Sweetwater Wetlands Park in Gainesville, Florida, USA

Things to do in  Gainesville

Chomp, chill, and cheer

Even though Gainesville is miles from the nearest beach, when you visit the city, you’ll find yourself in a sea of blue—and orange. University of Florida pride is strong here, particularly at “The Swamp” football stadium. While it may not have the same boisterous fanfare as Orlando or Miami, Gainesville is much more than a college town. Things to do in Gainesville range from museum hopping and exploring its low-key art scene to visiting nearby state parks and natural springs.

All about Gainesville

When to visit

Gainesville is a college town, so the population tends to thin around the university during semester breaks. Summer and winter break, for instance, are ideal times to visit if you’re interested in the city’s museums and outdoor activities. But ask any local, and they’ll say that the best time to visit is during football season when the UF Gators play at “The Swamp.” Hotels will be more expensive during home game weekends, but experiencing the campus spirit is worth your while.

Getting around

Like most cities in Florida, the downtown core and university area are quite walkable, but you’ll probably want a car to navigate the city unless you have a bicycle. The Gainesville Regional Transit System (RTS) is a public bus service that runs throughout the city, making stops at the Gainesville Regional Airport. It is the city's sole public transportation option, although taxis and rideshare services are also available.

Traveler tips

Don’t be afraid to spend the majority of your time in Gainesville actually outside the city limits. The Gainesville area abounds with outdoor recreational activities, proving it doesn’t need a beach to deliver a quintessentially Florida experience. Ginnie Springs, for instance, is less than an hour from downtown and is one of the best freshwater springs in the state. Closer to the city, the UF Bat Houses are your go-to at sunset, when hundreds of thousands of bats take flight.

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People Also Ask

Is Gainesville FL worth visiting?

Yes, Gainesville, Florida, is worth visiting—even if you’re not a fan of the UF sports teams. The city is full of museums, including the Florida Museum of Natural History and the Harn Museum of Art. Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park and San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park also offer hours of outdoor exploration.

How should I spend a day in Gainesville?

One of the best ways to spend a day in Gainesville is to learn more about natural history and local wildlife. The Florida Museum of Natural History, Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, and Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo are quick attractions worth exploring, as are the many state parks surrounding the city.

What is the best month to visit Gainesville?

Sports fans should visit Gainesville in the fall when the University of Florida's football season is in full swing and campus spirit lights up the city. Temperatures are often cooler after September, allowing you to enjoy outdoor tailgating at Florida Gators games without being subject to high temperatures. The annual Downtown Festival & Art Show also takes place in November.

What is Gainesville best known for?

Gainesville is best known for the University of Florida, which many consider the oldest and largest university in the state, and whose psychology, agriculture, zoology, and entomology programs are among the best in the world. UF also has a nationally recognized football team—the Florida Gators—and is the birthplace of the beverage Gatorade.

What is the closest beach to Gainesville Florida?

Gainesville is almost in the center of Florida, meaning it’s about a 1.5-hour drive from beaches on both the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. Fort Island Gulf Beach is the closest stretch of sand on the Gulf Coast, while Crescent Beach is the nearest on the Atlantic Coast.

Is Gainesville FL a party town?

Yes, many locals consider parts of Gainesville to be especially lively, particularly around the University of Florida. The city has sports bars for Gator fans, rooftop bars, speakeasies, piano and jazz bars, saloons, dive bars, and breweries. Local laws allow alcohol to be served until 2 a.m., which is when most clubs or bars close.

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