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Fun Things to Do in Gainesville, Florida

Updated on November 22, 2016
FloridaFacts profile image

Since completing university, Paul has worked as a bookseller; librarian; and freelance writer. Born in the UK, he now lives in Florida.

Downtown Gainesville.  There are plenty of fun things to do in this vibrant college city.  The downtown area has a great mixture of restaurants, cafes and bars.
Downtown Gainesville. There are plenty of fun things to do in this vibrant college city. The downtown area has a great mixture of restaurants, cafes and bars. | Source

Having been a regualr visitor to Gainesville, FL, for a number of years and now am resident here, I thought I would give you my ideas for things to do in in the city with a view to focusing on having fun with family.

All my suggestions are also either free, or low cost things to do, so they should not stretch your budget too far.

As well as ideas for things to do in Gainesville itself, I have also included a few ideas for day trips to places within easy driving distance.

Gainesville is a college town, so there is plenty of stuff happening for students which is well advertised, but sometimes it is not easy to discover things for families, so I thought I would put this guide together and called it: 'Fun things to do in Gainesville, Florida, with family'.

Baby alligator at Lake Alice, Gainesville, Florida.  Lake Alice is a pleasant place to visit and great for spotting alligators, turtles, birds, and other wildlife, as well as somewhere just to chill out and enjoy the lakeside.  It is free to visit.
Baby alligator at Lake Alice, Gainesville, Florida. Lake Alice is a pleasant place to visit and great for spotting alligators, turtles, birds, and other wildlife, as well as somewhere just to chill out and enjoy the lakeside. It is free to visit. | Source

Look for alligators at Lake Alice

Lake Alice is a well-maintained and fantastic free resource, situated in the grounds of the University of Florida. You can park up for free on Museum Road and have a wander around. It is a great chance to see live alligators in the wild.

Most times that I have been there, I have seen at least one alligator, often five or six, or more. (If you want to read writing some more about Lake, then you can read my blog post: I love Lake Alice, Gainesville, Florida.

The bat houses
The bat houses | Source

Watch the bats emerge from their bat houses at sundown

The UF bat houses are also situated in the grounds of the UF, just across the road from LakeAlice on Museum Road. There is free parking nearby.

I would suggest finding out when sunset falls that day and getting down there 30 minutes beforehand. It is often busy down there with a couple of hundred people, or so, there to watch the bats emerge, so get there even earlier if you want one of the best viewing spots.

There used to be just one bat house but it collapsed because it was overcrowded and the bat droppings caused damage to the structure. The bats are of the Brazilian Free-tailed species and there over a 100,000 of them. The original bat house was renovated and a brand new bat house built beside it, so now there are two. (See: Visiting the UF Bat House, Gainesville, Florida for more info)

Visit the Florida Museum of Natural History

This wonderful place is situated on Hull Road, off SW 34th Street in Gainesville. There is parking nearby for cars. At the museum you will find the Butterfly Rainforest, a four-story, outdoor screened enclosure with waterfalls, tropical plants, a walking trail and hundreds of live butterflies.

There is also the Discovery Room, which specially caters for children and adults wanting to learn about Florida’s habitat. There are many other exhibits too, in fact I would say that it is pretty much impossible to do and see everything in one visit!

Source

Visit the Harn Museum of Art

For those more artistically inclined, I would suggest a visit to the Harn Museum of Art in the grounds of the University of Florida. It is located close to the Florida Museum of Natural History on Hull Road (see above).

I wrote a review of the art museum which tells you more about my experience of going there here: Review of the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, Florida

Visit one of the State Parks

There are some stunning and marvelous state parks in the Gainesville area. One that is particularly interesting and fun to visit is the Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park, where there is a limestone sinkhole - this geological feature is a 120 foot deep basin where the temperature remains relatively cool, not matter how hot it is up at ground level. The vegetation is always lush down there and many interesting fossils have been found there over the years.

My wife has drawn up a list of the best of the rest in an article on her blog, if you want to take a look, she’s called her list: My Top Five State Parks (And Nature Spots) In North Central Florida.

 Castillo de San Marcos, St. Augustine.  St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied town in the continental USA.  There is plenty to do in this historic city.  The old fortress is a must see if you go to St. Augustine.
Castillo de San Marcos, St. Augustine. St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied town in the continental USA. There is plenty to do in this historic city. The old fortress is a must see if you go to St. Augustine. | Source
Using St. Mark's Basilica in Venice for inspiration, and designed by a New York Architects firm, the Memorial Presbyterian Church is a stunning building, inside and out. It was commissioned by Florida business tycoon, Henry Flagler.
Using St. Mark's Basilica in Venice for inspiration, and designed by a New York Architects firm, the Memorial Presbyterian Church is a stunning building, inside and out. It was commissioned by Florida business tycoon, Henry Flagler. | Source

Go on a day trip to St Augustine

St Augustine is on the Atlantic coast of Florida and is the oldest continuously inhabited European established town in the USA with a wealth of history behind it.

As well as there being lots of shops, bars, eateries, museums, there is an old Spanish fort and a lighthouse there and beaches not too far away. It takes about an hour and three quarters to drive there, making it easily accessible for a day trip.

Cedar Key Fire Dept. sign.  The beach there is small but very attractive.  There are numerous restaurants nearby selling seafood and other cuisine, as well as stores and a local museum.
Cedar Key Fire Dept. sign. The beach there is small but very attractive. There are numerous restaurants nearby selling seafood and other cuisine, as well as stores and a local museum. | Source

Go on a day trip to Cedar Key

Cedar Key is an attractive, old-fashioned fishing village, popular with tourists and famous for its seafood restaurants situated on the Gulf Coast.

There is also a small, but attractive beach there and it is easily close enough to justify a day trip from Gainesville.

© 2013 FloridaFacts

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    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      Great job on this hub. I often look for neat places to travel and it's so much better to rely on trusted resources like your hub than unknowns. Thanks for your photos, research, and recommendations.

    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 4 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      I am from Gainesville and my parents still live there, so I go back all the time. Great job :).

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Very nice hub! I really enjoyed learning more about the Gainsville, Florida area. You have showcased some really interesting places and I loved the video. Voting this up, awesome and sharing! Have a wonderful day! :)