By Mary Jo Plouf
Gainsville is the county seat and largest city in Aluchua County, Florida. Many residents and visitors to Florida, myself included, have never considered Gainsville as a “vacation” destination. We were wrong. Gainsville can best be described as the perfect setting where nature and culture meet. It is conveniently located in North Central Florida and has great year-round weather. For those searching for culture and history and the arts, they will find them in abundance at the University of Florida’s Cultural Plaza. All in one location you will find the Butterfly Rainforest at the Florida Museum of Natural History, the 1700 seat Phillips Center for the performing arts, National Ballet, and the Harn Museum of Art. The Butterfly Rainforest is especially fascinating to children of all ages.
Sports fans won’t want to miss seeing a game at the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field, which is home to the Florida Gators football team.
There are plenty of places to get out and enjoy nature. You can follow an easy path through waterfalls and ferns into the heart of Devil’s Millhopper State Geological Park. You can visit ocelots and eagles at the Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo or bike the Gainesville-Hawthorn Trail. You can snorkel, paddle, tube or swim in the areas rivers or crystal-clear springs. Enthusiasts can tackle the trails of San Felasco Hammock Preserve StatePark with 2000 acres of horseback riding trails or off-road cycling. Many of these activities are suitable for children.
Downtown Gainsville and the surrounding area is the epi-center for shopping, fantastic restaurants and delightful lodging choices. Farmers markets tempt visitors with handmade soaps, jewelry and food products. Small botiques offer the latest in chic and funky fashion. Restaurants abound but be sure to sample the amazing fare and décor of Emilianos Café at 7 SE 1st Ave (Phone: 352-375-7381) We ate outside on a lovely Fall evening and everything was done to perfection.
We opted for one of the many turn-of-the-century bed and breakfasts which was a short walk from the downtown district. The Camellia Rose Inn at 205 S.E, Seventh Street was everything we were looking for. The Inn-keepers, Tom and Pat McCants were like old friends from the minute we walked in. They got us settled into our lovely room complete with a fireplace and admonished us to return from our explorations of the city in time for the wine and cheese that is served in the lounge each evening. This little “added-touch” is the perfect time to relax and perhaps meet other guests to compare notes. (Phone: 352-395-7673)
Whether you spend a week or a week-end in Gainsville you will find plenty of things to do and see and you will want to return for a second and third visit.
For those who need more information, contact the Gainsville website, visitgainesville.com. The tourist bureau in this delightful city is among the most helpful of any in the world.