Top 12 Things To Do In Gainesville, Florida

Top 12 Things To Do In Gainesville, Florida

There are so many fun things to do in Gainesville, Florida! Enjoy the outdoors, immerse yourself in local history, or chow down on amazing cuisines.

 

We loved the time we spent in Gainesville and would recommend a visit to anyone! Below are our favorites things to see and do.

 

Harn Museum Of Art

The Harn Museum of Art is on the University of Florida campus. Inside, visitors will find over 10,000 pieces of art ranging from ancient to modern, and objects from all over the world. The museum also includes five garden areas that incorporate art, which we thought was really cool.

 

One of the many exhibits inside the Harn Museum

One of the many exhibits inside the Harn Museum

The Harn Museum has an extensive collection of Asian art

The Harn Museum has an extensive collection of Asian art

 

Florida Museum Of Natural History And Butterfly Rainforest

Next door to the Harn Museum is the Florida Museum of Natural History. If you’re traveling to Gainesville with kids, this is definitely a place you want to visit. Exhibits include a variety of Florida fossils, displays about the Native Americans in South Florida, and information on Florida’s wildlife and ecosystem.

 

The museum also has a Butterfly Rainforest, with daily butterfly releases. Walking through lush flowers and trees, listening to a cascading waterfall, with butterflies flying all around was an awesome experience. Note: Admission to the museum is free but there is a cover charge for the Butterfly Rainforest.

 

The Florida Museum has a large collection of Florida fossils

The Florida Museum of Natural History has a large collection of Florida fossils

Butterflies are released daily at the Florida Museum

Butterflies are released daily at the Florida Museum of Natural History

 

Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo

Visiting the Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo is considered one of the top things to do in Gainesville with kids. And even if you don’t have kids, this place is great! It’s one of only two teaching zoos in the country and is maintained by students enrolled in the college’s  Zoo Animal Technology Program.

 

It was amazing to see such young people taking such good care of the over 75 species of animals at the zoo. Their passion and love for animals was obvious. They were also very knowledgeable and answered any questions we had as we walked around the grounds. The zoo itself was great, but we think the staff and their enthusiasm made the visit even more special.

 

Things to do in Gainesville - visit the Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo

Gibbons, warthogs, peacocks, and alligators at the Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo

 

Kanapaha Botanical Gardens

Spending a few hours at the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens is a must! There is a paved walkway that is a mile and a half long that goes through 24 collections. Our favorite was the bamboo garden, which is the largest public display of bamboo in Florida! There was also a really nice herb garden, a small labyrinth, and a couple of waterfalls. Really, it’s just such a relaxing and beautiful place to go for a stroll.

 

Bamboo garden at Kanapaha Botanical Gardens

Bamboo Garden

Following the paved walkway through the trees at Kanapaha Botanical Gardens

Following the paved walkway through the trees

 

Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park

If you’re looking for outdoor activities near Gainesville, head on over to Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park. The area has been attracting visitors since the early 1880s, and for good reason. There is a sinkhole in the middle of a pine forest that is 120 feet deep! It’s lush and cool because of the shade. Fossils and shells have been found in the area too, making it a great place to learn about Florida’s natural history.

 

Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park is a fun outdoor activity near Gainesville

Heading down to the sinkhole

Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park has a lot of stairs

The stairs are no joke!

 

La Chua Trail At Paynes Prairie

Another fun outdoor activity near Gainesville is hiking along the La Chua Trail At Paynes Prairie. Most of it is on a raised boardwalk but ends on a grassy trail (it’s about 3 miles round trip). Visitors will see the Alachua Sinkhole, as well as marsh land and wildlife that could include alligators, bison, and many different bird species.

 

La Chua Trail At Paynes Prairie

Hiking along the La Chua trail

 



 

Self-Guided UF Campus Tour

Gainesville is home to the University of Florida (Go Gators!). Visitors can walk around campus and see unique structures like Century Tour, a 157 foot tall tower with 61 bronze carillon bells that play every quarter hour. If you prefer a guided tour given by a current student, you can click here for more information.

 

Century Tower on the University of Florida campus

Century Tower

 

Gainesville Veterans Memorial

We always try to seek out any kind of veterans memorial in any city we visit. Since Vicky was in the Army, it’s something near and dear to our hearts. The Veterans Memorial in Gainesville is one of the best we’ve seen. The bricks used really gives you a sense of all of the lives that have been lost.

 

Gainesville Veterans Memorial

Gainesville Veterans Memorial

Gainesville Veterans Memorial

 

Gainesville Street Art

We had no idea that Gainesville had such great street art! We definitely recommend driving around town with your camera at the ready. You can click here to see some of our favorite Gainesville street art.

 

David Zayas mural in Gainesville

David Zayas mural in Gainesville

 

Solar Walk

How cool is this?? In Gainesville, you can find a scale model of our solar system! The distance from the sun to Pluto is approximately 3.6 billion miles, but here it has been scaled down to 0.9 miles. The structures were created with recycled materials and include not only the planets, but also stars and comets. Each planet also has an information plaque with interesting facts.

 

Solar Walk along NW 8th Ave in Gainesville

Solar Walk along NW 8th Ave

Information plaque on Earth monument at Gainesville Solar Walk

Earth’s information plaque

 

Depot Park

This greenspace has been a major hit since it opened. There is a train-shaped jungle gym, a splash pad area, and plenty of open space to walk, jog, or have a picnic.

 

Free things to do in Gainesville

Depot Park

Depot Park promenade, playground, blue grotto

Plenty of open spaces to walk and play

 

Gainesville Food

If you’re a foodie, you will love pizza! One of the best things about Gainesville is the amount of incredible restaurants they have. For more information, check out our guide to the best restaurants in Gainesville.

 

best seafood in Gainesville

Fried Shrimp with collards and cornbread

The Marge with meatballs

Pizza!

 

Final Thoughts On Things To Do In Gainesville

Whether you’re traveling with kids or starting college in the area, you’re going to find something fun to do in Gainesville. That’s what we love about the city! And the city is growing, so we can’t wait until our next visit! 🙂

 

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There are so many fun things to do in Gainesville, Florida! Enjoy the outdoors, immerse yourself in local history, or chow down on amazing cuisines.

 

16 Comments
  • Louenis Kvaltine says:

    LaChua trail is partially closed since hurricane Irma due to remainging high water. Jan 2018, still very high.

    • Buddy says:

      Oh no, we didn’t realize the water was still so high. Hopefully it goes down soon, it’s a lovely place to explore. Thank you for the heads up Louenis!

  • David mahoney says:

    Same with devil mill hopper

  • This is a great collection of ideas for a Gainesville visit. I’m particularly drawn to the natural history museum wtih butterly rainforest, what a great combination on one site! I’m also a huge lover of botanical gardens, which I really like to visit when travelling. Likewise, the Geological State Park looks like both a fascinating learning experience and a beautiful place as well.

  • Brianna says:

    I’ve only ever stopped in Gainesville as a pit stop en route to Tampa but it looks like I need to spend some time here. I would love the butterfly forest and Devil’s Millhopper State Park.

  • Shweta says:

    The natural beauty is really something. Kanapaha Botanical Gardens seems like something my 6-year old would enjoy. The Museum of Natural History also looks cool. We are doing US west coast this summer, but marking Florida for another family trip.

  • Hannah says:

    I’ve never thought of Gainesville as a foodie or street art kind of place, but what a cool revelation! I love the look of Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park – what a fascinating place to explore – you can see why it has been popular for so long. That fried shrimp and cornbread looks so yummy! I’ve visited butterfly forests in Australia and Scotland, and being surrounded by butterflies is such a great experience!

  • Claudia says:

    A butterfly rainforest sounds delightful! And I’m a sucker for a good botanical garden – the photos you show of Kanapaha look beautiful. Same for the plate of fried shrimp and corn bread – yum! p.s. Love your sweet monkey companion. Buddy is the best. 🙂

  • sherianne says:

    I had no idea there was so much to do in Gainesville. The teaching zoo sounds great and the botanical garden looks beautiful. My must do would have to be Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park!

  • Alli says:

    I love the sounds of the butterfly release – that would be so peaceful and beautiful! All the while experiencing it with the sounds of a waterfall, pure bliss! I just love experiencing different botanical gardens 🙂

  • I have to say I had never heard of Gainesville (although I was thinking it sounded like somewhere I had been in TN) but it looks like there is plenty to do. The parks and sinkholes look well worth a visit.

  • Tom says:

    Considering I had never heard of Gainsville before reading this post, it seems like there is a lot to do! The Solar walk is a great idea, I would love to do this.

    Gainsville looks rather tropical. I was surprised by your photos, I didn’t imagine it would like that when I clicked on the article! Certainly looks like a place worth checking out!

  • Paige says:

    Honestly, I had no idea that there were so many cool things to do in Gainesville! Devil’s Millhopper sounds really intriguing. I love exploring lesser-known state parks. Century tower also looks quite stunning!

  • Wow! Gainesville seems so charming and definitely worth exploring. I must admit this is the first time I am hearing about it. I fell in love with the botanical gardens. How many days would be enough to explore Gainesville?

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Hi! I'm Vicky, a South Florida-based blogger traveling around the world with my stuffed monkey Buddy. Tired of the 9-5, we recently sold all of our stuff and started traveling full time. Click on the photo to learn more!

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