Best Things to do in Gainesville, Florida
Updated: Mar 28, 2021
Home to the University of Florida, Gainesville will always hold a special place in my heart. If you ever find yourself passing through, visiting for a Gator game or whatever else the case may be, you have to take a look at this guide to the best things to do in Gainesville, Florida. For the best food + drinks in Gainesville, Florida, check out this post.
Best things to do in Gainesville, Florida
Gator games—You haven't truly experienced Gainesville until you've gone to a Gator game. There's generally seven Saturday home games spread throughout the fall season, and the town becomes a giant parade of orange and blue for the whole day.
Depot Park—Revitalized in 2016, Depot Park hosts festivals, 5Ks, performances and more. There are still pieces of the old train tracks that ran through the town that have been built into the park and even as an outdoor wine & beer garden (Boxcar).
Lake Alice—This was probably one of the first places I ever visited in Gainesville. I adore the views at Lake Alice (the name of the female gator mascot), and if you're lucky, during the day, you might see a gator or two swimming by. However, if you come at sunset, you can watch about a half a million bats fly out into the night from UF's three bat houses.
Payne's Prairie—Both a Florida State Park and a U.S. National Natural Landmark, Payne's Prairie is home to remarkable ecosystems. My personal favorite trail is La Chua Trail, which is about a 10-minute drive south of UF's campus. There you can see gators, wild horses, boar and even bison!
Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park—Another Florida State Park, Devil's Millhopper is known for the 120-feet deep sinkhole. The staircase that leads down to the miniature rainforest is lined with small streams that trickle down the limestone slopes.
Devil's Den Prehistoric Spring—This prehistoric spring is inside a cave! Devil's Den is about a 30-minute drive from Gainesville, but due to the high volume of visitors, you can only rent snorkel gear for a couple of hours. I suggest calling ahead to plan a visit and bringing your own gear if you have it!
Gainesville Community Playhouse—GCP will always hold a special place in my heart. I got the wonderful opportunity to play Ariel in The Little Mermaid there in 2019, and though I might be biased, I thought it was an amazing performance, especially for having the budget of a community theatre. They always have a fun season of performances, so check out their website for the current season.
The Hippodrome—The Hippodrome Theatre is the perfect centerpiece to downtown Gainesville. Though the building was originally built in 1911, today it hosts mainstage performances, cinema shows, art galleries and more.
Santa Fe River/Bob's Place—Slightly off the beaten path, Bob's River Place is a fun little spot right on the Santa Fe River. They only take cash, but it's only $35 for four people. The are several water slides, ropes and decks to jump in the water, so there will be something for everyone!
U-Pick Farms—With several farms around the Gainesville area, every season feels like "U-Pick" season. Some of my favorite farms are Brown's Farm and Roger's Farm for strawberries and Wacahoota Farms for blueberries. I heard a lot of the farms also have U-Pick seasons for sunflowers and blackberries, but I've never been myself; I recommend always checking their Facebook page and/or calling to see what the crop looks like that day.
God created such a beautiful world, it would be a shame not to explore, preserve + appreciate it.
Explore: the state parks. Gainesville is home to quite a few state parks, and they're each so beautiful. Wander around a bit, and see what wildlife you might run into!
Preserve: the parks. In addition to the state parks, Gainesville is home to a lot of greenery and wildlife. Unfortunately, game days cause a lot of pollution, and being a college town, people tend to litter often, especially near the bars. It all adds up, so try to do your part to keep the area clean.
Appreciate: the pride. This is gator country, and people are extremely prideful of that. Explore the UF campus and take it all in!