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6 Things to Do in Gainesville on a Gator Football Weekend

Lots of people visit Gainesville every year to catch a home football game at Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, but the game is just one of numerous things to do for an ideal football weekend in Gainesville—and we’re not just talking about tailgating. (Quick side note: tailgating and Gator Walk before the game is really, really fun.) Gator football kicks off in September, and if you’re planning a trip for any home games, here are six things for your must-do list while in Gainesville and Alachua County.

1. Explore the local craft beer scene. Gainesville is quickly becoming a popular destination for craft beer lovers, home brewers and aficionados. Take First Magnitude brewery, located about 10 minutes from the stadium. It’s a cool stop with an impressive taproom and various food trucks parked outside. Fans can try First Magnitude’s year-round brews like Drift or 72. There is also brewery yoga on Sundays. On Tuesday, the brewery hosts its own trivia nights. Another fun stop is SwampHead, a Florida-themed brewery that refers to its tasting room as The Wetlands. Stump Knocker and Big Nose are popular pours, but keep an eye out for limited releases like 10-10-10 or Blueberry Cottonmouth. The brewery gets rave reviews for its cool interior and brewery tours.

2. Visit a Gainesville winery. Gainesville’s own winery, Island Grove, is known for its strong varieties of fruit wines made from blueberries, strawberries and apples. Located in Hawthorne just outside Gainesville’s city center, Island Grove is known for brewing extra fruity flavors, especially blueberry wines made from the highest quality of Florida’s blueberries (comes dry or sweet). The winery is 700 acres, and half of that a blueberry farm. Island Grove is both a little out of the way but still easy to get to, and it offers personal small-group wine tour with knowledgeable staff guides. Tasting hours are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. No tours on weeends. 

3. Shop for Gator gear. Gainesville is proud of its home team, and you can find orange and blue clothes and Gator souvenirs in almost every shop. Die-hard fans will want to swing by the UF Bookstore on Museum Road that sells an impressive amount of Gator gear and memorabilia like baseball hats, jerseys and coasters. Other great stores to stock up on the team’s items are Alumni Hall and Ilene’s Gator Shop

4. Check out some gators off the field. At La Chua Trail at Paynes Prairie, visitors can hike through the wetlands on raised boardwalks and grassy trails to see (real) alligators resting under the sun. Keep your eyes peeled for roaming bison and wild horses that inhabit the area as well. Fans can take advantage of one of the eight trails at the park for hiking, biking or horseback riding, and for those who want to extend their stay overnight, a designated camping site accommodates up to 20 people and has its own campfire circle. 

5. Check out Florida Museum of Natural History. The Florida Museum of Natural History has plenty of fun perks like the Fossil Plant Garden where children can walk among tree leaves and mosses that are up to 450 millions year old. The Discovery Room has hands-on experiences for children to inspect manatee bones, eggs and mounted Floridian birds. Visitors can browse through displays of Native American artifacts to learn the tools and clothing worn by early area inhabitants of Gainesville. One of the museum’s most popular exhibits is the Butterfly Rainforest—an indoor tropical garden with hundreds of free-roaming butterflies from more 60 species. 

6. Eat local. If you're a foodie, explore the wide range of local cuisine in Gainesville. Satchel’s Pizza is a busy spot near Waldo Road that serves salads, pizzas and craft beer in what can be described as part museum and part restaurant. Behind Satchel's at Lightnin' Salvage are wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling displays of Americana antique collectibles like birdhouses, second-hand toys and mounted antlers. For tasty sweets, try The Talented Cookie Company in High Springs serves decadent cookies, chocolate sundae cupcakes, and vanilla lattes. Sweet Dreams Ice Cream serves impressive homemade ice cream flavors and hosts special events like Chocolate Nights and Wacky Flavors Night during the year. Get your comfort food fix at Southern Charm Kitchen and order up the “Pentecostal Fried Chicken”, meatloaf, or chicken n’ waffles. Head downtown for a wealth of dining options all within walking distance like sushi and japanese at Dragonfly Sushi, tasty burgers at Loosey's Pub, NY Style pizza at Big Lou's, middle eastern fare at Sababa, craft ramen bowls at Crane Ramen, and latin flavors at Emiliano's Cafe. There's even a distillery tasting room at Fish Hawk.

Fans can also explore and visit some of the beautiful outdoor parks or ruther check out the scene downtown, or do some small town boutique shopping in Micanopy or High Springs.

For the latest fan information including the new clear-bag policy and traffic patterns, visit

PICTURED: Food truck snacks at First Magnitude Brewery
Photo Courtesy of Visit Gainesville
PICTURED: Island Grove Winery Tasting Room
Photo Courtesy of Visit Gainesville
PICTURED: The Florida Museum of Natural History
Photo Courtesy of Visit Gainesville