There are so many things to do in Gainesville, FL! This list has something for everyone, whether you’re looking for a night out on the town or a day of exploring Gainesville’s many museums.
Gainesville may not look like much at first glance, but there’s actually a lot to do in this city. It’s home to the University of Florida, so there’s always something going on.
And there are plenty of great attractions in Gainesville, including the Florida Museum of Natural History, Harn Museum of Art, Bat Houses, Devil’s Millhopper State Park, and Morningside Nature Center.
So if you’re looking for things to do in Gainesville, this city is definitely worth a visit.
Things to Do in Gainesville
1. Kanapaha Botanical Gardens
If walking through fields of flowers and enjoying their colors and scents all day is your idea of heaven, then this is a place you should visit.
Here you will find the most extensive collection of bamboo plants in Florida and the largest herb garden in all of the southeast USA. The 1.5-mile pathway around the gardens displays 24 different horticultural displays.
The garden hosts the town’s Spring Garden Festival every March and plant orchid sales every autumn.
2. Florida Museum of Natural History
One of the best things to do in Gainesville is to explore its museums. The Florida Museum of Natural History is located on the campus of the University of Florida.
They house several permanent exhibits and change their temporary exhibits to educate the community and its visitors.
Some of the most popular exhibits include the Future of Energy and the Butterfly Rainforest. The Florida Fossils exhibit tells the story of the evolution of animal life in the area.
There is a separate area where the children can explore exhibits just right for them. If you want to explore the museum alone, you can arrange for the children to stay in the children’s area and be supervised while enjoying planned activities.
The permanent exhibits here are free, but when the temporary exhibits will cost a small fee.
3 Historic Homes
One of the top things to do in Gainesville, FL, is to explore its historic homes. Two historic homes are open to the public and offer tours.
This house is found on the Kanapaha Cotton Plantation. The house was built in the 1800s and was built entirely of pine and cypress wood (which was an unusual choice during that era.)
Around the house, you will see messages written on the walls. They are known as the Talking Walls because they are letters written by the homeowners and their slaves.
You can make an appointment for a guided home tour and hear more information about the Haile family and Florida life in that era.
Matheson History Museum
You’ll find this museum in the center of Gainesville. Its mission is to share the history of Gainesville and Alachua County.
Here you will find the American Legion Hall, built in 1932, where there are gazettes, photos, and historical postcards from all over Florida.
There are permanent exhibits here, as well as visiting exhibits. One of the permanent exhibits is a re-creation of the Matheson Country Store. You can request a guided tour.
There is a bookstore at the museum where you can find more information if the museum makes you curious about the area’s history.
4 The Cade Museum For Creativity And Invention
This museum was opened in 2018 to inspire people of all ages to invent and enjoy discoveries.
They have many educational programs available, encouraging every visitor to see everything in their sphere of influence in a new and challenging light.
They are especially known for their Young Entrepreneurs Program, designed to teach children the skills they will need to succeed in the business world.
There is also a program called The Living Inventor, designed to show the students how to use problem-solving skills. They offer weekly field trips, where children get to do amazing things like building a robot from scratch.
5 Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Center
This center is a great place to see and learn about rescued animals. The staff here clearly states this is not a zoo; it is a sanctuary for animals who have lost their former homes or were traumatized by their previous owners.
All the proceeds from ticket sales and tour fees benefit wild animal conservation.
6 Learn About Bats
Lubee Bat Conservatory If you are curious about bats or already love them, this is a great place to visit. This organization is dedicated to preserving bats in their natural habitat.
The staff here provides educational tours about bats. Most of the bats here are fruit bats.
University of Florida Bat Houses
This site is the largest collection of bat houses in the world and is located on the campus of the University of Florida.
If you visit this place just after sunset during the spring or summer, you can watch several species of bats come out and eat or exercise.
This is a great place to learn about bat behavior; you will see they prefer warm evenings. Those times are their favorites since that is when many insects are around – for the bats to eat.
7. Ironwood Golf Course
One of the fun things to do in Gainesville is playing a round of golf at Ironwood Golf Course. This 18-hole golf course is located near downtown Gainesville.
You can use their driving range to teach you about the basics of the game or follow the course to enjoy the whole experience, including the beautiful landscaping.
8 Parks Of Gainesville
Ichetucknee Springs State Park This beautiful park is found on the banks of the Ichetucknee River, and it is an oasis of tranquility you won’t want to miss.
There are hiking trails, and you can go swimming in the springs. You can also explore the waters by canoe or kayak.
There is also a playground and a picnic area, where you might spot some of the area deer or raccoons.
Paynes Prairie Reserve State Park In this park, you’ll see several different types of animals in their natural habitats.
Before you begin hiking in the park, they recommend you watch the audiovisual program at the visitors’ center because it will tell you about the different habitats you will soon see.
On one of the trails, you will find a 50-foot observation tower, where you can get a great view of the whole park. You can enjoy boating and fishing and horseback riding.
Loblolly Woods Nature Park
This breathtaking 150-acre park is densely planted with loblolly pines (thus its name.) It has many trails, and you can see the lovely Hogtown Creek with its wooden bridge.
The Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park Don’t let this park’s name scare you away from a visit here. It is a great place to see and experience.
It is located on a giant sinkhole; right outside town. The sinkhole is surrounded by sand and a rainforest. The descent is bowl-shaped and goes downward for 120 feet from the surface.
Researchers in this area have found marine fossils and fossilized skeletons of extinct animals. You can take a half-mile walk around the sinkhole and down to the bottom by a boardwalk. On Sundays, a Ranger leads tours around the area.
9. Morningside Nature Center
This site boasts 260 acres of pine trees and many hiking trails. All the trails are marked, so you can easily keep track of where you are.
One of the best reasons to visit here is the Living History Museum, a replica of an old-fashioned farm, where you can find some adorable animals and see the interesting furnishings of a farmhouse during the 1800s.
Swamp Head Brewery
This brewery has been making one of Florida’s most popular local beers since 2008. They prefer to use all locally-sourced ingredients.
The brewery offers tours three days a week. At the end of the tour, you can buy some beer to take home as a souvenir.
Blackadder Brewing Company
This is another local brewery that makes its beer. It began as a homebrewing company, but it now offers 40 different brews that Belgian breweries inspire.
The man and wife who own the brewery have now won over 30 medals for their beers. They offer trivia contests and themed evenings for their customers.
If you are looking for a place to drink some great beer and meet some new people, be sure to add Blackadder to your bucket list of things to do in Gainesville.
11. Kika Silva Pla Planetarium
If you love looking at the stars and want to know more about what the constellations mean and how they move through the sky during the seasons, you will enjoy the programs here.
They offer various shows that will teach you more about the sky. You will enjoy the SpacePark Show (a simulated ride through the universe) and the Music 360 Show (which also guides you through the stars with music.)
12 Santa Fe Teaching Zoo
Seventy-five different types of animals live here, and the school usually welcomes about 200 students. All the students are studying zoo technology.
This is one of only two colleges in the USA where a student can study to work in a zoo. The zoo is open to visitors, and you can hold a birthday party here. This makes it one of the fun things to do in Gainesville.
13 The Thomas Center
This stately building was built in 1910 and was once someone’s home, and it was converted into a hotel. Now, it is a cultural center offering information about history.
Here they offer musical events and art exhibits that the public enjoys. There are beautifully landscaped gardens around the center.
On the garden trail, you will find several signs that allow you to take a cellphone tour of the grounds. This place hosts the annual Family Jest Fest and the Jewel Box Concert.
14. Mix And Mingle Bikes
I’ll bet you’ve never ridden on a 16-seat bicycle, but that’s what you’ll do when you go on one of their riding excursions.
The bike leaves regularly from University Avenue in Gainesville. Many riders manage the feat of steering with one hand while the other hand is holding a beer.
Some groups decide to use the bike as a downtown pub crawl vehicle. Most groups rent the bikes for two hours at a time.
16. Gainesville Artisan Guild Gallery
One of the best things to do in Gainesville is to support the local arts scene, and this is a great place to start.
In this gallery, you will find the works of over 50 local artisans, including pottery, jewelry, glassware, textiles, and original paintings.
On the last Friday of each month, the gallery holds an Artwalk where you can look at all the current offerings in the gallery. You can also participate in a scavenger hunt and a live musical performance.
17. Simons Nightclub
This lively spot is said to be Gainesville’s most famous nightclub. It was built in the 1990s, and its management keeps an eye on current trends to ensure it stays at the top of Gainesville’s nightlife list.
You’ll find a large dance floor with bright high-tech lighting in a modern setting. There are weekly parties called Freestyle Fridays, Social Saturdays, and Glowrage fluorescent parties.
18. Harn Museum of Art
Amongst the best things to do in Gainesville is to visit the Harn Museum of Art. It is part of the University of Florida and is considered to be one of the best art museums in the world.
It houses eleven galleries that display 9.000 works of art. They also host a terrace garden, s sculpture garden and an Asian garden, a pavilion, and a museum cafeteria.
Admission is free, but donations to the museum are accepted. The gift shop has many different choices for souvenirs.
19. Zagster Bikes
Riding through downtown Gainesville is a treat, and you’ll see even more of it on a bicycle. One of the most popular tours for locals goes along the 6th Street Rail Trail.
There are many bike trails in the downtown area, and you’ll find others exercising similarly. This should make your list of best things to do in Gainesville.
20. Performing Arts
One of the best places to go in Gainesville is to see a live performance at:
The Actor’s Warehouse
This building provides a space for the community’s popular theater. The company prefers to present shows about social or multicultural topics. The building once belonged to a church with a 100-seat theater. The company has a reputation for excellent acting skills.
Curtis M Phillips Center of Performing Arts
This large theatre with 1,700 seats has hosted events like The National Theatre’s presentation of the Swan Lake ballet and performances by bands like the Chieftains.
Dining In Gainesville
When you’re done with your activities for the day, you are encouraged to try one of these Gainesville eateries:
This casual restaurant is a setting for delicious food, various beers, and live music programs every night.
Curia On the Drag
This restaurant serves quality food for vegetarian diners. You can also order wine, beer, or coffee. They specialize in vegan sandwiches that are reputed to taste so good; you won’t believe they don’t contain meat.
Volta Coffee Tea and Chocolate
The minute you walk inside, you will be captivated by the aroma of fresh coffee. You can enjoy one of their fresh coffees from all around the world. They also offer herbal tea. You can also buy freshly prepared cakes or baked snacks.
They serve colorful food with an Asian-inspired menu or try their vegan dishes. This restaurant has a large outside patio where they often host live music events that feature their cable drums.
Plan a Trip to Gainesville
Gainesville is a city in north central Florida, and while it may not be the most famous city in the state, it has a lot to offer visitors. The city has numerous parks, as well as art galleries and museums.
Gainesville is also home to a large university, so there is always something going on, whether it’s a music or art festival or just people out and about enjoying the city.
What makes Gainesville such a great place to visit is its combination of culture and nature. Beautiful parks, nature preserves, interesting historical sites, and cultural attractions exist.
And if you’re looking for some fun nightlife or shopping, Gainesville has that too. So whether you’re interested in history, art, nature, or just plain fun, Gainesville has something for you.
Start planning your trip to Gainesville today and experience all this Florida city has to offer. Share this article with your friends, and let us know if you have any other suggestions for things to do in Gainesville, FL.