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.