Gainesville: A hip and innovative col­lege town

Travel Guide to Florida - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - BY SALLY WHITE

With a lively arts scene, innovative mu­se­ums, and plenty of trails and parks, Gainesville and Alachua County em­brace an out­door life­style with en­er­giz­ing cre­ativ­ity. Home­town to the Uni­ver­sity of Florida and the Florida Ga­tors, this is one city you don’t want to miss.

SEE AND DO

Hike La Chua Trail across Paynes Prairie Pre­serve State Park to wit­ness wild horses, buf­faloes and al­li­ga­tors in a nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment. Iden­tify more than 215 bird species found at Sweet­wa­ter Wet­lands Park. De­scend 232 steps into a sink­hole with its own ecosys­tem at Devil’s Mill­hop­per Ge­o­log­i­cal State Park or try your hand at grind­ing corn at the 1850s Dudley Farm His­toric State Park.

Cy­clists can en­joy views of Paynes Prairie Pre­serve from the 16-mile paved Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail or tackle 20 miles of off-road trails in the San Fe­lasco Ham­mock Pre­serve State Park.

Rent a pad­dle­board and hit the Santa Fe River in nearby High Springs to ex­plore some fresh­wa­ter springs. Or grab a tube and float down the spring-fed Ichetuck­nee River. Cer­ti­fied diver? Plunge into the un­der­wa­ter cav­erns at Gin­nie Springs. Golf devo­tee? Tee off at the award-win­ning Iron­wood Golf Course.

Art fa­nat­ics adore this cre­ative com­mu­nity where 27 mu­rals dec­o­rate his­toric down­town as part of Gainesville’s Ur­ban Art Ini­tia­tive. Visit gal­leries at the his­toric Thomas Cen­ter and the Sa­muel P. Harn Mu­seum of Art. At­tend a stage per­for­mance at the Hip­po­drome The­atre or a con­cert or sport­ing event at the Stephen C. O’Connell Cen­ter.

Ex­plore a lime­stone cav­ern, view 65mil­lion-year-old fos­sils and ex­pe­ri­ence a but­ter­fly re­lease at the Florida Mu­seum of Nat­u­ral His­tory and But­ter­fly Rain­for­est. Try your hand at science in the Cre­ativ­ity and Fab Labs at the new Cade Mu­seum for Cre­ativ­ity + In­ven­tion, open­ing spring 2018.

DINE AND PLAY

Down­town, an eclec­tic mix of din­ing ranges from tra­di­tional steak­houses like Mark’s Prime Steak­house to veg­e­tar­ian restau­rants like The Daily Green. Sam­ple South­ern fare, like cat­fish and green fried toma­toes at the Sweet Tea Restau­rant in the his­toric Sweet­wa­ter Branch Inn. Or sat­isfy your taste buds at the award-win­ning restau­rant in High Springs, The Great Out­doors.

Craft beer afi­ciona­dos love Gainesville’s mi­cro­brew­eries. Try Al­li­ga­tor Brew­ing Com­pany, First Mag­ni­tude, Swamp Head Brew­ery, Black­ad­der Brew­ing and Cy­press & Grove Brew­ery. Pre­fer wine? Is­land Grove and Blue­field Es­tate Winer­ies pro­duce blue­berry wines among other se­lec­tions.

TOP: Nightlife in down­town Gainesville.

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