Located in northern Florida, Gainesville is known as the home of the University of Florida and the Florida Gators. However, the city has so much more to offer than academics and college sports. Thanks to its picturesque state parks, top-notch museums, and diverse architectural landmarks, Gainesville is one of the top tourist destinations in Florida.
If you’re looking to save a few dollars on your vacation, Gainesville has lots of great things to see and do for free. To make the most of your time, stay in one of the many budget-friendly Gainesville hotels near the university where you’ll be close to the best local sights. The Holiday Inn Gainesville University Center and Quality Inn University offer great value for your money. Once you’ve settled in, check out these three incredible free attractions in Gainesville.
University of Florida
No trip to Gainesville is complete without a visit to the University of Florida for a campus tour. Free student-led tours take place twice each day and last about two hours. You can also pay a visit to the Florida Museum to view one of the many permanent displays, such as Florida Fossils and Our Energy Future. Admission to most parts of the museum is free, but a small fee applies for some of the temporary and special exhibits.
While you’re on campus, be sure to also stop by the Harn Museum of Art to check out the 11 galleries filled with paintings, ceramics, sculptures, photography, textiles, and more. You can even take a walk through one of the many museum gardens. Admission is free unless otherwise noted for special programs.
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, head to the six Florida state parks within driving distance of Gainesville, including Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings State Park, San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park, and Dudley Farm Historic State Park. Each one has its own unique attractions and features. While most parks charge a few dollars per car to enter, there are a host of free things to do once inside.
For a relaxing day drifting down scenic Ichetucknee River, pack your inner tube and make your way to Ichetucknee Springs State Park northwest of Gainesville. South of the city, you’ll find Payne’s Prairie Preserve State Park. The 22,000-acre park features more than 20 diverse ecosystems where you can see everything from wild horses and bison to eagles and alligators. At Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park, check out the 120-foot-deep sinkhole that leads to a miniature rainforest.
One of the best ways to take in Gainesville is through a walking tour around the local parks and downtown area. Journey back in time on the popular Historic Green Street tour, which takes you past some of Gainesville’s most significant landmarks and buildings. In addition to this tour, the City of Gainesville offers a variety of self-guided tour itineraries that you can download online for free.
Just because you’re going on vacation doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money. Check out the wide variety of affordable hotels and incredible free attractions in Gainesville to get great value for your dollar.
Bethel is a believer of everything nice and sweet. She travels with the idea the world must have its sweets. All the sweets she finds are noted in her travel blog, www.travelberries.com.
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I had no idea that you could take a tour of UF without being a prospective student. I’d love to check out the Florida fossils! Thanks for the info, I need to add this to my list of trips.
We have never been to Gainesville, Florida and didn’t know what was available to see and visit around the area. Going to state parks is a al time favorite.
I used to live in Gainsville as a child but I haven’t been back. I don’t remember much about it but now that I’m an adult, I’d love to go back and check out all of the attractions.
I think walking tours are a great way to get to know an area and I love that Gainesville offers that. I am up for any budget-friendly excursions for my family!
My sister-in-law went to the University of Florida! She always talks about how much she loved the area. I can see why. There’s so much to do and check out there.
I am always on the hunt for little outings and vacations that aren’t going to break the bank. Gainesville sounds like it’s definitely a great spot to hit up!
I am probably the only Canadian who has not been in Florida. Us Northerners love to vacation there! Gainesville has a lot to offer. I am always up for a walking tour when visiting a new city!
These look like great places to see in person. I’ve never been to Gainsville. I don’t get to travel as often as I’d like.
I love that there are different free attractions for people to go to. It’s nice to save a bit of money while also having fun. I’m definitely going to take note of these!
This is such great advice! I’ve never been to Gainesville before, and I am now putting it on my bucket list!