100+ Dates in the Gator Nation
Ever stuck wondering what you (and your special someone) want to do while in Gainesville? To an outsider, Gainesville might just look like a humid swamp of a city (in some ways it is), but there’s much more than what meets the eye. You can call this a list of dates (for you and your significant other), or an epic bucket list (like I do:P), but no matter what you call it, take some time and see what Gainesville and surrounding areas really have to offer! The possibilities are (nearly) endless!
Thanks go out to Lindsey V, Elizabeth W, Jon K, Sarah W, Andy H, Mary V, Mary P, Mary S, Caitlin S, Sami P, Kristen A, GainesvilleConnect.com, and the City of Gainesville.
Photos: Doug Tam, Jon K // Photos appear below activities. Activities without photos I (most likely) have not personally experienced and/or documented.
Note: Prices are based on adults. Child prices may be available. Prices per car commonly refer to 2-8 occupants. Prices subject to change. If so, let me know so I can keep it updated!
Take a trip to the Southwest corner of campus and walk through various exhibits. Spend some time sitting among hundreds of butterflies, or brush up on some history at the Museum of Natural History!
Walk through the halls of the Harn admiring various artistic pieces. With ongoing exhibits and changing ever so often, each visit won’t always be the same! Diversify your culture!
- Sporting Events (Football, Volleyball, Baseball, Basketball, Soccer, Gymnastics, etc.)
What better way to bond with your best friend than with hundreds of other Gator fans? Scream, yell, shout and bask in the excitement of Gator athletics!
Take a break from studies and escape to the Natural Area Teaching Lab! Located near the Phillips Center on the Southwest Corner of campus, walk through nearly 60 acres of trees, ferns, and various plant life.
- Painting in Norman Tunnel
Walking near Norman hall? When the lights go down, bring out the spray paint and paintbrushes! Brush up on your artistic abilities with graffiti, or birthday announcements in the dimly lit tunnel! But take caution, anything can happen there.
- Harmonic Woods/University Gardens
Located in the heart of campus (literally the geographic center of the main campus), walk the boardwalk paths through aisles of trees.
As daylight weans, and as the dusk settles over campus, take a visit to the UF Bat Houses, and witness the exodus of an estimated 300,000 bats each night. Known as the World’s Largest Occupied Bat Houses, this is an experience you don’t want to miss!
Right by the Bat Houses, take a little time to walk around the perimeter of the area, snapping pictures through yellow flowers and student crops.
- Picnic/Hammock at Lake Alice
Nothing is quite like spending some quality time by UF’s pristine lake. Gaze over the lake and its reflections while sharing a meal under the shade of campus trees.
Slow down your day, relax, and meditate at the Baughman Center. Known for its lofty ceiling and sun lit interior, the beautiful Baughman Center is perfect to just sit back and enjoy.
Take a walk through 5 acres of camellias and azaleas at the Wilmot Gardens. If you wish to help out with the restoration of the gardens, UF needs all the help they can get beautifying the small meditation garden just north of Shand’s (UF Health’s) Medical Plaza.
Just north of the Health Science area between Museum Rd and Newell Rd lie the Bartram-Carr Woods. Take a little adventure through the various paths while taking in the sights and sounds of another campus trail.
As the week comes to a close, swing by the Reitz Union on Friday nights for some free festivities! Watch a movie, make some crafts, or try themed food at the weekly event open for UF students and their friends!
Known for bowling, billiards, and classic game room games, stop by the Ground Floor at the Reitz union to try your hand at some of the fun games we all know and love!
Head in the stars? Well take a closer look with your date and check out the UF Observatory right by the Physics building. Peer through the telescopes to get a close view of the moon, or take a look at some of Saturn’s rings!
- Student Performances (TSF, Danza, Carillon Bells, School of Music Recitals, Organ Recitals, etc.)
With UF’s rich diversity that the university strives for, alongside specialized performances by various student organizations, be sure to also check out some of the music performances put on by your own peers! Open up a blanket and relax by the Century Tower listening to the carillon bell recital or take a seat at the University Auditorium for an acapella performance!
- Swing Dancing (Summer lessons at the MUB, Early Semester lessons at the Reitz Breezeway)
Put on your dancing shoes and grab a date, because an evening with the Swing Dancing club will certainly be a night to remember! During the summer, the Swing Dancing Club has met at the Music Building by Century Tower offering beginner, intermediate, and advanced lessons to all!
Boasting various activities, UF students can play some basketball, volleyball, tennis, skate, and take part in a variety of outdoor sports!
Want to get away and knock a few balls around? Try your best Happy Gilmore impersonation (Orrrr… not)? Grab your driver, and your chipper attitude and try your hand at UF’s full golf course located on the North West corner of campus!
Hop in the car and take a short drive down 441 to UF’s private lake! Lounge on the beach, canoe on the lake, or try your hand at some rock climbing or the ropes course! There are so many activities to take part in at Lake Wauburg so you can’t go wrong with a trip to either of the entrances!
- Gator Cinemas ($2, $1 Tuesdays) *Currently Closed for Renovations*
On a tight budget? Want to see that movie you missed during the release? Then a trip to the Gator Cinemas is in order for you! Why not enjoy some movies on the big screen for cheap! Located by the Oaks mall, feel free to take in the sights at the mall, and catch up on that one movie all your friends have been talking about!
Of age and want to know more about the local brews? Drive down 34th near the Post Office and stop by Swamp Head Brewery! Sip on some craft brews and take a tour with your loved one. For just $5, you can tour the facility and go home with your own pint glass!
- Funworks Putt Putt and Go Karts (Various Prices)
Just past the Newberry exit on I-75, bring out your inner child with each other at Funworks! Put on some roller skates or knock a ball around with some putt putt for a fun night to remember.
Want to score a few strikes, spares, and splits? Head on over to splitz bowling for some friendly competition between you and your date.
- Trivia Nights (Gator’s Dockside, Mother’s, OAK, Brass Tap, Luckys etc.)
Think you’ve got what it takes to beat out the competition? Put your heads together with your date and out wit the competition at various restaurants throughout the week!
- Karaoke Nights (Stage 7, Applebee’s, Gumby’s, etc.)
Got a song stuck in your head? Want to sing it loud for all to hear? Want to spread that Christmas cheer? Then head out and grab a mic for some karaoke! Make a fool of yourself; make a fool of your date. Laugh through the night, or blow away the crowds with your stunning voice! Karaoke is always a good time!
Get your act together and take your date to one of the various shows put on by local and renowned actors!
UF Black Box Theater
- Play with puppies/animals at the Pet Store
Kittens. Pets. Need we say more?
Get in touch with your creative side and take an art class with your date! See who’s the better artist and frame up the experience with memories for years to come!
Famous to students in the area, a movie night isn’t complete without some uniquely flavoured cookies from Midnight cookies! Cookies n Cream, S’mores, Snicker doodle, Coffee Chocolate Chunk, Birthday Cake flavors, oh my! Don’t forget, they also deliver! It will be a great night!
Want to take your date on a little bit more of an explosive experience? Train your sights at the Gainesville Targeting Range where you can fire various guns at targets for reasonable rates!
Nothing shows your love for another like nailing them in the face (mask) with a ball of yellow paint!
Bring out your spirit animal and meet some animals at the Santa Fe Zoo!
Don’t want to deal with cloudy skies? No problem! Explore the galaxies at the Santa Fe Planetarium!
Take a trip back in time to the late 1800s and early 1900s and see what it was like with some good ol’ farm living!
Step back in time and walk through the orange groves at this Historic Home!
A Gainesville tradition, and a time you and your friends will remember forever!
Hop on a bike or walk on by the DNA Bridge on the South East corner of campus! With its bright red, whites, and blues (purples), stand over 13th Street and watch Gainesville come to life as the sun goes down!
Like the fine tastes of wines? Or want to learn more about wine tastings? Head on over to the Bluefield Estates and try the special wines made right here in Gainesville!
Want to paint some pottery or make some ceramic crafts? Bring your date along to Corks and Colors for a creative experience!
Between the locations all around town, get your caffeine fix at some of the best hangouts around town! Some shops like Curia on the Drag have movie showings as well. Other coffee shops include Pascals Coffeehouse with concerts, CYM Coffee Co. and their food truck rallies, Coffee Culture‘s open mic nights, Volta Downtown, Opus in UF Health, Bay Island, Karma Creme, Know Where Coffee cupping sessions.
The Greens at Curia on the Drag
Peruse the aisles of Lucky’s while hopefully stumbling along into an event such as live shows or cookout events! Other notable experiences include sipping and shopping, a study room in the back (Snacks provided on Wednesdays), board games, and trivia nights!
- Dinner at various Restaurants (Dragonfly, Flacos, OAK, Gelato Company, Boca Fiesta, The Jones, Big Lou’s Pizza, The TOP, Hyppo, Mojo BBQ, etc.)
Being a college town (a fantastic one at that), Gainesville’s got a great selection of restaurants to choose from! In fact, with most places downtown, you and your special person won’t be disappointed! Check out Yelp, Trip Advisor, OutInTheVille, or KenEatsGainesville for input on the good, bad, and ugly when it comes to a lovely dining experience!
Want to watch some old films or see a local performance? Put on your nicest clothes and check out the Hippodrome theatre!
Climb, belay, and rappel all around the Rock Gym! Do you trust your partner spotting your climb up and up?
Grab some change and head over to Rockey’s Dueling Piano Bar for an improvised spin on some popular songs! Drink on up, and party responsibly kiddos.
After some food, why not stop by one of the pool halls for some friendly competition!
Another one of Gainesville’s local breweries, 1st Magnitude is a place to truly relax. Walking up to the brewery, you’re greeted with giant jenga, wooden picnic tables, corn hole and more! Grab a drink and relax! In addition to an evening to winding down, 1st Mag also holds various events from concerts to morning yoga sessions!
Local Band ‘The Savants of Soul’ Perform at First Magnitude
With 2015 winding down, Gainesville decided to revamp the urban art scene! Located all throughout the downtown area, take a walk and get some model worthy shots at the many art murals placed on restaurants, garages, and businesses! Visit 352walls.org for more info!
Each year, there are food truck rallies that pass through the area. Usually located by High Dive, bring your date and try out the specialized foods from vendors near and far!
Buy a drink and get a token. Use the token for another drink! It’s a fun deal to take part in! And the food is pretty darn fantastic too!
- Maude’s (Coffee, Board Games, Movies, Drag Shows)
Maude’s has always been something special in Downtown Gainesville. Grab some coffee and break out the board games in the main room! Board games not quite your thing? Swing by at different times and you might be able to watch a movie outside or even a drag show! Who knows what you’re going to find when you go to Maudes!
Whether it’s a bustling Friday night at Tall Paul’s, or a calm empty Tuesday evening, sit back and enjoy a few local Alligator Brews at Tall Paul’s! It’ll be a fun night to remember… Or not.
- Cowboy’s Saloon (Formerly known as 8 Seconds… It’ll always be known as :08 to me)
Put on your boots and get in line for some dancing at The Cowboy’s Saloon! Ride the bull, and break out your southern sass!
Check out the High Dive and other concert halls for performances from artists well known and artists that are upcoming!
Show off your dance moves while learning a few tips or two with your rockin’ and steppin’ partner!
Nestled just above the bulk of Downtown, explore the beauty of the Historic Thomas Center. Lay out a blanket and bring a few snacks for a beautiful outdoor experience.
It’s a bar. It’s an arcade. Pretty self-explanatory.
Just east of most of Downtown, check out the pretty houses in the Bed & Breakfast District!
SE 2nd Place leading to B&B Dist
Another Historic Site in Downtown Gainesville, take a tour or just relax on the rocking chairs on the front porch sharing stories and making jokes!
Local. Food. Check em out! Maybe gather some ingredients for a meal you and your date can cook at home!
Don’t want to make a meal together at home? How about with the instruction of a professional chef? Get some lessons and enjoy your meal in an intimate setting for a romantic evening!
Cupcakes and Coffee accompany the quaint area of Gainesville you will love!
An evening stroll away from the hustle and bustle of Campus can be a welcoming break!
- Explore the Biltmore houses
Check out some of the new houses being developed in the Haile Plantation area!
Wake up early Saturday morning and head over to Haile Plantation to check out streets lined with vendors! Try some homemade salsa, or buy some freshly made pastries! Y’all won’t be disappointed!
Spread out a blanket under Florida’s largest oak tree!
Rent out a canoe and paddle down miles of pristine Florida waters.
Gaze out into the stars just outside of Gainesville.
Drive on out to the overlook and rise up with the sun, or watch as the final bits of sunlight dip below the horizon!
Escape from the busyness of campus night with a trip to O’Leno State Park! With sights that don’t seem to fit in a normal thought of Florida, you and your date might be pleasantly surprised.
Warm up by a campfire while sharing stories over some warm S’mores.
Share some quality time walking through miles of trails snaking through the Prairie.
Cones Dike Trail
Bolen Bluff Trail
Explore winding trails along Hogtown creek, stepping over stones and walking over fallen trees!
Make some historic moments with one another finding shark teeth in Rattlesnake Creek!
Take a walk through the pines of the Longleaf Flatwoods Reserve!
Miles of trails await exploration by you and your trusty partner!
Just north of 16th avenue, explore additional trails in search of more shark teeth.
In the upper region of Hogtown Creek, walk through half a mile of nature trails in the urban jungle that is Gainesville.
A newer set of trails shaped in the head of a Gator, check out the Sweetwater Trails for birds, and various wildlife!
Take some time out of your day and climb some trees over at Bivens Arm Park.
Just off of 20th by Cabana Beach/The Grove Apartments, check out the Split Rock Trail, where Hogtown Creek runs through building crevices and opportunities for memorable moments.
With climates changing at the base of this massive Floridian sinkhole, take some time to explore this bit of Gainesville history.
Spanning over 50 miles of road, take a bike ride (or walk) through breath taking scenery.
Walk through the trails of Morningside Nature Center in East Gainesville.
Bait a few hooks and catch a few fish over at Newnan’s Lake with your catch of a date.
Simplicity is wonderful. Lie back and watch the clouds pass by at Magnolia Park.
Toss a disc or ball around at Kanapaha Park while paying regards to the heroes and veterans that have spent their time and lives defending our country.
Stroll through the new park while creating new memories!
For a small admission fee, walk through thousands of acres ranging from rose gardens, to bamboo forests!
Open on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Weekends, Cedar Lakes showcases hundreds of plants and animals in its pristine gardens.
Dive off the dock into pristine blue waters for an exhilarating experience.
Dip your feet into this lesser known second magnitude Spring connected to the Waccasassa River! Just about 40 minutes outside Gainesville, this cheap yet beautiful Spring is perfect for the summer! NOTE: It’s only open April 1st to October 1st (according to the Levy County Website. To be safe, according to the titled link, it is open between Memorial Day and Labor Day)
Get your snorkel gear ready for a swim in clear waters diving down just more than 20 feet!
Rise early and take your date over to Ginnie Springs for a full day of adventure! Swim in the multiple springs at the park and float for hours down the river for a relaxing afternoon.
Don’t get pushed away by the currents at Manatee Springs, but stop by for a cooling break from the Floridian heat.
More like a swimming hole, grab a snack and dip your feet in at Rum Island for a peaceful afternoon.
In addition to the clear waters, Poe Springs is fitted with multiple grills, clean restrooms, and boardwalk trails, bring some barbecue supplies for a great time outdoors!
A once in a lifetime experience, snorkel or dive down into the sunlit cave! You’ve seen it on Pintrest. You’ve seen it all over Facebook. Suit up and dive in!
Basically a two-for-one kind of spring! Cool off at Ichetucknee Springs and then take a small hike down the boardwalk path and dive 40 feet down into Blue Hole!
For Florida natives, we all know and love the lazy rivers at Wet & Wild… put that in true Floridian waters, and you’ve got a solid few hours with your date floating down the river!
Boasting an impressive 70 feet deep, delve into the depths of Troy springs!
Troy Springs is commonly known for its Diving accommodations!
Sit back and relax in your inner tube while gazing up through river trees in the heart of Florida! Make a day of Rainbow Springs! Picnic, hammock, share stories, and take a break from the busyness of ‘Life!’
Get your dive gear together for a time in the deep blue.
Pack your cars and prepare yourselves for an exciting adventure at the sketchiest, redneck waterpark in Florida!
- Silver Springs Canoeing (Tandem Kayak – $18/1-hr, $9 additional hr., $45/day. Single Kayak – $14/1-hr, $7 additional hr., $35/day)
Kayak down at Silver Springs and look out for assorted wildlife… including monkeys. Yes. Monkeys!
Surrounding Areas // Alachua, Archer, Hawthorne, High Springs, Melrose, Micanopy, Newberry, Ocala, Waldo, Williston:
All locations about an hour or less away
Grab some dinner in Downtown Alachua followed by a stroll through the downtown portion! Additional points if you go during the holiday season!
With an ‘admission fee’ of 2 carrots (I’m serious, check it out HERE), stop by Mill Creek Horse Farm on Saturdays from 11am to 3 pm and care for the retired horses at the Horse Farm! Show your partner your altruistic side!
Have a need for speed? Watch a race at the Speedway and get pumped for some exhilarating competition!
With classic blues and historic Floridian meals, go back in time for some dining in Hawthorne! Considered one of the best restaurants in Florida by Florida Trend Magazine, this is a place you don’t want to miss!
Check out the small stores over at High Springs while grabbing some pictures by the railroad tracks!
Lions, tigers, leopards, panthers, bobcats, bears, and other species of exotic animals are all awaiting your meeting!
With a plethora of antique shops in Micanopy, meander down the sidewalks and share a pie at the scrumptious Blue Highway Pizza!
- Cautious Visit to the Rock Quarry (Newberry)
Ask around for more information…
If you can make your way to the Newberry Sports Complex on a night of a meteor shower, head out behind the baseball fields to the Astronomy Club’s area for some star struck moments with your best friend!
Get some blankets and cushions and head over to the Ocala Drive In Theater to see some of the newest premiers on a screen in the same fashion your parent’s did! Note the Florida humidity and mosquitoes so the best time will probably be when winter comes around!
There’s nothing quite as charming as a friendly battle of laser tag in a renovated flea market right?
Gather close to some gentle giants at the Two Tails Elephant Ranch in Williston Florida!
Attention ye college folk! Ride on down to the Medieval Fair and watch as metals clash, and horses gallop through the fairgrounds! Immerse yourselves in a Knight’s Tale!
Run through campus with hundreds of your closest friends ending in a plume of orange and blue powder!
Get in touch with your artistic side by taking a gander at some fine art at the Town of Tioga!
Check out these strawberry fields with your forever!
- Orange and Blue Spring Practice Game (April)
Orange! Blue! Games for you two!
Laugh, crack jokes, at the Historic Thomas Center for the annual Jest Fest!
Taste over a hundred craft brews throughout the day at the Hogtown Craft Beer Festival!
Witness as one of the best wakeboarding teams in the nation competes against other collegiate teams at Lake Wauburg!
Run through campus as the clock strikes midnight! The fun begins after dark!
Dash through campus with a purpose! Donate clothes while getting a brisk run in at night.
Take part in one of the largest Hammock Parties in the nation with the UF Hammock Club! #HammockUF
- Blueberry Picking at Straughn Farms (Mid Summer)
When the weather starts heating up, stop by Straughn Farms to walk through acres of Blueberry Fields! If you are able to find out which weekend they are open for free picking, get all the buckets ready for hours of fun!
Set up some lawn chairs and lay out some blankets for UF’s annual Fireworks show! Hear the Gainesville Community Band and get your America on!
Park on a side street and watch a local town parades through the streets.
Small town. Small parade. Big memories.
Known as the largest small town fireworks show in America, get your America on!
Swing by Haile Plantation for an evening for merriment, celebrating Halloween, custom brews and community dances.
Pay a visit to one of the many pumpkin patches around Gainesville for a lovely Fall photo shoot, while picking out which pumpkin you want to carve! Some local patches include the Littlewood Elementary Patch, at Trinity UMC, Wesley UMC, the Alachua Pumpkin Patch (photos below), and Church of God Pumpkin Patch)
Dive, duck, and run through the cornfields as masked men chase you with chainsaws knives and other ghoulish weapons! Take a trip on the hayride, or try your hand at some fun carnival games.
Head out to the ‘middle of nowhere’ under a cloudy October sky for a dash through the cornfield, or hold fast to your date as y’all traverse the haunted house!
One weekend in the year, Kanapaha Botanical Gardens opens its doors to host its Orchid Festival! Wander through the gardens while taking a gander a hundreds of orchids offered for sale!
Come learn about the winged creatures of the night at the Bat Festival! While Detective Gordon might not be there, y’all will still have an enjoyable experience! (No jokes here)
Do Si Do, and promenade your partner all around the square at one of the largest Annual Barn Dances in Northern Florida!
Cotton candy, carnival games, classic fair rides for fair fares!
Get ready to listen in on hundreds of punk bands all over downtown Gainesville on the weekend of the UF UGA game! After The Fall, MeWithoutYou, Billy The Kid, and so much more!
Stand with pride and walk through the streets of Gainesville with the parade and festival!
Slow down your day wandering through the town of Micanopy with streets lined with homemade crafts and products, while peering into the antique shops!
- Gator Growl ($15 UF Students, $25 Non-UF – Early November)
With big name artists visiting the University of Florida each year, hear from famous performers on their acts.
- UF Homecoming/Pageant/Soulfest/Gator Gallop/Alumni BBQ (Early November)
Come take part in the crowd of 80,000+ at the UF Homecoming game and parade! Free food, festivals, and seas of orange and blue are just elements of an event you can’t miss!
Visit the FL Museum of Natural History for their annual Starry Night event! Think of it like the UF Observatory on steroids. Learn about the great beyond here!
Browse the countless art pieces from paintings to glass sculptures and hammocks at the Art Festival in Downtown Gainesville!
Throughout the year, there are many concerts held on campus by Student Government. Some artists include Andy Grammar, Magic!, One Republic and more!
Catch a show at the Phillips Center
Wind the clocks back ages and experience life on the farm! Grind some sugar cane and learn how to make syrup in a time before industrial eras.
Be a part of the annual celebration that brings in the Christmas season at the Town of Tioga! Gaze upon Christmas trees and decorated wreaths available for purchase through the silent auction.
Join for an evening of lights, treats, Disney princesses, and carriage rides through the town!
A Gainesville tradition, take your date on an evening stroll through the luminous pathways bringing on the Christmas spirit!
Watch as the mayor of Gainesville helps light up a massive tree at the Historic Thomas Center!
Ring in the New Year downtown with the city of Gainesville!
… And if all else fails, head to Midtown.