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.
Top Things To Do In Gainesville
We love spending time in Gainesville and would recommend a visit to anyone! Vicky went to school at UF for a year before joining the Army and has been back multiple times now. Below are our favorites things to do in Gainesville.
Florida Museum Of Natural History And Butterfly Rainforest
If you’re traveling to Gainesville with kids, you definitely want to visit the Florida Museum of Natural History. 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.
Harn Museum Of Art
Next door to the Florida Museum of Natural History is the Harn Museum of Art. 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.
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.
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.
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.
Unfortunately Devil’s Millhopper was damaged extensively by Hurricane Irma in September 2017. The staircase that went down to the sinkhole has since been redone, but it no longer goes quite as low as before.
The new staircase still offers great views though and it is still used by locals to get a great workout lol!
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. Visitors will see the Alachua Sinkhole, as well as marsh land and wildlife that could include alligators, bison, and many different bird species.
Paynes Prairie was also damaged by Hurricane Irma. Over two years later, some of the grassy trail is still covered by water.
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.
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 Street Art
We had no idea that Gainesville had such great street art! We definitely think one of the best things to do in Gainesville is to drive around town with your camera at the ready. You can click here to see some of our favorite Gainesville street art, find where they are, and learn a bit about their history.
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.
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.
If you’re a foodie, you will love Gainesville! 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.
And if pizza is your favorite thing in the whole wide world, fear not! We did a whole article just about pizza places in Gainesville!
Take A Food Tour In Gainesville
Speaking of food, another great way to learn about the city and it’s restaurants is to take a food tour with Gainesville Food Tour.
Take A Brewery Tour In Gainesville
Besides great food, Gainesville also has a popular beer scene. We recommend visiting Swamp Head Brewery and taking one of their tours.
Where To Stay
Whether you’re in town on business or visiting your favorite college student, we recommend staying in one of Gainesville’s many Bed & Breakfasts. Our favorite is the Sweetwater Branch Inn.
Pro Tip: Staying in the area? We recommend visiting the nearby city of Ocala. There’s a lot more to do there than you think!
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 a lot of fun things 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!