Gainesville, with a population of approximately 130,000, is the largest city in Natural North Florida. This is a college town, with approximately one-half of the population consisting of University of Florida and Santa Fe College students. As such, Gainesville is a highly-amenitized community with plenty of culture, nightlife, breweries, restaurants, and nature-based attractions. Take for example the Butterfly Rainforest at the Florida Museum of Natural History. The large, 6,400 square foot walk-thru exhibit contains hundreds of free-flying butterflies from around the world. The Hippodrome Theater in the vibrant downtown area offers live theatre, films, gallery exhibits, classes and special events. The Harn Museum of Art, which is located adjacent to the Butterfly Rainforest, includes permanent and travelling collections in its 112,800-square-foot-facility. Ballet? Gainesville's got it with Dance Alive, an internationally-recognized ballet company. Classical music? Try the Gainesville Orchestra which performs throughout the year.
Bird watchers will enjoy the recently-opened Sweetwater Wetlands Park. Sweetwater consists of over 125 acres of wetlands, ponds and walking trails. The park was created to improve the water quality of wetlands in nearby Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. Bird watchers have reported spotting sandhill cranes, American bald eagle, wood stork and whooping cranes all in one day! The 3.5 mile LaChua Trail in nearby Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park is well-known as one of the best places in Florida to see alligators up-close and personal.
Gainesville is a bicycle-friendly community with many miles of designated bicycle routes. The Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail provides a nice ride, sweeping past Paynes Prarire State Preserve on its way to the City of Hawthorne in eastern Alachua County. The Gainesville Cycling Club hosts organized rides at various times of the year.
And of course, there is University of Florida athletics to keep the sports fan occupied.
Gainesville hosts many festivals and events, including the Gainesville Craft Beer Week, which is held in April, celebrates the beers of local microbreweries and pubs around town, the Fest, which is the largest punk rock festival in the United States, is held in late October, and the Downtown Festival and Art Show held in November.
Looking for a place to stay? Gainesville has over 2,000 hotel rooms. It also has several charming bed and breakfasts located near downtown.
Here is Gainesville native Tom Petty's salute to his home town.