If you're planning to move to Gainesville, Florida, it helps to have a general idea of the city and what it offers. This will help you decide if the move is right for you and make planning much easier.
In this complete guide, you'll learn everything you need to know about Gainesville, including its housing market, school system, top attractions, and some of the best neighborhoods to live in. So, without much ado, let's dive right in.
A Brief Overview of Gainesville, Florida
Gainesville is the county seat of Alachua County, Florida, and the central city in the Gainesville metropolitan area. The city has a long and illustrious history stretching back thousands of years to the time of hunter-gatherers, and many of its forests and wetlands are still preserved to this day.
Today, Gainesville is renowned as a college town, home to the University of Florida, Santa Fe College, City College, and Saint Leo University. This bustling city is also a hub of culture, with many restaurants, museums, and lively shopping centers.
Gainesville, Florida School System
If you're planning to move to a new city with your kids, you're likely interested in the quality of education offered. Fortunately, Gainesville has an excellent school system that guarantees your kids a great academic foundation.
The city is served by Alachua County Public Schools, which is ranked the 8th best school district in Florida. Alachua County Public Schools has a total student population of 28,300 with a student-teacher ratio of 21 to 1.
Approximately 58% of students are proficient in maths, while 57% are good at reading. State statistics also reveal that this school district has an average graduation rate of 88%.
Some of the best elementary schools in Alachua County Public Schools include:
- Meadowbrook Elementary School
- Hidden Oak Elementary School
- Glen Springs Elementary School
- Kimball Wiles Elementary School
- Stephen Foster Elementary School
- Joseph Williams Elementary School
- Rawlings Elementary School
- Chiles Elementary School
The city of Gainesville is also home to some of the best high schools in Florida state, with some notable names including:
- Buchholz High School
- Eastside High School
- Gainesville High School
- Loften High School
Top Attractions in Gainesville, Florida
While Gainesville is mainly known for its bustling school system and colleges, it's also home to numerous attractions for locals and visitors alike.
From modern art museums to music events and more, here are some of our top picks for the best places to check out in this budding city:
Florida Museum of Natural History
Located at the University of Florida campus, the Florida Museum of Natural History is the official natural history museum in the state. The museum, established in 1895, is a great place to escape the Florida heat in the summer while learning about the state's history. Some of the fascinating exhibits include local fossils, dinosaur skeletons, Native American artifacts, wildlife, and plants.
The museum is also home to the Butterfly Forest. This sanctuary houses more than 50 butterfly species, with up to 50,000 individual butterflies available within the enclosure at any time.
If you're a nature lover, you will be pleased by the numerous sites to explore and get lost in the museum, including underwater domes, winding rivers, and rocky outcrops. And the best part is that entry to the museum is free, so you don't have to spend a dime. This is the place to be if you're looking to spend some time outdoors on the weekend without having to pay any more.
Kanapaha Botanical Gardens
Established in 1978 by the North Florida Botanical Society, Kanapaha Botanical Gardens offers the perfect outdoor adventure, solo or with friends. The sprawling 68-acre garden is split into 24 sections, showcasing a large diversity of awe-inspiring flora.
The path leading up to Kanapaha Botanical Gardens is lined with majestic bamboo trees giving you a special sneak preview of what's in store.
Other attractions available at this venue include one of Florida's most extensive herb gardens and a Victoria water lily garden. There's also a dedicated picnic area open to local visitors and tourists, so don't hesitate to bring some blankets and enjoy laying on the manicured lawn.
You can also purchase some souvenirs to take home with you at the end of your visit from the on-site gift shop.
Samuel P. Harn Museum
If you're a person of culture looking for more indoor sightseeing, then the Samuel P. Harn Museum is the place for you. Located on the grounds of the University of Florida next to the Museum of Natural History, Harn Museum is home to a staggering collection of more than 11,000 works of art.
Harn Museum's art collection is divided into five main categories - Asian Collection, African Collection, Modern Collection, and Contemporary Collection. This comprehensive catalog means there's something for everyone to enjoy. The museum even has a permanent Monet exhibit for lovers of the French master.
In addition to its impressive art collection, Harn Museum has an outdoor water garden where you can enjoy tranquility while soaking in the sunshine. The museum also hosts numerous curated events throughout the year for all-around family fun.
Loblolly Woods Nature Preserve
If you're looking for great places to hike in Gainesville, then Loblolly Woods Nature Preserves is a must-visit. The 157-acre forest has plenty of hiking trails and a boardwalk that you stroll on while soaking in the cool fresh air and savoring the beautiful sights and sounds.
There's also a 2.7-mile biking trail to explore if that's your thing, and the best part is that you can bring your dog along with you.
Ichetucknee Springs State Park
Ichetucknee Springs State Park is situated 4 miles northwest of Fort White in Gainesville, Florida. This tranquil park offers a plethora of recreational activities for outdoor lovers, including swimming, hiking, and picnicking. The park also acts as a playground for kids during the summer, so don't hesitate to bring your young ones along on your outings.
A favorite activity for visitors to Ichetucknee Springs State Park is canoeing and kayaking down the Ichetucknee River. The gleaming clear waters are also perfect for scuba diving and snorkeling. So, if you're interested in these adrenaline-rushing water activities, carry some diving gear when you visit.
If you're a wildlife enthusiast, you'll be happy to know that Ichetucknee is a haven for numerous species, including raccoons, white-tailed deer, and many bird species.
Matheson History Museum
Located at the heart of Gainesville, Matheson History Museum is dedicated to preserving and showcasing the colorful history of Gainesville and Alachua County. The museum's American Legion Hall has an extensive collection of illustrated gazettes, vintage Florida postcards, and photographs.
Visitors to Matheson History Museum can also enjoy a re-creation of the historic Matheson Country Store as well as visiting exhibits. Stop at the in-venue museum shop to buy interesting books about the region's history. The museum offers guided tours for visitors, but you can also explore the venue if you wish.
Best Activities For Families In Gainesville, Florida
Gainesville, Florida, offers plenty of recreational opportunities for singles and families. So, if you're planning to move here with your kids, you'll be happy to know there's no shortage of things to do in this bustling city.
Here are our top picks for some of the best things to do with kids in Gainesville:
Explore Space at Kika Silva Pla Planetarium
Kika Silva Pla Planetarium, situated on the campus of Santa Fe College, offers visitors a unique opportunity to experience the universe interactively. The venue hosts regular "star shows" that allow you to enjoy spectacular night sky views from the comfort of your seat.
The planetarium also has plenty of breathtaking showcases incorporating laser art and music for an immersive sensory experience. There's also a high-velocity roller coaster ride known as the Space Park Show, popular with kids and adults alike.
Visit Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation
Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation is a wildlife sanctuary dedicated to collecting and rehabilitating local wildlife and other exotic animals. The facility owners have worked to provide quality care and love to traumatized and abandoned wild animals.
In addition to rehoming and caring for vulnerable wildlife, the foundation champions wildlife conservation efforts through education. Special educational tours are offered regularly for schools, families, and other visiting groups. The proceeds from the tours go directly towards the care of the animals that live here.
Check Out Some Animals at Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo
A great way to spend your weekends outdoors with your kids is to visit Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo. The facility is home to more than 75 animal species which are cared for by over 200 students studying zoo animal technology at the college.
The zoo is open to visitors every day of the week and offers you and your kids the opportunity to view a wide assortment of exotic and endemic animals as you stroll along its pathways. There's also a dedicated picnic area where you can set up with your family to relax outdoors.
Outdoor Play Dates at Depot Park
Depot Park is one of the most vibrant spots to check out in Gainesville and is open every day from dawn to dusk. The park has a dedicated playground complete with equipment so your kids can enjoy outdoor play with others as you picnic in the pavilion or relax on the grass.
If you start feeling hot from the Florida sun, visit the "blue grotto" to splash around in the small waterfall equipped with water cannons and jets. The park also has plenty of tree-shaded areas where you can retreat for an afternoon nap. And if you visit the park on certain days, you might be lucky enough to catch a special event.
Hike at Sweetwater Wetlands Park
Sweetwater Wetlands Park is another fantastic natural spot to explore with family in Gainesville. Situated on the north side of Paynes Prairie Basin, Sweetwater is a sprawling park comprised of 125 acres of ponds and wetlands and was initially built to enhance the local water quality.
A fantastic 3.5-mile-long network of trails leads you deep into the park through boardwalks and gravel walkways. Several strategically located observation decks have informational kiosks and offer a terrific opportunity to experience up-close many different plant species. You can also catch amazing views of alligators in the distance but within sight.
The park is also an excellent bird-watching venue, as more than 250 species of birds live here or make stopovers on their migratory routes. Moreover, this enormous wetland has a large population of butterflies with many species represented. Sweetwater Wetlands Park also has a picnic area and washroom facilities to ensure your visit is as enjoyable as possible.
Dining In Gainesville
Being a college town with a large student population, Gainesville offers plenty of dining options with numerous cafes, restaurants, and coffee shops. There are also numerous cuisines, ranging from exotic Mexican and Thai offerings to Chinese seafood and Italian pizza. So, if you're a foodie, you're guaranteed variety and something new to try out every day of the week.
If you're interested in fine dining and aren't sure where to start in Gainesville, you should check out Paramount Grill. This all-American restaurant is one of the most-feted dining locations in Downtown Gainesville and even won the Golden Spoon Award in 2019.
The establishment offers an extensive and ever-changing menu prepared from fresh local ingredients. You can also book the restaurant for special occasions such as birthday parties, wedding receptions, etc.
Best Neighborhoods To Live In Gainesville, Florida
When moving to a new city, the first item on your priorities list should be finding a great house to live in, whether you're planning to own or rent. While the property market in many Florida cities is highly competitive, there are many Gainesville FHA homes for sale that you might still be able to afford. However, this all depends on the neighborhood that you choose to live in.
So, if you're on the hunt for a new home in Gainesville, here are some of the best neighborhoods that we'd recommend:
The historic community of Duckpond is a "quintessentially Gainesville" neighborhood known for its distinctive character and charm.
Most of the homes in this neighborhood feature colonial-style architecture, with some of the houses dating back to the early 1900s. Duckpond has many social amenities, including parks, gardens, historic landmarks, and art galleries.
Suburban Heights is, without a doubt, one of the most popular neighborhoods in Gainesville. Built-in the 1960s, this community has become a peaceful, close-knit neighborhood of about 1,500 people.
Suburban Heights is particularly favored by retirees thanks to the high quality of senior assisted living and healthcare facilities. That being said, young families will also enjoy living here thanks to the excellent schools serving this community, including Fort Clark Middle School and Brentwood School.
Highland Court Manor
Highland Court Manor is one of the best neighborhoods to raise a family in Gainesville, Florida. Located on the eastern side of Gainesville, Highland Court Manor has a small population of 6,000 residents, most of whom own their homes.
This is perhaps due to the affordable property market in this part of town compared to other neighborhoods in Gainesville.
A Final Word
Let's face it, moving to a new city can be an exciting experience, especially if you're relocating to a region like Gainesville. Florida has a competitive real estate market.
Though doing due diligence beforehand will allow you to plan better and prepare for your move. It will also help you find the best Gainesville FHA homes for sale if you're looking to buy.