If you're a fan of America's southern football, you may know Gainesville, Florida as I did -- home of the University of Florida and the Florida Gators. But after a recent visit there, I was kind of blown away with all the cool things this university town has to offer. With its charming southern downtown and distinctly diverse feel, there are so many things to do in Gainesville no matter what your taste, budget, or affinity to football.
Located in the northern part of the Sunshine State, the city of Gainesville has a moody To Kill A Mockingbird look about it often seen in southern Georgia and north Florida. Period bungalows and stately Victorian homes sit along quiet streets lined with live oak trees draped with Spanish moss. It's a charming scene, and one that's amplified the longer you explore. It's an creative and diverse place, reflected in everything from it's community arts, events, parks, museums, and most especially the food! You'll find cuisine, beer and spirits hand-crafted right here, and tours and food truck rallies to help get your feet wet. Outside of town, there's the natural world of Alachua County to explore that's teeming with wildlife and beautiful scenery. Gainesville is a fun and happening place, and one you should check out soon.
Things to do in Gainesville, FL
The Cade Museum
What else would you expect as a posthumous encore inspired by the inventor of Gatorade than a museum that celebrates innovation? The Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention opens in May of 2018, and should be your first stop in town. Built in honor of Dr. Robert Cade, this modern, organic structure made from steel and concrete sits at the edge of Depot Park, and is meant to inspire kids of all ages with classes, history, and labs that foster creativity. Even the building design is inspiring and mimics the spiral of the "Golden Mean" or Fibonacci sequence.
Be a Kid Again at Depot Park
Steps from the Cade Museum is the coolest playground I've ever seen. Seriously, Gainesville's Depot Park is as much fun for you as it is for your kids. Spend the afternoon running around with your kids and explore the fun structures like big kid-sized trains, jungle gyms, forts, walls, and slides - it's one of the best things to do in Gainesville with kids!
Hoggetowne Medieval Fair
Twice a year, the Alachua County Fairground welcomes the bustling Hoggetowne Medieval Faire, which is fun for the whole family. Cheer on jousting knights, wander through the medieval marketplace where hundreds of artisans sell their wares, witness a battle on the living chess board, and feast on food fit for a king.
Sweetwater Wetlands Park
This manmade wetlands habitat not far from town feels like a world away. Stroll more than 3.5 miles of crushed gravel trails and boardwalks and you'll see native bird species, alligators, even Florida cracker horses. Go on your own or take a ranger-led tour. Here's more info.
Stroll Downtown Gainesville
You could easily spend the better part of a day strolling the historic downtown and taking in the history and architecture in between bites to eat. There's a lot of interesting and colorful murals throughout town, which could be a self-guided tour all it's own. Visit 352walls for more info on the Gainesville Urban Art Initiative.
Take in a show at the Hippodrome Theater when you're in town. The play we saw here may very well be one of the best I've ever seen. Housed inside a former Federal Building, The Hipp is Gainesville's cultural centerpiece offering live theatre, films, gallery exhibits, classes, and special events over 340 days a year.
Gainesville Food Scene
Gainesville Food Tour
For the perfect intro to Gainesville food and some of the best restaurants in Gainesville, take the Gainesville Food Tour, a weeknight and Sunday morning downtown walking food tour that's as much an intro to the city itself as it is to the food. The tour runs about 3 hours and visits 5-6 local eateries, all within walking distance from the historic downtown.
The handcrafted beer at this Gainesville brewery is "Inherently Floridian" and brewed in Florida’s only solar powered brewery. I love that sustainability has been key to their mission for over 10 years, and that they source local ingredients. But what I love even more is their really good beer! Visit the brewery and relax with friends over a pint and a game of foosball.
High Dive Food Truck Rally
Some of the most fun you 'll have in Gainesville, these local food truck rallies combine awesome gourmet food with live music at the High Dive featuring some of the areas best local music. An excellent time! Check out upcoming events and food truck rallies!
Fish Hawk Spirits
Stop in the tasting room of Fish Hawk Spirits while you're in town to sample their handcrafted infused whiskeys, vodkas, and even an absinthe made from hibiscus at their distillery in Ocala. I loved their Blueberry Vodka!
Best Restaurants in Gainesville
For yummy pizza, sandwiches, salads, and homemade sodas (try the soda flight and definitely try the Ginger Ale). Satchel's is fun!
The Top, Gainesville
Smack dab in the center of the action is The Top, the hip place to eat downtown. Their eclectic menu offers a variety of choices for any palate, from hearty vegetarian dishes and homemade Thai noodles, to mouth-watering burgers and scrumptious desserts.
Loosey's is a local joint that serves simple food and makes it look so easy. Try their Baconator sliders and authentically twice-fried French Fries.
Where to Stay in Gainesville, Florida
Camellia Rose Inn
The lovely Camellia Rose Inn is a grand old Victorian home that's been lovingly restored and updated with modern amenities. I loved staying in the Lady Clare room, which was fully accessible and had a huge step-in shower. The room was spacious, filled with charming antique furniture, and a high bed that was so comfy I would have never noticed if I did fall out of it! The Inn dates to 1903 and is ideally located on a quiet street just a few blocks from the historic downtown. Oh, and the breakfasts here are to die for!
Visit Gainesville recently hosted me so I could discover Gainesville and Alachua County, Florida and share it with Travlinmad readers. As always, all opinions are my own.
If You Go
Getting to Gainesville
FLY: into Gainesville Regional Airport in Alachua County (GNV)
DRIVE: Interstate 75 runs from Michigan's Upper Peninsula south through Florida's west coast, right to Gainesville.
More Info: Visit Gainesville can help you plan your perfect trip to Gainesville.