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The Gainesville area offers family so many unique experiences and places to explore. From the Gator stadium to a retired horse farm, each of the 10 special destination listed below is a must-visit attraction for Gainesville regulars and those visiting the special town. To see a complete list of ALL the fun things to do in the Gainesville area, visit the Fun4GatorKids website.
Retirement Home for Horses – Just outside of Gainesville, in the city of Alachua, sits a special farm for elderly horses that have been neglected, abused or abandoned and seized by law enforcement agencies. The public can visit the farm every Saturday from 11 am until 3 pm to feed these friendly horses. Admission is FREE! All you'll need to bring is a (BIG) bag of carrots!
Hippodrome Theater – More than 60,000 people take their seats each year to watch an undoubtedly amazing performance by local actors on the 'mainstage.' In this intimate theater, the audience surrounds the stage on three sides to see productions like 'A Christmas Carol' or 'Peter and the Starcatcher.'
Hyppo Gourmet Ice Pops – Now with three locations across Gainesville, The Hyppo is a unique frozen treat perfect on a hot summer day. All ice pops are handmade, all natural, and come in tons of exciting flavor combinations, from Peach Arnold Palmer, to Strawberry Lemonade, to the Elvis (a combination of peanut butter, banana and honey). The ice pops can even be dipped into chocolate for an extra $1.
Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park – Paynes Prairie, located just outside of Gainesville in Micanopy, became Florida´s first state preserve in 1971 and is now designated as a National Natural Landmark. The prairie is home to alligators, bison, wild horses, and over 270 species of birds. Visitors can view the prairie (and maybe even get a glimpse of the wildlife) from a 50-foot-high observation tower or walk one of the eight trails through the prairie.
UF Bat Houses – As the sun is beginning to set, people gather around the UF Bat Houses each night to see an unbelievable site. Thousands of bats fly overhead at dusk in search of food. The sky is literally peppered with bats, all flying together out over Lake Alice. The best time to watch the bats fly out is during the summer when the bats are more active and leave the houses in higher numbers.
Devil's Millhopper – Gainesville is home to a 120-foot-deep sinkhole formed thousands of years ago. Visitors can descend the 200+ steps down into the bowl of the sinkhole, and might even spot some wildlife, like deer, tortoises, snakes, woodpeckers or blue-tailed skinks. There is also an easier-to-walk trail along the rim of the sinkhole.
Satchel's Pizza – This cash-only, locally-owned pizzeria is a must-visit restaurant in the Gainesville area.Where else can you eat inside of a VW Bus!? There are no matching plates, an eclectic collection of art on the walls, and an adjacent store full of unique toys and trinkets.
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – You can't live in or visit Gator Country without having been to the football stadium AT LEAST once. You can walk into the stadium at any time to see where the Gator's play each fall. After visiting the stadium, you can explore the rest of the UF campus!
Florida Museum of Natural History – This must-visit museum located on the University of Florida campus is FREE for visitors! One of the most exciting exhibits within the museum is 'Florida Fossil' – an entire room FULL of skeletons of prehistoric animals! The museum also houses the Butterfly Rainforest. For a small fee, museum visitors can into a tropical oasis with butterflies and birds flying all around them! Families with young children will also want to stop by the Discovery Room – an interactive room full of hands-on activities, games and puzzles!
Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo – The Santa Fe Zoo is one of only two teaching zoos in the nation, and we have it right here in Gainesville! This 10-acre zoo is home to over 75 different species of animals, from Bald Eagles and Capuchin Monkeys to Tree Kangaroos and otters! The zoo is easily walked even by the youngest visitors, plus there are picnic tables and a nice playground where the kids can run free! The best part? Admission is only $6/adults, $5/children and free for kids under 4.