I’m an alum of the University of Florida and a proud Florida Gator. If you follow college football…well, then you know that the Gators aren’t having the best day. Today we lost to our SEC rival, the University of Georgia, for the third year in a row. Ouch. This just doesn’t seem to be our football team’s year.
Gator football and the University are the heart of Gainesville, Florida. But there’s so much more to my beloved Gainesville – the place were I grew up, got married, created a million memories. And in the spirit of focusing on the positive, today seems like a good day to share some of the lesser known highlights of this lovely little town with you – some of which my family & I explored during our vacation in Gainesville this past summer.
We live in Florida, and like most Floridians with young kids (mine are 5 and 7), an Orlando vacation just makes sense. Don’t get me wrong—we love Orlando! The theme parks and water parks will keep the whole family busy all day. It’s not too far from home, and admission tickets are often heavily discounted for Florida residents. Still, even with the discounts, theme park tickets alone can cost hundreds of dollars! Plus, the parks are ridiculously hot and crowded during the summer.
We were ready for a change – so this year, we decided to vacation in Gainesville, Florida. We were a bit worried that we’d run out of things to do, but we actually wound up having so many activities that we extended our trip by a day.
Fun Things to do in Gainesville, Florida
These are just some of the amazing things you can do in Gainesville and the surrounding areas:
Ichetucknee Springs State Park
Go tubing, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, swimming, snorkeling, or scuba diving. Bring a picnic lunch or grab a bite at the concession stand. Admission is $6.00 per vehicle, and extra charges may apply for different activities.
This small zoo has a surprisingly large collection of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish, and invertebrates. Admission is $5.00 per adult and $4.00 for children ages 4-12. Kids 3 and under are free.
This museum is located on the University of Florida and has free admission. There was a small interactive display near the museum entrance, but otherwise this is a “hands-off” museum.
Florida Museum of Natural History
Learn about Florida’s history with a large variety of exhibits featuring paleontology, archaeology, and natural sciences. Bonus: It also has a hands-on play area with comfy chairs for sleepy parents. This museum is located next door to the Harn Museum of Art and also has free admission.
This beautiful garden features hundreds of free-flying butterflies and birds from around the world. This is a special exhibit in the Florida Museum and there is a fee for admission.
University of Florida Bat Houses
Every evening just after sunset, you can watch thousands of bats emerge from their home on the University of Florida campus. You have to see it to believe it!
Don’t miss this 120-foot deep sinkhole! The view is breathtaking.
And no visit to Gainesville is complete without a visit to “The Swamp!”
And now I’m homesick… 🙂 There really are so many wonderful hidden treasures in Gainesville!
I know. What’s amazing to me is that I lived there for 4 years and really never explored beyond the perimeter of the University. I missed out on a lot of adventures when I was young & child-free. 🙂