This summer, beat the Florida heat with a trip to Gainesville—a city with tons of ways to cool down. Located just under two hours from Orlando, Gainesville is a popular college town with charming museums, hip restaurants and natural springs. Here are the top ways to stay cool this summer in Gainesville and Alachua County, Florida.
Gainesville Area Springs
Make a splash at one of the area’s crystal-clear springs, which remain a refreshingly cool 72-degrees year-round. At Ichetucknee Springs State Park, which flows for six miles before it joins the Santa Fe River, you can rent tubes (by the front entrance of US 27) and float lazily down the water, shaded by hammocks and tall trees. The tubing route takes approximately 45 minutes, giving you plenty of time to look for wildlife while enjoying the refreshing water. Take a cool dip at Ginnie Springs and Blue Springs, or head over to kid-friendly Poe Springs, for its shallow water and no admission fees.
Hal Brady Recreation Complex
For another refreshing choice, head over to the city of Alachua and cool off at the Splash Park at Hal Brady Recreation Complex. The 160-acre park’s large fountain, spouting cool water from the ground, is a great alternative for guests who aren’t strong swimmers. Both children and adults can enjoy the fountain and relax on one of the park’s beach chairs. Park admission for the fountain is free.
The Blue Grotto splashpad at Depot Park is inspired by underground Florida caverns. Water cannons, water jets, and waterfalls provide plenty of fun while fossils provided by the Florida Museum inpsire wonder and discovery. Admission is free.
City of Gainesville Pools
Gainesville is home to an assortment of public pools for both visitors and locals. Pools such as Westside, Northeast and TB McPhearson (near La Chua Trail) are designed to hold large groups of people, providing a perfect location with plenty of space for a group outing. For the serious swimmer, most of the public pools have designated lap lanes. Beach chairs and public showers are around the pools for your use. You can use lockers on-site to store your goods, and the pools are supervised by a certified lifeguard.
Eat and Drink
A great way to cool off during the hot Florida summer is with a cool drink, and The Dime is the perfect spot for a handcrafted cocktail. The upscale but laid-back bar with vintage appeal is a favorite among locals. Take a look at the menu and you’ll know you’re in for a real treat, with cocktail names like Saucy Jack, Last Dragon, and Zwackadoodle.
Prefer craft beers over mixed drinks? Check out some local craft breweries in the area, like the popular Swamp Head and The Wetlands tasting room, or First Magnitude, where you can bring along the kids while you sample flights of beer served in Florida license plates. For more Floridian-themed flavors, go inside Tall Paul’s to Alligator Brewing and try out drinks with quirky names like Tail Gator and Snowbird.
Perfect Summer Dining
When exploring High Springs outside Gainesville, The Great Outdoors restaurant is a good spot for food and drinks. The camping-themed restaurant has a large outdoor patio with massive umbrellas to shade the tables. It’s a great spot to sit outside while sipping on a cold brew and trying one of the great menu items like Cajun redfish, burgers, fish tacos, salads, crab cakes and more.
For dessert, visit Talented Cookie Company and satisfy your sweet tooth with their homemade cookies. In Micanopy, you can pay a visit to Coffee and Cream for their famous freshly squeezed lemonade and outdoor patio. Lunch, ice cream and frozen yogurt are served there as well. In the Gainesville city limits, Sweet Dreams is the place to go for homemade ice cream. While enjoying one of their fun ice cream flavors— cotton candy, Crazy 4 Peanut Butter or raspberry hibiscus ice cream—cool off with a seat at one of the tables shaped like an ice cream cone.
The Great Indoors
Take a break from the sun and slip into one of Gainesville’s air-conditioned museums during the summer. The University of Florida Cultural Plaza is a great spot to check out the stunning campus and see the Harn Museum of Art, Florida Museum of Natural History and University of Florida Performing Arts. See a wide range of stunning displays from Native American artifacts, to artworks from talented locals, to world-class theater performances. The historic Thomas Center is a prominent museum located in a Mediterranean-Revival mansion with well-preserved antique furnishings. While the center is mainly used for social functions, visitors are free to browse the mansion and view the period pieces and paintings displayed throughout.
Visit High Springs for exhibits on the early pioneers from the late 1800s to early 1900s. High Springs Historical Museum provides a glimpse of what life looked like for the people of that era, and the historical impact the steam train industry had on their lives, along with a display of model trains. History buffs can continue their adventure at Matheson Museum, the second oldest house in the city (1867), with hundreds of old photographs reflecting the life of the pioneers.
When Night Falls
Evenings in Gainesville are fun during the summer as the temps cool off. On Friday nights, head over to Bo Diddley Plaza for free concerts held weekly during summer. Talented musicians and bands perform on stage while guests lounge on lawn chairs or picnic blankets. Other local music venues to enjoy during the evening include: The Hippodrome, High Dive, Atlantic, Wooly, One Love Cafe and Tioga Town Center.