Gainesville has a rich history dating back to the times of hunter-gatherers in 500 BC when Paleo-Indians roamed the area. It was established in 1854 and named after Edmund P. Gaines, incorporated in 1869 and declared a city in 1907. Today, Gainesville is the largest city and county seat of Alachua County, with a population of over 140,000.
Gainesville is known as the “Home of the Gators,” because it is the location of the University of Florida, Florida’s largest and oldest university, whose mascot is the Gators. Fun fact: The university is the creator of the world’s first sports drink, Gatorade.
On top of being a lively college town, Gainesville is also home to many malls, museums, nightclubs and breweries to explore. Although this is a bustling city, Gainesville offers many ways to connect with nature and relax, including camping sites, state parks, natural springs and animal conservations. The city also has rich historical ties that are worth exploring. Here are some of the fun things to do in Gainesville, Florida.
- Gainesville, Florida
- 20 Things To Do In Gainesville
- 1- Make A Final Pit Stop Before Visiting The Devil
- 2- Check Out Historical Artifacts At the Museum of Natural History
- 3- Soak in Culture At The Samuel P. Harn Museum
- 4- Perk Up At Volta Coffee, Tea and Chocolate Shop
- 5- Gaze At The Stars At Kika Silva Pla Planetarium
- 6- Get Lost In The Bamboo Garden At Kanapaha Botanical Gardens
- 7- See A Live Show At The Curtis M. Phillips Center for Performing Arts
- 8- Make Friends With The Wildlife At Lake Alice
- 9- Go Vegan At Curia on the Drag
- 10- Float On A Tube On Natural Springs In Ichetucknee Springs State Park
- 11- Watch A Gator Game At Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
- 12- Tour the Matheson History Museum
- 13- See Exotic Creatures At Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation
- 14- Listen To The Walls At The Historic Haile Homestead
- 15- Pick Your Own Berries And Make A Custom Wine
- 16- Hike The Trails At Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park
- 17- Get a Private Tour Of Lubee Bat Conservancy
- 18- Explore The Interactive Exhibits At Cade Museum
- 19- Satisfy Your Need For Speed At Gainesville Raceway
- 20- Bar Hop Down University Ave
- 20 Things To Do In Gainesville
20 Things To Do In Gainesville
1- Make A Final Pit Stop Before Visiting The Devil
Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park is Florida’s only park located inside a sinkhole.
At the park, winding wooden steps lead to the bottom of this 120-foot (36 m) hole.
The name comes from the spooky fact that many animal bones were found scattered at the bottom of the hole.
Legend states that the sinkhole was the final destination before hell.
This huge sinkhole is truly a wonder of nature.
Inside the sinkhole are three diverse ecosystems, forest, swamp and sandhill. These ecosystems developed independently of one another cause of the different exposure to sunlight and rain.
The park operates from 8 am to dusk, 365 days a year. There is a $4 fee per vehicle or a $2 fee for pedestrians/bicycles to enter.
Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park is at 4732 Millhopper Rd, Gainesville, FL 32653.
2- Check Out Historical Artifacts At the Museum of Natural History
Visiting the Florida Museum of Natural History is easily one of the most popular things in Gainesville because of its abundance of activities.
The museum strives to understand, preserve and interpret Florida’s biological diversity and cultural heritage through its exhibits.
In the museum, visitors can explore life-sized dinosaur bones, butterfly rainforests and discovery zones with interactive fun for kids.
The Florida Museum of Natural History has staple and rotating exhibits, so check the calendar for the most up-to-date happenings and events.
The permanent exhibits are free to the public, but there’s a small fee to enter the butterfly rainforest. Book your tickets here.
The Florida Museum of Natural History is at 3215 Hull Rd, Gainesville, FL 32611.
3- Soak in Culture At The Samuel P. Harn Museum
The University of Florida’s Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art opened its doors in 1990 and has since been the most prominent fine art museum in the greater north central Florida region.
Located just next to the Museum of Natural History, the art museum features eleven galleries dedicated to various art forms such as African, Asian, modern and contemporary art and photography.
In addition to the permanent galleries, Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art also hosts special events such as museum nights, coffee with Curators, and Tot Time. Admission is free for everyone.
Samuel P. Harn Museum is at 3259 Hull Rd, Gainesville, FL 32608.
4- Perk Up At Volta Coffee, Tea and Chocolate Shop
Volta is the perfect local spot for a pick-me-up.
The shop opened in 2008 and has specialised in handcrafted coffee, teas and pastries.
They also source delicious chocolates from all over the world and you’ll rave about the pastries and drinks.
You can find a friendly barista to chit-chat with over a yummy treat.
So if you’re looking for a spot to relax and enjoy a good book, check out Volta Coffee, Tea, and Chocolate Shop.
Volta Coffee, Tea and Chocolate Shop is at 48 SW 2nd St, Gainesville, FL 32601.
5- Gaze At The Stars At Kika Silva Pla Planetarium
The shows at the Kika Silva Pla Planetarium are out of this world, literally.
The Planetarium opened in 2006 and has been a popular attraction in Gainesville.
Visitors can view regular star shows and specialty shows with music and lasers.
Imagine viewing stars, galaxies, supernovas and black holes all set to the tunes of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd.
Even if you’re not an astronomer, you will still have a good time at the Kika Silva Pla Planetarium.
Kika Silva Pla Planetarium is at 3000 NW 83 St Building X-129, Gainesville, FL 32606.
6- Get Lost In The Bamboo Garden At Kanapaha Botanical Gardens
The North Florida Botanical Society operates the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens.
The name “Kanapaha” originates from two Timucua words for “palmetto leaves” and “house.”
The garden’s 24 collections span 68 acres (27 ha) that wind along a walking path.
These collections consist of the largest display of bamboo in the state, Victoria water lilies, and Asian snake arums.
Depending on the time of year, the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens has special events such as the Spring Garden Festival, Camellia Show and guided tours.
The botanical garden is open from 9 am to 5 pm, except for being closed on Thursdays and special holidays. Admission starts at $5 for children and $10 for adults.
Kanapaha Botanical Gardens is at 4700 SW 58th Dr, Gainesville, FL 32608.
7- See A Live Show At The Curtis M. Phillips Center for Performing Arts
This is Gainesville’s premier performing arts centre, making it the perfect place to see Broadway shows, prominent speakers, and musical performances from all genres.
The Curtis M. Phillips Center for Performing Arts seats 1,700 people and is within the University of Florida campus.
Before visiting Gainesville, check the website to purchase tickets for upcoming productions and events.
Curtis M. Phillips Center is at 3201 Hull Road, Gainesville, FL 32611.
8- Make Friends With The Wildlife At Lake Alice
Lake Alice is another gem located on the University of Florida campus.
Although the lake is small, it packs a big punch when viewing wildlife.
In the park, you can see alligators, turtles, and birds along several walking trails and observation decks.
Along the shore rests the Baughman Center, a beautiful chapel made with cypress wood and floor-to-ceiling windows.
This centre is often used as a space for meditation or rented out for weddings and other private events.
The lake’s history dates back to 1000 AD, as it was home to members of the Alachua culture.
Times have changed since Native Americans lived in the area, but the lake remains one of the city’s most peaceful places to relax.
Lake Alice is at Museum Rd, Gainesville, FL 32603.
9- Go Vegan At Curia on the Drag
Curia on the Drag is situated on 2.5 acres (1 ha) of property and features a coffee shop, food truck and bar.
The coffee shop offers local coffee, tea, beer, wine, baked goods, and desserts, while the food truck provides classic favourites like tater tots, tacos and quesadillas.
You can find draft beers, wines and rotating cocktails at Dad’s Bar.
This local oasis provides a ton of vegan options, so good you won’t even suspect they’re filled with fruit and vegetables.
Curia on the Drag is at 2029 NW 6th St, Gainesville, FL 32609.
10- Float On A Tube On Natural Springs In Ichetucknee Springs State Park
Since Gainesville is a landlocked city, you won’t be able to access a beach like in many other Florida cities.
But, that doesn’t mean you can’t soak in the sunshine while you swim and relax on the shore of the natural springs.
Ichetucknee Springs State Park is an excellent place for snorkelling, scuba diving, tubing, canoeing, kayaking or paddle boarding in one of the eight crystal clear springs.
The park is also excellent for viewing wildlife since animals like beavers, otters, gar, softshell turtles, wild turkeys, wood ducks and limpkin call this nature preserve home.
Ichetucknee Springs State Park is at 12087 Southwest, US-27, Fort White, FL 32038.
11- Watch A Gator Game At Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
If you’re visiting Gainesville during football season, you can’t miss the thrilling experience of a home game in “The Swamp.”
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is the home turf of the Florida Gators of the University of Florida.
Locals, visitors and fans of rival teams gather from around the country to watch the team play.
The stadium seats 90,000, and each of those seats are usually full.
When it’s not football season, you can often see fitness enthusiasts running the stairs up and down to get a chest-pumping workout in!
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is at 157 Gale Lemerand Dr, Gainesville, FL 32611.
12- Tour the Matheson History Museum
The Matheson History Museum, which opened its doors in 1994, is dedicated to preserving the history of Alachua county.
Visitors of the museum can enjoy exhibits featuring civil rights movements, Great Southern Music Hall, and others.
The museum is free and open from Wednesday to Saturday between 12 pm to 4 pm.
Matheson History Museum is at 513 E University Ave, Gainesville, FL 32601.
13- See Exotic Creatures At Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation
This nonprofit organisation aims to preserve wild species in their native habitats.
At the conservation, visitors can go on tours led by professional zoologists to learn important details about the animal’s species, preservation and how they came to live at Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation.
The Foundation is home to approximately 30 rare species, such as lions, rhinos, leopards, and kune kune pigs.
This is the perfect activity for children and animal lovers.
Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation is at 8528 E, County Rd 225, Gainesville, FL 32609.
14- Listen To The Walls At The Historic Haile Homestead
The historic Haile homestead has a deep history in Alachua County.
In 1854, the Haile family moved to Gainesville, Florida, from South Carolina.
This beautiful home at Kanapaha Plantation was built by 56 slave labourers and remains frozen in time as a testament to their work.
The home is a unique piece of history that visitors will find unique because the Haile family wrote on their walls for years.
There are over 12,500 words in almost every room and even the closets.
Haile Homestead is at 8500 SW Archer Rd, Gainesville, FL 32608.
15- Pick Your Own Berries And Make A Custom Wine
Bluefield Estate Winery is a family-owned business that started in a married couple’s kitchen.
What began as small batches soon turned into commercial-grade production of their wines.
Today, you’ll find a vineyard of blueberries and muscadine grapes that create their handmade wines.
During harvest season, the owners let you pick your own berries to create custom wines.
Bluefield Estate Winery is at 22 NE, Co Rd 234, Gainesville, FL 32641.
16- Hike The Trails At Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park
Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, named Florida’s first state preserve, is home to diverse ecosystems and species that are one-of-a-kind.
Visitors can experience wild roaming horses and bison, along with alligators, deer and almost 300 different species of birds.
There are eight hiking trails and an observation tower that makes views of wildlife simply spectacular.
The park opens from 8 am to sundown and requires a $6 fee per vehicle.
Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park is at 100 Savannah Blvd, Micanopy, FL 32667.
17- Get a Private Tour Of Lubee Bat Conservancy
Lubee Bat Conservancy is in the heart of Gainesville and is home to many different species of bats, including exotic ones.
You can call ahead for a private tour of the facility and be able to observe and feed the bats!
Lubee Bat Conservancy is at 1309 NW 192nd Ave, Gainesville, FL 32609.
18- Explore The Interactive Exhibits At Cade Museum
The Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention will knock your socks off if you’re interested in science and technology.
The museum has interactive exhibits and displays to keep young ones engaged.
It offers weekend workshops for kids with fun activities such as learning about the brain or making slime, and it is one not to miss during your trip to Gainesville.
Cade Museum For Creativity And Invention is at 811 S Main St, Gainesville, FL 32601.
19- Satisfy Your Need For Speed At Gainesville Raceway
Have you always wanted to be a race car driver? Now’s your chance!
The Gainesville Raceway is a drag strip where amateurs and professionals are free to satisfy their need for speed.
The Gainesville Raceway is also home to NHRA GatorNationals, a drag race event that hosts over 135,000 each year to enjoy the races.
Gainesville Raceway is at 11211 N County Road 225, Gainesville, FL 32609.
20- Bar Hop Down University Ave
University Ave is where you’ll find all things happening.
The strip is packed with bars, restaurants, and shops for all things exciting.
Since it’s close to the University of Florida, you’ll most likely find students here.
There are tons of bars along this street for adult beverages and dancing, creating the best nightlife atmosphere in all of Gainesville!
- Arcade Bar is at 6 E University Ave, Gainesville, FL 32601.
- Loosey’s Downtown Gainesville is at 120 SW 1st Ave, Gainesville, FL 32601.
- The Bull is at 18 SW 1st Ave, Gainesville, FL 32601.
- The Midnight Underground is at 101 SE 2nd Pl # 100, Gainesville, FL 32601.
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Gainesville is home to Florida's largest and oldest university, and is one of the state's centers of education, medicine, cultural events and athletics. The University of Florida and UF Health Hospital at UF are the leading employers in Gainesville and provide jobs for many residents of surrounding counties.Is Gainesville FL worth visiting? ›
A rich melting pot, Gainesville is full of vibrant, college town fun, inexpensive and often free attractions for the family and peaceful, relaxed outdoor experiences for those seeking a slower pace. Whatever your passion, the nature and culture of Gainesville and Alachua County await.What is there to do in Gainesville FL at night? ›
- Stage 7 Karaoke Bar.
- Fluid Lounge.
- Arcade Bar.
- The Actor's Warehouse.
- Keys Piano Bar and Grill (Also Known As The Keys Grill & Piano Bar)
- White Buffalo.
- Dave and Busters.
- Covey Kitchen + Cocktails.
Flagler Beach is about an hour and forty-five minutes away from Gainesville. The seven-mile stretch of beach means that there is more than enough room for locals and visitors to spread out.Is Gainesville a party town? ›
If you like to go out with friends, don't worry because Gainesville offers many lively nightlife and entertainment options to enjoy. There are bars both for 18+ and 21+ and the main locations for these establishments are in the downtown and midtown areas.
Flagler Beach is the nearest beach spot from Gainesville, just a little more than a one and a half hour drive. This sun-kissed coastline is one of the best beaches near Gainesville, FL, offering you the perfect combination of sun, sand, and sea.What is a good salary in Gainesville Florida? ›
Most salaries in Gainesville range between $34,021 (25th percentile) to $60,162 (75th percentile) annually. Of course, salaries will vary depending on your occupation, experience, and many other factors.Is Gainesville a walkable city? ›
Gainesville is designated a Bronze-level community due to its outstanding enforcement practices, complete streets implementation, and land development ordinances that support walking. Walking in the City of Gainesville is also supported by good transit and parking policies.Is Gainesville cheaper than Jacksonville? ›
The cost of living in Gainesville, FL is 0.9% higher than in Jacksonville, FL.What percentage of Gainesville FL is black? ›
Race & Ethnicity
The largest Gainesville racial/ethnic groups are White (55.9%) followed by Black (21.0%) and Hispanic (12.3%).
On the heels of U.S. News announcing the University of Florida as the number 8 top public university, Livability.com names Gainesville a top 10 college town. After looking at more than 2,000 cities across the nation, Gainesville landed in the ninth spot.Is Gainesville FL cheap? ›
Gainesville's housing expenses are 12% higher than the national average and the utility prices are 4% lower than the national average. Transportation expenses like bus fares and gas prices are 8% higher than the national average. Gainesville has grocery prices that are 2% lower than the national average.What's the most famous beach in Florida? ›
South Beach, Miami
Beautiful people, flashy cars, skimpy bathing suits, Art Deco architecture: It's all here on the 2.2-mile white sand stretch that makes up Florida's most famous beach.
Nonetheless, colloquially, "Hogtown" is often used as a synonym for Gainesville and many Gainesville businesses and events identify themselves as "Hogtown".How expensive is Gainesville Florida? ›
The cost of living in Gainesville, FL is 1% higher than the state average and 2% higher than the national average. Gainesville, FL housing is 11% more expensive than the U.S average, while utilities are about 4% less pricey.Why do they call Gainesville The Swamp? ›
The UF home field (and its crowd) had taken on an identity all its own and Spurrier felt it was time to give the place a nickname. "The 'Swamp' is where Gators live," Spurrier told Bianchi. "We feel comfortable there, but we hope our opponents feel tentative. A swamp is hot and sticky and can be dangerous.Why does Gainesville have paper straws? ›
Gainesville's Single-Use Plastic Straw and Stirrer Ban went into effect on January 1, 2020. The goal of the city is to replace these items with reusable, recyclable, or compostable alternatives. Plastic straws and stirrers are not biodegradable and can end up in our waterways potentially harming marine wildlife.Is Gainesville LGBT friendly? ›
It's widely recognized as the heart of Gainesville's LGBTQ+ nightlife. Although Gainesville is largely known for Gator Nation and its natural beauty, in the city lives a thriving and historically rich LGBTQ+ nightlife scene, with University Club and the growing local drag scene as its anchors.Is Lynyrd Skynyrd from Gainesville? ›
Lynyrd Skynyrd (/ˌlɛnərd ˈskɪnərd/ LEN-ərd SKIN-ərd) is an American rock band formed in Jacksonville, Florida.