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Gainesville’s Playground

Gainesville’s Playground

There are more than 80 parks and facilities that welcome a range of leisure activities throughout Gainesville. Many offer a combination of art, education, nature and recreation all in one stop. 

Gainesville parks

Depot Park, the largest of Gainesville’s municipal parks, is home to 32 acres of trails, tree canopy and wetlands surrounding downtown Gainesville. Walkers and strollers, bicyclists and e-scooter riders traverse the boardwalk and walking paths where wildflowers and wildlife, including ducks and turtles, abound. Families enjoy the playground, splash pad and pavilions. 

This signature greenspace celebrates the history of Gainesville as a mid-19th century stop along the Florida Railroad connecting Fernandina to Cedar Key. In 2012, the Gainesville Community Reinvestment Area (GCRA) restored the historic train station at Depot Park, where several eateries now pay tribute to the park’s unique history through their artistic décor. 

Throughout the year, the City of Gainesville hosts a variety of festivals, 5K runs, performances and holiday events at the park for neighbors of all ages. 

Less than two miles away, wildlife enthusiasts enjoy the City’s Sweetwater Wetlands Park whose beauty not only inspires but also protects the environment. The nature preserve consists of wetlands and ponds, developed to improve the water quality of Paynes Prairie by filtering out sediment and excess nutrients, ultimately protecting the Floridan Aquifer. 

Photographers flock to its 3.5 miles of boardwalks and trails to capture images of alligators, sandhill cranes and even Florida Cracker horses. A new trail at the park was funded by a one-half percent Wild Spaces and Public Places sales tax, used to acquire environmentally sensitive land, and support local parks and facilities. 

The City’s newest municipal park, Unity Park in Northeast Gainesville, sports new amenities supported through the tax including new basketball courts, a community garden, playground equipment, sidewalk games, a pavilion and a walking loop with fitness stations. 

Also new are the City’s Edible Groves at Smokey Bear Park, Fred Cone Park and Bountiful Boulevard. Visitors can learn about the municipal parks’ variety of food-bearing trees, and when in season, enjoy a peach, orange or chestnut. 

From stage to galleries, art and culture abound in Gainesville parks

Gainesville parks and events

The Downtown Festival & Art Show and the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire are among the City of Gainesville’s annual events celebrating art, history, creativity and culture. 

Every November, streets in the heart of Gainesville are transformed into a rich pageant of color as more than 200 local and national artists display original oils and acrylics, vibrant watercolors, unique sculptures, dazzling jewelry, decorative ceramics and vivid photography. The two-day event is a feast for the eyes and ears with continuous, live entertainment by local bands, solo musicians and dance companies. 

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The Hoggetowne Medieval Faire, scheduled on consecutive weekends in late January and early February, is a chance to step back in time and cheer on jousting knights. Attendees participate in old-world games, shop for medieval wares and feast on food fit for a king. 

From May through October, downtown Gainesville comes alive every Friday night when local and regional bands and performing arts are showcased under the stars. Thousands enjoy the free live concerts and shows in a family-friendly environment. “Free Fridays” rock the stage at Bo Diddley Plaza, which is adjacent to dozens of eateries, breweries and venues where the music and dancing continue after hours. 

Art exhibits open throughout the year in area art galleries and museums. Venues across Gainesville host live performances in theater, comedy, dance and music. Among the venues are the Galleries at the Historic Thomas Center — the City’s cultural gem — and the A. Quinn Jones Museum & Cultural Center that offers patio concerts, films and lectures about Black culture and life. 

Outdoor art also adorns downtown Gainesville with vibrant paintings on buildings and in parking garages, plus sculptures that are easy to spot around every corner. 

It is within this cultural landscape that the City’s Cultural Affairs Board and the Gainesville Art in Public Places Trust recognize, each year, the many individuals and businesses that have made significant contributions to the advancement of the arts in the community.


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