Thrillist recently released an article about why Gainesville is one of the best college towns in America. It was an embarrassment and listed reasons like Café Risque and sunbathing girls. For those of us who aren’t 19, those are not good reasons. Gainesville is so much more than a college town, and I love my adopted hometown so very much. Here are the REAL reasons why Gainesville is not just one of the best college towns, but one of the best towns period.
The University of Florida
There’s no avoiding it, UF is Florida’s top public school and is consistently ranked amongst the best in the entire country. Much of our local economy revolves around the school. We are perennially great at all sports, boast one of the best teaching hospitals in the country, and some of the best and brightest graduate as Gators. UF’s Law School also boasts the highest Florida Bar passage rate (90.6%), our research and discoveries have also led us to have the 11th most U.S. patents amongst universities since 2012, and our Biotechnology Incubator was named the World’s Best. Oh, and Gatorade…all of the Gatorade.
The Food Scene
For a relatively small town, Gainesville’s food and drink scene is diverse and packed full of local restaurants. From the iconic Satchel’s Pizza and Leonardo’s, to the downtown staple in Dragonfly, the world fusion at Sabore, and the dim sum at Yummy House. There’s no shortage of quality eateries. You’ll also find Thai, Indian, Korean, Cantonese, Jamaican, Japanese, Mexican, and Mediterranean. It’s all there. Gainesville is also home to a number of great farmers’ markets that include the Wednesday Downtown Market, Saturday Morning Haile Village Market, and the 441 Farmer’s Market. Swallowtail Farm provides fresh local ingredients, UF’s meat plant produces quality local meats, and there are community gardens located around east Gainesville. The food culture is growing!
There’s something for everyone. Midtown for the college kids with bars like Salty Dog (named one of Thrillist’s top college bars), The Swamp, and 101 Cantina. But there’s also fantastic cocktail bars like 2nd Street Speakeasy, who was recently named one of Southern Living Magazine’s top bars in the south, Whiskey House, The Top, Tall Paul’s Brew Pub, Half Cork’d Wine Bar, and The Midnight. Live music can be found at High Dive, The Atlantic, The Wooly, The Backyard at Boca Fiesta, and The Bo Diddley Plaza. Whether you’re into drinking PBR, dancing to EDM, or just relaxing with a nice glass of whiskey. There’s definitely something for everyone.
What Stubbies & Steins set in motion years ago is continuing to grow today. Gainesville’s beer scene continues to grow as places like House of Beer, World of Beer, and Brass Tap gain popularity. Meanwhile, Swamp Head Brewery is moving into a beautiful new facility and continuing to expand. First Magnitude Brewing Company recently opened in the Depot Ave. area, whose fantastic brews are doing their part to revitalize the area. Then of course, Tall Paul’s very own Alligator Brewing is serving packed crowds every night. We even have an entire store, Hoggtowne Ale Works, that caters to home brewers.
Gainesville is situated smack dab in the middle of North Florida, making it roughly an hour and a half from Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Tampa, and Orlando. This makes weekend trips all the more easy. We also have Ginnie Springs, Poe Springs, and the Ichetucknee to the north with Silver Springs and Rainbow Springs to the south. The small towns in the surrounding areas also make for fun day trips as well. I’ve had plenty of fun exploring Cedar Key, Micanopy, Newberry, Williston, and Alachua.
The Weather and Trees
In the summer months, Gainesville averages a high of 90 degrees and a low of about 70 degrees. In the cooler months, the average low is about 45 degrees bringing us beautiful daytime temperatures of about 70 degrees. Ask anyone who has experienced fall weather in Gainesville, it’s beautiful. Our town is also home to beautiful nature preserves like Payne’s Prairie, the Bivens’ Arm Nature Park, Morningside Nature Center, and the Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park. Cyclists also enjoy the Hawthorne bike trail, and the soon to be completed trail that runs all the way from the town of Archer to downtown.
There’s no other town in North Florida as focused on the arts as Gainesville. We’ve got the Hippodrome and its fantastic productions, the University of Florida theater, the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, the Harn Museum, and the art galleries located downtown. The annual fall arts festival takes over all of downtown, showcasing some of the best artists in Florida and the Southeastern United States. There’s also the Downtown Artwalk that takes place the last Friday of every month, a self-guided tour at local galleries and eateries with live music. Wander into some of our local restaurants like Leonardo’s 706 and Satchel’s, and find local art adorning the walls. We’re also home to The Fest, an annual music festival that people travel across the world to attend.
People are nicer here, ask one of the many South Florida transplants. We say “please” and “thank you”. One of the first things that visitors notice is how courteous we are. But more importantly, we all possess that entrepreneurial spirit and the want to grow our city. From the bright young minds that work out of the Innovation Hub, Starter Space, and the Hacker House to the successful young companies like Grooveshark and Student Maid, we are building something big. The Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency is also working to revitalize East Gainesville with projects like the Depot Avenue Park, the DNA bridge, and more. We are taking this city’s growth and prosperity into our own hands.
Gainesville doesn’t forget its history. The historic Duckpond area and Bed & Breakfast district contain some of the oldest homes in the city. There are buildings downtown that date back almost 100 years that are still standing and housing local businesses. The Matheson Museum houses important pieces of Florida history and is operated by the Alachua County Historic Trust. The Thomas Center, Historic Haile Homestead, Dudley Farm Historic State Park, and the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park are just some of the local sites that have been preserved as a part of Gainesville and Florida history. The National Register of Historic Places lists 40 locations within the Gainesville city limits as worthy of preservation.
The Cost of Living & Growth
There’s a reason why so many people choose to stick around Gainesville after college. Housing is affordable here, going out to eat won’t destroy your pockets, and we are continuing to create more jobs. Forbes Magazine named Gainesville one of the Top 100 Places for Business and Career, and Livability.com ranked us the 34th Best Place to Live in America. According to Payscale.com, cost of living in Gainesville is 17% lower than that of Miami. We are consistently ranked by analysts as one of the fastest growing cities in the country. Want proof? Look at the Celebration Pointe and Butler North developments. Gainesville is booming!
So to Thrillist or any one of these list websites who want to promote Gainesville, there's a lot more here than the college kid haunts. This is a beautiful, vibrant, growing city that many people (including me) proudly call home. We are more than "Don't Taze Me Bro", Cafe Risque, and football. If that's all you know, then you're missing out.