inventors, and early entrepreneurs.
They host classes for middle-school children. They also have exhibitions, outdoor educational activities, hands-on learning and camps, all with the aim of inspiring visitors to imagine and create.
The museum even has a program called Meet the Cade, where children get to meet inventors and entrepreneurs.
There’s also a Cade Prize awarded to entrepreneurs and inventors. Participants need to demonstrate creative solutions to issues in their field of know-how by designing innovative inventions. The competition receives submissions from all over the state of Florida and the prize for 2018 was $25,000.
6. Go to the Harn Museum of Art
The Harn Museum is found at the University of Florida and displays Asian, African, contemporary and modern art, including photography. It’s free and has over 10,000 pieces of art.
If you’re in Gainesville on the second Thursday of the month, you can attend Museum Nights between 6 to 9 PM. Museum Nights takes place after hours and is an interactive session with performances, lectures, art making and tours.
Just like the Butterfly Rainforest, this venue can be rented out.
7. Explore Downtown Gainesville
So much happens in Downtown Gainesville. It has a busy night life where you can attend concerts, theaters and visit bars such as Loosey’s Downtown. You could also be lucky enough to catch a music performance or art festival. Third House Books & Coffee is a treat if you’re looking for new writers.
There’s also an array of good restaurants to choose from such as Big Lou’s NY Style Pizzeria, Boca Fiesta, Dragonfly Sushi & Sake, and Emiliano’s Café.
If you’re staying at an Airbnb or an inn then you may want to visit the Union Street Farmers Market on Wednesdays between 4:00 to 7:00 PM.
You can watch a play at the Hippodrome which happens to be Gainesville’s only theater. They present regional titles, Broadway and off-Broadway titles. You can also watch a movie at the Hippodrome.
The Hippodrome hosts a variety of events such as yoga, dinner and a movie, karaoke, salsa dancing and a tour of the theater.
If you want to thoroughly enjoy Downtown Gainesville, schedule a couple of days to explore this part of town.
8. Embark on a Foodie Tour
Gainesville is a hub of good eateries. This list only covers 3 places to kick off your food tour but there’s a slew of joints with varying types of cuisine that will give you an excellent food tour.
Maple Street Biscuit Company
Your first breakfast should be had at Maple Street Biscuit Company. They mainly serve biscuits, gravy and chicken. Their entrees include waffles with strawberries, whipped cream, maple syrup and powdered sugar for toppings. Drool. Their menu is not only appetizing but has quirky names sunshine in the garden which is an egg entree.
Their food is melt in-your-mouth goodness and they’re entrees are filling. This coupled with good service is a sure reason to check it out while you’re in Gainesville.
The theme here is FUN. You can eat in van, a plane or in a greenhouse. There’s live music and a playground for kids.
They sell piping hot Italian-style pizzas and calzones. They also sell homemade sodas, beer and wine. Don’t skip the salad. It’s a rainbow of 8 ingredients if you’re not counting the house made vinaigrette. For their pizzas you can order slices or whole pies and they have 31 toppings for you to pick from.
Alpin Beer and Wine
This French restaurant is recommended for its cozy atmosphere, service and delicious menu. It’s a bit pricey but that’s to be expected in this niche and it’s one of the things to do in Gainesville at night.
Some of the items on their menu are tapas, cheese cuts, quiche, salmon, crème brulee, chocolate mousse, and if you check in late you may miss one of these highly requested desserts. Some items on the menu are seasonal but they have enough of a variety to make up for a dish your wanted that’s not in season.
Culture, sunny weather, nature, history, good food, football games, Gainesville has it all without maddening traffic. Welcome to Gainesville.