Exploring Gainesville’s Historical Homes and Parks and Iconic Landmarks
Gainesville may be known, particularly, for being home to University of Florida and Santa Fe College, the former being the eighth largest university campus in the country, the city also placed itself as one of the best places to live and play in as ranked by National Geographic Adventures. Needless to say, there are not only plenty of places to visit and have fun in but also places to have an elegant wedding reception, fun birthday party or anniversary, a special corporate function or a memorable bachelor or bachelorette party. The city of Gainesville has come a long way following the Civil War, it grew from being an important cotton shipping facility for the country into a booming cultural and tourist attraction.
Today, Gainesville boasts of being home to some of Florida’s most important landmarks and it includes Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, Matheson Museum and Home and Ben Hill Griffin Stadium or The Swamp, as it is sometimes fondly referred to. Visitors can make use of a charter bus or party bus to have a good time with friends at Swamp Head Brewery or check out the LIVE entertainment at Rockeys Dueling Piano Bar. A mini bus or school bus would be useful for a field trip to Florida Museum of Natural History, Paynes Prairie or The Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park.
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Here are Some of the City’s Best Attractions and Highlights
There are some truly unique and distinct tourist attractions and historical points of interest to explore in Gainesville...we have done the homework for you and have uncovered the city’s best highlights, making it easier for you to plan your itinerary.
- Art & Cultural — Unbeknownst to some travelers, the city of Gainesville has a bustling art scene, featuring some of the best art galleries and schools in the state of Florida. Admission to world class art museum, Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, is free and its exhibits have managed to not just wow the locals but also attract international attention. This art museum is also one of the largest University art museum in the Southeastern region, featuring more than 6,000 work from its permanent and featured exhibition centers. You can come explore Asian, African, modern, contemporary art as well as gorgeous photographs from all around the world. Another not-to-be-missed attraction is Matheson Museum; it features educational exhibits about local history in its four different sections, namely, the museum, Matheson House, Tison Tool Museum and Sweetwater Park. Matheson Museum is also a National Historic Place and the house is only open when you book a personal tour by phone or email. For first time visitors, do make your way in the charter bus to Alachua County Visitors and Convention Bureau. Here is where you will get personal recommendations, suggestions, brochures, flyers and maps about important sites in Gainesville.
- Restaurant & Shopping — Having a private party in Gainesville is not just a pleasure but it is also affordable. If you are looking for good brews, check out Swamp Head Brewery. They offer uniquely crafted brews and some staple beers that are often exciting, dependable and sometimes surprising, depending on season. Rockeys Dueling Piano Bar is where you can find good old fashion LIVE entertainment from talented musicians, it is both piano-playing and good entertainment rolled into one. For a good night out with your friends, book a private room at Stage 7 KTV and belt out some tunes over mixed drinks, snacks and the company of your friends. Bluefield Estate Winery has been called a ‘diamond in the rough’ and a true Gainesville hidden gem. Here, you will get to sample good local wine freshly brewed. There is also no shortage of options when it comes to dining out. Head over to La Tienda Latina for authentic Mexican food like al pastor, tacos and more or reserve a table for two at Embers Wood Grill for local seafood and steak. Country Foodly is a favorite cheap eat featuring some of the best breakfast and brunch menu and Wah Ha Ha has Thai tom-yam soup and Penang curry waiting for you.
- Golf Courses & Sports Venues – The unique Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, located in the heart of Gainesville’s city center, is often referred to as The Swamp and is home to Florida’s football team, the Gators. Located in the Florida University, the stadium has undergone much restoration and renovation since it opened its doors in 1930. The Swamp is the 12th largest football stadium in the country and each Gator game attracts more than 90,000 per a game! So, if you get the chance to catch one of the games where the Gators are playing, don’t miss it.
- Historical Sites & Landmarks — It is hard to pin down which are the top historical sites in Gainesville but one of the must-sees is University of Florida, an iconic landmark to the state. The campus is so huge that it has taken some people days to completely tour the site. In fact, this historical museum consists of not just the campus but it also has a conservation area, garden, lake, theater, art gallery, fast food outlets and stadiums (including The Swamp). Thomas Center used to be a 94-room home to a family with children; today, it is more than just an art museum and center....the architecture and gardens is historically significant. It also caters to weddings, birthdays, events, corporate functions and other large group events. Historic Haile Homestead is known locally for its ‘talking walls’. To historians, this may just be a historic plantation but each of the rooms in this home has writings on its walls. Guests are invited to read the writings as each of these notes give you a walk back in time; it is the last few remaining antebellum homes in North Central Florida.
- Parks & Outdoor Activities — To check out the wonderful natural surroundings that makes Gainesville a popular tourist attraction, you need to organize a trip with a charter bus to a park. The first place would be Florida Museum of Natural History which focuses on the state of Florida, the Caribbean Basin and Latin America. It opened its doors in 1891 but is now a world-recognized establishment that features unique biological and cultural heritage of the state and region. Don’t forget to stop by the Butterfly Collection when you visit...it is stunning. It is all woods and swamp, as well as wildlife preservation at Paynes Prairie. Bring the children along and see if you can spot the occasional brown water snakes, bald eagle, armadillo, gators and many other animals. The park measures up to be approximately 21,000 acres and has been included in the list of National Historic Sites. There are 8 trails for you to enjoy, some of which are used for biking, horseback riding, hiking, fishing and bicycling. The Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park is another interesting terrain to explore on foot. It features a bowl-shaped 120 feet cavity with a miniature rainforest, small streams, steep limestone sinkholes and lush vegetation all around. Kanapaha Park is a beautiful attraction that features a garden that is used to countless events, be it private or corporate. Located a short distance away if you use a charter bus is Prairie Creek Preserve which is a fantastic place to watch alligators, hike and bike. Other fun outdoor attractions in and around Gainesville are Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail which is perfect biking, Florida National Scenic Trail which snakes its way around 3 counties and Juniper Prairie Wilderness which is located in the heart of the Big Scrub. The great thing about the Florida National Scenic trail, however, is the fact that there are multiple entry and access points along the way so, be sure to grab or download a map before hitting the trails.
- Zoos & Aquariums — There are a few places that adults and kids alike can come face to face with animals and they are the Butterfly Rainforest with the hundreds of free-flying butterflies and birds from all around the world; University of Florida Bat House which attracts bats just right before the sun sets; Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo where visitors will get to learn about 75 different species of animals from the students under the Zoo Animal Technology Program.
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