It includes the Butterfly Rainforest, home to hundreds of free-flying butterflies and birds. Harn Museum of Art has a huge collection of Asian and African works. The Matheson History Museum has a vintage postcard collection.
Downtown Gainesville looks like a sleepy country town where there’s not much going on. Start exploring, and the opposite soon becomes apparent. Gainesville is the county seat of Alachua in Florida, and the Downtown district is a hive of exciting things to do.
Downtown Gainesville’s historic character and charm are accentuated by an abundance of parks and conservation areas so there’s a fantastic array of outdoor activities ranging from hiking to golf courses right in the heart of the city.
The district has some unusual museums and theaters, a very diverse food scene and a surprisingly good, though somewhat eclectic, nightlife. To make the most of a stay there, don’t let any of these fifteen best things to do in Downtown Gainesville escape you.
1. Cycle Gainesville
Hire a bike to cycle around Downtown Gainesville’s urban and park areas. It’s the perfect way to discover what the district has to offer without wearing out your shoe leather.
Pick up a cycle from the Zagster bike share scheme at Rosa Parks Station on SE 2nd Street. Tour around the streets of the district on any of the many cycleways stopping whenever the urge arises, take the 6th Street Rail Trail which is a combination of urban and country or head to Loblolly Woods Nature Park which you can read about further on.
After completing the membership and downloading the Zagster app, rides up to one hour are free of charge. There’s a small hourly fee after the first sixty-minute trip, or an economical monthly hire option is available.
2. Cade Museum For Creativity & Inventions
The Cade Museum For Creativity & Inventions is an innovative museum dedicated to encouraging the development of new ideas and fostering creative thinking.
The museum on South Main Street has one permanent exhibition, the Sweat Lab and another temporary one, Robot Zoo. The remainder of the building’s space is taken up with interactive laboratories where visitors are invited to build 3D robots or create something new.
For anyone with a bright idea or for budding inventors, this is the place to put those theoretical thoughts into practice and make the spark of an idea a reality.
3. Loosey’s Downtown
Drop into Loosey’s Downtown on SW 1st Avenue for a drink and straight away you’ll feel just like a local born and bred.
The bar serves a large variety of US craft beers, food sourced from regionally produced ingredients and hosts live music played by Gainesville musicians.
Snack on some Two-Bite Tacos while sipping the beer of the month or go all out with the chef’s special man cheese or fried shrimp seafood dinner. Then sit back and wait for the music to start. You won’t be disappointed.
4. Gainesville Artisan Guild Gallery
Find a unique souvenir or gift at the Gainesville Artisan Craft Gallery on 2nd Place Suite.
Browse products created by over fifty Gainesville artisan in the gallery-style store where everything is guaranteed to be high quality and original. Choose from handmade pottery, jewelry, glassware, hand printed textiles or paintings.
The Gainesville Artisan Craft Gallery also holds a last Friday of the month Artwalk Gainesville where it’s possible to meet artists, participate in scavenger hunts and enjoy some live music.
5. Loblolly Woods Nature Park
Escape to the Loblolly Woods Nature Park, a one hundred and fifty plus acres forest of enormous Loblolly pines. The park sits on the border of the district’s boundary and is accessible from 8th Avenue.
Loblolly Woods is intersected by the Hogtown Creek and has numerous multi-use trails suitable both for hiking and cycling. Stroll alongside the water or head deeper into the trees where the dogwoods grow to find Gainesville’s true natural beauty.
Trails in the park are compacted dirt so wear decent walking shoes if hiking.
6. The Actors Warehouse
The Actor’s Warehouse is a community theater on NE 1st Street in Downtown Gainesville which hosts dramatic works based on diverse social and multicultural experiences.
The intimate theater is housed in a converted church, has seating for around one hundred spectators and a small, raised platform-style stage.
Expect to see people-focused thought-provoking dramas performed by first class actors in low-budget sets. The Actor’s Warehouse is theater at its most basic and best.
7. Florida Museum of Natural History
Visit the Florida Museum of Natural History on Hull Road for a close up look at Florida’s flora and fauna both past and present.
Explore the museum’s immense fossil collection, reconstructions of the diverse habitats of the Florida waterways and learn about the state’s indigenous inhabitants before entering into the tropical wonder of the Butterfly Rainforest.
As well as the permanent displays, the museum hosts various temporary exhibitions throughout the year.
Spice up a stay with lunch or dinner at Steamers on SE 1st Avenue. Housed in a red-brick shack-style building which is almost as colorful as the food, Steamers serve up large portions of Asian-inspired food with lots of Vegan options.
The restaurant has a large outside patio furnished with cable drums for tables and a small stage where they host open mic evenings and live music.
Don’t miss trying the Tempeh Fried Rice, the Tofu Curry or for meat-lovers, the Steamer’s Original Loose Meat Burger – steamed, not fried. Your taste buds will thank you for it.
9. Harn Museum Of Art
The Harn Museum of Art on the campus of the University of Florida houses extensive collections of African, Asian, contemporary and modern artworks.
Ten thousand individual pieces of art in all genres from sculptures to photographs are displayed throughout the museum’s several galleries, pavilion, cafeteria, and terrace garden.
The permanent collections consist of many unique items including African beadwork and wood sculptures, Asian Jade and ceramics as well as paintings by leading US contemporary artists.
10. Curtis M Phillips Center for Performing Arts
The Curtis M Phillips Center for Performing Arts is an imposing building on the University of Florida campus and part of the Phillips Center where several other event venues are also located.
The theater, which seats one thousand seven hundred spectators, hosts big-budget spectaculars like the National Ballet performing Swan Lake, diverse shows from musical artists such as The Chieftains and many orchestral performances accompanied by international stars.
11. Mix N Mingle Fun Bikes
Discover the best watering holes on a Mix N Mingle Fun Bike Tour. The pedal party starts when you hop on the sixteen seater cycle on University Avenue.
Cycle around Downtown with a beer in hand and the onboard music blaring before stopping off at various designated pubs along the way for leg rest and refreshment.
The Mix N Mingle is great for both groups and solo travelers. The tours last for two hours.
12. Ironwood Golf
The Ironwood Golf Course is a beautifully landscaped, eighteen hole public golf course on the edge of Downtown Gainesville.
Hire a cart or walk through the lakes and pines for either nine holes or the entire course trying for that elusive hole in one. If you’ve never played, try your hand on the driving range to get a feel for the game.
The Ironwood Golf Course is a designated Audubon Sanctuary and aims to lessen the impact of golfing activities on the environment.
13. Simons Nightclub
Simons Nightclub on S Main Street in Downtown Gainesville’s premier night spot. The club first opened in the 1990s and to keep up with the times has undergone renovations to make sure it keeps its top spot ranking.
The club has a super chic and ultra-modern interior, large dance floor, high tech lighting and top DJ’s who know how to make the place come to life. Simons also hosts regular events such as Glowrage fluorescent parties, Freestyle Fridays and Social Saturdays.
14. Gainesville Food Tour
Take a guided stroll around to investigate, not just historical sites, but the district’s cuisine at the same time.
During the three hour tour learn some quirky facts about DT Gainesville from the local foodie guides and stop off at three to six restaurants to sample their house specialties.
The Gainesville Food Tour is a fun and informal way of seeing the city while getting well fed.
15. Union Street Station
Forget catching a train at Union Street Station on SE 2nd Avenue. This station is a five-story residential and office building the ground floor of which is full of top shops and great eateries.
The Union Street Station mall lined with pavement cafes adds a cosmopolitan touch to the downtown district. Stop off there for coffee and some people watching or a dose of retail therapy before grabbing lunch or dinner in one of the many restaurants.
The USS, just like Downtown Gainesville, may look old-fashioned and quiet, but it’s not. It’s lively, bang up to date and a great place to visit.