Gainesville, Florida is best known as the home to the University of Florida. The area has been inhabited for over 12,000 years, starting with Native American tribes. Europeans settled in “The Swamp” in 1854, naming the city for a War of 1812 veteran. The historic district is home to many buildings from this time, including historic homes and a train depot.
Visitors can also see the farm where acclaimed author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings lived for much of her life. The city also hosts two annual arts festivals and has been where many musicians found their sound, including Tom Petty and Less Than Jake.
What to Do in Gainesville
Bluefield Estate Winery– The family-owned winery serves wine made from their blueberries and muscadines, in the Carlos and Noble varieties, which are grown onsite. Get a discount on your wine tasting. 22 NE, Co Road 234
Florida Museum of Natural History– The university-affiliated museum has a sprawling collection that includes fossils and Native American artifacts. Admission to the main museum is free, but you can purchase your Butterfly Rainforest at Florida Museum of Natural History Ticket before you go. 3215 Hull Road
Harn Museum of Art– Sprawling over 100,000 square feet, the Harn is one of the region’s largest university art museums. The collection features pieces from Ansel Adams, Claude Monet, and more. 3259 Hull Road
Kanapaha Botanical Gardens– Explore the 68-acre green space with tropical plant species. Featuring 24 major collections, the garden has a paved walkway, a butterfly garden, and a bamboo forest. 4700 SW 58th Drive
Craft breweries– The college town is home to a number of breweries including Swamp Head Brewing, one of Florida’s best, and Blackadder. 3650 SW 42 Avenue; 618 NW 60th Street, Suite A
Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park– The surprising rainforest has attracted curious visitors since the 1880s. The park has trails and displays on the sinkhole. 4732 Millhopper Road
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic Site– Fans of The Yearling can visit the former 1930s homestead where the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer penned the book. 18700 S, Co Road 325, Cross Creek
Natural springs– The Gainesville area is home to a number of privately-owned natural springs that allow visitors, including Ginnie Springs, north of town, and Devil’s Den to the south. Both offer snorkeling and scuba diving. 7300 Ginnie Springs Road, High Springs; 5390 NE 180 Avenue, Williston
Payne’s Prarie Preserve State Park– Spanning over 21,000 acres outside of Gainesville is a savanna-style landscape. It has observation decks, hiking trails, horseback riding, and birding. 100 Savannah Boulevard, Micanopy
University of Florida Bat Houses– Outside of the campus, you can visit the “World’s Largest Occupied Bat Houses.” Watch the creatures take flight at dusk. Museum Road
Where to Eat in Gainesville
Blue Gill Quality Food– Led by Chef Bert Gill, this restaurant is one of the city’s most praised, sourcing local ingredients in its diverse menu. Favorites include shrimp and grits and fish tacos. 1310 SW 13th Street, (352) 872-5181
Loosey’s– Known for its burgers and beer, Loosey’s is a longtime Gainesville hangout. They also host live music and have affordable daily specials. 120 SW 1st Avenue, (352) 672-6465
The Swamp Restaurant– Another favorite for burgers and beer, this staple opened in 1994 and has been serving students and sports fans ever since. 1642 West University Avenue, (352) 377-9267
4th Avenue Food Park– Enjoy a socially distanced meal at this outdoor dining spot with vendors selling coffee, tacos, pizza, and sandwiches. 409 SW 4th Avenue
Public and General– The vintage-inspired gastropub and market sells sandwiches and salads alongside local craft beer and an extensive wine list. 1000 NE 16th Avenue, (352) 745-7358
Mi Apa Latin Cafe– Enjoy Latin dishes like authentic Cuban sandwiches at this suburban shopping center spot. Plantains and strong coffee are also recommended. 114 SW 34th Street, (352) 376-7020
Where to Stay in Gainesville
Magnolia Plantation Bed and Breakfast– Set in the Baird Mansion, constructed in 1885, this inn has five rooms as well as a carriage house and cottages. Read our review here. 309 SE 7th Street
Hotel Eleo at the University of Florida– This sleek and modern hotel is the perfect place for visitors near campus. Rooms feature free WiFi and Nespresso coffee makers. 1514 SW 14th Street
HoM, A Trademark Collection Hotel– The pet-friendly Wyndham property has modern furnishings, free hot breakfast, and an outdoor pool. 3905 SW 43rd Street
Hotel Indigo Gainesville-Celebration Pointe– Located near the mall, the boutique hotel is pet-friendly and has an outdoor pool and restaurant. 5020 SW 30th Lane
AC Hotel by Marriott Gainesville Downtown– The pet-friendly hotel near the UF campus has a rooftop pool, free WiFi, and a lounge serving Spanish-style tapas. 151 NW 14th Street
Rentals- If you’re traveling with a group for a game or for fun, check out Airbnb rentals like this shipping container tiny house, the colorful Crane’s Landing, or a modern warehouse-inspired loft.
Camping- There are plenty of places to camp near Gainesville. Kate’s Fish Camp is an Old Florida-style experience with boat rentals and RV sites. Otter Springs Campground and Payne’s Prarie also have sites.
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