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Family Fun Time 

Family Fun Time 

A family need not be nuclear for bored kids to leave the house looking like the aftermath of an atomic bomb. Parents can save themselves a deep-cleaning session and get everyone out of the house for the afternoon — opt for a fun family date to one of Greater Gainesville’s family-friendly attractions.  

Here are some of the best options in local entertainment for families ready to have a blast. 


Earthen Exploration – Wild Nature-Themed Activities 


Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens

Cedar Lakes is almost like a headline out of a sci-fi movie: “Wealthy, offbeat doctor hand-crafts unique biome for public use.”  

This garden began its life as a limestone quarry, gray and moldering, before its transformation into a botanical marvel. The metamorphosis began when, in 1991, the industrious Dr. Raymond Webber was scoping out a boggy, abandoned quarry, as eccentric dentists do.  

He bought the property for his own personal use, but soon put a team to work forming man-made islands, installing concrete walkways and shaping waterfalls beneath blazing red gazebos.  

Butterfly Rainforest 

Never have bugs been such a welcome part of a nature lover’s experience. In this exhibit, waterfalls gird a walking path hidden beneath verdant flora, and the average tour is positively alive with everyone’s favorite insect: the butterfly.  

This is about as close as it gets to venturing through a real-life rainforest, and visitors can also expect a rainbow variety of birds, lounging turtles, fish and natural bouquets of Easter-Sunday bromeliads. There are approximately 1,000 living butterflies and moths in the space, so consider this rainforest a little exposure therapy for Greater Gaineville’s bugphobic. 

Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation 

Carson Springs, Gainesville family fun

The Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation serves as GG’s open-range home to a host of sweet, yet undeniably killer cats from around the world.  

Founders Christine and Barry take no salary as the owners and operators of the CSWCF, and they run educational tours for locals. It is a special kind of zoo for endangered big cats, including jaguars, bobcats, tigers and even a few non-feline animals like rhinos. 


Big-Brain Investigation — Smart Activities for Growing Minds 


Gainesville Solar Walk 

The Gainesville Solar Walk is a mile-long art and education project representing everyone’s favorite solar system. This means that visitors to the Solar Walk are residents of a solar system exploring a model of the very solar system they are currently inhabiting. Of course, there is the problem of extraordinary distances across the dark cold of deep space — hence the Gainesville Solar Walk. 

The relativistic trek replicates the distance between the sun and its attending planets at a billion-to-one ratio. This is pretty much the perfect way to both educate and entertain a kid with a similar ratio: a billion gigawatts of energy inside one little body. Each celestial figure is represented by a striking obelisk with its own color and design scheme.  

Cade Museum for Creativity & Invention 

The Cade Museum was named after none other than the man who invented Gatorade, a Gainesvillian doctor who tested his new concoction on the UF Gator football team, hence Gatorade.  

The museum offers kids and parents a world of hands-on exhibits focused on fields, including technology, chemistry, neuroscience and more. There are also weekly classes for children, where they can learn about coding, the development of major inventions through history and robotics. 

Mudslinger Tours 

mudslinger tours, Greater Gainesville family fun

For fossil-hunting families who do not mind getting into the thick of it, Mudslinger Tours is a neat little romp through Gainesville’s muddy creeks.  

In search of shark teeth, this guided tour sees folks equipped with tools of the trade for a little amateur archaeology in the woods. It is actually a bit like panning for gold, only instead of shiny nuggets, patrons can uncover toothy treasures — big old fish teeth that have settled into the soggy earth. Souvenirs are finders-keepers and all the more valuable for the act of personal discovery. 


Frenzied Family Fun Zones – Games and Organized Play 


Skate Station Funworks 

Skate Station Funworks is more than just a rink for people who like to wear wheels on their shoes. From rock climbing to arcade games and “swamp golf,” this place is a fast-paced fun-o-rama where families can do a little of everything.  

The classic American kid-zone fare includes things like cheeseburgers, fries and pretzels, but if competitive parents want to maintain their ski-ball record, they had better keep those hands free of pizza grease.  

Depot Park 

Depot Park, family fun on playground

Easy, accessible and free, Depot Park is a local favorite for families with restless kiddos itching to climb, jump and fulfill the unbeatable calling of every youngster to just play 

Depot’s jungle gym, splash pad, pond-adjacent promenade, picnic pavilion, snack station and conservation area are ready and waiting to fill every Gainesville family’s next weekend afternoon. Sometimes, it is just impossible to beat a good old-fashioned park and jungle gym combo. 

Kulaqua River Ranch Water Park 

A water park is one of the most exciting ways to get families that all-important dose of sweet Vitamin D. That is, unless they spend too much time in the tunnel slide, but then the scariest thing about that is sliding at full speed into a big guy who got stuck halfway down. Fortunately, this is not on record as having happened to anyone, so Gainesville locals are free to enjoy the 600-foot-long lazy river, 15,000 square-foot wave pool and sand volleyball courts.  


Splitz is a vaguely sultry-sounding name for a truly family-friendly joint, but GG locals have probably bowled so many strikes there they have long since ignored this.  

Splitz also offers laser tag, which is a physically painless way of discovering how much worse one is at tactical combat than local 13-year-olds. Expect typical bowling food (delicious) and an arcade with air hockey and nearly 40 other games for families to make into their next monthly tradition. 


Dynamic Destinations – Physically Intensive Fun for Kids 


Bouncers Indoor Playground 

For $15 per kid, Bouncers unofficially promises a quiet car ride home with sleeping children in the backseat. It is tough to beat an offer like this one — almost as tough as it is to navigate this sizable indoor jungle gym complete with netted towers and inflatable bounce zones.  

Kids never seem to notice just how arduous this style of playtime can be when they are having so much fun. Aimed at families with younger children, parents can enjoy a little respite while the little ones tire themselves out. 

Canopy Climbers 

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Thick-branched trees are naturally attractive to kids, and an oak tree unclimbed has simply not fulfilled its entertainment potential.  

Canopy Climbers really takes the whole tree-climbing thing to the next level. Using heavy-duty ropes and other safety equipment, the climbing instructors at Canopy help people of all ages maximize their clambering potential and ascend very tall trees all the way to, well, the canopy. It is a leg-intensive 90-degree journey, but the company equipment makes climbing about half as difficult as it would be to make the climb au naturel.  

Flip Factory Zone 

Flip Factory asks what would happen if someone filled a jungle gym full of trampolines and loaded it with naturally bouncy children. This is not exactly a philosophical query, but the results are fun to watch nonetheless.  

Flip Factory is not just about the bounce though. Billing themselves as “Gainesville’s Premier Family Entertainment Center,” they also offer dodgeball, laser tag and an arcade. High-octane frolicking is not an inaccurate way to put it, and those trampolines are a workout for adults, too.


Social Essentials for Gainesville at the YMCA 

Greater Gainesville family fun, YMCA

Youth development, summer camp, personal training — the YMCA offers activity at a volume that defies description. Check out these highlights from Gainesville’s own YMCA. 

The Life Aquatic 

The YMCA’s lifeguard courses and water aerobics sessions combine wetness, health and general safety for folks of all ages. The pool is open year-round. 

Hit the Gym 

The Y offers a fitness center with modern workout equipment, community exercise classes and even one-on-one sessions with personal trainers. Youth are allowed to get in on the action, and an introductory tour teaches them how to safely go about their wellness adventure. 

Summer Camp 

The Y’s nearly two-month summer extravaganza offers kids a weekly theme through which to explore new skills and build confidence. Activities revolve around things like arts and humanities, STEM and character development. Families can explore pricing options depending on how much time the kids, from grades kindergarten through 10th, would like to spend there. 

Good Sportsmanship 

Sports for kids are on offer at the YMCA, introducing children to and immersing them in things like water safety and healthy competition. Swimming lessons for kids and a spring soccer camp are open to join. 

Youth in Action 

The YMCA famously promotes itself as a community center for teens, offering a space for young minds to do homework, use the computer lab and work on community service projects. Focusing on kids ages 10-16, the Y emphasizes recreational, educational and cultural activities that explore modern life in a friendly social environment. 

Specialty Events 

There is always something going on at the YMCA. Events come and go every month, including things like the Ice Night Fundraiser and Healthy Kids Day. Greater Gainesville locals can keep up to date by visiting the YMCA website at


By Drew Mortier 

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