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Guide to Gator Gainesville: Gator Nation

Guide to Gator Gainesville: Gator Nation

The University of Florida’s orange and blue.

It flows on storefront flags and dormitory windows. It adorns bumpers and license plates. From hats and shirts to the very blood in their veins, orange and blue, blue and orange. These are more than just university colors here – they are the colors of a culture.

Gator Nation knows no strict geography. Gainesville is the capital, sure, but its citizens are lifelong and worldwide. In the Greater Gainesville area, the pride wells from the residents, university students and the city, creating a community-wide support system and a strong unifying force.

The Tail-Gators

Pull up the truck, set up the tent, and fire up the grill – tailgating in Gainesville is always a step above. Starting early Saturday mornings for football games, the entire campus stretching from Midtown to fraternity row transforms into one big block party. Students, parents, alumni and coeds chuck footballs and down hot dogs, all contributing to the electricity in the air. Getting lost in the reverie is part of the fun.


Shared love for the team is the source of the camaraderie felt at these pre-game gatherings. Parents pass their fandom to their children, old friends gather to celebrate, and the town comes together with one vision in mind – Gator victory.


Grabbing the Gear


Matchy-matchy is no fashion faux pax here.


Recognizing one’s compatriots is easy enough in GG. The magically complementary orange and blue are a bright pop of color, easily catching the eye’s attention. Add a splash of green – the menacing, fear-inducing scowl of alligator mascot Albert, and the outfit suddenly screams, ‘Go Gators.’


The Official Gator Sports Shop, located at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, is a merch-minded fan’s first stop. With jerseys, hats, plushies, socks, flags and more, there is no limit to how to express one’s Gator pride.


The University of Florida Bookstore on Museum Road takes fandom one step further. In addition to apparel, it has gifts, collectibles and alumni-specific goods. For decking out the look, the home, the office, the car or the wall, this on-campus spot is unmatched.



There is no place quite like it.


A celebration as large and as diverse as its alumni base, UF’s Homecoming must be seen to be believed. Comprised of five main events, not including Gator Growl, and of course, the football game, Homecoming in Gainesville has earned its designation as one of the largest in the nation.


The parade kicks off the festivities. As the nation’s largest student-run parade, it stands to reason that all students in the area are privileged to see the procession. Gainesville public schools declare it an official holiday to give schoolchildren the chance to enjoy the fun in person. Livestreamed and broadcast across north central Florida, the parade sees representatives from student clubs and organizations, the marching band, athletes and more.


Gator Growl, an iconic Homecoming tradition stretching back over 90 years, often welcomes famous comedians, musicians and speakers as guests. From Bob Hope and Robin Williams to Flo Rida and Gainesville’s own Sister Hazel, the hype and the entertainment of this supersized pep rally are always top-notch.


The Homecoming festivities do not end there. A family-friendly festival full of activities and giveaways brings out GG’s student and nonstudent residents. The Gator Gallup is a campus-encompassing race with proceeds from the event benefiting a charitable organization. The Soulfest event celebrates multiculturalism through a collection of song, dance and spirit. Finally, the Leadership Pageant highlights the strong positive qualities of UF’s leaders of tomorrow, ultimately ending in their election to Homecoming Court.

Town and Gown


Gator culture permeates more than just the campus. In many ways, the entirety of Greater Gainesville itself is an extension of Gator Nation.


Town and Gown, referring to the union and cooperation between the university and the municipality in which it exists, is especially strong here. The relationship between UF and Gainesville has been, and continues to be, positive and symbiotic, benefiting both.


The Gator-Aider service, for example, is a City of Gainesville Department of Transportation bus line dedicated to shuttling fans and attendees to games safely. With multiple pickup and drop-off points, the town ensures as many people as possible can get to Gator football games easily.


In December 2022, the first ever Win Phillips Town-Gown Relations Awards were given out in recognition of those contributing to a stronger relationship between UF and Gainesville. I


Vice president for government and community relations Mark Kaplan said, “The University of Florida values our town-gown relationships. We know that a preeminent university is supported by a strong partnership with its community.”


Hangouts, Hot Spots, and Iconic Local Landmarks


Couldn’t score tickets to the big game? Thankfully in GG, the energy and excitement are not limited to the seats in the stadium. Bars, restaurants, clubs and many other establishments throughout the town serve as surrogate spots to celebrate and share that Gator pride.


One such place is the newly improved Swamp Restaurant. Formerly a staple of Gainesville’s Midtown, it has relocated to SW 2nd Ave. A famous Gator hangout, the Swamp is an institution of orange-and-blue culture.


There is no shortage of iconic spots and local landmarks to gather and share in the UF pride. The Social at Midtown, while new to the area, has quickly become a gameday go-to. The classic sports bar and grill atmosphere, the proximity to the stadium, and its dozen-plus large TVs make it the perfect place to root for the team.


Celebration Pointe, an extensive development off Archer Road, is one of GG’s newest and most exciting retreats. Its growing list of shops, bars and restaurants is staggering, and its promenade, open space and events have made it a fast fixture of Gator nation.


Chomp the Block, the official block party of the Gators, and Gameday at the Pointe have become staples of the Gator cultural heritage. These Celebration Pointe festivities offer both adults and kids a chance to partake in pre-game and gameday fun.

So Much More to Cheer For


While the football team may be the most well-known, the pride of Gator Nation extends to and from many other sports. On the pitch, the court or the fairway, when the orange and blue come to play, they come to win.

See Also


Men’s and Women’s Basketball always draw big crowds, testing the limits of the Stephen C. O’Connell Center each game. The baseball team, playing their games at the Condron Ballpark, have won 15 SEC championships and have appeared in 12 College World Series. Softball, meanwhile, has won two Women’s College World Series and play their games at the Katie Seashole Pressly Softball Stadium.


From cross-country to golf, from swimming to track and field, tennis and volleyball to gymnastics, soccer and lacrosse, expect the same hype and the same pride for all Gator athletics.


Traditions to learn


  • ‘We are the Boys’ – Not too many lyrics. Knowing how to spell ‘Florida’ is a must.
  • Spotting Mr. Two Bits – Cath him at midfield before the game starts. For reference, two bits is a quarter.
  • The Chants and Cheers – Get the hang of these easy favorites: Gator Chomp, Orange and Blue callbacks, and Tom Petty.
  • The Gator Chomp – right over left, do not forget it.


Gator Athletics by the numbers


  • Total Championships won – 45
  • Gator Football players in the NFL – 400+
  • Number of Super Bowl teams with Gators – 23
  • Largest sporting event crowd – 90,799 (9/3/22)
  • Loudest football game – 115 decibels



Q&A with Ryan Prodesky, Owner of the Swamp Restaurant

Q: What does the swamp mean to Gainesville?

Ryan: A lot of things. It’s family, it’s part of the community, it’s Gator Nation. It’s the place that’s part of the center of the nation, as iconic as any hallmark of UF’s campus.


Q: How would you describe the culture of Gator Nation?

Ryan: It’s unique – something you don’t find in a lot of places. It’s a place where friends, families, strangers help each other. I’ve seen both Gator gear and Swamp Restaurant gear all over the country. People come up to you and say hello because of it.


Q: What is your favorite thing about Gainesville? About running the Swamp?

Ryan: About Gainesville, it’s the community, the people, the unique blend of all walks of life. It’s a melting pot. I was blown away by how the more time I spent here, the more it felt like home. As far as running the Swamp, I love that there’s always something going on, different people coming in the door every day, and the friends you make.


Featuring some of the GGOATS (Greatest Gators of all Time)


  • Emmitt Smith (1987-1989) – NFL running back, three-time Super Bowl champ, and holder of numerous league records
  • Marshall Nirenberg (B.S. ’48, M.S. ’52) – Nobel Prize-winning scientist his work on breaking the genetic code.
  • Kevin Ford (M.S. ’89) – U.S. Air Force Colonel and NASA astronaut who spent more than 150 days in space
  • Tim Tebow (2006-2009) – Heisman-winning Gator quarterback of two National Championship teams
  • Abby Wambach (1998-2001) – National Soccer Hall of Fame Member and member of the U.S. women’s national soccer team from 2003-2015
  • Marco Rubio (B.A. ’93) – United States senior Senator from Florida since 2011, presidential candidate in the 2016 election.



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