Although the city is better known for having the University of Florida, one can find lots of fun things to do in Gainesville, Florida rather visiting the college campus.
The city has its rich history which dates back to approximately a few thousand years ago to the era when the great hunter-gatherers. Now the city’s governing body has made sure to preserve various wetlands and wild forests of its surrounding to their best condition.
For all the nature lovers, the Gainesville, Florida is just like a haven. One can get away from their daily troubles when planning a vacation for Gainesville, Florida.
There is whole another side to Gainesville, Florida and that is being the college town. With this reputation there are actually a lot of fun things to do in n Gainesville, Florida for active and young vacationers.
The town is filled with restaurants, shops, malls, nightclubs, breweries, malls and various shops. If one loves to let loose for a few days then a visit to the Gainesville, Florida is the right fit for you.
Well, if you are planning for a trip to Gainesville, Florida, you might be stuck as to where to start this trip. What are the biggest places to visit in the town? What are the travel hacks for Gainesville, Florida that can help you spend a quality time?
If you have all these questions and more, then our article will guide you perfectly. Here are few of the best and fun things to do in Gainesville, Florida.
1. Florida Museum Of Natural History
Among the many popular attractions of the city, one is the Florida Museum of Natural history. This is a massive complex that has inside of it things ranging from a massive Skelton of real dinosaurs to rainforest with live butterflies. The best thing about it is that it has everything for people of all interests, ages and genders.
For fossil lovers, there are numerous displays of the extinct animal fossils.
For history lovers, there are artifacts in near perfect preservation for the Florida’s indigenous tribes. For nature buffs, they can wander in the museum’s underwater domes; mimicking cliffs, caves, waterfalls, and bogs.
Discovery Zones are for kids where they can dirty their hands with fun activities and interactive games. Don’t worry, as there are information stations to let the parent be aware of what their children are learning.
Also, the best thing about this whole place is that it’s free to enter; well, except some special exhibits which require admission fees.
Everything else inside this museum can be enjoyed without paying any money which makes this Museum one of the free and fun things to do in Gainesville, Florida.
For those visiting the city on a tight budget, this place would be your best option to visit.
The address for this attraction is: 3215 Hull Rd, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA.
2. Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park
If you had a dream of exploring a massive sinkhole then this is your chance for it.
The only park in Florida which is located right in the middle of a sinkhole is the Devil’s Millhopper Geological State park.
This sinkhole stretches for about 500 feet in width and 120 feet in depth. Visitors are able to go down the sinkhole’s bottom via the wooden boardwalks and footsteps that end at the observation deck.
This sinkhole is truly a marvel of nature and has several reasons for its fame. This place is not only filled with limestone and water but the walls of it also support 3 different kinds of ecosystems.
These 3 ecosystems are a sand hill, a forest, and a swamp; all of which are independent of each other due to having different exposure to sunlight and rain.
There is a common joke in USA that Florida is the end of the Earth and when one travels down the Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park, they actually feel like they are seeing the real doomsday in action.
This doomsday like appearance is the reason why the park got this devilish name. one other reason for this name is the discovery of the various animal bones on its bottom. Some believe that this was the final destination for these poor animals before they went to hell.
The address for this attraction is: 4732 Millhopper Rd, Gainesville, FL 32653, USA.
3. Kika Silva Pla Planetarium
Kika Silva Pla Planetarium is the building located inside the Santa Fe College, Gainesville. This place will show its visitors the marvels of universe.
The planetarium not only has daily star shows where visitors get to enjoy the view of the night sky sitting on their seats, it also offers various creative and fun activities which showcases things like laser art and music art pieces.
For example, one of them is the Space Park Show which is designed to present the vibes of cosmos in a roller coaster ride.
Then there is the Music 360 Show which plays the Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin as the viewers enjoy the display of galaxies, supernovas, black holes, and stars.
One does not need to have a keen interest in astronomy to enjoy a day at the Kika Silva Pla Planetarium.
Majority of this place’s visitors include families with kids that come here to see the celestial science show as if watching a movie.
If you have never seen a star show then while visiting Gainesville, be sure to check this planetarium.
The address for this place is: X-129, 3000 NW 83 St, Gainesville, FL 32606, USA.
4. Ichetucknee Springs State Park
The one drawback with Gainesville is that it is a landlocked Florida city. This means that unlike other cities of Florida, one cannot hit the beaches here.
With that being said, do not worry for each place of this city to be a dry one. Coming to Gainesville and visiting its Ichetucknee Springs State Park will leave you wet.
The place is known for its Ichetucknee River which has clear blue waters and offers its visitors different outdoor activities; thus making it a suitable place for the families.
Few activities to choose from include scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming, tubing, kayaking, paddle boarding, and canoeing.
If you are not too keen on spending time in water all day, there are out-of-water activities. A big portion of the park is a natural trail named as “The Great Florida Birding Trail”. This trial has lots of picnic spots and hiking trails.
For wildlife and nature lovers, this place is worth a visit. For a crazy summertime with your families, planning a trip to this park in Gainesville, Florida can become the highlight of your trip.
The address for the Ichetucknee Springs State Park is; 12087 SW U.S. Highway 27 Fort White FL 32038, USA.
5. Downtown Gainesville
When in Gainesville, Florida, you will always be able to find fun things to do in the downtown Gainesville area.
The place has everything ranging from old-styled movie theaters to its lavish and state-of-the-art shopping centers. One can literally spend a whole weekend; exploring through the different amenities this place has to offer and never completely see all of it.
During the daytime, the streets are filled with sounds of sellers and buyers and their different products.
For those who love to eat on a trip, they can visit the Paramount Grill for eating a juicy fatty burger or visit the Dragonfly Sushi & Sake Company to have a taste of the seafood platter.
For those who are diet conscious and like to prepare their own meals even on a trip, they can visit the Union Street Farmer’s Market to get fresh produces.
For those who love spend big bucks on trips, they can visit the different cafes, stores, bookshops, souvenir houses and bakeries located in the Central plaza.
This was all during the day time; at night the Downtown Gainesville is brimming with lively folks.
It’s Hippodrome Theater features live shows each week of the year whereas when can enjoy a fresh mug of brewski at the Swamphead Brewery.
There are also novelty attractions like the Rockey’s Dueling Piano Bar where pianists can engage in lively completions as well as take requests from the visitors.
Here is so much to do in the Downtown Gainesville that you might wish to spend the rest of your vacation here. But there are still lots more fun things to do in Gainesville, Florida.
6. Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation
If you have a willingness to go a little beyond the boundary of the Gainesville, the scenery will take a shift from its asphalt paved streets and roads to some of the lush green hills you will ever see.
When this lush greenery arrives, you will be aware that you have arrived at the Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation. This Foundation is the product of the 2 animal lovers and is a sanctuary that has inside 25 different species of rabbits and other exotic creatures.
Some of the animals inside the sanctuary include pumas, hyenas, giraffes, lemurs, cheetahs, tortoises among many others.
All these animals here get a treatment fit for royalty. Visitors get to see them feeding as they stand close to their habitat enclosures. If some cats are feeling friendly on a particular day, they will come up to the fence to greet the visitors.
The only drawback of the Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation is that general admissions are not allowed.
One needs to book in advance for a tour of this animal sanctuary. So if you want to meet the royalty like Henry; the Rhino and Lea; the Lion, then book in advance before coming to Gainesville.
The address of the Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation is: 8528 E, County Rd 225, Gainesville, FL 32609, United States.
7. Lake Alice
In some of the lesser known historical sites of Florida, Lake Alice is one of them. This place was once the home of the people of the Alachua tribe that dates back to almost 1000 AD. It is believed that nearby the Lake Alice, they built there burial mounds.
Although the times have changed since then, this lake still is a respectful and quiet place making it one of the beautiful lakes in the USA.
One might not swim in its waters; they can still observe its habitat of turtles, possums, alligators and birds that live by its shores.
For a better look of the Lake Alice, there are numerous walking trials, leading to best viewing decks.
Nearby shore, there are few attractions which one can enjoy for minor fees.
One of them is the Baughman Center which is a gorgeous looking Chapel. The chapel is made from the Cypress Wood and has glass windows ranging from floor to its ceilings. These glass windows reflect the light of Lake Alive making people wander inside the chapel for meditation or prayer.
A wildlife sanctuary; The Bat House and Barn is the place where one can watch over 300000 bats as they come out and inside their home at sunset and sunrise.
Florida is definitely a fun place but it can become tiring as well. A visit to its places like Lake Alice can give you that much needed break to recharge.
8. Depot Park
Among the liveliest places to visit in Gainesville, one is the Depot Park which is open from morning till night.
Coming here, kids can climb, jump, and slide on its playground equipments while adults can picnic inside its pavilion or play the chess on the massive chess set on the grass.
After spending time in Sun, go to the Blue Grotto, where one can splash around a small waterfall that is riddle with water jets and water cannons.
For when you feel tired, go to one of the park’s shaded areas to enjoy an afternoon nap under the shade of its many oak trees.
If you have planned your trip to Gainesville just right, you will have a chance to attend special event at this park.
The park hosts events like Fireworks, live summer band concerts and many others. So in the end, coordinate your trip right to catch a lively event at the Depot Park.
One other nice feature of this park is that it is not heavy on your travel budget. Among many free things to do in Gainesville, visit of the Depot Park is among them.
The address of the Depot Park is: 874 SE 4 St, Gainesville, FL 32601, USA.
9. Historic Haile Homestead
Haile Plantation House or better known as the Historic Haile Homestead is a colonial property. This was built by the slaves of a white family in the 1850s.looking the property from outside, it seems like a regular old-fashioned home of Florida. However, the inside of the house tell a different story altogether.
The Haile Family actually wrote all over the house’s walls and the reason of that is still not known. The walls are covered with over 12500 words which covers the walls of kitchen to master bedroom.
Some of these words are of Bible; some are listings, signatures, blessings, daily musings and blessings. The walls even have some drawings painted all over them.
The most interesting part of this unique house and its walls is that these walls actually document the lives of the slaves and the Haile family.
This seemingly first-person history of a family changes this house from being a simple commodity to a historical landmark worth visiting.
The place has received the recognition from the US National Register of Historic Places for the importance.
This Haile Homestead is not for the light hearted folks as it is also a reminder of the time when slavery was practiced in state of Florida.
But for the history buffs, there is nothing more great than visiting a historic plantation with mementos of the owners covered over its walls.
The address of the Historic Haile Homestead is: 8500 SW Archer Rd, Gainesville, FL 32608, USA.
10. Bluefield Estate Winery
Bluefield Estate Winery, is located a little but outside of the city of Gainesville. This winery is a family business that a husband and wife started together from their kitchen.
They were both trying to create some DIY wine. Following their experiments with the blueberries an grapes grown on their field, they came to realization that they were really creating something unique.
Thus the Bluefield Estate Winery was started.
Now this is a small establishment located on the outside of the Gainesville. It is not a fancy establishment but it is still real and great.
The winery has its own vineyard of muscadine grapes and blueberries that stretch over the horizon. Owners create and cork every bottle of the wine by hand.
When it is harvest season, wine lovers come here and pick their own berries to have some custom-made wine to take home.
For those looking to do something unique, they should visit the Bluefield Estate Winery. Not only will it be a great story to tell to friends but one also gets a bottle of wine.
The address for the Bluefield Estate Winery is: 22 Co Rd 234, Gainesville, FL 32641, USA.
11. Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
The Ben Hill Griffin Stadium also known by the local community as “The Swamp” is one of the Florida’s largest stadiums.
The stadium has seating capacity for 90000 folks and it hosts variety of concerts, athletic sports, championships, pep rallies, and ceremonies.
The thing for which the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is best known for is the Gater Growl. This is an annual homecoming event during the football season for University of Florida.
Other than that, folks come here in droves to enjoy events like televised skits and live comedy performances.
Frequently, celebrities also come here as guests to attend the football games.
Within the walls of this stadium, college and high school bowls are also held. Concerts were once frequent but now the concerns for the turf make them a rare occurrence.
For football lovers, visiting the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is a must thing to do in Gainesville.
Even if it’s the offseason for football, visiting one of the biggest and renowned stadiums of Florida is the must-do thing.
The address for the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is: 157 Gale Lemerand Dr, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA.
12. Sweetwater Wetlands Park
Florida is known for having quite a large number of reveres and parks but the Sweetwater Wetlands Park located in Gainesville sets itself apart from the rest of them. This is a wetland area that has inside animals and plants one will not see anywhere else.
When here you can see and do unique things like an alligator trying to eat a wooden stork. Or you can fill a scrapbook filled with pictures for marsh seeds and flowers.
This park maintains its untouched natural beauty as the visitors here have to follow really strict rules to even pass through the gates.
The trails of the park do not allow for cars to enter and pets are also not allowed inside due to the presence of snakes, gators, and local birds. The only thing you can bring with you is your Camera to click away the beauty of Sweetwater Wetlands Park.
The address for the Sweetwater Wetlands Park is: 325 SW Williston Rd, Gainesville, FL 32601, USA.
13. West University Ave
West University Ave might not be a tourist destination but it still happens to be a place where you can din many fun things to do in Gainesville.
The place is known for having lots of bars, restaurants, shops, gyms, movie theaters, and clubs. So, yes, this is one of the most energetic parts of this Florida city.
For the best time of nightlife in Gainesville, West University Ave is the place where you want to be as the dancing and drinking can go all night long.
One other nice thing about this attraction is that it can serve as the starting point from where one can set off to other attractions of the city.
So, if you are planning to either visit the nature parks and reserves in the north of the city of museums in the south, the West Ave offers a way to go there.
14. Lubee Bat Conservancy
Tere is a lot of misconception about bats in the world since ancient ties and the Lube Bat Conservatory is all about changing this misconception.
The conservation is located in the middle of the city and offers a home to dozen of the bat species ranging from endangered ones to exotic ones.
The goal of this conversation is to help educate the common folks on the nature of these sensitive creatures while taking care of each bat that needs rehabilitation.
But the catch for visiting this place is to book in advance otherwise you will be disappointed at the gate of Lubee Bat Conservatory.
But once you are inside, all the trouble and wait will be worth it. The establishment gives private tours where they can feed, observe or in words adopt a bat.
The conservatory has even trained some of their bats to paint and if you happen to be luck, you can see them creating a nice artwork. Well, this is a must-see place as which other place can give this one-of-a-kind experience.
The address for Lubee Bat Conservatory is: 1309 NW 192nd Ave, Gainesville, FL 32609, USA.
15. Cade Museum For Creativity And Invention
Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention is the result of a real-life inventor and happens to be one of the best places to visit in Florida for folks interested in science & technology.
The place is brimming with displays, interactive stations, and exhibits where people can take in hand things like snakes in fluid jars to machine parts.
If you come here with kids, you can literally be lost for hours walking through the massive halls. But for the ease of people, the museum volunteers will help you to find the next best thing.
If you have plans of staying in Gainesville for an entire weekend then you can get a chance to attend the weekend workshops of the museum.
These workshops host classes where children can learn things such as making slimes, learning about different parts of human brain and decorating the human skeletons.
To put it in simple words, this Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention is an educational and fun stop for families visiting Gainesville. If one of your little ones is inspired to become a future Einstein here, then the admission ticket is worth it.
The address of this place is: 811 S Main St, Gainesville, FL 32601, USA.
16. Gainesville Raceway
If you walk past a building and a start to hear the roars of an excited crowd mixed with squealing sounds of car brakes and smell of gas then you are at the Gainesville raceway. This is a drag strip race track where both professionals and amateur drivers can live their dreams of competing in high-octane vehicles.
The fame for the Gainesville Raceway is because of the NHRA GatorNationals, which is the annual drag racing competition. It is attended by almost 135000 people each year where they get to see drivers in racing battles.
Also, the Gainesville Raceway holds the monthly and annual race for the races without any devoted fans and sponsorships.
The best thing about the Gainesville Raceway is that any drag racer with a car and grit to compete can make their name here.
But if you are visiting with kids, we advise you to steer clear of this place as the sounds can spook them. As for thrill-seekers, the trip to Gainesville cannot get much better than this.
The address for the Gainesville Raceway is: 11211 N, N County Road 225, Gainesville, FL 32609, United States.
17. 34th Street Wall
34th Street Wall is something one can only see in this Florida city. The wall stretches for a length of 1120 feet and every inch of it has been covered by the Graffiti artists.
The wall was built a few decades ago with the purpose of protecting a golf course nearby from erosion. This wall as the pride and joy of the neighborhood and any graffiti art was cowered up by white paint. However, the artists persisted as they added on words, messages, drawings, announcements, prayers, and messages. They also painted their tributes to the murder victims of the city. Finally they got the celebrities to pose with this wall to start awareness campaign.
Although, today it is still an illegal activity to do graffiti art on this wall, the rule remains unenforced. The 34th Street Wall is now a vibrant and unique feature of the city.
The paint layers are almost 250 layers in thickness but folks are still adding onto it. For a state like Florida known for its wonders and quirks, the 34th Street Wall definitely holds the qualification.
18. Samuel P. Harn Museum Of Art
The Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art or simply known by the locals as The Harn is another great museum in Gainesville, Florida.
The best thing about this museum is that the admission here is free and one can enjoy seeing its nearly 10000 displays.
For starting a tour, one can walk through the galleries containing contemporary and traditional art pieces.
Some of these art pieces are belongings of Samuel P. Harn wile others are either here on loan or have been displayed due to special exhibits that are moved throughout state of Florida.
After seeing the interior art, you can then pass through the gardens and grounds for experiencing the rugged beauty of this place.
For a perfect ending of this attraction, visit its on-site gift shop or café.
The reason for The Harn to be on the list for the free and fun things to do in Gainesville, Florida is that there is rarely a place with such culture and history gathered in a single place.
The address for The Harn is: 3259 Hull Rd, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA.
19. Kanapaha Botanical Gardens
To get a break from the city life of the Gainesville, visit the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens located outside of the city.
This is a safe haven for nature lovers that give you a time to recharge from all that hustle and bustle of a city. Take the time to relax from your action packed vacation to do more fun things later.
So the big question is what does Kanapaha Botanical Gardens offers?
The first thing one need to known about this Kanapaha Botanical Gardens is that this is a collection of many gardens.
This place has all kinds of different gardens like rose gardens, butterfly gardens, bamboo gardens, and rock gardens. The place also houses a massive field of flowers and a beautiful arboretum which is soothing for the eyes of anyone.
The brooks of the gardens also have those massive lily pads floating about which one sees in movies. The thing that makes the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens very nice is its annual calendar for special events.
For the month of March, they hold the Spring Garden Festival; a festivity of music and food. For May, they plan the Moonlight Walk; an event where people can wander in the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens during night with lanterns.
If you are looking for travel rips to Florida, remember this place. But before coming to Gainesville, be sure to plan with the events of the city and many events held at its attractions.
The address for the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens is: 4700 SW 58th Dr, Gainesville, FL 32608, USA.
20. Morningside Nature Center Of Florida
When you arrive at the Morningside Nature Center of Florida, you will feel as if you have travelled back in time.
Although the Morningside Nature Center of Florida offers 400 acres of picnic areas and hiking trails for outdoorsy folks, the main attraction of this place is its Living History Farm from the 19th Century.
This farm consists of one cabin, one ban and a one room school; all of which has fields of cotton, sugarcane and cotton surrounding it.
All the chores of this living history farms are done by hands and things have either been recreated or preserved to function just like they did when the original owners of the farms lived here.
Visitors can take tour of the farm and do things like feeding the livestock or wearing the 19th-century clothing.
While the admission is free, donations are accepted in forms of vegetable and fruits for the animals at farm.
For those who love to peek into the lives of the American pioneers, then visit of the Morningside Nature Center of Florida can be the highlight of your vacation.
The address for the Morningside Nature Center of Florida is 3540 E University Ave, Gainesville, FL 32641, USA.
21. The Oaks Mall
Oaks Mall might not be the biggest and the best mall in the state of Florida; it sure is the largest mall in the city of Gainesville. This mall happens to be the best last attraction to visit to pick up some souvenirs and end the vacation.
The place offers everything from products of high-end retailers to cheap vendor stalls. So whatever your vacation budget might be, you will still find good souvenirs to take back home.
The mall has jewelry shops and fashion boutiques along with candy shops for kids and bookstores for adults.
Everything in the mall has been laid out on one floor with maps on the walls to help guide the tourists.
Oaks Mall also has a nice little food court and play area for little children. One corridor has a life-sized alligator as a display which seems to be watching the shoppers with its vigilant eyes.
This mall is not one to be comparable to those high-end modern shopping malls but Oak Mall is still a nice way to end a vaction of Gainesville.
The address for the Oaks Malls is 6419 W Newberry Rd, Gainesville, FL 32605, US.