Top 10 Things To Enjoy in a City with a Top 10 University

UF boasts some of the area’s most unique and diverse attractions, reflective of Gainesville’s tagline “Where Nature and Culture Meet!”

Top 10 Things To Enjoy in a City with a Top 10 University

While the Gator Nation is everywhere, its heart still resides in Gainesville, home to the #7 public school in the country. The University of Florida, with its revered reputation from research to medicine to sports to innovation, is a pillar among academic institutions, but for Alachua County residents, or ACR’s, the University is the center of a community. UF boasts some of the area’s most unique and diverse attractions, reflective of Gainesville’s tagline “Where Nature and Culture Meet!”

Main entrance to Curtis C. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Cam Riley for startupGNV.

Curtis C. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts As host to an abundant lineup of nationally acclaimed musicians, comedians, authors, theatrical presentations, and dance performances, the CPA anchors the University’s Cultural Plaza, alongside the two museums on campus.  Upcoming events include the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain, the traveling Broadway production of Waitress, and National Geographic Live!

Main entrance to The Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art. Cam Riley for startupGNV.

The Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art offers the joy of experiencing great works of art from international and local artists alike. With several permanent and traveling exhibits and its newest addition of an Asian art wing, the Harn hosts both family-friendly offerings, such as monthly Museum Nights featuring snacks, art activities, and performances, to their member cocktail pARTies.

Main entrance to Florida Museum of Natural History. Cam Riley for startupGNV.

Adjacent to the Harn is the Florida Museum of Natural History, featuring a vast collection of permanent and traveling exhibits, a discovery zone, a variety of public programs, and the Butterfly Rainforest, the largest research facility for butterflies in the Southeast. The Florida Museum also hosts several favorite community events, including Can You Dig It? An archeological event each spring, while the fall brings Butterflyfest and Starry Night, an astronomy-themed event featuring a portable planetarium and exhibits from the UF Department of Astronomy, Alachua Astronomy Club, Santa Fe College Astronomy Program, and the Kika Silva Pla Planetarium.

Map highlighting the location of the UF Campus Teaching Observatory. More map views here.

If you’d like to expand your observations of the night sky, visit the Teaching Observatory’s public nights each Friday to spot the Moon, planets, stars, and other astronomical objects through their many telescopes, including an 8-inch Alvan Clark refractor telescope.

Entrance to the Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center. Jacob McCrary for startupGNV.

Feeling less Starry Night and more Friday Night Lights? Gator Sports are abundant with events year-round! While the Fall is electric with Gator football, basketball games offer their own excitement in the comfort of the Exactech Arena, home to Gator gymnastics meets as well. If America’s pastime is your sport of choice, take in a hot dog and cracker jacks at McKethan Stadium to watch our College World Series champs.

Interior view of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Cam Riley for startupGNV.

When it comes to sports- if you’d prefer to be a participant to a spectator, grab a workout on campus! Take advantage of the football stadium’s open hours during the week or explore the many miles of trails winding through campus and around Lake Alice. If you’d prefer to exercise with a buddy, consider joining one of the numerous community workouts organized by local fitness groups! Each Monday, Fit2Run meets at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at 6:30 p.m. for a group workout and the Running Man Club hosts a strength-conditioning workout on campus as well.

A view of the greenhouse at Wilmot Gardens. Jacob McCrary for startupGNV.

Relax from your workout with a cool-down stroll through Wilmot Gardens on the south side of campus, or catch the sunset at the world’s largest occupied bat houses and observe the approximately 500,000 bats as they head out for the evening.

Fireworks and light show at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Courtesy of Benny Torres.

In addition to all of the University’s year-round offerings, UF also hosts some of the community’s most celebrated events. UF Homecoming is truly an affair city-wide, as schools close for families to participate in the annual Gator Gallup and homecoming parade, followed by Gator Growl, the largest student-run pep rally, and open to the public. Summertime offers the annual independence day celebration Fanfare and Fireworks featuring local musicians, onsite food trucks, and an unforgettable fireworks display; sororities collaborate in the fall to host the spooktacular Ghouls, Goblins and Greeks, a family favorite for trick-or-treating, games, and refreshments throughout Sorority Row.

Entrance to the J. Wayne Reitz Union. Jacob McCrary for startupGNV.

With its abundant attractions and events, it’s easy to forget that UF is, first and foremost, an educational institution. But the UF Leisure Courses offered through the Reitz Union invite community members to indulge their love of lifelong learning and explore new skills and hobbies through a variety of course offerings designed to spark joy and enrich quality of life- just like the many other community offerings available to Gainesvillians and the surrounding areas- and all for the Gator good. :)


Written by Tamara Herchel.

Tamara Herchel, employee of Infotech, graduated from the University of  Florida with a degree in tourism, recreation, and sports management and spent five years at Visit Gainesville before returning to UF for her Master of Education degree. She loves teaching new visitors about all of  Gainesville and Alachua County's awesomeness, and really wants you to  take a job here so she can show you around!