Welcome to Gainesville, FL
The city of Gainesville really does have everything. As the home of the University of Florida, locals have a great sense of pride and community and often come together for events and outdoor activities. If you go to watch the Gators play football at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium then you’ll feel the city come to life. Outside of Gainesville’s cosmopolitan downtown, you’ll be charmed by the towns and villages nestled throughout the area’s rich landscape. You’re also never far from hiking trails or a place to set off in your canoe for a relaxing day surrounded by nature.
Highlights of Gainesville, FL
- Great for: The heart of Florida, with lots of natural attractions
- Famous for: The home of The Gators - the hugely popular University of Florida
- Closest airport with direct flights: Orlando International Airport is 122 miles to the south
- Why we like it: It's a bustling university town, with strong cultural and musical roots
- Itineraries featuring Gainesville, FL:
Gainesville, FL Location
Weather in Gainesville, FL
Average temperature (°C) and average rainfall (days).
Hotels in Gainesville, FL
The Hampton Inn provides guests with a comfortable stay where guests can truly relax. The hotels excellent location makes it the ideal spot for any traveller wanting to explore all that Gainesville has to offer.
The Laurel Oak Inn is reminiscent of an old American style house with porch swings and rocking chairs, keeping in perfect fitting with the historic town of Gainesville.
Things to do in Gainesville, FL
History of Gainesville
Quinn Jones Museum and Cultural Center
Learn about this inspiring community leader and educator at the museum dedicated to his work championing the civil rights movement in Gainesville.
Archer Railroad Museum
History buffs will enjoy this museum’s displays celebrating the important advancements that came with the construction of rail lines from the Civil War onwards. A fascinating lens through which to understand local history.
Florida Museum of Natural History
See exhibits that acknowledge the unique and diverse habitats of Florida and learn about the state’s culture and natural history through the interesting permanent and temporary displays. Prepare to be dazzled by the Butterfly Rainforest, where you’ll get up close and personal with hundreds of live butterflies in their beautiful plant-filled enclosure.
Hawthorne Historical Museum
Browse the paintings and antique pieces that represent the history of the quaint town of Hawthorne, including an impressive quilt stitched with images of many of the area’s historic homes.
Matheson History Museum
Incorporating a traditional 19th-century house, historic toolbarn and beautiful botanic gardens, the Matheson History Museum provides an entertaining and educational opportunity to learn about the history of Gainesville.
Micanopy Historical Society Museum
The Micanopy Historical Society Museum has an excellent range of exhibits that celebrate the town’s early Native American settlements and its colonial past.
Admire the natural beauty of this local landmark while visiting the final resting places of many figures from Gainesville’s history or purely strolling around the vast and peaceful grounds.
Culture, Arts & Crafts in Gainesville
Harn Museum of Art
Part of the University of Florida, this museum holds an impressive collection of modern and contemporary art and photography, along with many African and Asian pieces. There’s also a wide-ranging programme of daytime and evening events including interactive experiences, family activities, films and lectures.
Acrosstown Repertory Theatre
This intimate local theatre champions diversity and community through an eclectic programme of classical plays and original pieces from local playwrights. You’ll love its quirky setting in the Baird Center, an old industrial building with protected status.
Artisan’s Guild Gallery
There’s no better place to discover the local arts scene and support local businesses and craftspeople than the Artisan’s Guild Gallery. Treat yourself or buy unique souvenirs for friends and family from the great selection of homewares, jewellery, gifts and original art pieces.
Black C Art Gallery
Marvel at the work of artist, photographer and dancer Ani Collier at this performance space and gallery.
Gainesville Community Playhouse
Catch a show at the state’s oldest community theatre, a local favourite with a great reputation.
Be sure to check what’s on at the Hippodrome during your visit to Gainesville. Large-scale productions, comedy shows and musicals are regularly on the schedule at this acclaimed entertainment venue.
Somewhere Along The Way, Art Gallery Coffee House
You’re encouraged to linger and relax at this unconventional gallery space. Savour organic, hand-selected snacks and freshly brewed coffee surrounded by photographs, paintings, ceramics and sculpture from local artists. Situated conveniently in the historic district of Micanopy, be sure to add this stop to your itinerary.
The Gainesville Master Chorale and Philharmonic Orchestra
An impressive troupe of local people come together with their musical talents to perform classical pieces at many local events.
Thomas Center Galleries
This gallery has a solid collection of photography and contemporary art as well as items of significance to local history and other rare antiquities.
The three art galleries at the University of Florida each hold superb collections that are a must-see if you’re visiting the area.
University of Florida Performing Arts
The annual programme of the UFPA welcomes artists from countries across the globe. Audiences will enjoy diverse and accomplished performing arts experiences.
Full Circle Gallery
A contemporary and inspirational art space offering an array of artistic workshops and a gallery featuring the works of regional artists.
Defined as an all-inclusive art space with artist studios, a gallery, classroom and workshop areas. HH Arts is a welcome addition to the area and a must see.
Limelight Studio and Gallery
Limelight Studio and Gallery features the work of LaPine and her students. The walls are filled with bejewelled and whimsical creations of all shapes and sizes.
Mattie Kelly Arts Center & Gallery
Mattie Kelly Arts Center & Gallery is the area’s venue for world-class entertainment, featuring indoor and outdoor stages for touring Broadway shows, Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra concerts, many other musical offerings, innovative artistic events and performance art from all genres.
Special Touch Gallery
Special Touch Gallery hosts the unique work of local artists from around the Emerald Coast boasting artwork ranging from lamp work and sculptures to watercolours and photographs.
National, Historical & State Parks
Morningside Nature Center
A popular nature park with something for everyone. At Morningside, you can enjoy seven miles of hiking trails through the peaceful pine woodlands and wildflower fields while encountering wild deer, several bird species, turtles and other wildlife. There is a Living History Farm on site as well where you can learn about the life of rural families in the 19th century through a replica cabin and garden with real farm animals.
Bivens Arm Nature Park
A haven for keen birdwatchers, Bivens Arm Nature Park has boardwalks over a salt marsh where many species of wading birds can be spotted, as well as owls and migratory songbirds. An observation deck and picnic grounds make it a welcoming spot for families too.
Boulware Springs Nature Park
This is the starting point for the 17-mile Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail with a parking lot and picnic area for refreshments before you set off. Cyclists, horseback riders, and hikers are all welcome.
Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park
You’ll feel like you’ve entered another world when you explore a sinkhole that’s 120-feet deep. Full of rich plant life, trickling streams and waterfalls, you’re guaranteed a rainforest oasis even in the height of summer.
Dudley Farm Historic State Park
If you have an interest in rural history, Dudley Farm is not to be missed. Staff in period clothing will teach you about work and family life in the pioneer days of North Florida. There are replica houses, stores and industrial buildings full of original furniture and equipment and fun live demonstrations. A visitor center, picnic areas, and nature trail can also be found at this state park.
Gum Root Park
Gum Root Park is situated at Newnans Lake on the northern shore. The park has miles of trails that pass through natural habitats including swamps, forest and pastureland. You’ll have plentiful birdwatching here, as well as being able to spot deer, alligators and other local critters.
John Mahon Nature Park
Named after a local leader devoted to conservation, you enjoy John Mahon’s faithful work to preserve large areas of local prairie land on this peaceful hiking trail through mixed and pine forest.
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park
A quaint little house preserved in its 1930s state sits in the grounds of this secluded state park. Wander the nature trails and roam through the garden and orange grove surrounding the house.
O’Leno State Park
Almost every outdoor interest is catered for in the O’Leno State Park. If you’re looking for somewhere to set up camp, hike and cycle the trails or swim, fish and canoe down the river then this vast and diverse park really has it all. The impressive river views, sinkholes and varied flora and fauna found in the area will delight day-trippers and serious nature-lovers alike.
Palm Point Nature Park
The southern shores of Newnan’s Lake, Palm Point Nature Park is the perfect secluded spot for a day of birdwatching or fishing. Within the park, there are many butterflies on the shoreline and you might even be lucky enough to see an alligator or two.
Payne’s Prairie Preserve State Park
A uniquely diverse area that is very popular with locals and tourists alike, where the views are spectacular and all outdoor interests are catered for.
Poe Springs Park
Family-friendly Poe Springs Park is a great place to cool off on a hot Florida day. Jump into the bright blue waters and shallow pools or swim down to the underwater cave if you’re feeling brave. You can go kayaking, canoeing and tubing on the water, or enjoy picnics and other outdoor pursuits in the surrounding parkland.
River Rise Preserve State Park
Spend a day hiking, cycling, fishing, wildlife spotting or horse-riding at this State Park where the Santa Fe River comes above ground.
San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park
Daredevils will love speeding through this large woodland park, one of the top destinations for mountain bikers in the state. There are 30 miles of track to keep your adrenaline pumping! But don’t worry if two-wheeled extreme pursuits aren’t your thing, this park is large enough to accommodate many different interests. Hikers and horseback riders will also find solitude on dedicated trails.
Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park
Spot the alligators and other diverse local wildlife in the wetlands and prairie marsh. There’s a Visitor Center where you can start off on one of the eight trails through the park, whether you’re looking for hiking, cycling or horseback riding trails, there’s something for you there. You’ll be rewarded with panoramic views from the platform at the end of the Le Chua Trail.
Entertainment in Gainesville
Destin Magic Dinner Theatre at La Paz Restaurant
A World-Class Illusion, Juggling and Comedy Magic Show!
Northwest Florida Ballet
Northwest Florida Ballet, provides world-class ballet performances.
The Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra (NFSO) is a professional orchestra which offers the highest quality of standard and new orchestral repertoire to the growing and diverse population of Northwest Florida.
Paint The Coast
Paint The Coast specializes in teaching beginning artists basic painting techniques in a casual, relaxed environment. Students are provided all supplies and will finish their masterpiece in one 2-3 hour session at The Pancakery in Destin or Cafe Liquid in Niceville, starting at 6:30pm on various evenings.
PleinAir Emerald Coast. Come paint en plein air with us. You are responsible for your own easel, paints and plein air set-up. We meet around 8 AM, paint until 11 AM, gather on site for show-and-tell, and then usually have lunch at a restaurant nearby. Sometimes we paint right next door, and sometimes we go 50 miles away.
Sinfonia Gulf Coast
The Emerald Coast’s only fully professional symphony orchestra presents the highest calibre concerts, events and educational programming featuring the best regional musicians and award winning international guest artists.
Southern Hands Market
Southern Hands Market is a beautiful and unique items and artworks created by located artists. These distinctive pieces are on display and are priced to sell. There is a little something for everybody!
Stage Crafters Community Theatre
Catch a Broadway-style show produced, directed and performed by the community’s talented thespians.
BARR Hammock Preserve
With shorter and longer trails depending on your preference, the BARR Hammock Preserve protects 6000 acres of prairie and forest. Explore the area on foot, by bike or on horseback and discover the birdlife and nature from the various elevated viewing points.
Experience a truly magical display of wildlife in action at the Butterfly Rainforest, part of the Florida Museum of Natural History. As you walk through the tropical plants and water features in the large enclosure, you’ll be surrounded by exotic butterflies of up to 80 different species. Butterfly releases are weather dependent, so be sure to check before your visit.
Kanapaha Botanical Gardens
Take a stroll through the beautiful Kanapaha Botanical Gardens to discover vibrant displays of summer flowers and aromatic herb gardens. You can spend a few hours at one with nature while relaxing under the gardens many gazebos and seating areas.
Lake Santa Fe
Lake Sante Fe is three-mile stretch of protected water known for excellent bass fishing. The lakeside homes and lush grass beds surrounding the lake make for a beautiful setting for a fruitful fishing trip.
Mill Creek Farm
Animal lovers and children will love visiting the Retirement Home For Horses at Mill Creek Farm. The 100 or more horses that reside at the farm roam freely around the rolling pastures. Many have been rescued from a lifetime of mistreatment or are retired from service in the police patrol. Volunteers can come to groom the horses twice weekly.
Gainesville Sporting Activities
Beginners and experts are all welcome at the Adventure Outpost, where you can pick up kayaks, canoes and paddleboards to rent for guided or unguided trips and tours along the Santa Fe river.
Auto Plus Raceway
Get your fix of wild motorsports thrills at Gainesville’s Auto Plus Raceway. High speed drag racing kicks off the season every March, and you can catch all sorts of amateur and professional races throughout the summer and fall.
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Match day at the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, home of the University of Florida football team, is an experience you’ll remember. Join in with the local traditions and absorb the thrilling atmosphere. Famous for its loud and enthusiastic crowds despite the sweltering temperatures, you’ll be cheering along in no time.
Looking for an extreme sport with a difference? If you’re bored of kayaking or biking, why not try out tree-climbing at this specialist center? Staffed by friendly professionals, this is a fun activity for those looking for something a little out of the ordinary.
Fred Cone Park
A well-located track and field complex where many local events and competitions are held. There’s also parking and a picnic area for visitors.
Hal Brady Recreation Complex
Check out the varied sports events on offer year-round at the Hal Brady Recreation Complex where you’ll find Indoor and outdoor actives for every interest.
North-East Multipurpose Complex
This comprehensive facility features a pool with diving boards, slide and sun deck, a gymnasium with locker rooms and wellness area and a skate park.
You can visit the O’Connell Center, know as the “O-Dome”, to watch the Gators’ basketball, track and swimming teams compete amongst other university teams for across the US. It’s also a popular venue for large-scale concerts and events.
Santa Fe Canoe Outpost
Perfectly located on a peaceful part of the Sante Fe river, you can rent kayaks, canoes and paddleboards to launch with the help of the friendly and knowledgeable team.
Newnans Lake State Forest
Whether on foot or by bike, you can wend your way between the beautiful lakeshore and the tranquil forest on the trails of Newnans Lake State Forest.
West End Golf Club
The West End Golf Club welcomes golfers of all ages and abilities. You’ll enjoy playing this fully-lit par 60 course which is open in the daytime and evenings.
Ironwood Golf Course
Practice your swing at the driving range or take on the challenging championship course.
Meadowbrook Golf Club
The Meadowbrook Golf Club presents visitors with a challenging range of tricky fairways featuring hills and streams in a beautifully secluded setting. Try it for yourself and you’re sure to love it too.
The best resource for visitor reviews and tips for all of Gainseville’s outdoor activities. Take a look on sportody.com for inspiration for your next adventure.
Fine Dining in Gainesville
Gainesville is a real foodie paradise, where independent restaurants and eateries thrive and are a big part of life for locals and visitors to the area. You can take your pick from cuisines from all over the world, as well as checking out the local produce at the vibrant markets.
A great introduction to the area and all the amazing food on offer is to join the Gainesville Food Tour. This walking tour will give you a brief and interesting initiation to the history of the town, as well as showing you the top places to eat out in downtown Gainesville.
Here’s our pick of the best that Gainesville has to offer:
- Union Street Farmers’ Market – downtown Gainesville, every Wednesday, whatever the weather, from 4-7pm.
- Alachua County Farmers’ Market – the only farmers’ market in the area where 100% of the sellers are local farmers.
Grills & Seafood
- Backstreet Blues Chop House and Oyster Bar – fresh seafood, quality steaks and delicious cocktails.
- Ember’s Prime Steaks Wood Grill – a newcomer to Gainesville’s food scene, with a focus on local produce.
- Mark’s Prime Steakhouse – steaks, seafood and a terrific wine list.
- Paramount Grill – one-off dishes in downtown Gainesville. Come for brunch, lunch or dinner.
Bistros / American
- Adam’s Rib Co. South – there’s no better BBQ joint in town!
- Bistro 1245 – a light menu of salads, sandwiches and pastas.
- Great Outdoors Restaurant – unique dining experience in a restored opera house.
- Karma Cream – cafe with a conscience offering excellent vegan-friendly, fair trade and organic meals.
- Leonardo’s 706 – an exciting menu of California-Mediterranean fusion dishes.
- Mildred’s Big City Food – award-winning American dishes with a twist.
- Old Florida Cafe – Micanopy long lunches on the patio here are to die for.
- The Top – cool vibes plus great burgers and drinks.
- Amelia’s Italian Cuisine – quality produce and refined Italian dishes.
- Big Lou’s New York Style Pizzeria – delicious New York classics.
- Francesca’s Trattoria – delicious Italian fare for all the family.
- Leonardo’s Pizza Of Millhopper – by the slice or whole, these fantastic deep dish pizzas are a must try.
- Manuel’s Vintage Room – top quality Italian dishes and regular wine tasting evenings.
- Villaggio Pizzeria – Divine New York-style pizzas and more.
- Andaz Indian Restaurant – contemporary venue serving tempting Indian dishes.
- A’xin Mahzu Sushi & Grill – Southwest Gainesville, fresh sushi and bento boxes.
- Beque Holic – all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ.
- The Twisted Peacock – a modern take on Indian cuisine.
Mexican / Latin American / Caribbean
- 101 Cantina – fun Mexican restaurant with a tequila bar.
- Emiliano’s Cafe – pan-Latin dishes using local produce.
- Flaco’s Cuban Bakery – all your favourite Cuban specialties.
- Reggae Shack Cafe – classic Jamaican food in the heart of Gainesville.
- Albert’s Restaurant – hearty breakfast buffet and a good lunch selection.
- 43rd St Deli & Breakfast – a Gainesville institution, serving delicious breakfasts and lunches to locals and visitors alike.
- Bagels Unlimited – a great spot for a quick and tasty snack.
- Sandwich Inn – cheap, fast and fantastic quality food – a real locals’ favourite.
- Bearkery Bakery / Dream Day Cakes – local handmade breads and cakes to die for.
- Sweet Dreams – the best ice cream parlor in Gainesville!
- SweetBerries – tasty frozen custard and other sweet treats.
- The Station Bakery & Cafe – cakes, pastries and breads from a family-run bakery.
Pubs & bars
- Loosey’s Bar & Table – get your fill of craft beers, cocktails bar snacks and American dishes here.
- Rowdy Reptile – join a lively crowd enjoying cheap drinks at this fun bar.
- The Backyard Bar at Boca Fiesta and Palomino – Dance the night away with live music and drinks aplenty.
- The Bank Bar and Lounge – a classy establishment with a good range of cocktails, wines and beers.
- The Brass Tap – a huge range of craft beers is on offer and there’s live music too.
Shopping in Gainesville
You can find plenty of small independent boutiques when wandering down Main Street in this quaint historic district of Alachua. Christie’s is a local favourite where you can pick up trinkets and gifts to take home. My Sweet Art and Garden Gallery is also worth a visit, and if you find a piece you love you’ll be supporting local artists too. There are also larger shopping centers outside of the historic district where you can find all the retailers you need.
Gainesville – Downtown
Start your shopping experience of Gainesville’s downtown area with a wander through the pedestrian mall at Union Street Station. Vintage clothes, men and women’s fashion and gifts items are just a few of the things you can pick up in this delightful mall. You’ll never be far from great shops in downtown Gainesville. And when you need a pit stop, there are plenty of great cafes to revive you..
Haile Plantation is a small village with a big sense of community and somewhere you’ll be glad to visit. The shops here are all well located in the very centre of the village. Take a look at Village Jeweler if you’re looking to pick up something special on your trip. There are also more great jewellers and other boutiques and gift shops that will have you reaching for your wallet.
High Springs’ abundance of antique shops and craft shops in a lovely setting make this the perfect place to go bargain hunting. Whether you’re looking for a specific piece or just browsing, you won’t be disappointed. Keep up the vintage theme with a break for delicious ice cream at the retro soda fountain downtown.
A stroll around Micanopy’s quiet streets will not disappoint. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time as you wander past historic buildings on tree-lined streets. A real destination for antique shopping, there’s more than a few well-stocked shops to explore. Cholokka Boulevard is the heart of downtown Micanopy and the place where you’ll find the majority of the antique shops. O’Brisky Books is not to be missed and is known as one of the best shops for rare books in the state. If downtown’s antique shops just aren’t enough for you, Smiley’s Antique Mall on the outskirts of town is a huge space full of pieces to tempt you.
If convenience is what you’re looking for, you’re sure to find it at Oaks Mall. This is the largest shopping centre in the area with over 160 shops, restaurants and cafes, including large stores like Macy’s and JC Penny.
Why not take a shopping trip with a difference at Thornebrook Village in northwest Gainesville? This unusual shopping centre is open air with covered walkways and beautiful areas of planting and greenery at every turn. The retailers here have a real sense of pride. If you’re looking for gifts, fashion, antiques or even a manicure, you’ll be welcomed warmly here.
Tioga Town Center
As a shopping destination and community hub, Tioga Town Center is a very popular retail spot in Gainesville. Come for the good shopping and plentiful parking and stay for the open air concerts and family movie nights!
Waldo Farmer’s and Flea Market
One of the largest flea markets in the area with sellers from far and wide. Scour the stalls and find hidden gems at every turn.