One of our favorite things to do in Gainesville is watching the bats emerge from the bat houses at the University of Florida at sunset. We take visiting family members to see this spectacle as well. And what a spectacle it is. It is amazing to see close to 500,000 bats stream out one after the other in search of their nightly dinner. They are a great reducing the mosquito population.
The first bat house was built on campus in 1991 with 2 more being built in the years to follow after a collapse of structure in 2009 from over population. The bat houses today hold one of the largest bat colonies in the world.
The best time to arrive is about 15 to 20 minutes prior to sunset. There is free parking adjacent to the field where the bat houses are located, which is on campus on the north side of Museum Road on Lake Alice. My advice is not to stand directly in front of the bat houses due to the probability of bat droppings, plus the smell up close is not very pleasant.
This is a FREE activity that your whole family will love.
Not only are there many indoor activities to keep you busy in Gainesville, but there are also many more activities outdoors to get you going and enjoying our beautiful North Central Florida. Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail is one such area. This 16-mile long trail is actually built over an old rail trail that was first built in 1881. You can catch glimpses of railroad history on the trail with concrete and whistle markers. There is also an old concrete railway trestle still remaining at the LaChua Trail. This was built to allow farmers to move their cattle in and out of the prairie with ease.
The Trail runs from Gainesville’s Boulware Springs, another historical site, to Hawthorne passing through Paynes Prairie and Lochloosa Wildlife Management area. This trail is excellent for biking, hiking, running, rollerblading and even horseback riding as parts of the trail have a grassy equestrian trail running along side the Trail. Most of the trail is shaded as it runs through natural forested areas.
You will enjoy scenic vistas, native plants, and wildlife spottings in addition to getting in your cardio. The park is open from 8:00 am to sundown every day of the week and it is FREE to use giving you no excuses to get out there and have some fun.
The address is 3400 SE 15th Street, Gainesville, FL 32641
Did you know Gainesville has a gardener’s dream with our very own Kanapaha Botanical Gardens? Kanapaha Botanical Gardens is comprised of 24 major collections throughout 1.5 mile paved walkway. These include the state’s largest public display of bamboos and the largest herb garden in the Southeast. June through September prove to be the most colorful in the Gardens.
Kanapaha offers guided tours of the Gardens every first Friday of the month. Tours begin at 10:00 am. You may also enjoy a picnic in the Gardens. Bring your picnic basket and find a perfect spot in one of the lawns, picnic tables, or gazebos. Drinks and snacks may be purchased in the Summer House. Want to bring Fido? Dogs are welcome on a leash most of the year except during special events.
The Gardens is also a great location for events such as weddings, receptions, and retreats as they offer indoor and outdoor spaces for rent.
Kanapaha hosts many special events throughout the year including a Bamboo Sale and North Central Florida’s premier horticultural event, the Spring Garden Festival. Another must-see is our Moonlight Walk when the paths and meadows are illuminated by special laser lights and more than 1500 luminaries; live music is featured as well.
4700 SW 58th Drive, Gainesville FL 32608 Telephone: 352-372-4981
Another must-see exhibit in Gainesville is the University of Florida’s Harn Museum of Art. It is one of the largest University Art Museums in the South and houses over 6200 beautiful pieces of art in its permanent collection as well as a countless number of pieces in temporary collections. You will discover historical pieces from Asian, African, modern and contemporary art influences, as well as photography.
The museum offers a rich cultural offering to the Gainesville area as well as those outside the area. Not only do they house amazing pieces of art, but they also host numerous events such as Museum Nights, Harn on Tap, or summer camps. Admission is free unless otherwise noted for special exhibits, but they do accept donations. They also have membership plans as well.
The Harn offers free tours every Saturday & Sunday from 2 – 3 pm? Enjoy friendly, docent-led discussions each weekend, no registration required—just meet in the lobby. See you here!
For more information: http://www.harn.ufl.edu
Are you looking for another indoor activity to beat the Florida heat? We have a great one for you. This is definitely a can’t-miss event here in Gainesville Florida. The Butterfly Rainforest is a live butterfly exhibit located with the Florida Museum of Natural History.
This exhibit features live butterflies and birds from around the world flying around in a rainforest climate with lush vegetation, soothing waterfalls, and various fish. You will love seeing this beautiful display as well as learning about the various species of butterflies in the exhibit. They typically have over 50 specifies of butterflies and moths at any one time with a continuous population of 1000 butterflies. The flowering plants and butterflies are changed out regularly which means you will be able to discover and see something new each time you visit.
The cost of the exhibit is only $12 for Florida residents or $14 for non-residents. Children ages 3-17 are $7. They also have ticket combination packages where you can visit both the Butterfly Rainforest as well as the Museum of Natural History.
Want to learn more? https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/exhibits/butterfly-rainforest/
Summertime in North Central Florida can be hot, hot, hot! We’ve got a few ideas to help you keep cool while you’re exploring Gainesville. We are going to consider these options in a series of posts.
First is the Florida Museum of Natural History. Did you know they have a cool new exhibit?
Crocs: Ancient Predators in a Modern World is a fantastic exhibit allowing you to discover the history of these creatures and their significance in our ecosystem. You will explore their 200 million years of hunting and surviving skills through the exhibit with a digital curator. Interactive elements allow visitors to test their strength against a crocodile’s bite and see how they use sound waves to make water dance. A life-size model tells the story of Gomek, the largest crocodile ever exhibited. They have fossils of alligators from right here in North Central Florida from as close as neighboring county, Levy County as well as skulls from past live mascots of the University of Florida.
You will learn some amazing facts such as while an alligator has an amazing force in slamming it jaws closed to capture prey, the muscles used for opening their mouths are actually quite weak. Another amazing fact is that a crocodile can actually survive for about a year without any food if they have to. And, did you know they go through more than 3000 teeth in their life span? Or, what about their life span? Large crocodilians can live to be 100 years old.
This is a great exhibit to visit with your friends and family to beat the Florida Heat. The cost is only $7 for Florida residents and seniors ($8 for non state residents), $5.50 for kids ages 3-7, and free to UF Students and Museum Members.
This exhibit runs from May 18 through January 5 of 2020. Want to learn more? Click here to visit their website. https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/exhibits/crocs/?utm_source=ex&utm_medium=crocs&utm_campaign=hm
Do you know that we have so many great parks in and around Gainesville? The Sweetwater Wetlands Preserve is one that you have to check out if you have not already done so.
The Wetlands Preserve was developed to help filtrate the water for Gainesville. In doing so they have created a beautiful 125 acres of ponds and wetlands. You will discover so much wildlife here too. From wild horses, deer, bobcats, alligators, and tons of various bird species.
There is 3.5 miles of walking trails where you will see all of the beauty that nature has to offer. This is a great family outing as kids love to see the animals too, but it is also great for everyone. You can get up and go for a sunrise walk, or wait until sunset to see the animals that like to come out and become active in the evening. They host various activities you can check out too such as park ranger led tours, birding tours, etc.
The cost to go to the park is only $5 per carload. They are open 7:00am to sunset, but check the website for hours before you go just to be sure.
Have you ever been down into a sinkhole? You will want to put this on your list of things to do in Gainesville. Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park is a natural sinkhole, which has been around since about 1880. It dives down some 120 feet to a miniature rainforest environment. Rainwater and streams trickle through the limestone formation creating water falls and sometimes filling the bottom up with a small lake.
The park has been closed since 2017 with destruction left behind with Hurricane Irma. New boardwalks and stairs are being installed and the project is nearing completion. The park is planning on reopening this summer. Many locals go here for exercise by running up and down the man flights of stairs. This truly is a natural wonder and something everyone should see.
4732 Millhopper Rd
If you have experienced the Farmers Markets in Gainesville but still want a little more hands on experience shopping for produce, you should try the U-Pic farms for strawberries and blueberries before the season is over.
Strawberry season is almost over and blueberry season is in full swing so be sure and call and make sure the farms still have strawberries or blueberries coming in before you go. A fun day experience for the whole family.
3831 NW 156thAve
Gainesville, FL 32609
The Family Garden
1655 SE 23rd Place
Gainesville, FL 32641
18120 NE State Road 26
Hawthorne, FL 32640
7940 SW 49thAve.
Lake Butler, FL 32054
Red White and Blue Farm
3250 NE 140 Ave.
Williston, FL 32696
Southland Blueberry Farm
NE County Road 1469
Earleton, FL 32631
There’s the better part of one month left before classes begin at the University of Florida and there’s still time to squeeze in some fun before the buckling down starts once again. You may have already taken a vacation or gone on a road trip this summer, but there are plenty of free and entertaining things to do around town while you have the free time!
Visit the Harn Museum of Art
Though donations are accepted, the Harn Museum at UF has free admission to its exhibits and even some of its programs. Currently showing is an exhibition of portraits of famous painter Frida Kahlo as well as highlights from various permanent collections. You can also spend some time outside the museum enjoying the gardens on the museum grounds. The museum features a cafe as well, so you can stop for a cup of coffee with a friend and walk the museum for an afternoon.
Free Fridays at the Bo Diddley Plaza
Each Friday evening in downtown Gainesville is a free concert in a series lasting all summer long and into the fall. Head downtown for a fun-filled evening in the city. Pack some snacks and enjoy some great live music with friends!
Florida Museum of Natural History
This science museum features many exhibits relating to the local flora and fauna of central Florida in addition to your normal array of exhibits. General admission is free, but additional exhibits, like the butterfly rainforest, can be visited with an admission fee. The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10-5 and then Sunday from 12-5.
Walk or Cycle on the Gainesville Hawthorne Trail
If you’re an outdoorsy type, the 16 mile Gainesville Hawthorne Trail is a great place to spend a day hiking or cycling. The trail runs through state park land where there are places to stop and have a picnic or even fish at the Prairie and Lochloosa Creeks. Grab your bike for a fun day out in scenic Florida wetlands.