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Gainesville is such a unique place to live and raise a family. From the museums, to the springs, to the Gator games, there is no shortage of things to do and places to go. While I could fill page after page with 'must-dos' if you live in or are visiting Gainesville,below are my top 10 favorite activities that everyone living in Gainesville has to experience at least once.
UF Bat House - When I first saw the UF Bat Houses across from Lake Alice, they looked like nothing more than some wood with a bat symbol...until I came back at dusk. Thousands of bats leave the houses each night, flying right overhead. It's absolutely amazing to see the sky peppered with bats. Tip: The bats are most active during the warm summer months.
Paynes Prairie - We've visited Paynes Prairie several times and been lucky enough to spot horses from the lookout tower and spy smaller wildlife on the trails. But it wasn't until recently that my husband convinced me to walk the La Chua Trail. Never been to the La Chua Trail? Alligators everywhere! And not just at a distance! They are swimming, walking, and looking at you from every direction. Would I walk it again? Probably not. But I think it's something every 'Gator' has to experience.
Devil's Millhopper - It still amazes me that we have such a large sinkhole right in our backyard. While it's a lot of steps, taking the stairs to the bottom of the sinkhole is well worth it, especially after heavy rain showers when waters are running down the sides and into the hole. If you have little ones, be prepared to carry them back up the steps!
Santa Fe Zoo - No zoo is quite like the Santa Fe Zoo. Because it is a teaching facility, the zoo is not commercialized. Rather, the animals are kept in very natural habitats with very little interference from humans. Plus, there is a great playground and picnic area so you can take a break for lunch during your visit!
Museums - I feel so fortunate to live in a town that has a tremendous Art Museum and Natural History Museum, neither of which my girls ever get tired of visiting! In addition to the exhibits and wonderful "Discovery Room" the museums have Tot Time programs and other special events for kids and families!
Tubing - Just outside of Gainesville are tons of springs and rivers perfect for swimming and tubing. Rainbow river is particularly beautiful with crystal clear water and waterfalls, and Blue Springs is great for families with its 50 yards of shallow "beachy" area for littler ones!
Kanapaha Botanical Gardens - Pack a picnic, because you can fill an entire day at the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens! In addition to the adorable Children's Garden, there are several other beautiful gardens, water displays and trails. While the Botanical Gardens is a fun place to visit year round, it's especially beautiful in spring!
Gator Games - In addition to the football games, Gator Games are really fun events for families! At Baseball and Softball games, there are always fun little extras, like games, contests, deals on food and the always-popular "running the bases" for the kids! Tickets are typically little to no cost for an afternoon of entertainment!
Dudley Farm - Each time my family visits Dudley Farm, we learn a little bit more and have just as much fun as our last visit. At Dudley, you can tour what was, until recently, a working farm! You can try hand-washing and hanging clothes, pumping water from a wall and churning butter in addition to touring the historic homes. There are also chickens, turkeys, cows and a donkey on the beautiful property. This "step back in time" makes for a perfectly laid-back Saturday.
FREE City of Gainesville Programs - The city offers three FREE programs at Morningside Nature Center! At "Barnyard Buddies" - Wednesday at 3 pm - kids can learn about, touch and even feed the animals! At "Frogs and Friends Friday" - first Friday of each month, 2 pm - kids have the chance to get up to close to live reptiles and amphibians. And finally, at "Living History Days" - Morningside Nature Center is transformed into a working 1870's Florida Farm!
Want to know EVERYTHING there is to do in the Gainesville area? It's all listed on Fun4GatorKids in our "Fun Around Town" section! Once you've crossed the top 8 "must-dos" off your list, make a list of your own! You'll never run out of things to see or places to explore in Gainesville.