No matter what time of year you visit Gainesville, Florida, you’ll find no shortage of things to do. Festivals and events for all ages take place year-round. Here are eight of the best annual big and small events in Gainesville throughout the year.
1. Hoggetowne Medieval Faire, January
Go way back in time during the annual Hoggetowne Medieval Faire, fun for kids and adults. The event transforms the Alachua County Fairgrounds into a marketplace fit for a medieval king, complete with jousting tournaments, elephant rides, musicians and dancers, and more than 160 art and craft vendors. Get creative and go in costume if you want to blend in, and don’t forget to go with an empty stomach—you’ll want to have plenty of room for the turkey legs.
2. Cinema Verde Film Fest, February
Everyone wants to go green right now, even film festivals. Gainesville’s Cinema Verde Film Fest began in 2010 to raise awareness of environmental practices and sustainable living. Filmmakers from all over the world submit their movies, and festivalgoers have the chance to see more than 40 short and feature-length films. Other special events include live music, a fair and a (green!) car show.
3. Spring Garden Festival, March
There’s a reason spring is favorite season for many, and a blooming garden is one of the first signs it has arrived. Kanapaha Botanical Gardens welcomes it at the annual Spring Garden Festival. Walk through 175 booths where vendors sell plants, gardening tools and accessories, arts and crafts, and food. Auctions, live entertainment and the walk-through butterfly conservatory make it easy to fill up an afternoon. Kids have their own activities, such as potting plants and making floral arrangements.
4. Santa Fe Spring Arts Festival, April
After a long winter, come out and feast your eyes on some bright spring colors at the Santa Fe Spring Arts Festival. Artists from all over the country come to Gainesville to display a variety of works, including watercolor, sculpture, wood, glass, jewelry, photography and more. Two stages host dancers and musicians, and a lawn concert takes place on Saturday night. Kids feeling inspired? They can create their own masterpieces in the Art Jungle. The event takes place in the Downtown Gainesville Historic District, providing a beautiful backdrop to the unique art pieces.
5. Butterfly Fest, September
Butterflies are known for bringing positive energy, and you can celebrate them for one weekend in September during the Florida Museum of Natural History’s annual Butterfly Fest. Activities include photography workshops, educational panels, live music and entertainment, and a children’s area, and attendees have a few opportunities to watch a native butterfly release. Creative kids will want to work on a costume to participate in the Pollinator Parade. All of the events take place on Saturday, and the museum operates extended hours on Sunday. A plant sale takes place all weekend.
6. Florida Bat Festival, October
Go a little batty just in time for Halloween at the Florida Bat Festival. The event takes place at Gainesville’s Lubee Bat Conservancy in October and unites fans of these amazing animals. The conservancy is not normally open to the general public, so this annual event provides a rare opportunity to tour the grounds. Visitors can see giant fruit bats (with six-foot wingspans!) and learn about their contribution to the ecosystem. Admission is free, and food and unique merchandise is available for sale. Bat-themed crafts and games are available for kids.
7. Micanopy Fall Harvest Festival, October
As much as we enjoy celebrating spring, we don’t neglect the fall, as you’ll see when you attend the Micanopy Fall Harvest Festival. The small historic town’s old oak trees make the perfect backdrop for a fall arts festival, populated with local artists and musicians. You can browse and buy locally made items, or stroll the cute shops in the downtown area. Don’t miss the live auction if you’re in the market for vintage goods.
8. Downtown Festival & Art Show, November
Every November, about 100,000 people gather at one of Gainesville’s most popular festivals. The Downtown Festival & Art Show features more than 250 artists from across the country, whose works you can buy or just browse. Then grab a snack from the 20 food vendors and take a front-row seat at one of the live jazz, pop, country folk or soul concerts. The festival is a family affair: Special areas let kids (or kids at heart) create their own art or draw with sidewalk chalk, and leashed dogs are allowed.
For information on these events and others, check out the Visit Gainesville calendar of events.