9 Fascinating Things to Do in Gainesville on a Florida Getaway Vacation

Gainesville Florida is surrounded by magnificent natural areas and is home to Florida’s most popular state school, fostering an artistic, entrepreneurial, and innovation spirit.

USA’s third largest university (University of Florida) also spearheaded the invention of Gatorade, which as you see, further supports and creates a creative environment.

Thank you to Visit Gainesville for hosting McCool Travel.

Things to Do in Gainesville on a Florida Getaway Vacation

1. Depot Park

Depot Park opened just two years ago and serves as Gainesville’s Central Park. The park honors the location as a major rail transportation area, in name and decor. An innovative children’s playground, multi-use trail, and natural areas now replace what was once contaminated ground.

things to do in Gainesville Florida. Article and photo by Charles McCool for McCool Travel.
Depot Park in Gainesville Florida
Depot Park, Gainesville Florida
Depot Park, Gainesville Florida

2. Cade Museum

The Cade Museum of Creativity and Invention is the centerpiece of the Depot Park revitalization and is scheduled to open May 19, 2018. Its namesake, Dr. Cade, invented Gatorade and the Cade family provided the means to support this enterprise focusing of creativity for all ages.

3D printed seashell from Cade Museum. things to do in Gainesville Florida
Cade Museum, 3D printed seashell

3. Sweetwater Wetlands Park

While most of the United States was below freezing, including at home in Northern Virginia, I walked around a nature preserve in Gainesville and spotted dozens of gators and migratory birds. The Sweetwater Wetlands Park preserve is actually part of a sophisticated series of areas to filter water before it heads to the Floridan aquifer.

Sweetwater Wetlands Park a fun place to visit in Gainesville Florida
Sweetwater Wetlands Park is one of the best free things to do in Gainesville FL

4. Hippodrome Theatre

The Hippodrome Theatre in downtown Gainesville hosts live theater. movies, classes, and art exhibits almost every day of the year. McCool Travel tip: the second floor men’s bathroom is said to be the safest room in Gainesville.

Hippodrome Theater Gainesville Florida
Hippodrome Theatre in Gainesville Florida

5. Gainesville Food Tour

Married couple Caroline and Ryan Earls run Gainesville Food Tour, showcasing the exciting culinary revolution in Hogtown. They visit five downtown Gainesville restuarants on their walking tours. On our recent custom and abbreviated tour, we visited Sweetwater Branch Inn for a decadent French toast casserole, Loosey’s for a magnificent Baconator Slider, Liquid Ginger for tasty Pad Thai and sautéed eggplant, and Patticakes for delectable cupcakes.

things to do in Gainesville Florida. Article and photo by Charles McCool for McCool Travel.
Gainesville Food Tour: Patticakes

6. Wall Murals

Downtown Gainesville, besides having so many amazing places to eat, is very walkable and dozens of wall murals are waiting to be discovered and photographed. For more information on the Gainesville Urban Art Initiative, please visit 352walls.

things to do in Gainesville Florida. Article and photo by Charles McCool for McCool Travel.
exploring the wall murals: free things to do in Gainesville Florida


7. Gainesville Events

— Hoggetown Medieval Fair

My trip coincided with the Hoggetown Medieval Faire (end of January and start of February). Visit a temporary and exciting Medieval village, complete with jousting matches, a marketplace, games for all ages, multiple entertainment stages, and a gathering place for funness.


— Hogtown Craft Beer Festival

In April the Hogtown Craft Beer Festival takes over the same Alachua County Fairgrounds. Over 200 passionate brewmaster members host the event which provides samples from over 100 breweries along with food from several local favorites. Last year, Hogtown Brewers donated after $30,000 from the proceeds of this event.

— University of Florida Events

Of course, you may also visit Gainesville to see your university student, attend a fall football game, spring baseball game, or other athletic or cultural event, or any other reason. If so, Gator chomp to you and enjoy your stay.

8. Places to Eat in Gainesville Florida

— The Top Restaurant

Named after the old school wooden toy rather than claiming to be the best, The Top Restaurant might be the most popular place to eat in Gainesville. Their amazing food is highlighted by scrumptious desserts. Really. Waiters tell you to save room for dessert, people waiting stroll inside to study the dessert display, and the focus from patrons at nearby tables was DESSERT.

— Satchel’s Pizza

Satchel’s Pizza is so much more than great pizza, although the pizza is fantastic. Their homemade sodas are delicious and you can even order a flight of all 6 flavors. Our group split a large salad and each ordered one pizza slice. The slices are large and the toppings are generous. The pan pizza was ordered by several other tables and looked amazing.

craft soda at Satchel's Pizza in Gainesville Florida
try the craft soda (and pizza!) at Satchel’s Pizza in Gainesville FL

— Swamp Head Brewery

“Inherently Florida” is the Swamp Head Brewery tagline and they focus on dominating the craft beer scene in Florida, using local supplies when possible, and reducing their footprint. They recently planted 80,000 trees to represent 80,000 cans sold in 2017. They only ship in cans now because bottles are heavier. Oh, they are also the only solar powered brewery. Cool!

things to do in Gainesville Florida. Article and photo by Charles McCool for McCool Travel.
visiting Swamp Head Brewery is a great thing to do in Gainesville FL

— Monsta Lobsta

During the food truck rally at High Dive, I checked out all the food trucks before deciding on a lobster roll from Monsta Lobsta. It was huge! And delicious. If you see this truck anywhere in Florida, go!

things to do in Gainesville Florida. Article and photo by Charles McCool for McCool Travel.
lobster roll from Monsta Lobsta

— Fish Hawk Spirits

These “Makers of Fine Florida Spirits” operate their main facility in Ocala but have a tasting room in downtown Gainesville. Stop in to Fish Hawk to sample some remarkable infused whiskeys, vodkas, and an absinthe. Which is your favorite? I like the Split Charisma, Conquistador, and Fall of Man.

— Cookie Gazm

OK, it may not have been the smartest idea to visit Cookie Gazm immediately after tasting spirits across the street at Fish Hawk. With limited time for this trip, I wanted to experience as many cool places as possible. Well, Cookie Gazm rocks. The head of marketing has one of the most fun jobs in the world; check out their ads and social media posts. Try one of their sinful creations like One Night Stand, Booty Call, or Dirty Blondie.

9. Where to Stay in Gainesville Florida

Gainesville actually has a cool historic B&B district with several inns to choose from. We stayed at Magnolia Plantation which was the first B&B in the area. Their friends and family later opened other inns in the district. Legend says that a former owner located pirate treasure and hid it but the current owners, Cindy and Joe, insist it is no longer in the house.

Magnolia Plantation B & B Gainesville Florida
The Magnolia Plantation in Gainesville Florida

Especially for University of Florida game days, another lodging option to consider is vacation rentals—including condos, apartments, and houses.


Getting to Gainesville FL

Look for convenient direct flights into Gainesville (airport code GNV) from Atlanta and Charlotte. Gainesville is a two hour drive from Orlando and a 90 minute drive from Jacksonville.

map of Gainesville Florida
map of Gainesville Florida, from city-data.com

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Gainesville Florida USA Travel. Things to do in Gainesville Florida includes arts, food, hiking, fun events, and more.

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