Home to the University of Florida, the state’s largest and oldest university, Gainesville, Fla., is a hub for education, entertainment and culture. Attracting some of the world’s top students and academic researchers, Gainesville has quickly become a metropolis for innovation and diversity. The city has been nationally ranked time and time again, whether for entrepreneurs launching startups or for the Florida Gators taking home national titles. Gainesville is also an ideal place for any outdoor enthusiast. So, whether you want to take a family trip to the Santa Fe River or enjoy a night out on the town, Gainesville has it all. This guide will make the transition to Gainesville a little smoother and a lot more entertaining — welcome to the HEART of Florida!

Outdoor activities

  • Canoeing & Kayaking: The Santa Fe Canoe Outpost is located on the banks of the Santa Fe River in High Springs, Fla., and offers fully outfitted canoe and kayaking experiences down the scenic, peaceful river.
  • Hiking: Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park encompasses more than 22,000 acres of beautiful trails and wildlife viewing. Be on the lookout for gators, wild horses and bison (to name just a few) while making your way through the park!
  • Biking: The Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail is a 16 mile paved walkway stretching from the city of Gainesville’s Boulware Springs Park through Paynes Prairie and other local conservation land.
  • Fishing: Lake Santa Fe is designated by the State of Florida as an Outstanding Florida Water because of its many natural attributes — it’s a spring-fed lake that offers excellent opportunities for catching bluegill, sunshine bass and large-mouth black bass.

Sporting events

  • Ben Hill Griffin Stadium: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, more commonly known as “The Swamp,” is home to the University of Florida football team and is the largest stadium in Florida. The hot, muggy environment makes it one of the toughest fields for visiting teams.
  • O’Connell Center: The O’Connell Center, or the “O-Dome,” hosts Gator basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, indoor track, and swimming and diving.
  • James G. Pressly Stadium: This multistory 43,000-square-foot building is home to the Gator soccer team.

Arts and Culture:

  • Hippodrome Theatre: Located in the historic federal building in the heart of downtown Gainesville, the Hippodrome is a professional theatre, cinema and visual arts gallery that has become an artistic mainstay of the Gainesville community.
  • The Gainesville Community Playhouse: The Gainesville Community Playhouse is one of the oldest community theaters in the state of Florida and the ideal spot to check out Gainesville’s local talent.
  • Florida Museum of Natural History: The Florida Museum is located on the University of Florida campus and houses one of the most comprehensive collections of plants, animals, fossils and artifacts in the world.
  • Santa Fe Fine Arts Hall: Built in 2011, the 39,599- square-foot building hostsclassrooms, an auditorium, orchestra pit and various staging rooms to support the Fine Arts Programs at Santa Fe College. Performances in dance, music, theatre and the visual arts continue to build on the excellence that Santa Fe College offers. The elegant styling and contemporary engineering empower the Fine Arts Hall as a top venue of fine arts in Florida.
  • Harn Museum of Art: The Harn Museum is dedicated to promoting the power of art with more than 8,000 works represented, including photography, modern and contemporary art and features numerous traveling exhibitions.

Volunteer Opportunities

  • Tyler’s Hope for a Dystonia Cure: Tyler’s Hope was created to passionately pursue solutions and a cure to the pain and limitations caused by DYT-1 Dystonia. We are inspired by the fearless energy, courage and love of life exemplified daily by our namesake and his sister, Samantha..
  • Child Advocacy Center: The Child Advocacy Center offers child protection and therapeutic services to meet the individual needs of child victims with the goal of breaking the cycle of abuse.
  • St. Francis House: St. Francis House is a homeless shelter that provides basic services and necessities to Gainesville’s homeless community.
  • Gainesville Pet Rescue: Gainesville Pet Rescue guarantees a home for every pet taken into the program regardless of the length of time they may stay in foster care.
  • Alachua Habitat for Humanity: Founded in 1986, the Alachua Habitat affiliate has built more than 100 homes in the local community. No prior construction or building experience is required for volunteering.
  • Keep Alachua County Beautiful: Gainesville’s offshoot of Keep America Beautiful strives to preserve and protect our local environment.

Tennis and Golf

  • Meadowbrook Golf Club: A regulation-length 18-hole golf course located in northeast Gainesville. The course is situated on a former Indian Reservation, making it one of the most unusual and challenging championship courses in North Central Florida.
  • Gainesville Country Club: This member-owned private club features an 18-hole golf course set within a natural tapestry of shady oaks, with Paynes Prairie State Park serving as a beautiful backdrop. The club offers six tennis courts and an Olympic-size swimming pool.
  • Ironwood Golf Couse: This beautiful 18-hole, par-72 championship course has been named as one of the best courses to play by Golf Digest. The course is owned by the City of Gainesville and operated by the Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs.
  • The Jonesville Tennis Center: The center is located in Alachua County’s Jonesville Park and features 14 lighted clay courts and one tournament-standard show court.
  • DB Racquet Club: DB is a private tennis court located in northwest Gainesville featuring eight clay courts, two hard courts, indoor racquetball courts, a fitness center and an outdoor pool.
  • The 300 Club: Touted as “Gainesville’s best kept secret since 1960,” the 300 Club features nine lighted tennis courts and a large pool nestled away in a 7-acre woodland.

Neighborhoods

  • Duckpond: The Historic District, commonly known as the Duckpond area, is located immediately northeast of downtown Gainesville. The beautiful residential neighborhood feels like a walk through time — even if you’re not planning a permanent relocation to Duckpond, the old-timey architecture makes for a pleasant run or walk with the family.
  • Haile Plantation: Located in southwest Gainesville, Haile Plantation offers a number of smaller communities that each have unique characteristics and charm all their own. Famous University of Florida athletic coaches including Billy Donovan and Urban Meyer chose Haile as their place to call home when residing in Gainesville.
  • Town of Tioga: Located in North Central Florida, Town of Tioga creates a friendly, southern feeling complete with magnificent oak trees. The area offers a variety of amenities for community members including a pool, tennis courts, basketball courts and a community garden.
  • The Sanctuary: The Sanctuary is a secluded, gated neighborhood located in northwest Gainesville. Homes range from contemporary to colonial-style buildings, and many are located on large lots upwards of one acre each.