Gainesville ­ — nature and culture all in one place

06/07/2013  | 
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Located in North Central Florida and right off I-75, Gainesville is a natural getaway spot. The city is home to the University of Florida and offers a great combination of cultural attractions and nature adventures.

At the Florida Museum of Natural History, the state’s official natural history museum, you can explore Florida’s fossils, southwest Florida’s waterways and wildlife through the interactive exhibits. The museum is the world’s largest research facility devoted to the study of butterflies and moths. See scientist through laboratory windows working on research projects. Then step outside into the screen enclosed Butterfly Rainforest, where hundreds of butterflies and birds from around the world fly freely.

The Harn Museum of Art, next door to the Florida Museum, is North Central Florida’s largest art museum. The museum has 8,300 works including Asian, African, photography, international contemporary art and modern art. In 2012, the museum expanded with a wing devoted to Asian art including masterpieces from China, India, Japan, Korea, South and Southeast Asia. The best part, the exhibits are free.

If you are an outdoor person, then a visit is not complete without a hike at Paynes Prairie State Park. The park is Florida’s first state preserve and designated National Natural Landmark. You will have a fantastic view of the grasslands on the walking trails and platforms. On the 22,000 acres you may encounter alligators, bison and wild horses roaming freely. Depending on the season, 100-270 species of birds find food and fly throughout the prairie making it a favorite for birders.

Are you looking for a relaxing and walkable location? Historic downtown Gainesville, with four delightful Bed & Breakfast Inns and the Hampton Inn & Suites, is a charming destination. It is easy to stroll along the vintage streets and savor a flavorful meal from a variety of locally owned restaurants. The entertainment continues during the evening at the Dueling Piano Bar, Billiard’s Bar and Wine Tasting Bar. Performances at the Hippodrome State Theatre and music venues make it a lively scene. During the day a visit to the area’s historic attractions like The Thomas Center and the Matheson complete the historic downtown experience.

For more nature and culture plan a trip during these events:

Each March is the Spring Garden Festival. Gainesville’s premier horticultural event is held at Kanapaha Botanical Gardens. At the festival you can stroll the lush gardens and 200 booths offering plants, landscape displays, garden accessories, arts and crafts, and educational exhibits. The exhibit is not just for gardeners. Festival goers enjoy the walk-through the butterfly conservatory, children’s activities, live entertainment and the delicious treats.

In April the Santa Fe Arts Festival is held in the downtown historic district and is fun for the whole family. Top artists from all over the United States present sculpture, printmaking, painting, 2-D and 3-D mixed media, jewelry, photography, drawing, watercolor, wood, fiber and glass. Attendees love the free children’s activities, continuous entertainment on two stages and international food.

Through August 11, “Titanoboa: Monster Snake” exhibit is on display at the Florida Museum of Natural History. Measuring 48 feet long and weighing 2,500 pounds, this massive predator could crush and devour a crocodile! A full scale model helps tell the discovery story of the largest snake in the world found in a Colombian coal mine.

See visitgainesville.com for more events and information.
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