35 Fun Things to Do in Gainesville, FL

11 min read
A street with trees, brick buildings, and parked cars at dusk
Gainesville is a unique location with a variety of indoor and outdoor attractions

While many opt to visit Orlando or Miami when in Florida, the state has other great destinations, such as Gainesville. This city is a must-visit for outdoor enthusiasts due to the number of parks and nature attractions found there.

You'll find top cultural places like museums, plus bars, shops, and restaurants to check out as well. Interestingly, the city also has the largest alligator population in Florida!

Just a few of the numerous fun things to do in Gainesville, FL, include hiking nature trails, going to a horse retirement farm, and shopping at The Oaks Mall. To discover all of the memorable activities to try in Gainesville, keep reading!

  • 35 Gainesville things to do

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35 Fun Things to Do in Gainesville, Florida

  1. Search for alligators at Sweetwater Wetlands Park
  2. Marvel at pretty butterflies in the Butterfly Rainforest
  3. Purchase local wines at Bluefield Estate Winery
  4. View wildlife at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park
  5. Wander around the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens
  6. Hike in Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park
  7. Enjoy outdoor activities at Ichetucknee Springs State Park
  8. Explore historic buildings at Dudley Farm Historic State Park
  9. Discover an 1800s farmstead at Morningside Nature Center
  10. Learn something new at the Florida Museum of Natural History
  11. Grab a beer at Blackadder Brewing Company
  12. See animals at the Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation
  13. Look around the grounds of the Thomas Center
  14. Relax with a drink at Swamp Head Brewery
  15. Shop for local produce at the Haile Farmers Market
  16. Follow La Chua Trail
  17. Appreciate artworks at the Harn Museum of Art
  18. Get inspired at Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention
  19. Pick fruit at Rogers Farm
  20. Hang out at Depot Park
  21. Unearth unique products at the Artisans’ Guild Gallery
  22. Gaze at the stars at Kika Silva Pla Planetarium
  23. Meet bats at the Lubee Bat Conservancy
  24. Go to the University of Florida Bat Houses
  25. Plan a trip to Orlando
  26. Stroll around the Tu Viện A Nan Buddhist Statue Park
  27. Unwind at Lake Alice
  28. Treat yourself to a shopping spree at The Oaks Mall
  29. Check out Downtown Gainesville
  30. Look around St. Augustine Church
  31. Find out about Gainesville history at the Matheson History Museum
  32. Say “hi” to the horses at Mill Creek Farm Retirement Home for Horses
  33. Dine at Curia on the Drag
  34. Sip cocktails at The Dime
  35. Watch a football game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

Show all

Gainesville Things to Do Map

A map of Gainesville. Use the map to explore all the things to do.

One of the fun things to do in Gainesville, FL, is the Sweetwater Wetlands Park
The Sweetwater Wetlands Park is one of the fun things to do in Gainesville, FL

Search for alligators at Sweetwater Wetlands Park

Sweetwater Wetlands Park is a great place to go for a walk surrounded by nature. The park has boardwalk trails that take you across the wetlands and allow you to spot wildlife.

Animals to see include over 255 bird species, butterflies, and Florida Cracker Horses. If you look carefully, you’re guaranteed to see alligators too.

Marvel at pretty butterflies in the Butterfly Rainforest

The Butterfly Rainforest is a 6,400 square foot display located in the Florida Museum of Natural History. The venue is home to hundreds of beautiful butterflies and birds that fly around in a rainforest-style garden.

If interested in visiting this attraction, purchasing a Butterfly Rainforest admission ticket in advance is recommended.

Purchase local wines at Bluefield Estate Winery

Located just a 20-minute drive from central Gainesville, the Bluefield Estate Winery is a local vineyard specializing in wines made from blueberries. At the vineyard, you can explore some of the scenic outdoor space before picking up a few bottles to take home.

You can choose from classic grape wines or their unique blueberry-grape wines. Other products like jams and salsas are also on offer.

Wild horses grazing on the grass with a pond to the side
Wild horses can be spotted throughout Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

View wildlife at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

Going to Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park is another of the numerous Gainesville, FL, things to do outdoors. Covering 21,000 acres, the savanna park is home to a vast array of wildlife.

Animals to see range from bison, deer, and wild horses to alligators and 300 bird species. Along with following multiple nature trails, there’s a lake in the park that’s perfect for canoeing.

Wander around the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens

One of the many exciting Gainesville, Florida, things to do is going to the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens. The 64-acre garden features 24 different floral and plant displays and is located next to Lake Kanapaha.

Collections to see include the largest herb garden in the Southeast United States and a stunning Chinese bamboo garden.

Hike in Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park

A great place to explore in Gainesville is Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park. The park has a dense rainforest with trails throughout, plus pine forests, streams, and a fascinating sinkhole. As you hike through the park, you’re likely to spot wildlife too.

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A swamp with trees surrounding it under a blue sky with clouds
You can swim, snorkel, and more at Ichetucknee Springs State Park

Enjoy outdoor activities at Ichetucknee Springs State Park

Outdoor adventure lovers have to plan a trip to Ichetucknee Springs State Park! Activities to enjoy in the 2,669-acre park include hiking, mountain biking, swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking. It’s also an ideal place to watch for wildlife, with creatures like beavers, otters, and turtles living in the area.

Explore historic buildings at Dudley Farm Historic State Park

Another of the fun things to do near Gainesville, Florida, is going to Dudley Farm Historic State Park. This historical site became a National Historic Landmark in 2021 and has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 2002. It was originally established in the early 1800s.

At the park, you can follow nature trails and sit and watch wildlife. You can also see the old farm buildings, many of which were built between 1880 and 1930.

Discover an 1800s farmstead at Morningside Nature Center

Morningside Nature Center has a range of scenic nature trails to follow and also houses a living history farm that resembles a 19th-century farmstead. After wandering along some of the pathways, you can visit the farmstead to learn more about farm life in the 1800s. Kids can also help with some farm tasks, including feeding barnyard animals.

The Discovery Zone at the Florida Museum of Natural History has kid-friendly exhibits

Learn something new at the Florida Museum of Natural History

Established in 1891, the Florida Museum of Natural History is one of the oldest and most popular attractions in Gainesville. During a visit, you can see exhibits on wildlife, fossils and dinosaurs, and science-related topics. There is also a selection of temporary exhibits which change frequently.

Grab a beer at Blackadder Brewing Company

If you’re looking for a place to relax with a drink, going to Blackadder Brewing Company is a must. The microbrewery has around 12 of its brews on tap, plus some beers and ciders from other breweries.

While the brewery doesn’t serve food, food trucks are often on-site, and fun events are held frequently, like trivia nights.

See animals at the Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation

An interesting place to visit in Gainesville is the Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation. Guided tours of the conservation park are offered, on which you’ll see exotic animals, like tigers, cheetahs, and lemurs.

The foundation’s goal is to support the conservation of endangered species. All proceeds from visits go toward these conservation efforts and the care of the animals at the park.

The Thomas Center is a cultural venue that hosts many interesting events

Look around the grounds of the Thomas Center

Formerly a private residence and hotel, the Thomas Center is now a cultural center. During a visit to this Mediterranean Revival-style building, you can walk through beautifully manicured gardens and go to on-site art galleries. A variety of events are also hosted during the year.

Relax with a drink at Swamp Head Brewery

Swamp Head Brewery is another of the great local breweries in Gainesville. The venue has a taproom where you can try a range of beers, and outdoor seating is available.

In addition, food trucks run by local vendors are on-site most days, serving delicious dishes to enjoy with your drinks.

Shop for local produce at the Haile Farmers Market

Operated by local farmers, the Haile Farmers Market is the ideal place to meet locals and buy some unique items. Products for sale range from produce and baked goods to craft items, like jewelry and pottery.

Other food items such as olives, dried fruit, and handmade chocolates can be purchased as well.

An alligator lying in the mud next to a swamp
Alligators can be spotted while following La Chua Trail

Follow La Chua Trail

One of the Gainesville, FL, attractions that's less well-known is La Chua Trail. Located in the Paynes Prairie Reserve, the 2.9-mile trail is easy for most activity levels and takes about an hour to complete. Along the way, you’ll get to see wetlands, wildlife like alligators and birds, and the Alachua Sink.

Appreciate artworks at the Harn Museum of Art

Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art is located at the University of Florida. Opened in 1990, the museum houses a breathtaking collection of artworks within the 112,800 square foot gallery.

The permanent collection alone features 10,000 pieces, including sculptures, paintings, and multimedia pieces. Temporary exhibitions are on display as well.

A fun and family-friendly attraction in Gainesville is the Cade Museum

Get inspired at Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention

Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention has interactive exhibits and creativity labs that encourage innovation. The museum is very family-friendly, with activities for all ages.

Things to do include creating artworks, doing scientific experiments, and solving puzzles. There are also weekly events and programs for young children that will spark their curiosity.

Pick fruit at Rogers Farm

Another of the super fun Gainesville things to do for visitors of all ages is fruit picking at Rogers Farm. The farm is open for fruit picking from the fall through the spring, with strawberries being the primary crop available.

There’s a pumpkin patch and a corn maze in the fall too. Various events are also held at the farm, like food truck festivals, markets, and seasonal events.

An urban park with green grass and trees next to a lake
Depot Park is a great place to hang out and has many kid-friendly attractions

Hang out at Depot Park

Depot Park is a laid-back place to go for a walk or hang out on the grass. The park has a promenade that takes you around a scenic pond, and there are picnic areas and garden games on the lawns. If visiting with kids, you’ll also find fun playgrounds and a splash pad.

The Artisans’ Guild Gallery showcases locally produced arts and crafts pieces. A range of items are on display, including jewelry, pottery, and textiles. Currently, shopping in the gallery is by appointment only, but art markets are held frequently, which don’t need an appointment to attend.

Gaze at the stars at Kika Silva Pla Planetarium

Kika Silva Pla Planetarium is part of Santa Fe College. The attraction offers a look at the galaxies and will teach you more about astronomy and meteorology. Educational shows in the theater cover topics like solar eclipses, the Earth’s climate, and space exploration.

Lubee Bat Conservancy houses 13 different species of bats

Meet bats at the Lubee Bat Conservancy

The Lubee Bat Conservancy is one of the many attractions in Gainesville, FL, where you can see animals. This location specializes in bat conservation and is home to 13 bat species, plus tortoises, corn snakes, and skinks.

During a visit, you can take a tour, meet the animals, and learn more about the creatures that live here and the organization’s conservation efforts.

Go to the University of Florida Bat Houses

Another place to see bats in Gainesville is at the University of Florida Bat Houses. Species of bat to see here include Brazilian free-tailed bats, evening bats, and southeastern bats. The best time to see the bats is shortly before and after sunset.

© kmiragaya via Depositphotos
A globe sculpture that says "Universal" on it next to a pond and palm trees
Universal Studios is one of the fun theme parks to visit in Orlando

Plan a trip to Orlando

While there are many things to do in Gainesville, planning a small getaway is also a fun thing to do, especially if in the city for a while. One of the best road trip destinations nearby is Orlando.

Located just under two hours from Gainesville, Orlando is known for its theme parks, including Universal Studios and the Disney Magic Kingdom Park. Other things to do in Orlando besides theme parks include visiting botanical gardens, going to a giraffe ranch, and exploring downtown.

Stroll around the Tu Viện A Nan Buddhist Statue Park

The Tu Viện A Nan Buddhist Statue Park was constructed in 2010 and features statues within a tranquil forest garden. The three Buddha statues found here were imported from Vietnam and are incredible to see.

Going to this serene park is a must if you’re looking to relax a little after a busy day exploring Gainesville.

Lake Alice is a scenic place to hike and spot wildlife

Unwind at Lake Alice

Lake Alice is a small scenic lake next to the University of Florida campus. Visiting the lake is a very relaxing thing to do, and you’ll be able to see wildlife, including alligators, turtles, and birds. There are also a few walking trails around the lake, allowing you to take a peaceful stroll.

Treat yourself to a shopping spree at The Oaks Mall

If you’re looking to do some shopping, one of the Gainesville attractions you have to go to is The Oaks Mall. The shopping center has approximately 119 stores, including chains and local shops.

At the mall, you can find almost everything from clothes and beauty items to kids’ products and homewares.

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A stone building with columns with a palm tree-lined street in front of it
At night, you can head downtown to see a show at the Hippodrome Theatre

Check out Downtown Gainesville

Spending some time in Downtown Gainesville is a must when in the city. This area features boutique and independent shops, restaurants, and art galleries. Concert venues and theaters are also located downtown, which are worth checking out if you’re looking for things to do at night.

Look around St. Augustine Church

St. Augustine Church is a beautiful church that has colorful stained-glass windows, rustic wooden beams, and religious sculptures. If in the area, you can go inside the church to admire the architecture. Mass is also held daily.

You can learn more about Gainesville at the Matheson History Museum

Find out about Gainesville history at the Matheson History Museum

Founded in 1994, the Matheson History Museum has exhibits on the history of Florida as a whole, Gainesville, and Alachua County. There’s also the Matheson Library & Archives filled with documentation on local history.

Once you’ve viewed the exhibits and learned some new facts about the area, you can also visit Matheson House, which was constructed in 1867.

Say “hi” to the horses at Mill Creek Farm Retirement Home for Horses

Mill Creek Farm Retirement Home for Horses is one of the can’t-miss attractions in Gainesville, Florida, for animal lovers. Located about 30 minutes from central Gainesville, the farm takes in rescue horses, and those that have retired from services like police patrol.

At the farm, you can meet the horses and feed them some snacks. Admission is free, but you must provide two or more carrots for the horses! Donations are welcomed too.

Dine at Curia on the Drag

A popular place to grab something to eat in Gainesville is Curia on the Drag. This plant-based eatery is a hit even among meat-eaters. Dishes to order include tacos, jackfruit quesadilla, yuca fries, and loaded tater tots.

Curia on the Drag also has an extensive tea and coffee menu, alcoholic drinks, and delicious vegan baked goods.

Sip cocktails at The Dime

The Dime is a trendy bar with a great cocktail menu. Many of the drinks available are unique creations thought up by the bar staff, and the beverage offerings change frequently. After enjoying your drinks, you can head next door to Arcade Bar to play some retro games.

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The inside of a football stadium on a clear day
Catching a Florida Gators game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is a must for sports fans

Watch a football game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

Gainesville is home to the University of Florida and has some collegiate sports teams in the area. One of the most popular teams to watch is the Florida Gators football team that plays at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

As the residents and students here are big Gators fans, the atmosphere at a game is guaranteed to be memorable.

In Summary

As you can see, there are numerous Gainesville, Florida, attractions to check out. From wildlife sanctuaries and state parks to outstanding museums, you'll never run out of things to do in this Floridian city!

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Written by Alli Sewell

allisewell WRITER Currently based in Canada, I've also lived and worked in the UK and Brazil and travelled in North and South America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. I love finding the best photo-ops and food and drink locations wherever I go!


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