Gainesville: Gain a new perspective on North Florida history and fun

“Enjoy world-class museums, performing arts, and live music. Explore 8 state parks with more than 100 miles of trails for biking, birding and hiking or cool off in crystal-blue freshwater springs. When you’re done with your day, kick back at a craft brewery and savor innovative cuisine and specialty cocktails at inspired local restaurants.
Photo of Sweetwater Wetlands Park by Wesley Hetrick.”

Stay at:
Hilton University of Florida
Pro: walkability to the Cultural Plaza (Florida Museum of Natural History and Butterfly Rainforest, Harn Museum of Art and the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts)

Eat at:
The Keys Grill & Piano Bar
4860 Celebration Pointe Blvd., #30, 32608 |
Fresh seafood restaurant that reflects the unique feel of Florida and incorporates exceptional entertainment options for guests. Opens into Celebration Pointe promenade, an outdoor plaza with retail shops, restaurants and frequent outdoor entertainment.


Butterfly Rainforest at Florida Museum of Natural History
3215 Hull Rd., 32611, (352) 846-2000 |
The Butterfly Rainforest has more than 50 species of exotic free-flying butterflies at any one given time, all within a large screened enclosure. Enjoy a walk-through tropical foliage and flowers to the sound of waterfalls. Warmer the temperature, the more active the butterflies are. Best enjoyed by relaxing on a bench to take it all in. Open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday – Saturday, 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Eat at:

4th Ave Food Park
409 SW 4th Ave., 32601 |
Food court style area with small, local eateries that share an outdoor seating area. The eateries are Fehrenbacher’s, Opus Coffee Airstream, Sublime Tacos, Humble Wood Fire, BakerBaker bakery, Satch Squared, and Dick’s Burgers is across the street.
*The seating is outdoors (except at Sublime Tacos)


Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park
100 Savannah Blvd., Micanopy, 32667
Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park is the top attraction in the Gainesville area for naturalists and outdoor enthusiasts, from birders to hikers and bikers. Also a National Landmark, Paynes Prairie is biologically and historically, geologically, and historically unique. The Visitor Center is unique and beautiful in itself, and facilitates the interpretation of the area’s natural and cultural significance. Visitor Center is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

See Alligators Up Close on the LaChua Trail

4801 Camp Ranch Rd., Gainesville, FL 32641 |

Located at the north end of Paynes Prairie, the La Chua Trail is an excellent wildlife watching site, especially for alligators! Enjoy the view from the elevated boardwalk or walk the dike out into the prairie.

Kanapaha Botanical Gardens
4700 SW 58th Dr., Gainesville, FL 32608 | (352) 372-4981 |
Twenty-five major collections make up Kanapaha Botanical Gardens. The collections include the largest herb garden in the Southeast and Florida’s largest display of bamboos. During warm months visitors can see giant Victoria water lilies and Asian snake arums. Open daily from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

University of Florida Bat House
North side of Museum Rd. on UF campus, across from Lake Alice |
The University of Florida Bat Houses are the World’s largest occupied bat houses with an estimated population of 500,000. The bats emerge at dusk, a few minutes after sunset, during a 20-minute, in June dusk is around 8:50 p.m.

Sweetwater Wetlands Park
325 SW Williston Rd., 32608 |
Sweetwater Wetlands Park is just south of downtown Gainesville. The park offers more than 3.5 miles of gravel trails and boardwalks. From the viewing decks, observe Sweetwater’s diverse wildlife, including alligators, Florida cracker horses, bison and more than 215 bird species.
*Sweetwater has quickly become one of the Southeast’s best birding sites.

Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park
4732 Millhopper Rd, 32653 |
A National Natural Landmark, Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park is a miniature rain forest at the bottom of a bowl-shaped cavity 120 feet deep. Lush vegetation thrives, even in hot dry summers, thanks to the small streams that trickle down the steep slopes of the limestone sinkhole. Open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday.

Stroll through Depot Park
874 SE 4 St., Gainesville, FL 32601 |
Depot Park is home to beautiful sunsets, paved walking paths, outstanding children’s playground, a Historic Train Depot, Boxcar Beer & Wine Garden, Parkside Convenience Store and the Cade Museum for Creativity & Invention. The park also is the trailhead of the Gainesville to Hawthorne Rail Trail, a premium bike, walk, run and skate trail.

Celebration Pointe To Shop, Eat and Play
SW 31st Pl., Gainesville, FL 32608 |
Open-air and outdoor plaza with retail shops, restaurants and frequent outdoor entertainment. Make a stop for sweet treats at Kilwin’s or Le Macaron French pastries then play at Dave & Buster’s which offers the latest games and attractions for all ages.

Many thanks to Visit Gainesville and UF Hilton!

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