Best known as the home of the University of Florida, Gainesville is home to inspiring people and places. A vibrant mix of college town fun and peaceful outdoor getaways, for those seeking a slower pace, Gainesville has plenty of inexpensive (and often free) local attractions for the entire family.
When planning your trip to Gainesville, there is plenty to see and do. Here are some of the top Gainesville attractions you won't want to leave off your list.
Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention
The Cade Museum for Creativity & Inventions
is an innovative museum dedicated to encouraging the development of new ideas and fostering creative thinking, founded by the real-life inventor of Gatorade, Dr. James Robert Cade.
If your kids are interested in interacting with science and technology, the museum will easily be one of their top things to do in Gainesville. It's a perfect combination of fun and education that will keep kids and adults fascinated the entire visit.
Visitors are encouraged to look at everyday things around them in a different light. Exhibits, displays and interactive stations let you get hands-on with everything from machine parts to snakes preserved in fluid jars in real laboratory settings. Get ready to jump in and participate in exciting and stimulating tasks, like creating robots and slime from scratch!
The Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention, 904 S. Main St., Gainesville, FL 32601 Phone: 352-371-8001
Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation
Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation / Facebook
A top Gainesville attraction for animal lovers, the Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation
is an animal sanctuary housing more than 25 species of rare and exotic creatures. Here you can learn about the different species living at Carson Springs, hear their extraordinary stories and meet the individual animals — many of which have previously been abandoned or traumatized.
All of the animals are now treated like royalty and get plenty of TLC! On your trip, get ready to watch feeding demonstrations and step right up to the habitat enclosures. Meet cheetahs, pumas, lemurs, hyenas, giraffes, tigers, tortoises and more.
Tours educate visitors on essential facts about conservation and preservation and the balance of nature. The price of your private or semi-private tour of the facility goes directly toward providing for the animals. You will need to schedule your visit in advance, so be sure to call ahead.
Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation, 8528 E. County Road 225, Gainesville, FL 32609 Phone: 352-468-2827
Florida Museum of Natural History
Dallas Krentzel / flickr
One of the most popular things to do in Gainesville is the Florida Museum of Natural History
located on the campus of the University of Florida. Visit for a close-up look at Florida's flora and fauna, both past and present.
The sprawling complex is host to life-sized dinosaur bones, living butterfly rainforests, a collection of Florida's fossils, artifacts from indigenous tribes and the interactive "Our Energy Future" exhibit. There's something for everyone in terms of age and interest. You can visit most of the museum free of charge, but a small fee applies to some temporary exhibits and the Butterfly Rainforest.
Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida Cultural Plaza, 3215 Hull Road, Gainesville, FL 32611-2710 Phone: 352-846-2000
Kanapaha Botanical Gardens
Kanapaha Botanical Gardens
If you need a moment to decompress during an action-packed vacation, Kanapaha Botanical Gardens
is the perfect getaway for relaxation, beauty and nature. Take in some of the stunning 24 major horticultural collections, including the largest herb garden in the Southeast and Florida's largest display of bamboos.
This premier Gainesville attraction showcases rock gardens, rose gardens, butterfly gardens, bamboo gardens, a gorgeous arboretum, fields of flowers and giant lily pads floating in the numerous brooks.
Stroll along the accessible 1.5 mile pathway, dotted with benches and gazebos where you can relax and absorb your surroundings. Admission for adults is $10, children (ages 5-13) are $5 and children under 5 are free. Prices may vary for days with special events.
Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, 4700 SW 58th Drive, Gainesville, FL 32608 Phone: 352-372-4981
Lubee Bat Conservancy
Morgan R. Turner / flickr
The Lubee Bat Conservancy
aims to educate the public about these surprisingly sensitive creatures. At the forefront of conservation efforts, this Gainesville attraction seeks to protect dwindling bat habitats and to save several species of bat from extinction.
They provide a home to dozens of species of bats, including several exotic and endangered breeds. Some of the bats can even paint! If you're lucky, you'll get to watch them prepare some artwork for you. The conservancy offers guided educational tours on weekdays and you will need to request a tour online.
Lubee Bat Conservancy, 1309 NW 192nd Ave., Gainesville, FL 32609 Phone: 352-485-1250
Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art
© Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art (The Harn)
If you're an art lover, the 11 galleries of superb art at the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art
, also known as "The Harn" should top your list of things to do in Gainesville!
Located on the University of Florida campus, The Harn houses extensive collections of African, Asian, contemporary and modern artworks. The museum features an incredible collection of over 10,000 individual works, as well as regular visiting exhibitions featuring works on loan from private collectors or other art museums.
After viewing the art, visit the museum shop for one-of-a-kind gifts or stroll through the sculpture garden and Asian rock garden outside. Admission to the museum is free, including the guided tours.
The Harn, University of Florida Cultural Plaza, 3259 Hull Road, Gainesville, FL 32611-2700 Phone: 352-392-9826
Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo
The Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo/Facebook
The Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo
is the only zoo on a college campus accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, or AZA. The zoo is home to over 70 animal species, which are tended by more than 100 students enrolled in the college's zoo animal technology program. The zoo showcases a diverse collection of native and exotic species for all to enjoy.
Visitors can see bald eagles, white-throated capuchin monkeys, American alligators, Matschie's tree kangaroos and Asian small-clawed otters, with many other mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians on display in a naturally shaded environment. The quarter-mile trail through the wooded setting is lined with mulch and is stroller and wheelchair accessible.
Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo, 3000 NW 83rd St., Gainesville, FL 32606 Phone: 352-395-5000
Kika Silva Pla Planetarium
SF Kika Silva Pla Planetarium / Facebook
Also located on the Santa Fe College campus, the Kika Silva Pla Planetarium
reveals the awe and wonders of the universe. Visitors can sit back and relax as a celestial star show plays out before their eyes.
The planetarium offers fun, creative showcases that incorporate everything from music to laser art. Take a breathless ride through the cosmos on the "SpacePark 360" show, designed like a roller coaster, or get into the "Music 360" show with some Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd as you take in the stars, galaxies, supernovas and black holes.
Kika Silva Pla Planetarium, Building X-129, 3000 NW 83 St., Gainesville, FL 32606 Phone 352-395-5225
Gainesville Artisan Guild Gallery
Gainesville Artisans Guild Gallery
If you're looking for a unique souvenir or gift from your visit to Gainesville, you'll be sure to find it at the Gainesville Artisan Craft Gallery
. Established in 1970 to create a network and market for area artists, the gallery is among the oldest artist cooperatives in the country.
Located in downtown Gainesville and open year-round, the gallery features hundreds of quality, handcrafted items — many of them with a local flavor from over 50 local artists. Browse through handmade pottery, jewelry, glassware, hand-printed textiles or paintings, and you'll be sure to find a one-of-a-kind, original gift to take home.
Gainesville Artisan Craft Gallery, 201 SE 2nd Place, Suite 113, Union Street Station, Gainesville, FL 32601 Phone 352-378-1383
Start getting excited to plan your trip with these fun, innovative and beautiful Gainesville attractions. Some of them are spontaneous and free; others will require a bit more planning and scheduling before you leave home. And don't forget to check out our Food and Fun guide
for your evening entertainment as well!
Want to make your visit to Gainesville even better? Book your stay with us!
Hotel ELEO at the University of Florida places you on the pulse of all things Gainesville — conveniently close to these local attractions and Gainesville's best restaurants, shopping and entertainment.