Looking for the most fun things to do in Gainesville? Great you have come to the right place!
Gainesville Fl is a bustling, urban paradise in North Central Florida with tonnes of great activities! It is one of the best places in Florida to experience shopping, dining, and cultural experiences as well as football of course!
Whether you are a single young adult looking for an exhilarating night on the town or a parent looking to make treasured memories with your family – there is something in Gainesville for you! Here is our list of the 30 best attractions in Gainesville you can’t miss!
30 Fun Things to Do in Gainesville Florida You can’t Miss!
Kanapaha Botanical Gardens
The Kanapaha Botanical Gardens are one of the most serene experiences in Gainesville, Florida. This location is ideal for the horticulturist looking for inspiration, the busy career person looking for solace, or the family hoping to instill an appreciation for nature into their children. The Kanapaha Botanical Gardens feature 24 different botanical collections over nearly 70 acres of property.
While the beautiful landscaping is the centerpiece of this location, they have plenty of places to stop and sit to enjoy nature and are also wheelchair accessible. Visitors are welcome to peruse the gardens freely. But there are also scheduled events that one can participate in as well.
Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park
If you are looking for rich greenery and tranquil streams – look no farther than the Millhopper State Park.
This unique park is located just miles out of the city limits in Gainesville and gives options for hiking, wildlife viewing, and picnicking. The park also offers yoga events and guided tours of the sinkhole. It costs $4 per vehicle to enter the State Park, making it a great affordable activity in Gainesville.
Sweetwater Wetlands Park
Nestled just miles off of the interstate, Sweetwater Wetlands Park is a haven for birds, wild horses, and other wildlife. Sweetwater Wetlands Park is a unique place because it was created with the purpose of conservation and environmentalism in mind.
Sweetwater Wetlands Park has increased the amount of conservation land and most notably has improved the quality of water in the Florida aquifer. This is the perfect place for avid bird watchers as over 200 different species of birds have been spotted in this area. There is a 3.5 mile nature trail and beautiful spaces for picnicking.
Bring your bird guide, your good walking shoes, and your picnic basket to this beautiful park for a remarkable experience in nature.
La Chua Trail
For a true outdoors experience, you can visit and hike the La Chua Trail. The La Chua trail is natural terrain that is perfect for hiking enthusiasts.
The only amenities offered are a portable restroom, an observation tower, and a boardwalk. Aside from that, this is an unadulterated experience in nature. The La Chua Trail is well known for its bird and alligator sightings. Keep your eyes out for spectacular birds, including ospreys.
Alligator sightings happen frequently in observation areas; people have been known to see upwards of a dozen alligators at once. The website recommends taking safety precautions when hiking the trail due to the abundance of wildlife, especially the alligators.
It costs $6 per vehicle to access the trail.
Boulware Springs Park
Boulware Springs Park is an alluring state park that doubles as a National Historic Site. The park features an immense spring that cascades over 200,000 gallons of water each day.
The feature that makes Boulware Springs Park a National Historic Site is the original waterworks system that was built there in the late 1800s. The waterworks system has been restored by the local utility department and is an interesting area to explore during your visit.
Boulware Springs Park does not offer springs for swimming but it is an excellent place to view wildlife and explore. Boulware Springs Park is also the hub for entrances to three major trails in the area – the Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail, the La Chua Trail, and Sweetwater Preserve.
University of Florida Bat Houses
While visiting the bat houses may not be an all-day event, it is a worthwhile experience. The bat houses are located across from the University of Florida and visitors can show up to see the bats make an appearance within the first 20 minutes after sunset. While the window of opportunity is short, the experience is certainly memorable and awe-inspiring.
The University of Florida Bat Houses are home to the largest collection of fruit bat species in the entire world.
For rock, fossil, and artifact fanatics, the Mudslinger Tours are the perfect opportunity to get hands-on experience searching along the creeks in the Gainesville areas for “treasures.” The tours offer half day and whole day guided experiences that are perfect for anyone who is an explorer at heart!
Things to do in Gainesville at Night
The Lab Bar & Nightclub
The Lab is a Latin bar & nightclub with a unique, shadowy feel. The atmosphere is dark and foggy which is the perfect place to enjoy an inconspicuous night. While the motif may be dark, the ambience is anything but gloomy.
The Lab offers excellent drink specials and exciting theme nights that include Reggaeton, Venezuelan, Rumba and other themes.
See more: best brunch in Gainesville
Mystic Hookah Lounge
If you are looking for a way to unwind that is different from the usual nightlife, Mystic Hookah Lounge is a place to visit! Mystic Hookah does offer “typical” nightlife activities like a designated karaoke night and fun dance music.
But the real appeal is the variety of hookah. Mystic Hookah Lounge offers 50 different flavors of authentic hookah, CBD bowls, snacks, beverages, and boasts VIP rooms for those who want an evening with a little more privacy.
If you have your hopes set on a swanky night on the town, look no further than Fluid Lounge. Fluid Lounge is a bar that encapsulates a luxurious, premier encounter.
They are well-known for their cocktails and offer trivia nights each Monday and live music and DJs on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. If this isn’t enough to entice you, Fluid Lounge also features a humidor where you can enjoy some of the most exclusive cigar brands in the area.
The Arcade Bar is a well-known treasure for people who simply want to go out and have fun. It is one of the quadruplets of a complex known as the Arcade Plex.
The Arcade Bar is known for its affordable drinks, upbeat music, and most of all for its free unlimited arcade games! That’s right – if you visit the Arcade Bar, you can get your drink on and your game on. It is the perfect spot for friends to get together and loosen up.
While you’re there, you could also visit one of the other three parts of the Arcade Plex – The Dime (a chummy place to chill & enjoy a drink), The Alley (electronic music on weekends), and Pop a Top (an upgraded version of the corner store featuring snacks, sodas, beer, and burritos).
See more: Best Breakfast in Gainesville
Stage 7 Karaoke Bar & Event Venue
Karaoke parties for business associates or besties – Stage 7 is the only private room karaoke venue in Gainesville. The venue features private karaoke rooms for parties with state of the art karaoke equipment and delightful drinks.
It’s perfect for a small gathering of friends or a large group event where “fun” will be the main event.
Activities in Gainesville with Kids!
The Hippodrome Theater
The Hippodrome Theater is a historical and professional theater in Gainesville, Florida and has been the hub for performing arts since 1972. Although it was not a performance hall until 1972, the building was built in 1911 and is home to the city’s oldest elevator which is still manually operated. The Hippodrome is home for plays, film festivals, and special screenings of a variety of films.
Not only is it a theater, but there is an art gallery open to the public and a bar open for special events. For families who love the performing arts, there is sure to be a play that will catch your eye and capture lasting memories of a wonderful evening with family.
Flip Factory Zone
For adults who are kids at heart and children who are daredevils in training – Flip Factory Zone has adventurous, exciting activities for kids of all ages (and their parents). Flip Factory Zone presents 12 daring and invigorating activities – not including the zip line roller coaster that is soon to make its debut!
The highlight of Flip Factory Zone is its huge trampolines that provide a bouncing good time for families. Other family activities at Flip Factory Zone include a ninja course, laser tag, a foam pit, and even a toddler area for the little ones in your family.
Santa Fe Teaching Zoo
The Santa Fe Teaching Zoo is a 10-acre zoo on the campus of Santa Fe College. This experience is fun and affordable; the zoo is also wheelchair and stroller accessible.
Because of its size and the presence of zoology students the Santa Fe Teaching Zoo offers a unique and personal alternative to the traditional zoo. There are opportunities for tours, animal encounters, and even the option to participate in the Zookeeper for a Day program!
The Case Museum for Creativity and Invention provides a “hands on” approach to learning and offers many interactive learning activities for families.
The Cade Museum features different collections. Some of the special exhibits they have had in the past featured an array of themes including but not limited to video games, electricity, immunity, the brain, toys, and games. The Cade Museum is also the host of group visits, camps, and birthday parties.
Skate Station Fun Works
Skate Station Fun Works is another great stop for action seeking families. It provides seemingly endless opportunities for fun starting with the skating rink where children can free skate or take professional skate lessons.
There are also other fun attractions that include mini-golf, go-karts, bounce houses, batting cages, and rock climbing. When you need a break from all the excitement, you can chill out at Wally’s cafe and enjoy hand scooped ice cream, nachos, and other kid-friendly fare.
If you are looking for a relaxing, low-key day with the kids, look no farther than Depot Park. Located just minutes away from the Cade Museum, this is the ideal spot for a play date or family outing.
Depot Park has contemporary playground equipment and an enticing splash pad that is sure to spark your child’s imagination. Depot Park takes the average children’s play park to the next level by offering a lovely picnic pavilion, a promenade that is perfect for afternoon walks, and a conservation area where wildlife is spotted often.
It also features a wide-open space that is home to many different concerts, live shows, and festivals. While many traditional parks will leave you searching for a bathroom and wishing you had brought more snacks, Depot Park has a convenience store on the property and fully accessible restrooms.
Best Museums inGainesville
Harn Museum of Art
The Harn Museum of Art is partnered with the University of Florida to bring diverse art to the community. The Harn Museum features over 10,000 pieces of artwork and has special exhibits on a regular basis. The museum’s regular collections include contemporary, African, Asian, and modern art, along with a photography collection.
Special exhibits are displayed regularly and listed on their website; previous exhibits have included African metal art, a Terry Evans collection, and women in art. There is something for everyone at the Harn Museum of Art.
There is a cafe if you need an afternoon pick-me-up during your visit, a garden for admiration and reflection, and a gift shop.
Florida Museum of Natural History
The Florida Museum of Natural History showcases the magnetic and spellbinding attributes of natural history by featuring exquisite archeological treasures and artifacts.
Explore various collections that highlight pieces of history from the Caribbean, Latin America, and various regions in Florida. The appeal for academia doesn’t stop there – the museum also has curated collections in the fields of herpetology, botany, invertebrate zoology, and mammalogy.
One of the best free things to do in Gainesville for sure!
Matheson History Museum
The Matheson History Museum was opened in 1994 and pays homage to local history and Florida history. This museum is an excellent stop for people who are researching Florida history or people who are simply curious about their community.
The Matheson History Museum has maps, timelines, and an assortment of other visuals that represent Florida History. In addition, they have special exhibitions that explore diverse topics including the Civil Rights Movement in Florida such as Floridian Women Trailblazers, and Florida Fashion History. In addition to visiting for the historical appeal of the museum, you may want to stop in and listen to some of the many lectures that the museum hosts.
Kika Silva Pla Planetarium
This is located on the campus of Santa Fe College Kika Silva Pla Planetarium is a unique opportunity to explore the ethereal world of astronomy for adults and children. While the Planetarium is not open to the public for general admission during this time due to COVID restrictions, you can still purchase tickets and schedule a visit online.
The Planetarium offers an array of shows geared toward educating the community about celestial mechanics. Examples of shows offered include viewings of the winter skies and Polaris the Space Submarine.
Mark’s Prime Steakhouse and Seafood
Mark’s Prime Steakhouse and Seafood is the perfect spot for a romantic dinner date. The restaurant is located in downtown Gainesville and is known for its high-quality steaks. T
his restaurant offers a full menu of steak, seafood, and fresh vegetables. They also offer an elegant wine and cocktail menu.
Daily Green is an organic, vegan restaurant with a hip vibe. They pride themselves on providing local produce that is fresh, organic, and locally harvested to give guests a vegan dining experience that is truly sublime.
Some menu items worth trying are their avocado toast stack and the cornbread waffle. There are limited meat options for the carnivore in your family. There is also a juice bar where you can stop by to have an energizing wellness shot or smoothie.
Las Margaritas is an authentic Mexican restaurant that serves a variety of Mexican cuisine and – true to its namesake – some of the best margaritas the city has to offer! One of the best aspects of this restaurant is the flexible dining options. On a chilly day, you can dine in; on a warm day, you can either sit outdoors or under one of the cozy porches.
If you are wanting a meal to go – Las Margaritas provides take out options as well and prides themselves on their margaritas-to-go kit.
Amelia’s Italian Restaurant
Located directly behind the Hippodrome, Amelia’s Italian Restaurant is the perfect eatery for Italian fare. Amelia’s Italian Restaurant offers some of the most superb bona fide Italian food.
One visit to this restaurant will make it clear that providing excellent guest service and fresh, made-from-scratch Italian food is their number one priority.
This is not your average Cup O’ Noodles. Crane Ramen serves authentic Japanese ramen with ingredients sourced locally.
Their menu has an array of choices ranging from the quintessential shio bowl to the savory spicy pork shoyu paitan. You can also try one of several mouth watering appetizers or one of their spirituous cocktails.
See more: Best breakfast in Gainesville
Best Places to Shop
The Oaks Mall
Located less than a mile off the interstate, The Oaks Mall offers shopping possibilities that will suit anyone’s interests. Shops include everything from chain stores to new age and holistic health options.
There is a food court and a large, spacious restroom – including a family restroom and a special room for nursing mothers.
Thornebrook Village Shopping
Thornebrook Village Shopping Center is not your average strip mall. With plenty of dining options, there are boundless opportunities to shop and enjoy a day with friends or family.
Thornebrook Village has multiple restaurants including everything from Arby’s to Formaggio’s Bistro & Wine Bar. There are a plethora of shops fitting a variety of interests – a music store, a chocolate shop, a day spa, a florist, and multiple other specialty stores.
Celebration Pointe is a spacious shopping plaza that is true to its name – there is much to celebrate! This is home to many tasty eateries and shops. If you’re looking for an upscale shopping and dining experience, there are several shops and restaurants that are conducive to a lavish day.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a casual, low key day, there are plenty of options for that as well!
Festivals and Events in Gainesville
University of Florida Sports
Throughout the year you can guarantee fun, excitement, and team spirit at any of the University of Florida’s college sports games.
The University of Florida is infamous for its fierce football team, the Florida Gators. During football season the entire city of Gainesville is ablaze with blue and orange, the colors of the football team. Other sports that you may want to check out include college baseball, softball, and basketball.
Hoggetowne Medieval Faire
The Hoggetowne Medieval Faire is a paradise for history buffs and fanatics of the Renaissance Era. Normally scheduled between January and February, the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire has jousting, jugglers, and an abundance of Renaissance themed activities.
Put on your Renaissance ensemble and get ready for a fully immersive Renaissance experience!
Hogtown Craft Beer Festival
While the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire offers fun for the whole family, the Hogtown Craft Beer Festival provides a world of fun for adults only.
Adults can sample and enjoy beer from a variety of areas – local, regional, and national breweries. The outdoor setting and live music generate a relaxing and festive ambiance that is perfect for sampling beers and enjoying food from local restaurants.
Alachua County Fair
The Alachua County Fair brings excitement for the whole family in early spring. From entertaining live shows to mouthwatering fair food to the exhilarating rides – the Alachua County Fair is sure to create lasting memories!
Downtown Festival and Art Show
The Downtown Festival and Art Show take place every November. It has earned bragging rights as the largest outdoor art show in the country.
The festival is sprawled out from City Hall to the Hippodrome and features incredible sculptures, paintings, drawings, and other displays from the best creative minds around. Come here to shop for that perfect piece of art, to mingle with others in the community, be inspired, and admire the breathtaking artwork.
Every April, some of the most exceptional performers from around the world flock to Gainesville to showcase their skills at the Jest Fest.
You will find some of the traditional circus spectacles at this festival such as juggling and trapezes, But you will also find ventriloquists and one man bands. The food and vendors are plentiful and there is so much opportunity for merrymaking with family and friends!
Enjoy your Visit
No matter the length of your stay, you are sure to find something fun to do in Gainesville. If you are looking to marinate in the hustle and bustle of the city, you can visit any of the bars, restaurants, or festivals.
If you’re looking to escape from it all – alleviate your stress at one of the day spas or outdoor experiences. From adults seeking a night on the town to families looking to build lasting memories – there is a whole world to explore in Gainesville, Florida!