Gainesville, Florida attracts thousands of tourists each year and is home to more than 120,000 permanent residents. Those visiting Gainesville will be pleased with the wide variety of attractions available, including historic sites, museums, parks and nature reserves. In addition, Gainesville is home to Florida's oldest and largest university. Those visiting the Gainesville area for the first time may wish to consider the following:
Morningside Nature Center
The Morningside Nature Center is a beautiful nature park in which one can explore the great outdoors on a seven mile walking trail featuring various landscapes such as sand hills, flat woods, cypress domes and native vegetation. The park stretches over 250 acres, and visitors can enjoy observing plants and animals in their native habitats, including box turtles, wild turkeys, and a large selection of wildflowers.
Florida Museum of Natural History
The Florida Museum of Natural History is located in three separate buildings which are owned by the University of Florida. The museum has a vast array of reptiles, mammals, fish, butterflies, birds, and amphibians, as well a wide variety of plant and animal fossils.
University of Florida
The University of Florida is the oldest, largest university in the state, and as such, is a popular tourist attraction, especially for first time visitors. The university features several theaters and music centers in which world renowned symphonies and Broadway plays can be seen.
The Hippodrome State Theater
Located in the heart of the city's historic district, the Hippodrome State Theater has earned its spot on the National Registry of Historic Places. The primary theater features the work of award-winning artists and writers and presents some of the finest entertainment in the country. The Hippodrome is also home to a visual arts gallery, as well as a full service bar.
The Payne's Prairie Preserve is a nature lover's dream, and one should seriously consider devoting an entire day to this attraction in order to fully experience all it has to offer. The number of different birds and animals one can view when spending the day at Payne's Prairie is practically limitless. These include Great Blue Herons, huge alligators, bald eagles, ospreys, cranes, pelicans, wild horses, and snowy egrets. Guided tours are available as well, and the park has a helpful staff who can assist visitors with map-reading and any questions they may have. However, it is essential that one bring along adequate sun protection, as the prairie offers no shade.