There are are a variety of attractions and activities in the Gainesville area which can satisfy almost any interests. The University of Florida creates an environment that fosters and attracts diverse cultural experiences and the 272 days of sun on average per year provides ample opportunity to explore the outdoor activities the area has to offer. Here are just some examples:
The limestone foundation on which North Central Florida has provided one of the region’s most unique features: the Florida aquifer and numerous crystal clear freshwater springs which are 72 degrees year round. These springs are scattered throughout the region and provide opportunity to cool down and take in what the region has to offer. These springs can be found in large caves, swimming holes, and even form rivers of clean, cool water. They provide the opportunity for swimming, tubing, canoeing, kayaking, snorkeling, and scuba diving.
Although Gainesville is not located on the beach, several of the nations top beaches are located a short drive away and can easily be reached for a day trip. The beaches provide the ideal setting for relaxing after a long day at the hospital, surfing, sailing, or fishing.
Sports in Gainesville is centered around the University of Florida. The Gators compete at the highest level of college athletics and consistently rank highly in football, basketball, baseball, softball, gymnastics, and soccer to name to name a few. Gainesville is centrally located in the state so those who prefer professional sports can be at an MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL game within 2 hours. For those with a need for speed the Gatornationals NHRA drag race take place in Gainesville yearly and the Daytona 500 NASCAR race is just over two hours away and the Those who want to play sports themselves can participate in the many recreational leagues sponsored by the university. There are also five 18-hole golf courses within a 20 minute drive of the Shands at UF Health.
North Florida has great natural diversity which be easily reached and explored from Gainesville. The Ocala National Forest is a 607 sq mi park located 16 miles south of Gainesville and includes several different ecosystems including Long Leaf Pine forest, Cypress hammock, fresh water springs, and prairie which allow visitors to camp, boat, hike, horseback ride, and bike. The Paynes Prairie is a 21,000 acre nature preserve just south of Gainesville (you can see it from the hospital!) which is home to a variety of wild life including buffalo, alligators, wild horses, and over 270 species of birds.
In Gainesville there are also several trails including the Hawthorne Trail is a 16 mile paved trail starting in Downtown Gainesville which has replaced an old railroad and travels along the north side of the Paynes Prairie offering great views along the way to the town of Hawthrone. The Devil’s Millhopper is a large sink hole with stairs that descend 120 feet into the sink. At the bottom you are surrounded by dozens of tiny waterfalls which a rainforest-like environment.