Gainesville is located in north central Florida and is a phenomenal city to stop in when on a road trip to Disney World, the Florida Keys or wherever else you may be heading to down south. Being a college town, there are numerous learning opportunities in the vicinity, and we’ve selected the fun ones, of course. Nature is another abundant attraction, with conservancies and rescues being widely present. This part of Florida has something completely different to offer than its famous coastal areas, and these are the top fun things to do.
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How does basking in 6,400 square feet of fluttering butterflies sound? The captivating Butterfly Rainforest attraction in Gainesville does just that. The building is perfect, as technically it’s open air while being surrounded by protective screens, where the butterflies can enjoy the natural air and other invasive bugs can’t get in. An overwhelming 50 species of colorful butterflies flutter by in masses, landing right beside you for some seriously awesome photo ops amongst the tropical foliage. In addition to the room full of butterflies, there are educational exhibits to help visitors better understand these beautiful creatures.
Florida Museum of Natural History
Florida Museum of Natural History educates the public via a variety of intriguing exhibits. Habitats unique to the state, the cultural past of Florida as well as a look into the Native American history of the local area are a few things to dive into at the museum. Animal skeletons, including a massive mammoth with tusks are captivating to explore, in addition to dinosaur exhibits and the hands-on discovery room. Entry is free for permanent exhibits, and the Butterfly Rainforest is technically a part of the museum, so you could do both in a day. Exhibits are open 10-5 pm Monday through Saturday, and 1pm-5pm on Sunday.
Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation
You can observe exotic and endangered animals at Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation, where experts work to figure out the solution to preserving each species. Over 70 animals ranging in 28 species call the center home for now, from big cats like lions, tigers and panthers, to cute little lemurs. Surrounding foliage and the overall environment make this a relaxing, yet interesting, park. Tour guides are actually conservationists and love sharing detailed stories of each rescued animal, and their offspring, as it’s a breeding center too.
Swamp Head Brewery
Swamp Head Brewery is one of the best places to get true Floridian beer, brewed on site of course. Modern yet cozy cypress wood accents within the interior create a welcoming environment when dropping in for a tasting or flight. While there’s always a list of unique brews to try, you can’t miss the white coffee stout, or the Buggin’ Out Pilsner, if available. Samples are offered so guests can determine which craft beer suites their tastes—variations rotate often as they are always creating something new. As an added bonus, Swamp Head is dog-friendly, as there’s a fantastic outdoor seating area. Black Ladder Brewing is another local brewery nearby worth checking out.
Conveniently located in Gainesville, Depot Park is the center for many exciting festivals and food truck events. Summertime is a great time for kids of all ages to enjoy the elaborate splash pad with not just water spouts, but rock sculptures and falls. The Promenade beside a small lake is where much of the action takes place, such as shows and events. Unique playgrounds, including the adorable train-themed swing structure, in addition to nature trails, could keep the family busy all day.
Lubee Bat Conservancy
Who wouldn’t want to interact with precious fruit bats? At Lubee Bat Conservancy, guests can visit 200 bat houses while learning about the benefits of having these little guys or gals around. Get this, the bats even paint, creating their very own works of art – that alone warrants a visit. Ultimately, the conservancy rescues bats and works to preserve and understand their natural environment. Drop by or schedule an official tour.
Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention
Inspiring invention and creativity through exhibits of historic discovery, from the significant to the bizarre, Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention is an interesting and fun place to waste away some rainy days in Florida. Learn about the beginnings of Gatorade, yes really, because it’s pretty cool! In addition to quirky displays are interactive games as well.
Living History Farm at Morningside Nature Center
Living History Farm at Morningside Nature Center is focused on interactive experiences to carry visitors back in time, to what it was like to live on a simple, Little House on the Prairie style farm. First of all, the fields, gardens and old buildings are absolutely lovely and it’s a stunningly scenic spot to visit. Whether you stay for an hour or all day, expect to learn how to weave, churn butter and pluck veggies from the field, while totally immersing into much simpler times.
A simple stretch of pillars extends down a street in downtown Gainesville, serving as quite an educational site. Planets rest on top of each one, depicting a to-scale model of our solar system. Each pillar is stamped with information about the planet it’s supporting.