Arts and culture are a large component of what makes Gainesville a vibrant city. On the University of Florida campus sit two great museums with a combined entry fee of zero. That is right, zero. The Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art and the Florida Museum of Natural History are located next door to one another giving a great double play. The Natural History’s Hall of Fossils display delivers a look into Florida’s diverse past.
Ever taken a shower of butterflies? Gainesville now offers the chance to come face-to-face with exotic, vibrant butterflies fluttering atop a lush tropical canvas of foliage and flowers as you experience the Butterfly Rainforest, the State’s newest attraction at the Florida Museum of Natural History.
A screened vivarium is home to subtropical and tropical plants and trees which support 55 to 65 different species of butterflies. Hundreds of butterflies circle guests as they stroll through the Butterfly Rainforest on a winding path relaxing to the sounds of cascading waterfalls.
While at the Harn Museum of Art, a Monet painting resides as the museum’s center piece along with an extensive collection of pre-Columbian art. The Harn brings in outstanding traveling shows that complement their own permanent collections.
Following a day visiting our small towns and museums, set out for Gainesville’s historic downtown entertainment district for an evening of dining. The downtown area, a three square block section starting at the intersection of University Avenue and Main Street, contains the best collection of local cuisine in town. Each restaurant offers a delightful dining experience. Whether it is Italian, Bistro, Steak or Gourmet an opportunity to taste the best Gainesville has to offer is waiting.
The Greater Gainesville area delivers a Florida that is just off the beaten path.
Just south of Gainesville is the town of Micanopy, featured as the town of Grady in the movie “Doc Hollywood.” This quaint town has a thriving antiques community as well as some historic sites.
On Micanopy’s Main Street is a shop that specializes in cameos as well as a new and used book store with a great collection of local history and Florida authors. When hunger pangs strike, walk over to The Old Florida Café for a delicious meal on their patio under the oak canopy. Save room for a mouth watering homemade dessert, maybe a piece of Key Lime Pie, which will be sure to please.
West of Gainesville, the picturesque town of Chiefland calls itself the “Gem of the Suwannee Valley” but was actually called Chiefland because several Indian tribes lived around the area and met here because it was in the middle of their tribes – thus creating the name Chiefland “Land Of The Chiefs”.
The university town of Gainesville offers many faces to visitors.
Northeast Historic District
The city’s Northeast Historic District is a 63-square-block area of 290 historic buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Their architecture reflects styles common to Florida from 1880 through the 1920s. The University Art Gallery and Teaching Gallery on the grounds of the University of Florida comprise the center of a thriving art community. Each offers alternating exhibits year-round, all open to the public. Century Tower in the center of the university’s grounds houses one of Florida’s four carillons. While you’re there, stroll through the lush, primitive foliage of the Lake Alice Wildlife Preserve that edges the campus.
Morningside Nature Center
Elsewhere in Gainesville, you can experience the lifestyle of a Florida family farmer of 100 years ago at Morningside Nature Center. Farm animals in pasture settings, an 1840 cabin, and a turn-of-the-century kitchen and barn are the attractions at this 278-acre living history farm. Two miles north of downtown at Devil’s Millhopper State Geological Site, you will see a 20-million- year-old sinkhole. And nearby, Paynes Prairie State Preserve is the site of a wildlife sanctuary where a rare herd of buffalo roams, and descendants of the first horses brought here by the Spanish are maintained as well.