Gainesville fills the day with so much to see, do


One of my favorite sightseeing destinations in Central Florida is the cosmopolitan city of Gainesville. If you only have one day to devote to visiting Gainesville, let me introduce you to my favorite attractions for the entire family.

Note that Gainesville is the home of both one of the finest universities in the country, the University of Florida, and the outstanding Shands Hospital at the university. To give you an insight on why Gainesville is called the center of education, medicine, culture and athletics, drive through the historical University of Florida campus. The university has many buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, such as the University Auditorium. Above the auditorium you will find Century Tower, a 49-bell carillon that rings on the quarter hour. Maps of the university are available at the gated entrances.

Your second stop should be the Florida Museum of Natural History, located on Hull Road on the university’s campus. This 55,000-square-foot museum, in my opinion, might be one of the finest in all of Florida. The permanent exhibits include: Hall of Fossils, South Florida People, Northwest Florida Waterways and Wildlife and Fossil Plant Garden. In addition, there are many temporary exhibits throughout the year. The Florida Wildflower & Butterfly Rainforest Garden will be the highlight of your visit. You can stroll through this 6,400-square-foot screened, outdoor enclosure with subtropical and tropical plants and hundreds of living butterflies. View thousands of Lepidoptera species on the “Wall of Wings” and be introduced to butterfly and moth biology. There is also a neat hall of windowed rooms where you can see scientists working in the Butterfly Rearing Lab and the research labs. There is no admission fee for the museum. There is a fee to visit the butterfly exhibit.

Your third stop, and next door to the Natural History Museum, is the renowned Samuel Harn Museum of Art with more than 7,000 works focusing on African and Asian Art. This delightful museum is, in my estimation, one of the finest in the country. An original work by Claude Monet is one of more than 6,000 original pieces on display.

With these three stops and a break for lunch, you have been introduced to the highlights of Gainesville in one day. This visit more than meets my requirements that your trip be educational, inexpensive and a memorable experience for the entire family. There are a host of interesting destinations in and around Gainesville, including outdoor adventures, museums and galleries, theater, recreation and sports, and much more.

Contact the visitors center at 1-866-778-5260 or email and ask for the “Guide to Alachua County Attractions.”