The 20 Best Things to do in Gainesville For First Timers


Florida is certainly a state that many people hope to visit at least once in their lifetime. To be honest, there is so much to see and do in this state that one visit would never be enough. There are different parts to the state that will appeal to different types of people. It is this diverse culture that makes it so popular. If a visit to Gainesville is on your list, then you are in luck. There is a tremendous amount to see and do in this one city that you will definitely stay busy. Whenever you visit any place, it is important to have a plan. This does not mean that you need to have every minute of your day accounted for, but it does mean that you should at least have some idea of what you would like to do. This involves knowing what the city has to offer and then getting out there to experience it. Of course, it is often difficult to know where to begin. That is where we come into the picture. We have done some of the research for you. Here are 20 of the best things that you can do during your first visit to Gainesville.

20. Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention

Here is a place that you will want to visit in order to get your creative juices flowing in the right direction once again. This is an entire museum that is focused on encouraging visitors to be creative and inventive. There are a number of educational programs offered during each visit. There are also regular lecture series taking place at the museum, so you will want to take a look and see what is offered during your visit to Gainesville.

19. Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation

When you visit the Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation, you will find a number of exotic animals from around the world that have been rescued. This is a sanctuary designed to provide these abandoned or traumatized animals with the shelter that they need to thrive. A number of educational programs are offered here. You will have your eyes opened to a whole new world and gain a deeper appreciation for the animals among us.

18. Devils’ Millhopper Geological State Park

There are many State Parks in Florida, but this is one in Gainesville that you really should see during your first visit to the city. This is a geological site that is located inside a big sinkhole that is located right outside the city. You will find steep hills and a hole that extends 120 feet underneath the surface of the ground. This has resulted in quite a spectacular rainforest that has developed over the years. In fact, this site has been around for centuries, and numerous fossils have been discovered here.

17. Florida Museum of Natural History

The state of Florida is rich in history. Must of that is on display at the Florida Museum of Natural History. You really must visit this place when you are in Gainesville because you will see so much. There are many exhibits housed here. Two of the more popular ones are the Butterfly Rainforest and the collection of fossils that have been found throughout the state. There is also an energy exhibit that has its eyes on the future.

16. Haile Homestead

If you want to see what life was like in the region back in the 1800s, the Haile Homestead is a place to do just that. You will be able to see a restored home that resides on a cotton plantation. It is made out of pine and cypress wood, so you will love just taking a look at that. You can take a tour of the property every weekend

15. Ichetucknee Springs State Park

Here is another state park that is definitely worth seeing on your visit to Gainesville. You will find that this is especially beautiful during the summer months when a variety of outdoor activities can be enjoyed. You can go on a hike, have a picnic with the family, take the kids swimming, and watch for some wildlife all from the confines of this park. There is the Ichetucknee River here as well, where you can go kayaking or canoeing.

14. Kanapaha Botanical Gardens

You really have not seen flowers in full bloom before until you visit the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens. It is here that you will get to see 24 different collections of horticultural brilliance. Housed here is also the largest collection of herbs in the entire southeastern United States along with the largest exhibit of bamboos in the entire state. All of this is visible as you walk down a mile and half pathway that has many places to sit down and gaze upon these beautiful flowers.

13. Lubee Bat Conservancy

If you have ever wanted to get over your fear of bats, this is the place to do it. You will learn about many different types of bats and the efforts that are underway to protect them. Many of the species that you will see at the Lubee Bat Conservancy are endangered. This facility has actually been able to save several of them from extinction. This is a lot of fun to go through the various exhibits and visitors young and old will enjoy a visit here.

12. Matheson History Museum

As mentioned before, there is a lot of history to learn about in Florida. Visiting the Mattheson History Museum in Gainesville is a way to do that. You will find thousands of postcards from different eras of Florida’s history housed here. The house itself was built in 1932, so there is quite a lot to see. You will also be able to stock up on souvenirs that the rather large museum gift shop where many books about this region of the state are found.

11. Morningside Nature Center

There are times when you just need to get away from the city for a few hours and enjoy the great outdoors. When that moment hits you during your first visit to Gainesville, you will want to head over to Morningside Nature Center. This is a 260-acre oasis of trees and forest surroundings that you will love. There are a number of hiking trails that will take you all over to explore.

10. Paynes Prairie

You do not want to spend all of your time in a museum. We get that. This is why you will want to know about Paynes Prairie. This is a state park that puts you back in touch with nature. There is an audio and visual guide that will help to understand more about the park and its habitat. There is also a 50-foot observation tower where you can really see the area. You will also enjoy the 16 miles of trails where you can hike or ride your bike.

9. Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art

This is one of those museums that you really do not want to miss. It is housed on the campus of the University of Florida and has something for everyone. You will find a total of 11 different galleries, each one containing various collections of art from around the world. There are always at least 600 different pieces of art on display, chosen from a total collection of more than 9,000. The best part is that the admission and all tours are free of charge.

8. Curia on the Drag

If you do your best to stay away from the meat, the Curia on the Drag is the place you want to visit when in Gainesville. Even if you love meat, you should give it a try as probably won’t believe that you are eating an all plant based dish. You will also find the Curia on the Drag has some great coffee and adult beverages as well. This is a place to just sit back with friends or family and enjoy the ambiance and some good conversation.

7. Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo

This is not just your normal zoo. It is here that you will find more than 75 different types of animals each of which is taken care of by college students. This is actually one of two such teaching zoos in the entire nation, so it will be amazing to see the work here in action. You will be able to visit the zoo any day of the year, walking along a path that will put you in close proximity to the animals. There is also a children’s area here for the little ones to enjoy

6. The Thomas Center

There was a time in the distant past when the Thomas Center was a private house. Then, it turned into a hotel. Now, it is a cultural arts center where you can enjoy a number of different art and historical exhibits. More than its fair share of music concerts are held here each year as well. You will also love looking at the rooms that have been restored throughout the premises.

5. University of Florida Bat Houses

This is another place in Gainesville where you can learn all about bats. This museum is located on the campus of the University of Florida. When you visit here, you will see the largest working bat house in the world. You can see the bats come out to eat and get their exercise at certain times of the evening depending on the time of year. The best time to visit here to see the basts are in the spring and summer months.

4. Swamp Head Brewery

When you are visiting a new city, your days will probably be filled with sightseeing. The Swamp Head Brewery is a great place to unwind after a long day of exploring. This is a place that has been open since 2008. They brew their own beer in a way that leaves a neutral carbon footprint. You will get a souvenir glass when you visit this place.

3. Blackadder Brewing Company

Here is another unique brewing company in Gainesville that you should pay a visit to when in town for the first time. They sell craft beer that has been produced locally. This place started as a home business that produced small amounts of craft beer but has now expanded to the point that they have more than 40 beers inspired by Belgium for the tasting pleasure of its patrons. Their creations have earned more than 30 medals and awards through the years.

2. Bluefield Estate Winery

When you need a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, you will want to visit the Bluefield Estate Winery. This is located just outside the city limits, but it is here that you will be able to sample a number of different wines. Many of them are made from various types of fruits. This place was started by a husband and wife team. They started it by creating a blueberry wine that is now very popular throughout the region.

1. Volta Coffee, Tea, and Chocolate

Here is the place to be in Gainesville. You can have your coffee or tea and then order a piece of cake to go with it. You will love the variety that is on the menu here. Now that you know some of the many things that you can do in Gainesville, it is time to begin planning your first visit to the city. You will really enjoy this part. Take each day and determine one or two things that you and the others in your party would enjoy doing. That is all it takes. Beyond that, you will have the rest of your time each day to encounter new things that are not even on this list. Start packing and get ready to enjoy your trip.

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