Located in northern Florida, Gainesville is known as the home of the University of Florida, which occupies a sprawling campus in the center of the town. You can visit the fascinating Florida Museum of Natural History, the Bat Houses, and the Harn Museum of Art. A host of outdoor attractions, such as Devil's Millhopper State Park and the Morningside Nature Center, can be easily accessed just outside the city.
1. Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention
© Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention
The Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention is dedicated to inspiring creativity and invention by encouraging people to look at everyday things in a whole new light.
Although the museum will only open to the general public in spring 2018, it already offers educational programs aimed at stimulating young minds.
The Early Entrepreneurs Program teaches critical skills required in the business world, while the Living Inventor Series teaches creative problem solving.
The museum also offers popular weekly field trips where children and young adults are exposed to hands-on experiments in a real laboratory setting.
Participants get to do really exciting and stimulating tasks, such as creating robots and other objects from scratch.
811 S Main St, Gainesville, FL 32601, Phone: 352-371-8001
2. Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation
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The Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation is home to an interesting collection of rescued exotic animals and rehabilitated local wildlife.
More of a sanctuary than a zoo, the owners of the facility are dedicated to providing the animals, many of which have been abandoned or traumatized, with a life-long home and plenty of TLC.
Besides caring for the animals, the primary focus of the foundation is to aid conservation through education and they offer special educational tours for schools and groups.
The price of your private or semi-private tour of the facility goes directly towards providing for the animals.
Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation, 8528 E. County Rd 225, Gainesville, FL 32609, Phone: 152-468-2827
3. Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park
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Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park is a most unusual historical and geological site located in a giant sinkhole just outside Gainesville.
Surrounded by dry and sandy terrain, the steep walls of the bowl-shaped sinkhole descend 120 feet below the surface and protect an amazing miniature rainforest.
It is quite evident that the sinkhole has been a lure to the curious for hundreds of years, and researchers have found many valuable fossils, marine shells, and fossilized skeletons of extinct land animals in the sinkhole.
You can go on a short half-mile hike around the perimeter of the depression and then descend a boardwalk to the bottom.
The visitors center offers lots of information, and a ranger-led tour is available every Saturday. More things to do in Florida
Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park, 4732 Millhopper Rd, Gainesville, FL 32653, Phone: 352-955-2008
4. Florida Museum of Natural History
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Located on the campus of the University of Florida, the Florida Museum of Natural History is a national gem you should not miss during your visit to Gainesville.
The museum hosts a remarkable collection of permanent exhibits as well as regular temporary exhibitions.
A few of the most popular exhibits include the Butterfly Rainforest, the Florida Fossils Collection (which traces the evolution of life and land), and the interactive Our Energy Future exhibit.
Younger visitors can have hours of educational fun in the children's discovery zone.
You can visit most of the museum free of charge (donations are gratefully accepted), but a small fee applies to some temporary exhibits and to the Butterfly Rainforest.
Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida Cultural Plaza, 3215 Hull Rd, Gainesville, FL 32611-2710, Phone: 352-846-2000
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5. Things to Do in Gainesville: Haile Homestead
© Haile Homestead
At the historic Haile Homestead on the Kanapaha Cotton Plantation you can step back in time to the 1800s and see the amazing craftsmanship of the enslaved laborers who built the 1854 homestead for the Haile family.
The homestead was constructed completely out of pine and cypress wood. One of the most unique features of the house are the Talking Walls – for reasons which are no longer clear, the family covered most of the walls with writing that tells the story of their lives and that off their slaves.
You can find out more on one of the guided tours of the property, which are offered on Saturdays and Sundays.
Haile Homestead on Kanapaha Plantation, 8500 SW Archer Rd, Gainesville, FL 32608, Phone: 352-336-9096
6. Ichetucknee Springs State Park
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Located 4 miles northwest of Fort White, Ichetucknee Springs State Park protects the head spring of the Ichetucknee River.
The surrounding state park provides a wonderful summer playground for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a diverse selection of activities that include hiking, picnicking, swimming, and wildlife watching. One of the most popular activities in the park is tubing the Ichetucknee River or exploring the waterway by canoe or kayak.
The crystal-clear waters of the river are also perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving.
The park is home to abundant wildlife, and you can reasonably expect to see dozens of birds as well as white-tailed deer, raccoons, and more.
Ichetucknee Springs State Park, 12087 SW U.S. Highway 27, Fort White, FL 32038, Phone: 386-497-4690
7. Kanapaha Botanical Gardens
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At Gainesville's beautiful Kanapaha Botanical Gardens you can feast your eyes on 24 major horticultural collections, including the largest herb garden in the southeast and Florida's largest display of bamboos. You can see it all as you stroll along the accessible 1.5-mile pathway, which is dotted with benches and gazebos where you can relax and just admire our surroundings. The gardens are at their eye-catching best in spring (March), when the annual Spring Garden Festival takes place, and in May you can enjoy the magical Moonlight Walk, when the paths and meadows are gently lit with twinkle lights and lanterns. Other annual events include the fall plant sale and orchid show.
Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, 4700 SW 58th Drive, Gainesville, FL 32608, Phone: 352-372-4981
8. Lubee Bat Conservancy
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A visit to the Lubee Bat Conservancy is the ideal way to cure bat phobias and lay to rest the many entirely unfounded bat myths and legends. The conservancy is at the forefront of conservation efforts to protect dwindling bat habitats and to save several species of bat from extinction. The conservancy offers guided educational tours on weekdays – you need to request a tour online. If you happen to be in the area in October, you can visit the annual Florida Bat Festival, which takes place at the conservancy and offers a fun and educational day for the whole family as well as the chance to meet some of the giant fruit bats.
Lubee Bat Conservancy, 1309+ NW 192nd Ave, Gainesville, FL 32609, Phone: 352-485-1250
9. Matheson History Museum
© Matheson History Museum
You'll find the Matheson History Museum nestled in the heart of historic downtown Gainesville, where it is dedicated to protecting and showcasing the history of Gainesville and Alachua County. Some of the highlights of the museum include a huge collection of thousands of historical Florida postcards, illustrated gazettes, and photographs, all of which are housed in the former American Legion Hall, built in 1932. In addition, you can see a re-creation of the Matheson Country Store and several other permanent and visiting exhibits. You can request a guided tour or explore at your own pace. The museum shop stocks many interesting books on the history of the region.
Matheson History Museum, 513 East University Ave, Gainesville, FL 32601, Phone: 352-378-2280
10. Things to Do in Gainesville: Morningside Nature Center
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When you feel like escaping the city and embracing the outdoors, you can head to the Morningside Nature Center, which covers over 260 acres of pine savannah, encompassing a good network of walking and hiking trails. You can check out all the trails and loops at the Environmental Education Center and choose which of the well-marked trails you would like to explore. The center also includes the Living History Farm (open September to April), where you can see a collection of historical farm buildings, animals, and costumed guides who offer children a wide range of interactive farm experiences reminiscent of the pioneer days of the 1870s.
Morningside Nature Center, 3540 E University Ave, Gainesville, FL 32641, Phone: 352-334-3326
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11. Paynes Prairie
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For an alternative to the museums and other cultural attractions of Gainesville, you can make your way to Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park to get back to nature. The visitors center presents an audiovisual guide to help you understand the significance of the diversity of habitats in the park, and you can get a great overview from the top of the 50-foot observation tower. There are eight trails for hiking, cycling, and horseback riding, including the 16-mile paved Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail. You can visit for the day or pitch your tent and spend a few days walking, riding, boating, and fishing in the park.
Payne's Prairie Preserve State Park, 100 Savannah Blvd, Micanopy, FL 32667, Phone: 352-466-3397
12. Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art (The Harn)
© Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art (The Harn)
Located on the Cultural Plaza of the University of Florida, Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art beckons all art lovers to come and view eleven galleries of superb art from around the world. At any one time you can feast your eyes on around 600 works of art, drawn from the museum's incredible collection of over 9,000 individual works. In addition, there are regular visiting exhibitions featuring works on loan from private collectors or other art museums. Admission to the museum is free and even the guided tours are free of charge (a small donation would be gratefully accepted). You are welcome to browse at your own pace, and the museum shop stocks a good selection of jewelry and other exhibition-related artworks and crafts. Outside the museum you can visit the sculpture garden and Asian rock garden.
The Harn, University of Florida Cultural Plaza, 3259 Hull Rd, Gainesville, FL 32611-2700, Phone: 352-392-9826
13. Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo
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The Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo is home to over 75 animal species, which are tended by more than 200 students enrolled in the college's zoo animal technology program. The college is one of only two such facilities in the country to provide training for people who wish to work with animals kept in captivity. The zoo is open to the public daily and visitors can see a wide selection of both exotic and endemic animals as you make your way along the winding pathway, which is suitable for wheelchairs and strollers. You can bring a picnic to enjoy in the shaded picnic area, and the zoo is also a great venue for children's parties.
Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo, 3000 NW 83rd Street, Gainesville, FL 32606, Phone: 352-395-5000
14. Things to Do in Gainesville, FL: The Thomas Center
© The Thomas Center
The Thomas Center was once a private residence, later a hotel, and is now a thriving cultural events center where art exhibitions, historical exhibits, and musical events are staged. The center is worth a visit simply to admire the impressive Mediterranean revival style architecture of the building (which was completed in 1910), the beautifully restored period rooms, and the lovely landscaped gardens. You can browse the center at your own pace with the help of a cellphone audio guide or experience the unique atmosphere of the center as you view a current art exhibition or attend a Jewel Box Concert or the family Jest Fest. Browse beaches near Orlando
The Thomas Center, 302 NE 6th Avenue, Gainesville, FL 32601, Phone: 352-393-8532
15. University of Florida Bat Houses (at the Florida Museum of Natural History)
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Located on the north side of Museum Road on the University of Florida campus, the Bat Houses are the largest occupied bat houses in the world. The Bat House and Bat Barn are home to several species of bats, which can be observed emerging to eat and exercise at twilight, around 15 to 20 minutes after sunset. Conditions need to be favorable for the bats to make an appearance – they prefer calm warm evenings when there are plenty of insects to eat. Although you can expect to see the bats swooping down to feed, they normally never bother people as long as you do not interfere with them. The best bat viewing seasons are spring and summer.
University of Florida Bat Houses, 3215 Hull Rd, UF Cultural Plaza, Gainesville, FL 32611-2710, Phone: 352-846-2000
16. Swamp Head Brewery
© Swamp Head Brewery
After a busy day of sightseeing, what could be better than relaxing over a local artisan beer and some great food at the Swamp Head Brewery? The Swamp Head Brewery prides themselves on producing an authentic all-Florida artisan brew and has been gaining popularity since 2008, when they brewed their first batch. The company aims to leave a carbon-neutral footprint and operate as responsibly as possible, and to that end the ingredients are sourced locally as far as possible, while the by-products are returned to the land. To learn more about the brewery (and get a souvenir glass to take home), you can join one of the weekly tours offered on Tuesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
Swamp Head Brewery, 3650 SW 42nd Ave, Gainesville, FL 32608, Phone: 352-505-3035
17. Blackadder Brewing Company
© Blackadder Brewing Company
Located just a few minutes from downtown Gainesville, the Blackadder Brewing Company is the ideal spot to relax and enjoy a locally produced craft beer. The Blackadder brand originated from a small homebrew business and eventually expanded into the current brewery, producing over 40 separate Belgian-inspired brews, which are available on tap in their traditional cozy pub. Blackadder is owned and operated by a husband-and-wife team of passionate brewers who have collectively won over 30 medals for their beers, so you are in for a treat. The Blackadder Brewing Company regularly hosts themed evenings and trivia competitions – you can check their website for dates.
Blackadder Brewing Company, 618 – A NW 60th Street, Gainesville, FL 32607, Phone: 352-339-0324
18. Bluefield Estate Winery
© Bluefield Estate Winery
You can take some time off from exploring all the cultural attractions of Gainesville to pay a visit to the Bluefield Estate Winery, located in the small town of Windsor, just outside Gainesville. Here you can sample the unique range of fruit-inspired wines that are produced by husband-and-wife winemakers Jennifer and Bradley Ferguson, who started their enterprise by making blueberry wine in their kitchen. Today, they own a couple of acres planted to blueberries and muscadine grapes, both of which produce fruity wines that are higher in anti-oxidants than other varietals. You can visit their tasting room to sample the fruits of their labor and buy some delicious wines to take back home. Blueberry and grape self-picking is available during the harvest season. More ideas: Florida beaches
Bluefield Estate Winery, 22 NE CR 234, Gainesville, FL 32641, Phone: 352-337-2544
19. Volta Coffee, Tea and Chocolate
© Volta Coffee, Tea and Chocolate
When you need a break from your hectic sightseeing schedule, you can head to the Volta Coffee, Tea and Chocolate shop to revive your spirits with a delicious cup of your favorite brew and a chocolate treat. Volta serves a wide variety of signature coffees sourced from all over the world, including Rwanda, Brazil, Java, and Bolivia, all brewed to perfection by their experienced baristas. If you prefer tea, you can try one of several rare blends on offer. The chocolate is just as good, and you can even try some chocolate from single-origin vintage plantations. Volta also makes a variety of baked goods and desserts.
Volta Coffee, Tea and Chocolate, 48 SW 2nd St, Gainesville, FL 32607, Phone: 352-271-4361
20. Curia on the Drag
© Curia on the Drag
Curia on the Drag is the place to go for delicious and nutritious vegetarian/vegan food. Rumor has it that even die-hard carnivores will love the food and not even realize that they are eating healthy vegan food. The restaurant serves a variety of really tasty sandwiches using bread baked on the premises and the flavors are robust and satisfying. When the weather is good you can eat out on the deck, and it is also possible to get all your favorite dishes to take home. In addition to delicious food, you can also enjoy good coffee, wine, and beer. Prices are reasonable, and the quality is consistent. Browse day trips from Orlando
Curia on the Drag, 2029 NW 6th Street, Gainesville, FL 32609, Phone: 352-792-6444
21. Things to Do in Gainesville for Couples: Sweetwater Wetlands Park
Home to 125 acres of wetlands and ponds, Sweetwater Wetland Park was established in an effort to improve the water quality in Paynes Prairie and the Floridan Aquifer. The park has become a thriving natural habitat filled with a wide variety of flora and fauna including more than 200 species of birds. Other wildlife includes butterflies, bison, Florida cracker horses and alligators. There are 3.5 miles of gravel trails and boardwalks to explore, as well as several viewing platforms. Visitors are encourages to bring their binoculars, cameras and a picnic to enjoy in the park, surrounded by the soothing sights and sounds of nature.
Sweetwater Wetlands Park, 325 SW Williston Road, Gainesville, FL 32601,
352 554 5871
22. Romantic Things to Do in Gainesville: Depot Park
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Conveniently located in Downtown Gainesville, Depot Park is a popular recreation area which was once a rail yard. After an extensive transformation, which included removal of contaminated soil and water, the Depot Park opened to the public in 2016. This enviable city green space now boasts fields of indigenous and wild flowers and several recreational facilities for families to enjoy. Children can spend many summer hours enjoying the children’s play area which encompasses the Blue Grotto splash pad and fun waterfalls. There is a wide paved promenade around the main pool for walking, several picnic shelters, a conservation area and lots of open lawn for lounging and relaxing.
Depot Park, 874 S E 4th Street, Gainesville, FL 32601, 352 393 8510
23. Things to Do Near Me Today: Splitz Bowling Alley
© Splitz Bowling Alley
Offering a fun-filled outing that the whole family can enjoy, Splitz Bowling Alley has something for everyone. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned bowling enthusiast, you will enjoy their family lanes, boutique lanes and their special 4-lane private suite, which is ideal for parties. All lanes offer auto scoring and bumpers for kids. The Alley hosts an enthusiastic bowling league for regular players. In addition to bowling you can have fun in the 40-game Arcade Alley or test your shooting skills in the high-tech Laser Runner. Before or after the fun you can enjoy a meal and drink at the on-site Thirsty Gator.
Splitz Bowling Alley, 1301 NW 76th Blvd, Gainesville, FL 32606, 352 332 2695
24. Harry’s Seafood Bar and Grill
© Harry’s Seafood Bar and Grill
Bringing the authentic flavors and aromas of New Orleans to Gainesville, Harry’s Seafood Bar and Grill has been pleasing palates since its inception in 1987. Since then, the restaurant has grown by leaps and bounds. Right at the top of the menu you will find traditional Fried Green Tomatoes and Boudin Balls heading the list of appetizers. Other uniquely New Orleans favorites on the menu include Jambalaya, Shrimp ‘n Grits and their ever-popular New Orleans Ribeye. They serve a great selection of cocktails including Harry’s Hurricane, the Bayou Bloody Mary and the Southern Mule, as well as a good selection of wines by the glass or bottle.
Harry’s Seafood Bar and Grill, 110 S E 1st Street, Gainesville, FL 32601, 352 372 1555
25. Mi Apa Latin Cafe
For an authentic taste of Cuba in the heart of Gainesville, diners need look no further than Mi Apa Latin Café. You can get your day off to a great start with one of their delicious and unusual breakfasts, washed down with a strong Cuban Espresso. Favorite Lunch and Dinner starters include Empanadas, Fried Cheese Sticks and Black Bean Soup. There is a choice of tasty Cuban-style sandwiches and mouth-watering entrees like their Bistec Palomilla (Thick cut beef steak), Masitas Fritas (Fried pork cubes in Cuban sauce) and Carne con Papas (Beef cubes in a seasoned sauce with potatoes). Be sure to save some room for delicious Churros.
Mi Apa Latin Café, 6805 N W 18th Drive, Gainesville, FL 32653, 352 376 7020
The top attractions to visit in Gainesville, Florida near me today according to local experts:
Attraction Spotlight: Kanapaha Botanical Gardens
Kanapaha Botanical Gardens is located in Gainesville, Florida. Visitors to the Gardens will enjoy it’s twenty-four collections and it’s one and half mile paved walkway and appreciated the beauty of the variety of plants and flowers on display. anapaha Botanical Gardens encompasses sixty-two acres and was established, developed, operated, and funded through the North Florida Botanical Society.
KThe Society is and educational institution that is non-profit. It signed a lease with Alachua County in 1978 that gave it access to a land tract that was thirty-three acres, with the purpose of developing a botanical garden for the public. A twenty-nine-acre addition of land was added to the agreement and giving the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens it’s size of today.
The Garden was named for Lake Kanapaha. Kanapaha is a Timucua Indian word that means “palmetto leaf” and “house.” When the meanings are put together they refer to the small thatched dwellings that the Timucua lived in on the shores of the western side of Lake Kanapaha. During the years between 1978 and 1987, the structure and first plantings were finished. The Kanapaha Garden was opened to the public in October of 1987
Kanapaha Gardens offers guided tours to the public on the first Saturday of every month. Additionally, guided tours can be scheduled for other times with a two week notice ahead of time.
The various collections of the Kanapaha Botanical Garden include the Arboretum, Azalea/Camelia garden, bamboo garden, butterfly garden, crinum garden cycad garden, fern cobble, herb garden, hummingbird garden, palm hammock, rock garden, rose garden, spring flower garden, vinery and the woodland garden. Some of the specialty gardens are organized according to taxonomy, while others are organized to show the ecology principles or natural selection.
Within these gardens visitors will find unusual and rare plants from all over world. Some of these include bamboos, colorful, rare vines, giant snake arums, palms, and giant water lilies and have been incorporated into the lakeside forests and meadows of Kanapaha. The Gardens have the biggest bamboo display and herb garden in the Southeast. Some of the Gardens signature plants include giant Victoria water lilies, a stand of Chinese Royal Bamboo, and Asian snake arums.
The Kanapaha Botanical Gardes hosts a variety of events throughout the year.
Guided Walk- A guided tour is offered on the first Saturday of every month.
Camellia Show- This is a two-day event that showcases camellias of shapes, colors, and sizes. Exhibits of reticulates, japonicas, species, and hybrids will be judged. The show’s purpose to teach the public about the culture, care, and appreciation of camellias in the landscape and the greenhouse.
Trade Invasives for Beauty- The facility educates the public on the problems associated with invasive species and how to get rid of them. It teaches what Florida-friendly plants can be used to achieve a similar image.
Bamboo Sale- This the Kanapaha Botanical Garden’s Annual Bamboo Sale. Orders may be called in.
Introduction to Camellias- This class that is taught at the Gardens educates the public on the history of camellias, along with how to plant and care for them. It also teaches about the insects, pests, and diseases that are a danger to them. After the lecture portion of the class, a tour of the Camelia/Azales garden is given.
Spring Garden Festival- This is the number one horticultural event in Gainesville. It offers around one hundred and fifty booths that offer landscape displays, garden accessories, plants, crafts and arts, foods, and educational exhibits. The Festival also features live auctions and entertainment.
Moonlight Walk- This Walk offers laser lights, twinkle lights, and about one thousand five hundred luminaries strategically placed along the walkway through the gardens. Live entertainment, food, and refreshments are available to participants.
Paint Out- This event gives local artists the opportunity to gather and create paintings of the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens on site. It is a three-day event that is affiliated with the Worldwide Artist Paint Out. The Worldwide Artist Paint Out connects artists and places all around the world and promotes art as a language with no borders.
Fall Plant Sale and Orchid Show- This event is meant to celebrate the “birthday” of the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens and is always held in October. In addition to visiting the gardens, about fifty booths are set that sell a variety of plants.
The Gift Gallery is the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens’ giftshop. It offers a wide variety of unusual and rare items for the home and garden.
Drinks such as water and soda and snacks such as chips and crackers are sold at the entrance building to the garden but there is not café. Guests are allowed to bring in food and picnic baskets for use at the picnic areas.
4700 SW 58th Dr, Gainesville, FL 32608, Phone: 352-372-4981
Attraction Spotlight: Santa Fe College Zoo
The Santa Fe College Zoo in Gainesville, Florida, is an interesting mix between public zoo and educational experience. Currently one of the only two zoos used as teaching zoos in the United States, be prepared to see a lot of unique animals as well as learning a lot.
The zoo sits on ten forested acres in beautiful Florida and is also a college focused on teaching students how to become zookeepers. It was established as both a zoo and teaching facility in 1970. It has been an accredited AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) facility since 2000. It is currently coordinated by eight staff members employed at the zoo full time and the 200 students enrolled there (who will spend five semesters on the premises). The students are affectionately known as “Zooies.”
The animals at the college zoo are obviously the largest draw for guests visiting. They are divided into categories of both exotic and native species and there are more than 75 different species on display, with over 200 animals total. Whenever possible, the zoo participates in SSP (Species Survival Program).
- Mammals: Perhaps the favorite, as these are the cuddliest of the animals located at the zoo.
- Asian small clawed otter (on the SSP)
- Matschie’s tree kangaroo (on the SSP)
- Ocelot (on the SSP)
- Perdido Key beach mouse
- Red ruffed lemur (on the SSP)
- White handed gibbon (on the SSP)
- And more!
- Amphibians: The frogs are always guest favorites.
- Poison dart frog
- And more coming soon!
- Birds: There are many different colorful bird species on display.
- Bald eagle
- Cuban amazon
- Turkey vulture
- And more!
- Reptiles: Some of the more unique animals at the zoo are located in the reptile area!
- American alligator
- Corn snake
- Leopard tortoise
- Southern copperhead
- And many more!
- Invertebrates: For the brave guests, there are many creepy crawlies to check out!
- Pink toed tarantula
- Rose tarantula
- And more coming soon!
For visitors who schedule ahead of time, students are available to lead guided tours through the college teaching zoo.
The college zoo is open daily from 9am to 2pm, with the exception of major holidays. There is an admission fee to visit, but it is available at a discount for children, seniors, local students, and groups (with prior notification).
The grounds are considered both wheelchair and stroller accessible. Stroller rental is not available, however, but there is a wheelchair on the premises that can be borrowed for guests who have trouble getting around without help. The trail is a quarter of a mile long and sawdust lined.
For guests who would like to see some of the animals located on the premises either before or after a visit, there is always the Wild Discoveries HD webcam. Check out the warty pigs and the otters while also seeing what the students see, as this webcam is part of a zoo course. Each webcam is also totally controllable by the user, and can be panned, zoomed, or tilted to get a better view of the animals.
There are a few regular events held on the zoo premises. Guests should check the website prior to a visit to see if anything will be going on during the time the visit is planned.
Tree Kangaroo Awareness Day: Come celebrate the endangered Matschie’s tree kangaroo during this celebration held in May. Free with admission, guests can play some kangaroo themed games and do crafts. Zookeepers will also be giving demonstrations.
Zookeeper Day: Held on July 22nd, Zookeeper Day is a great way for people who may be interested in becoming a zookeeper to come and learn about the program, including how to apply. There are also activities, crafts, and face painting.
Boo at the Zoo: Held for the entirety of October, admission is free with the donation of a canned good. Come in costume!
Party for the Planet: Aprils at the zoo, this Earth Day celebration focuses on different ecosystems and the ways that conservation affects everyone on the planet.
Dining and Shopping
There is a vending machine with Pepsi products, as well as free water fountains located just inside the entrance to the zoo. There are also picnic tables for guests who would like to bring in their own lunches. Glass is prohibited. There are no other hot or cold concessions. There is a small gift shop located on the zoo grounds, which sells a variety of specialty gifts for both adults and children. Proceeds go back into supporting the operation of the zoo.
Santa Fe College Zoo, 3000 NW 83rd Street, Gainesville, FL, 32606, Phone: 352-395-5000
Attraction Spotlight: The Thomas Center
Often considered one of the cultural centers of Northern Central Florida, The Thomas Center in Gainesville is many things at once. Guests who visit will be overjoyed to learn about its history, explore the art galleries, and even see a show. The Thomas Center, also known as Hotel Thomas, was built in 1910 and has also been known as Sunkist Villa. It was originally a private home to William Thomas and his family (wife Kathyrn and five children).
He converted it to a hotel after doubling it in size in 1928. It was officially considered a “historic place” in 1973. The gardens were designed in 1974 with the center’s renovation. The restoration plan was updated in 1978 in order to maintain the historical landscape while allowing for possible future renovations. For a seven year period, the center was even home to a local college (Santa Fe). The center celebrated its centennial year in 2010 and now hosts weddings, banquets, meetings, and musical guests in their performance space. It is considered a cultural hub and has concreted a place in Gainesville history.
The first thing to do when visiting The Thomas Center is to take a cell phone guided tour of the grounds. This self guided tour is a great way to take in everything there is to see and do when there. It will lead guests around the grounds, through the gardens, and also give them a history of the many rooms found at the center. Among them are the 1920s rooms that are maintained with historical, period accuracy. There are also local history exhibits, that pass through on a rotating basis.
Gardens: The gardens of the center are one of the biggest draws all year round. The gardens are planted with seasonally blooming plants and flowers so that there is something new and different to see, no matter the time of year. Mid-winter brings camellias, and azaleas come in the early spring. In the late spring, the dogwoods blossom, and the summer is often a favorite of many guests, as that’s when the roses bloom. There are also palms and ferns that are green all year round, as well as beautiful old oak and magnolia trees.
Art galleries: Many of the visitors to the center come to explore the art galleries, which feature a rotating selection of different art forms and styles. Online exhibitions are also available, so discovering the center’s art galleries doesn’t have to stop with a physical visit. An online exhibition focuses on the historic Gainesville cemetery, Evergreen. Both a history and an art exhibit, it was curated by Jimi Brown and Susan Stewart, and tells the story of the cemetery from its inception in 1856. It also goes into the many historical figures who are buried on the grounds. Another online exhibition goes into depth about some of the pioneers of blues and offers over 40 different folk art illustrations of them.
Regular building hours for the center are from Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm. They are closed on both Saturday and Sunday, as well as all city holidays in Gainesville. The galleries have slightly different hours, open Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm, but also open on Saturday from 1pm to 4pm. They are closed on Sunday, as well as all city holidays in Gainesville (the same as the regular building).
The center is home to many special events throughout the year, so guests should make sure to check the website prior to visiting to see what they will be lucky enough to see while there!
Jewel Box Concerts: This concert series features different genres (anywhere from jazz to folk to even classical) performing in the Spanish Court. With a range of both undiscovered and nationally and even internationally renowned artists. Check the website for ticket costs and dates and times.
Jest Fest!: Considered the “greatest show” in the city, this fest is offered free and showcases jugglers, clowns, sword swallowers, magicians, pony rides, ice cream, and more! It truly is fun for the whole family. There is even a fully set up food court filled with family friendly food offerings for visitors.
Holiday Tree Lighting: Often a part of many family traditions, the tree lighting at the center happens the first Saturday in December. The mayor of Gainesville is always on hand to call for the lighting and to meet the residents as well as tourists visiting. Come see Santa, view the beautiful lights, and make a tradition that can continue for years to come.
The Thomas Center, 302 NE 6th Avenue, Gainesville, FL, 32601, hone: 352-393-8532