6 Best Things To Do in Gainesville, USA

The trip from Hollywood in Florida to Gainesville in the north of Florida takes six hours. It is no wonder, after all, we drove 15 kilometers partly dead straight. We took the turnpike, which is a toll road that was the most direct route. We partly went on a free multi-lane road for a long time directly next to it. However, it made sense to invest the $ 25 for the turnpike, since the parallel road often leads through villages.

The next thing that challenged us was the refueling. You can pay directly with the credit card. There is only a small, but not insignificant problem. You have to enter your postcode. It goes without saying that our postcodes do not work here. Of course, if you simply enter any numbers and hopefully hit an American postal code, it will not be accepted because it does not match your credit card details. Therefore, we got used to paying directly to the gas station attendant in advance.

Gainesville is surrounded by natural wonders. Beaches on the east coast are within 1.5 hours. Great oysters can be had in Apalachicola. Great scallops can be had in Steinhatchee. The area has many springs, rivers, and lakes. A little west and north of Gainesville (towards High Springs), the area was the first in the world to award certifications for cave diving.

Ginny Springs, Blue Springs, and Poe Springs are amazing. Both Ginny and Blue Springs have camping. They all empty into the Santa Fe River. West of High Springs are the Santa Fe, Ichetucknee, and Suwanee River (yes, as is the old song, "Old folks at home"- Way Down Upon the Suwanee River). Swimming, kayaking, tubing, fishing, and boating are popular activities there. The Suwanee and Santa Fe are both blackwater rivers.

In the late afternoon, we finally arrived in Gainesville. We stayed in a bed and breakfast. It was in the middle of villas and trees. The sight of the white and turquoise main house and the porch with rocking chairs made my heart beat faster. Gainesville is a lovely city with lots of trees.

The B&B consists of various small houses, which are distributed on the plantation. Right in the middle, there is the breakfast house. Right next to it is a pond, over which a small bridge leads to the main house. There are free drinks throughout the day and from the afternoon small snacks with wine, which every guest can take at will.

Our wooden cottage was cute and comfortable just like the whole property. Of course, there was Wi-Fi. The friendly owner showed us everything and now wanted to know what and when we want to have breakfast.

I wanted to explore the area. I set off on foot and saw one pretty house next to the other. It was good to have found such a quiet place after the hustle and bustle of Miami. Here the clocks definitely slowed down, and the people were more interesting. There are some great parks. The club and music scenes are vibrant.

On my short tour, I was approached by two people. They ask me where I came from and what brought me here so far away from the usual tourist routes. It was nice, unobtrusive small-talk that I enjoyed because it was asked sincerely and more than the normal American, Hello, how are you?

Things To Do in Gainesville

1. Eating Out in Gainesville

Then it was time to go for dinner. The downtown area in Gainesville was within a 15-minute walk. I went to an Asian restaurant but just got the last table. Apparently, every Gainesville resident was here in the restaurant.

On the opposite side of the road in the Hippodrome Theater, a musical was showing. Even before the play started, we were already engrossed in conversations with our neighbors. They asked me with interest if I have seen the manatees. I wondered what in the world that is. They said that the big manatees exist in Crystal River and I should see that.

It is the main attraction here in the north. If tourists come here, then it is because of the manatees. I shook my head and look with wide eyes.

Even though they were surprised that I had never heard of their main attraction, they were happy when I said that I had come to the North to see something different in Florida besides Miami and the Everglades and of course, I promised to drive to see the Manatees.

2. Museums in Gainesville

Next morning, the sun was shining brightly. At 9:00 the B&B owner served us our breakfast. We had a delicious meal under the trees, with a fountain splashing next to us. It turned out to be a sumptuous mix of an egg casserole, sausage, cheese, and fruit. The owner joined us and we talked about life in a small town, and about Gainesville's world-famous college football team.

Then he suddenly asks if we have seen the Manatees. I utter honestly, I heard of them for the first time yesterday. Unbelievable! You must see those! We could have sat there forever.

We also wanted to see something of Gainesville. Gainesville is not such a small town. We learn while driving to the "A T-Rex Named Sue" museum that there is actually a famous American football team — the Florida Gators.

Signs and flags of the team are in the whole city. The 'Gators' stage is huge and holds over 85,000 spectators!

But we're more interested in the dinosaurs in the Florida Museum of Natural History. There was a brutal heat outside and we were happy to be in the air-conditioned museum. The main attraction is 'Sue'. At 13 meters it is the largest, best preserved and most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton replica of the world. 'Sue' is the name of the T-Rex because it was discovered by Sue Hendrickson in the USA.

In addition to all sorts of exhibitions from the early days of inhabited geology, the Butterfly Museum is worth seeing. There is a small rainforest in which the butterflies fly around. Outside, it was even hotter. So we decided to go to the adjacent 'Harn Museum of Art'. There are African, early American and Asian art to admire. The funniest and most interesting we found is the modern area. There were bizarre objects.

3. Dinosaurs in Florida

We were more interested in the dinosaurs in the Florida Museum of Natural History. The main attraction is Sue. At 13 meters, it is the largest, best-preserved, and most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton replica in the world.

In addition to all sorts of exhibitions from the early days of inhabited geology, the Butterfly Museum is worth seeing. There is a small rainforest in which the butterflies fly around. Outside, it was even hotter. So we decided to go to the adjacent Harn Museum of Art where African, early American, and Asian art pieces can be admired. The funniest and most interesting we found is the modern area. There were bizarre objects.

4. Sleepy Village of Micanopy

There are some cool little towns around Gainesville. Originally we wanted to go to the botanical garden. But the 2km round trip frightened us off with brothering midday heat. So we head straight for lunch to the sleepy village of Micanopy. I did not manage to pronounce this name like the inhabitants until the end. Instead of saying "Mi-kah-no-pi" everyone said "Mikano-pihh". I still have the right sound in my ear, but it just does not want to come out of my mouth.

Micanopy (where they filmed Doc Hollywood with Micheal J. Fox) has some interesting stores to browse and casual restaurants. Pearl’s and Blue Highway are both on 441 and should be on anyone’s list of foodie-class food at reasonable prices. High Springs also has good stores to browse. The Great Outdoors restaurant is a must-do after visiting the rivers and springs around High Springs.

Anyway, the place was tiny. Actually, it is a Wild West town that has lost its way to Florida. We go to a shop for antiques and jewelry. It was pretty scary in there, but somehow it suited the whole place. We were immediately involved in a conversation with the owner. And of course, she also wanted to know what brought us to Mi-kah-no-pi. They all seem to be really baffled, that we are here.

5. Silver Springs

If you travel to North Florida, then you should not miss a visit to Silver Springs. In a tributary of the Ocklawaha River lies Silver Springs State Park, the perfect getaway for hot days. Here you can rent kayaks and explore the crystal-clear water and nature. We opted for one of the popular glass-bottom boat rides. It was very pleasant.

In peace, we chug across the river. Right at the beginning, I see the source. The flow is immense. In another place, we see old wooden beams and other artifacts on the ground. A big turtle is just floating under our boat while the guide tells us that the first Hollywood Tarzan films were filmed here at Silver Springs State Park.

Yes, we can really imagine that. Are there any manatees here? A guest wanted to know. No, they do not exist here. You have to go to Crystal River, the guide replied.

By now I was completely hooked to the Manatees. A few days ago I had no idea that they existed at all and now I could not wait to see them. This is how advertising seems to work. If you only hear something often enough, then you want it! I decided to go there the next morning. After resting in the hotel, we had dinner. If the Americans can do something, they make a really hot steak! It was a great, fun evening!

6. Here's a manatee! There's a manatee!

Next morning at 6 o'clock the alarm rang. But getting up was easy for me because I was finally going to see the so often advertised Manatees! The guided tour should start at 7:45 and we still had to drive to Crystal River. Once there, all we had to do was find the tour operator. This was easier thought than done, because the area consists of countless channels and my navigation led me to bridges, where there was none, or in the middle of a hotel complex.

We thought, we would not find it, but then, at 7:40 we were there only to find that the tour already started at 7:15! But the staffs were great! They gave swimsuits and while changing clothes, they called the boat driver who brought a dinghy quickly.

I have to admit that, in the end, I was glad that I was unknowingly late. For the first hour, the water was already quite fresh. In addition, the water was also very rough. Like the ducklings, our group swarmed up behind our guide, who always shouted, here's a manatee! There's a manatee! There's a manatee floating over there!

So either he had much better eyes or knew through his experience, where the animals are or just wanted to keep us entertained. It was half-past ten at some point and all I had seen until then was a dark shadow that moved in front of an even darker background. Even the last exuberant American in our group had gone quiet. It was just the right time for a hot cup of coffee and a bite to eat. That helped a bit.

Okay, the boatman began with a reassuring look. There's another place where Manatees can be seen sometimes. So let's go there. Some expressions brightened. Not mine. Because now I did not care if I saw such a manatee or not and besides, I could not hear the word Manatee anymore!

We drove into a small, quieter branch of the river. At least it was nice here. The water was clearer and the sun warmed us pleasantly. Again, like the ducklings, we follow the guide into the water. That's the last time I'm looking for those stupid manatees! And then I saw it! It was a huge Manatee! It was certainly three meters long and looked enormously large.

Here, one of our group members shouted from the other side of the bay. Everybody swims over. I stayed with the big one, which I now had alone for myself. Leisurely, the Manatee sucked on the floor. Actually, it would be uncomfortable to be in the water next to such a big animal, but our guide had told us that these animals are harmless. Moreover, they are the gentlest creatures of the planet, since they have no natural enemies, except the propellers of the motorboats.

Also 'my' Manatee had footprints on its back, which certainly came from one of the boats. When I looked underwater again, the Manatee was right next to me! I relaxed all my muscles and let my arms hang down loosely. The Manatee turned slightly and my hand touched the back. The skin felt hard like an elephant's, with a few bristly hairs.

But still, this moment had something special for me. I grinned about this beautiful moment with my own Manatee! Back on the boat, there was no stopping the group. Everyone talked confusedly. Well, as you can see, the Manatee fever had seized us. Like a good movie where you cannot predict the outcome of the plot, which starts auspiciously, it then leads you astray to knock you off with a terrific showdown at the end!

How boring it would have been in retrospect to have had this experience on the first dive. Sometimes the tension has to be built up first and a thing must not be too easy for it to be seen as something special. But now I was incredibly hunger after this morning. On the outskirts of Crystal Rivers, there was a snack bar next to a gas station.

Normally I would not go there, but I did not care right now as I just wanted to eat something. And it was really good! Apart from the lavish food (just what I needed), the guests in the restaurant were very interesting. What I saw here was probably the average American population and not the ones who we see in Hollywood movies. Our time in the north of Florida ended with this meal and we take the way back to Orlando. Jacksonville is 1.5 hours away. Tampa is 2 hours away. Orlando is 2 hours away.
Kalyan Panja