Gainesville Travel Guide 2024

2024 Gainesville Visitors Guide

Named after Gen. Edmund Pendleton Gaines, the city of Gainesville was established in 1854, along a route of the Florida Railroad. A thriving center for cotton and vegetable crops in the 1800s, its industrial center would soon switch to a focus on education with the start of the University of Florida in 1905.

Today, Gainesville is the largest city and county seat of Alachua County, Florida. It is home, not only to the University of Florida, the fourth-largest university in the U.S., but also to the Santa Fe Community College, one of the nation’s largest community colleges.

The Census of 2000 indicated that there were 95,447 people residing within the city limits. In 2003, the City of Gainesville estimated that the 2003 population was at 117,182. The racial makeup of the city is 68.36% White, 23.24% African American, 0.25% Native American, 4.49% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 1.46% from other races, and 2.18% from two or more races. 6.40% of the population was Hispanic or Latino of any race.

The median income for a household in the city is $28,164, and the median income for a family is $44,263. The per capita income for the city is $16,779.

Gainesville Attractions

There is a lot to do in Gainesville. You can shop, take a hot air balloon ride, catch a round of golf on one of the areas seven excellent golf courses, see a University of Florida football game, bike, or enjoy one of the many area parks and lake areas.

Do you like to bike ride? Gainesville has been ranked among the top 10 bicycling communities in the U.S. by Bicycling Magazine. Gainesville has more than 60 miles of roadways with on-street bicycle lanes or paved shoulders, plus another 17 miles of roads with wide curb lanes.

Florida Museum of Natural History

Those seeking to view the natural beauties of Florida or learn of its vast history need look no further than the Florida Museum of Natural History, located in the southwest corner of the University of Florida campus. Location: SW 34th Street and Hull Road

Historic Haile Homestead at Kanapaha

Welcome to the Historic Haile Homestead at Kanapaha Plantation. In 1854 Thomas Evans and Serena Chesnut Haile moved their family from Camden, South Carolina to Gainesville, Alachua County, Florida. It is there they established a 1500-acre Sea Island cotton plantation named Kanapaha. Location: 8500 SW Archer Road

Kanapaha Botanical Gardens

Kanapaha Botanical Gardens is a 62-acre facility developed and operated by the North Florida Botanical Society, a non-profit educational organization. Kanapaha Botanical Gardens is comprised of 24 major collections visually accessible from a 1 ½ mile paved walkway. Location: 4700 S.W. 58th Drive

Santa Fe Teaching Zoo

The Santa Fe Teaching Zoo is a premier program offered to students at Santa Fe College that are interested in training to professionally deal with animals. The Santa Fe Teaching Zoo, 3000 NW 83rd St., is located on the Northwest Campus of the college. Location: 3000 N.W. 83rd Street

Silver Springs

No matter what your age, there are plenty of rides and attractions at Silver Springs that will make you laugh, fill you with wonder, and provide a glimpse into what life was like here more than 10,000 years ago. Just as they did then, the springs pump out 550 million gallons of sparkling-clear water a day—enough to. Location: 5656 E. Silver Springs Blvd.

Wild Waters Water Park

Located adjacent to the lush grounds and natural beauty of Silver Springs, near Ocala, Florida, Wild Waters is a place where the whole family can chill out on a warm summer day. Soak up the sun on our “beach” or keep cool in the shade of our giant oaks and palm trees. Ride the surf in our 450,000-gallon wave pool.

Hit the twists and turns of Osceola’s Revenge, Bunyan’s Bend and Mini Monster water slides. Or, if you dare, tackle the three-story-high Hurricane or 220-foot-long Silver Bullet speed flumes. For the younger set, there’s Cool Kids Cove, a multi-level fun zone, and the shallow pools of the Tad Pool.  Location: 5656 E. Silver Springs Blvd.

Gainesville Arts

The City offers a vibrant and varied arts community. Residents can enjoy several options when it comes to music, dance and theatre venues. Here are just a few.

The Acrosstown Repertory Theatre might well be described as Gainesville’s Off-Broadway. The 80-seat community theatre is the home of experimental, avant-garde, and often cross-cultural productions. The Center for Performing Arts is Gainesville’s center for theatre, music and dance performances. Home to several local performance groups, the Center also hosts Broadway touring companies, opera, symphony orchestras and nationally-known performers.

Dance Alive! is a professional ballet company that performs locally as well as nationally. The Gainesville Ballet Theatre has a repertoire of classical ballet, children’s ballet, jazz and modern dance which performs two ballets each season. The Gainesville Chamber Symphony has distinguished itself as the central body of music in Gainesville. The 35-member orchestra performs several shows each season.

On a side musical note, Gainesville is also fairly well-known as having an active punk and ska music scene. A number of bands including Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Less Than Jake, The Usuals, The Know How, Hot Water Music, Against Me!, Sister Hazel, Roach Motel, and For Squirrels were spawned in Gainesville.

Gainesville Dining

Gainesville’s restaurants serve everything from gourmet food to barbecue, fast food, casual, cafeteria-style, southern home cooking, and ethnic cuisines. Residents and visitors alike can enjoy sampling any of the local specialties, including African, American, Cajun-Creole, Caribbean, Chinese, Continental, Cuban, Fondue, French, Greek, Indian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Jewish, Korean, Lebanese, Mediterranean, Mexican, Middle-Eastern, Seafood, Soul Food, Thai, Vegetarian, and Vietnamese.

Experience the very best from scrumptious buffets to expertly grilled steaks and Florida seafood at Banyan’s Restaurant.

At the Brownstone, diners can enjoy quiet sophistication in an elegant old-world ambiance as they savor a cool drink and listen to the latest in popular music in their intimate lounge. Open nightly, this restaurant offers an array of freshly made food such as the finest aged, hand-cut steaks, fresh seafood, oak-grilled meats, and made-from-scratch soups.

The Chuck Wagon Country Skillet serves up what is considered the best breakfast in Gainesville. This popular restaurant offers outstanding, traditional, home-style American cuisine daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Gainesville Communities

The city of Gainesville is divided into four regions. The Northwest, Southwest, Northeast, and Southeast quadrants are divided by two major, intersecting roads: University Avenue and 13th Street.

Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville FL

The northwest section of the City is a combination of residential areas set between wooded lots and pastures. Many parts of this area are still considered ripe for real estate development. On average, the residents are older than the college-age University of Florida students who own homes in this part of the city.

For the most part, Northeast Gainesville is comprised of more homes and shopping centers clustered near the downtown areas and Main Street. A drive to the Gainesville Regional Airport will find several suburban-style neighborhoods and then a large section of pasture that separates the airport from the various housing developments.

Southeast Gainesville probably has the most diversity in terms of housing and population. In the upper northwest section of the region, is downtown Gainesville. Numerous apartment complexes, businesses, and restaurants are located here. However, as you travel further southeast, you will view homes on large properties, then forests and fields with a home or two along the way, finally seeing Paynes Prairie State Preserve.

The southwest section of the city has undergone a rapid expansion in the last ten years, both in apartment housing and in business complexes. While some type of building can be found on almost every street, there are few private homes. The few existing homes tend to be more expensive the closer you travel to the University. Residents of this area also experience more traffic congestion given the proximity to the University of Florida.

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