Gainesville’s central location in Florida gives it easy access to a number of attractions in Florida. The following is just a brief summary of many of the exciting experiences within a short distance of Gainesville and could easily be reached for a day trip. Although they can be experienced in a day, a weekend would provide a more full experience.
St. Augustine is the oldest city in the United States, founded by the Spanish in 1565. It has picturesque downtown has a number of historical sites including many well preserved buildings from the Spanish and large fort, Castillo de San Marcos, built in 1672. St. Augustines’s role as summer residence for industrialists such as Henry Flagler further developed the downtown and added to the unique architectural landscape including Flagler College. The downtown area also has a great selection of restaurants featuring many featuring local seafood. If time allows, the dozens of bed and breakfasts provide an ideal base from which to experience all the town has to offer.
Located about a two hour drive southeast of Gainesville, Orlando has several attractions perfect for a day trip. Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure features Harry Potter World among many other rides. The Disney World theme parks, including Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, and Animal Kingdom, also provide a great options for kids of all ages. As a hub for international travel, Orlando also has extensive shopping options including the Mall at Millenia and Premium Outlets.
Tampa is located a two hour drive southwest of Gainesville on the Tampa Bay. It also has its share of theme parks including Busch Gardens which features both incredible rollercoasters as well as a nature park with elephants, tigers, cheetahs. The Tampa district of Ybor City, Tampa’s Latin Quarter, offers excellent Cuban and Carribbean cuisine as well as several factories where cigars are rolled by hand in the Cuban tradition and a vibrant night life. Across the Tampa Bay in St. Petersburg, you can find the Dali Museum which has the world’s largest collection of Salvador Dali’s works outside of his home town of Figueres, Spain and features some of his most famous works from throughout his career.
The Gulf Cost of Florida has several fishing and beach communities easily accessible from Gainesville. Cedar Key is an quaint fishing town only a 50 minute drive from the hospital making it possible to reach for dinner. You can enjoy fresh from the ocean seafood in one of the old restaurants elevated on poles to protect it from rising tides and storm surges while the sun sets on the Gulf of Mexico. A variety of options from chartered deep sea fishing to kayak fishing are available here for those who prefer to catch their own dinner. If you want a quiet day on your own personal uninhabited tropical island, this area has numerous barrier islands which are easily accessible either by rented boat or kayak.
The former winter retreat of the Carnegie Family, Cumberland Island, is a unique and relaxing place to spend a day or more and is located only 2 hours from Gainesville. The opulent mansions which once dominated the island are now ruins are located a short hike, horseback ride, or bike ride from where the ferry docks. The island is now only home to dozens of species of birds and a herd of wild horses which can give you a glimse of the Florida Coast once looked like. If you have a weekend to spend, the camp grounds provide an ideal place to explore some of the many trails on the islands and discover why one of the richest families in American History chose to make this their winter home.