Looking for a list of the best things to do in Gainesville, Florida? We have you covered with a list of 20 Gainesville attractions!
Known as the home of the University of Florida, Gainesville has so much more to offer than the university. There are free museums, local springs, nature preserves, local breweries, historic homesteads, and much more to do in Gainesville!
The city of Gainesville was founded in 1854 by Edmund Gaines and is located in North Central Florida. However, there is evidence of the Deptford people living in the area as far back as 500 BC!
Here are some ideas of what to do in Gainesville, FL!
20 Best Things To Do In Gainesville, FL, You Shouldn’t Miss
Learn at the Florida Natural History Museum
The Florida Natural History Museum should be on your list of free things to do in Gainesville if looking for an educational museum. Located on the campus of the University of Florida, the museum is also home to the Butterfly Rainforest.
For those with children, there is a children’s discovery play area with learning activities and interactive games and books! This is the perfect place to escape during the hot Florida summers.
The museum takes you through the history of Florida. There are fossils from the 5 geological time periods of Florida, a cave and hammock forest exhibit, a mangrove boardwalk, a Calusa leader’s house, and a Native American Legacy gallery.
An added bonus is that the museum is totally free, with paid admission to special exhibits and the Butterfly Rainforest. Open Monday to Saturday 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday 1 pm to 5 pm.
The Butterfly Rainforest is home to over 50 species of butterflies with over a thousand butterflies in the enclosure at any time.
Soak in Culture at the Samuel P. Harn Museum
The Harn Museum of Art is located next to the Florida Natural History Museum on the University of Florida Campus. The free museum should be on any art lover’s list of things to do in Gainesville.
Opened in 1990, it is one of the largest art museums affiliated with a university! With over 11,500 works of art, the museum has something for everyone to admire.
The Harn Museum has five collections of works: African Collection, Asian Collection, Modern Collection, Contemporary Collection, and Photography Collection! There is a Monet in the permanent exhibit!
There is also outdoor Zen and water gardens. The museum hosts special events such as museum nights, coffee with Curators, and for those with children, Tot Time. There is also a small coffee shop and store for those wanting to relax.
Open Tuesday to Saturday 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday 1 pm and 5 pm!
Hike in Loblolly Woods Nature Preserve
The Loblolly Woods Nature Preserve is 159 acres of protected forest surrounded by Possum and Hogtown Creek. Loblolly should be on any nature lover’s list of things to do in Gainesville.
This is an outdoor oasis with hiking trails, and a wooden boardwalk that follows Hogtown Creek. There is a 2.7-mile loop for both biking and hiking and is dog friendly! Almost all completely shaded, this is a great hiking trail year-round.
One of the more popular activities in Gainesville is looking for shark’s teeth in the Hogtown Creek! The creek flows from the Florida Aquifer and is over 10 million years old!
Eat at 4th Ave Food Park
The 4th Ave Food Park is located in downtown Gainesville off of 4th Avenue. If looking for good food and a laid-back environment add this place to your list of Gainesville activities.
Opened in 2020, you will find an airstream trailer home to Opus Coffee, a local Gainesville brewer since 2002. With five different restaurants to try, such as Satch Squared, for pizza and waffles, Sublime Tacos, Humble Wood Fire Pizza, Baker Baker, and Fehrenbacher’s Artisanal Sausage.
The atmosphere is laid back, with picnic tables and wooden structures out back, complete with a children’s playground.
Visit the Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention
The Cade Museum opened in 2018 in downtown Gainesville and is named after Dr. Robert Cade. They have hands-on exhibits such as Space: Moon to Mars and Skate at the Cade, an indoor ice staking rink during the summer.
The museum should be on your list of things to do in Gainesville if you want to explore STEAM, with hands-on experiments and experiences. The mission of the Cade is to “transform communities by inspiring future inventors, entrepreneurs, and visionaries.”
Open for general admission on Fridays and Saturdays from 12 pm to 5 pm, and pre-registered tours on Thursday.
Nearby is Depot Park, with a food hall, playground, and walking trails.
Stroll the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens
The Kanapaha Botanical Gardens is spread out over 68 acres and houses 24 collections located around a 1.5-mile paved walkway. The gardens are the perfect escape for those looking for things to do in Gainesville for couples.
These gardens are home to the largest collection of Chinese royal bamboo and herbs in the Southeast! The gardens host special events such as the annual Moonlight Walk in May, Spring Garden Festival in March, or the Fall Plant Sale in October.
There are several picnic spots located around the grounds and restrooms, as well as a children’s garden with a koi pond. The water gardens are a .5-mile loop and are home to giant lily pads and a maze labyrinth.
The museum is open every day but Thursday, and open 9 am to 5 pm during the week and to 7 pm on the weekends.
For those looking for things to do in Gainesville with their dog, the gardens are pet friendly.
View Space at the Kika Silva Pla Planetarium
The Kika Silva Pla Planetarium is located on the Santa Fe College campus. Opened in 2006, it is the perfect thing to do in Gainesville for those interested in stargazing.
The planetarium has 60 seats for the show under a 34-foot Spitz projection dome with two planetarium projectors! You can watch shows such as the Black Holes, Child of the Universe, and Dynamic Earth as well as numerous others.
Check the website for show listings and times.
See a Show at Curtis M. Phillips Center for Performing Arts
The Curtis M. Phillips Center for Performing Arts is located on the University of Florida campus and opened in 1992. The theater seats 1700 and hosts Broadway shows, prominent speakers, and musical shows.
There is also the Squitieri Studio Theater, a new black box theater that seats 200 and hosts live music and small show productions.
This should be on your list of best things to do in Gainesville if wanting to see live performances and speakers! Check the website for upcoming productions and events.
Get Drinks at Blackadder Brewing Company
Blackadder Brewing Company is a locally owned brewery in Gainesville, Florida, just one mile from exit 387 on I-75.
Owned by Chris and Sissy, the brewery serves small bites, has over 40 beers on tap, and is a relaxing place to hang out. They have an outdoor seating area, games, and darts.
For those looking for a brewery experience, Blackadder should be on your list of fun things to do in Gainesville. They have various local food trucks in the evening and host a weekly trivia game on Wednesday.
Blackadder’s beers have won over 30 awards! This Gainesville attraction is the perfect warm and friendly place to enjoy a craft beer in a cozy pub atmosphere.
Discover Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park
Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park is home to a large sinkhole that is over 120 feet deep and 500 feet wide.
There is a wooden boardwalk leading to a large observation deck of the sinkhole. A forest, swamp, and sand hill are all diverse ecosystems you can see at Devil’s Millhopper making this State park a unique thing to do in Gainesville.
The name “Devil’s” comes from the fact that the sinkhole is home to many animal fossils and bones. The trail is just a .5-mile walk to the boardwalk and sinkhole. There is also a tour held on Saturdays by Park Rangers.
Find Wildlife at Lake Alice
Lake Alice is also located on the University of Florida campus. The history of the lake dates back to 1000 AD. It is the perfect place to come and relax while viewing wildlife.
You can often see alligators, turtles, birds, and, if coming at dusk or dawn, the bats from the UF bat house. Watching bats flutter in the sky is one of the best things to do in Gainesville at night.
On Lake Alice is the Baughman center, a stunning chapel made out of cypress wood. It is home to many weddings and events as the ceilings reflect the beautiful lake.
Watch a Game at the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is home to the University of Florida football team. If visiting during the fall, make sure to attend a game at “the Swamp” as locals call it.
This 90,000-seat stadium is a popular thing to do in Gainesville for fitness enthusiasts. You will constantly find people running the inside track of the stadiums or up the stadium steps!
Step Back in Time at the Historic Haile Homestead
The historic Haile Homestead is a colonial plantation home built in 1854. This is a unique educational thing to do in Gainesville, as the house is known for its talking walls.
The family and their enslaved laborers wrote over 12,500 words on the walls of their home giving visitors a glimpse into the historical past. The home was built by enslaved laborers and is now the Allen & Ethel Graham Visitors Center.
Inside the visitors center, you will find exhibits focusing on the enslaved laborers, their freedom, and two videos on slavery in Alachua County. There are daily tours on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:15, 11:15, 12:15, and 1:15.
Dive into Devil’s Den
Devil’s Den Prehistoric Spring is one of the best things to do in Florida, let alone Gainesville. This attraction is about 30 minutes south of Gainesville, but it is 100% worth the drive!
This Florida spring is super unique because it is actually underground. It is a haven for scuba divers and snorkelers looking for an awesome place to explore. You can bring your own gear or rent some.
The water is a wonderful 72 degrees Fahrenheit year round, but it gets cooler the farther down you dive. The spring is 54 feet deep with many cool rock formations where fossils can be found.
You can camp here as well in tents or RVs. There are also cabins available. This is one of the best campgrounds at a spring in Florida.
Admire Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park
Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park is Florida’s “first biologically, historically and geologically unique state park”. Located just south of Gainesville, this Florida state park should be on any visitor’s list of best things to do in Gainesville.
What makes Paynes Prairie a unique Gainesville attraction is that you can see bison and horses roaming wild! Visitors can also spot alligators and deer. Once home to the Seminole Indian tribe, Paynes Prairie also includes Lake Walburg.
You can explore the eight trails, spread over 23,000 acres and 30 miles of trails, or climb the 50-foot-high observation tower near the visitors center for an aerial view of the prairie.
The park is open daily from 8 am until dusk so this is one of the places to visit in Gainesville anytime of the day.
Do a Tasting at Bluefield Estate Winery
Bluefield Estate Winery is a family-owned winery east of Gainesville. Opened in 2006, this wine is unique as it is made from blueberries and muscadine grapes grown on the farm.
This is a must-visit for any wine lovers looking for the best things to do in Gainesville. There is a tasting room onsite where mostly fruit wines are sampled. Try the Sweet Blueberry or Blackberry Bliss!
The tasting room is open Thursday and Friday from 11 am to 5 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 12 pm to 6 pm. This is one of the best attractions in Gainesville for couples.
Relax at Ichetucknee Springs State Park
Ichetucknee Springs State Park is popular with locals and visitors alike as Gainesville has no beaches. The crystal clear water is fed from the local spring.
Perfect for tubing, swimming, or even scuba diving, you can also hike, kayak or canoe. There is a birding trail perfect for catching a glimpse of wildlife such as wild turkeys, turtles, ducks, and otters in this 2,669-acre state park.
Many come to snorkel or dive in the Blue Hole Spring, the only first-magnitude spring in the park, with over 67 million gallons of water flowing each day! The cave starts 40 feet below the surface and has over 600 feet to explore.
This pretty spring is located just under an hour northwest of town and is one of the best things to do near Gainesville.
Stop by the Morningside Nature Center
Morningside Nature Center is a 278-acre nature park with seven miles of trails through woodland pines. You can often see turtles, turkeys, skunks, and deer.
For those looking for unique things to do in Gainesville, there is a Living History Farm. On the farm, there is a home and schoolhouse built in the 1840s by the Irish immigrant family McCarrolls. There is also a Timucua village located behind the visitors center.
On the first Saturday of the month, you can visit for an authentic experience of what life on the farm was like. On Wednesday afternoons from September through May, the farm runs a barnyard buddies program where children can come and feed the farm animals. This is free of charge and a great thing to do in Gainesville with kids.
For those looking to hike, there are various trails ranging in length from .5 miles to 7 miles.
Enjoy Games and Drinks at Arcade Bar
If you want to check out one of the most unique bars in Gainesville, head over to the Arcade Bar. This place is super fun because, as the name suggests, it is part arcade and part bar.
Perfect for a date or a night out with friends, this bar has great entertainment spread through three floors. Play vintage arcade games, pinball, skeeball, and foosball as you sip on drinks from one of the two bars.
There are also TVs throughout showing sports. Listen to music from the jukebox or a live DJ. This is easily one of the best things to do in Gainesville for adults.
Take a Dip at Ginnie Springs
Ginnie Springs is one of the best springs in Florida and is conveniently located about 40 minutes from Gainesville. Get out of the city and relax in gorgeous nature. You can also spend the night at the campground.
This 72-degree Fahrenheit spring features some of the best Florida scenery with water that is bright blue and crystal clear. It connects to the Santa Fe River and is surrounded by shady trees.
Spend time here swimming, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, or tubing. You can scuba dive in the caves too. This is also one of the few springs in the state where you can drink.
Visit during off-season or during the week to avoid the crowds.
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