Gainesville 5 Ways
Find a lot more than gators in this exciting Florida city
Day or night, Gainesville’s Downtown is the symbolic heart of the city. At Bo Diddley Community Plaza, you can often come upon live music, which sets the tone for a great night out. Head over on Wednesday for the Union Street Farmer’s Market, where you can purchase locally grown vegetables and fresh-baked pastries. Shops and boutiques pop up every night around the Union Street Station Pedestrian Mall.
Conclude your downtown exploration, with a show at the historic Hippodrome Theatre, which has presented musicals, comedies, dramas and holiday productions for 40 years. “The Hipp” is the region's only professional theater—open for public performances 340 days a year, with eight plays, 300 film screenings, 10 festivals, 16 Guest Artists Talkbacks, 12 visual arts exhibitions and hundreds of other programs annually.
Hippodrome Theatre in Downtown Gainesville
You don’t have to be enrolled in classes to enjoy the University of Florida campus. It’s listed as a Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places, thanks to decades of growth from 102 students to the nearly 50,000 of today. Back in the early 1900s, Gainesville won the bid to host the new-ish University by offering land, money and an agreement to “furnish water to the University without charge.” Stroll the grounds to admire live oak trees that have grown tall and sturdy, providing deep shade and a chunk of the responsibility for the campus’ picturesque setting.
The Florida Gators are invested in sports—Gatorade was invented here to combat dehydration! It’s serious business. Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field welcomes 84,000 fans; it’s the largest stadium in Florida and one of the loudest in the country. Home-field advantage, much? It’s open to the public all day, and is the perfect place to sneak in some exercise if you feel like running stairs. See the Final Four-veteran men’s basketball team at The Stephen C. O’Connell Center, or the “O-Dome,” which also contains indoor and outdoor swimming pools and is regularly used to host other events on campus, such as concerts.
Do some shopping
Many Floridians consider Alachua County to be a top destination for antique shopping in the state—Micanopy, especially. Stroll under the shade of massive live-oak trees dripping with Spanish moss and duck into historic buildings, where most antique shops are found. Micanopy is the oldest inland city in Florida, so it’s easy to find history on each shelf and around every corner. Make a day of it with stops in High Springs and Alachua.
Antiques in Downtown Micanopy
You’ll enjoy Florida’s sunshine at Thornebrook Village, where open-air covered breezeways and lush areas of grass and flowers make a day of shopping look like a walk in the park. Get a massage, a tan or new hairstyle; pop into a perfumery, sample some hand-dipped chocolates and purchase one-of-a-kind jewelry—it’s all here.
Hit the museums
The Florida Museum of Natural History houses more than 34 million specimens and cultural artifacts, including one of the world’s largest collections of butterflies and moths (!). Permanent exhibitions explore Florida's unique habitats and cultural history, such as Florida Fossils: Evolution of Life and Land, which contains fossils 65 million years young. Recent temporary exhibits included Wolf to Woof: The Story of Dogs and La Florida: 500 Years in the Place of Flowers. Bonus: with the rare exception of some special exhibits, the museum is free!
The Butterfly Rainforest, at the Florida Museum of Natural History, is a can’t-miss living exhibit that features between 60-80 exotic species at any given time, as well as birds from around the world, turtles and fish. As hundreds of butterflies fly around you, you’ll make your way through a lush landscape, filled with tropical trees and colorful flowering plants amid waterfalls.
Fossils at the Florida Museum of Natural History
Explore the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, one of the largest university-affiliated art museums in the United States. More than 8,300 works are displayed in the museum’s collections, which include photography and Asian, African, modern and contemporary art. The Harn is the permanent home of Claude Monet's "Champ d’avoine (Oat Field)." Traveling exhibitions are displayed throughout the year, as well as events such as Museum Nights, lectures, interactive activities, and family and school events.
Step through time
Reading history books isn’t quite the same as seeing it with your own eyes. At Dudley Farm Historic State Park, an authentic working “Cracker” farm, you’ll see the evolution of North Florida farming—through three generations of the Dudley family—brought to life by park staff in period clothing who perform chores, raise crops and tend to livestock. Dudley Farm Historic State Park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, with 18 buildings such as a family farmhouse with original furnishings and an 1880s kitchen outbuilding.
At Devil’s Millhopper Park, you’ll traverse 120 feet down into a bowl-shaped cavity that’s home to a miniature rain forest. Keep your eye on streams as you descend—they trickle down, down, down, disappearing through crevices in the ground. Devil's Millhopper is a National Natural Landmark that has helped researchers learn a great deal about Florida's natural history, through the study of shark teeth fossils, marine shells and the fossilized remains of extinct land animals found in the sink.
Make plans to check out exciting attractions, activities and events with the Gainesville Visitor Guide.