Gainesville is the biggest city in the North Central Florida area, and it is bustling with people, nightlife, and some amazing attractions.
This is a big university town and is the home of the world-famous University Of Florida, known for its raucous student night life.
There are many things to do while you are in Gainesville. You can check out the Florida Museum Of Natural History, go wildlife spotting in beautifully unspoiled areas such as the Paynes Prairie or you can go check out some of the finest Florida beers at the Swamp Head Brewery.
But what are the very best things that you can do if you are in Gainesville, Florida? What activities can you do with your family? What are the adults-only zones? How much will you have to pay to get into these places?
Well, allow us to be your virtual tour guide to Gainesville and check out some of the best venues and activities this sunny city has to offer (see also “Best Hotels In Panama City Florida“).
Where Is Gainesville?
Gainesville is one of the principal cities in the North Central area of Florida. It has a population of just over 141,000 in 2020.
This city usually experienced mild winters and very hot summers, being one of the more humid states in the region.
The University of Florida is in Gainesville, which contains the fourth-highest enrollment in the United States. The university is also the largest employer in the city.
Gainesville is also the home to the arts festivals The Spring Arts Festivals and the Downtown Festival And Art Show. These both attract thousands of visitors and artists every year.
It also has the Hoggetown Medieval Faire and The Fest, which is an underground music festival that takes place across multiple venues.
But if you are traveling through Gainesville for a short period of time, then you might want a list of specific activities that you can do.
So here are some of the best-rated venues and activities that you can do while you are in Gainesville.
This first venue is unlike anything that you might have witnessed before. It is a rainforest full of free-flying butterflies of all different breeds and species. There are around 50 species, all of which are allowed to traverse 6,400 square feet of screened forest land.
If you want a magical trip through an enchanted rainforest, this is the closest you’re going to get.
This is not only home to some of the prettiest insects you’ll ever see, but it comes with turtles and fish of different varieties. This is a great place to take the kids, as it will both educate and amaze them.
Now we have the Florida Museum of Natural History, which is an amazing site to visit if education is your top priority.
If you are traveling to Gainesville with a group of school children, then they can sample some of the country’s most amazing exhibits, from spiders to dinosaurs!
This museum has traveling exhibits as well as permanent displays. This has collections for children of all ages, which is great if you are trying to teach a mixed group.
Some of the more recent events include sensory parties for autistic children and a plant sale for flower lovers.
This is another great place to go if you are an animal lover, with over 28 species of animals, some of which are considered endangered. Altogether, this has around 75 animals, with the big cats being one of the major draws for visitors.
This has many different attractions, including a Valentine’s Day couples tour that will permit you and your significant other to pet the large cats.
You can also hire out the enclosure for a private walking or driving tour, which is ideal if you want to do something special with your family.
If you like to wander through the flora and fauna of Gainesville, then this is a great site for you to visit. This has a winter bamboo sale as well as a camellias show with plenty of prize-winning flowers. If you are a member, then you can get into a lot of these exhibits for free.
There are also special offers on certain days of the year. For example, on Mother’s Day, all mothers can get in for absolutely free, the same goes for fathers on Father’s Day. This botanical garden also has discounts or free entry for veterans.
If you prefer the open natural environment to the built-up business of the city, then we strongly suggest that you check out Paynes Prairie.
If you want to see wild bison and deer roaming across acres and acres of unique landscape, then you should head on down to this conservation site.
There are around 300 species of birds at this park, so bring your binoculars if you consider yourself something of an aviation expert.
This also has wild horses and alligators. You can rent a vehicle, or you can fish and canoe in Lake Wauberg. This also comes with a 50-foot-high observation tower for you to look at all the animals.
We have mentioned this famous university above, but why believe us when you can see it for yourself? There is plenty for you to try out and see here, whether it is the artificial intelligence center or the many programs that they have to offer prospective students.
There is a reason why this university is one of the most popular in the country. It leads in the fields of artificial intelligence, robotics and biological research. There are billions of dollars pumped into Florida University, so get on down to check out what they have to offer.
With over 200 animals under its roof, the Sante Fe College Teaching Zoo is a great place for the wildlife-obsessed family to visit.
This is filled with zoologists who help to care for the animals as well as teaching courses on wildlife care and offering guided tours of the 70 species in its care.
Whether it is for educational or entertainment purposes, this institute offers it all. You can hire it out for birthday parties or field trips. This also has exhibitions and events for a limited period.
One of the best attractions that we would recommend is the amazing and very rare bald eagle enclosure.
If you are a bat fiend, then this is the number one place for you to visit. It features over 13 species of bat that are native to the Florida region.
It has a colony of around half a million bats, so you can guarantee that you’ll be able to see something when you visit this enclosure.
The best time of year to visit this place is during the summer, especially in the evenings when it is warm, and the bats are more likely to emerge from their nests.
They will normally emerge 15 minutes before complete darkness sets in, so make sure you get there promptly.
If you like to indulge in a little bit of wildlife photography, then grab your best camera and head down to the Sweetwater Wetlands Park.
There are thousands of animals, birds, insects, and other creatures that you won’t be able to spot anywhere else in the country.
There are plenty of educational posts in the area that will allow you to educate yourself about the flora and fauna of the area.
There are over 125 acres of ponds and wetlands, all of which are teeming with wildlife such as reptiles, amphibians, and butterflies.
If you are more of a culture vulture than someone who likes to sample the great outdoors, then this is a great place for you to visit. This has exhibitions about African American culture, modernist architecture, and female art in Ancient China.
There are plenty of free art activities that you and your family can get involved in, resulting in a fun and informative day out. From traditional art to ceramics, you can sample the diverse range of art on offer.
If you want neither culture nor the great outdoors, then why not sample some of the nicest alcoholic beverages that the great state of Florida has to offer?
The Swamp Head Brewery comes with a tasting room, which is ideal for whetting your whistle before visiting the local bars.
We hope that our digital guide to Gainesville in Florida has given you inspiration for getting outside the usual tourist traps.
Whether you enjoy nature or prefer a city break, there are plenty of parks, galleries and museums for you to visit. Just make sure that you check the website for opening times and visitor’s policy.
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