Alachua County is home to a variety of beautiful parks, springs and adventure facilities. The University of Florida is located in Alachua County where students seek out exciting activities during the school year. Most of the students are gone this summer studying abroad, working or interning. Now is the perfect time to go to their favorite attractions to have an eventful, active summer. Below are 8 of my favorites you should check out.
1. Ginnie Springs
Ginnie Springs is located along the Santa Fe River. This facility offers many outdoor recreation activities including tubing, cave diving, camping, swimming and snorkeling. The springs contain gorgeous fresh water at about 72 degrees and it is truly a beautiful, one of a kind site. Another plus is Ginnie Springs’ fair price. If you are looking for a cheap, adventurous outing, you have selected the right destination.
2. Paynes Prairie
Paynes Prairie was the first state preserve in Florida; it is one of the most popular hiking destinations in Alachua County. On the different hiking trails, you can observe the rich habitats of many animals including alligators, birds, bison, horses and more. It is a beautiful hiking trail and definitely a remarkable experience hiking through the “swamp.” Other activities are available including biking, camping, fishing, horseback riding, canoeing, kayaking, picnicking and wildlife viewing.
3. Downtown Gainesville
Downtown Gainesville is a huge hit in Alachua County. There are a variety of restaurants that serve all different types of food including American, Mexican, Italian and Japanese entrees. These restaurants are staples in the Gainesville area because they are located smack in the middle of Gainesville’s nightlife region. Downtown Gainesville hosts tons of unique bars which draw in many young adults in Alachua County to meet up with friends, grab drinks, and enjoy local music. Downtown Gainesville is also home of the Hippodrome Theatre where great productions are put on weekly. Check out their calendar at http://thehipp.org to purchase tickets for their upcoming productions. I highly recommend seeing one of their shows this summer.
4. Butterfly Rainforest
This is a great place for families visiting the Gainesville area. There are thousands of butterflies and distinct birds flying around the exhibit and other wildlife can be found amongst the foliage. I definitely recommend visiting because of the facility’s affordable pricing. The most expensive entry fee is for adults, which is only $13. If you enjoy wildlife and the calm outdoors, this facility was made for you.
5. Bluefield Estate Winery
This family owned winery hosts private wine tastings for groups of 8 or more. During certain times of the year, they host “u-pick” events where you can pick the fresh blueberries and grapes yourself. This attraction does well because it targets people all ages; although you must be 21 to try the wine, the acres of fruit picking attract children and families.
6. Kanapaha Botanical Gardens
This facility is a giant garden with different trails that flow through their 24 lush outdoor collections. Groups have the opportunity to go on tours, or to walk around freely. The gardens serve as wedding venues frequently, due to their beauty. UF sororities host events at the gardens as well. The gardens target people that appreciate the outdoors; the facility boasts the “largest public display of bamboos and the largest herb garden in the Southeast.”
7. Devil’s Den
This attraction is one of the top facilities UF students like to explore, at least once during their four years at the university. Devil’s Den is an underwater spring located under a cave. Evidently, animal fossils have been found here that date back to the Pleistocene Age. The facility offers scuba diving and snorkeling for visitors to explore the wildlife and fossils in the underground spring. I definitely recommend Devil’s Den if you are looking to be adventurous with friends and family.
8. Lake Wauberg (UF Students, Faculty and Staff Only)
Lake Wauberg is a branch of UF recsports. Students, faculty and staff visit Lake Wauberg to rent canoes, boats, kayaks, paddleboards, pedal boats, sailboats and more. Along the lake, there is a beach area containing sand volleyball courts and space for outdoor sports including ultimate Frisbee and soccer. The facility also offers team development courses and outdoor climbing walls. For UF students, this is free with a Gator 1 Card. Unfortunately, this facility is not open to the public; so if you go to the University of Florida , I definitely recommend checking out Lake Wauberg on a sunny day.