Thousands 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 in The Swamp, 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 Brewing Company, 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 Swamp Head Brewery, a Florida-themed brewery that refers to its tasting room as The Wetlands. Stump Knocker and Big Nose are popular year-round 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. Other breweries include Cypress & Grove Brewery, Blackadder Brewing Company, and Big Top Brewing Company.
2. Visit a local winery.
Island Grove Wine Company, is located in Island Grove, south of Hawthorne, FL on Highway 301. It is known for its strong varieties of fruit wines made from blueberries, strawberries and apples. 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. The tasting house is open daily, and you can learn more about the wine making process at the winery, just a few minutes away on the 700-acre farm.
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 Gator Sport Shop at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium or 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 Ilene’s Gator Store in Thornebrook Village, Alumni Hall in Butler Plaza, and the Nike Factory Store in Celebration Pointe .
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. EXPLORE FLORIDA’S 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 interactive displays. Visitors can browse through Native American artifacts to learn the tools and clothing worn by early area inhabitants of what is now Alachua County. 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 art museum and part restaurant. Behind Satchel’s at Lightnin’ Salvage, you’ll find live music, wall-to-wall, art displays and a nifty gift shop.
For tasty sweets, try The Talented Cookie Company in High Springs and their decadent cookies, chocolate sundae cupcakes, and vanilla lattes. Sweet Dreams Ice Cream serves and array of homemade ice cream flavors and hosts special events like Chocolate Nights and Wacky Flavors Night during the year.
Head to downtown Gainesville for a multiple dining options all within walking distance, including New American at The Top, 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, French bistro plates at Alpin, Italian favorites at Amelia’s and upscale menus at Paramount Grill and Mark’s Prime.
Football fans should also schedule time to visit Alachua County’s natural attractions including scenic parks and trails, the Santa Fe River and freshwater springs, nearby historic sites, and explore small towns in the area.
If you are staying in Gainesville and Alachua County for an extra day or two, be sure to take a look at the VisitGainesville.com Event Calendar to find something fun to do near you.
For the latest fan information including the clear-bag policy, traffic patterns, and game-day initiatives visit FloridaGators.com