Family Vacation to Gainesville, Florida

travelU.S. Travel

Our family vacation to Gainesville, Florida: Butterflies, Bats, and Bones—Oh My!

It’s the same thing every year. Toward the end of spring, we start to plan a vacation for our family of four. We brainstorm, toss around ideas, look into car shipping to see if it's feasible, look online for inspiration…but inevitably, we end up with the same thing: Orlando.

disney collage

We live in Florida, and like most Floridians with young kids (ours are 5 and 7), an Orlando vacation just makes sense. Don't get me wrong—we love it there! The theme parks and water parks will keep the whole family busy all day. It’s not too far from home, and admission tickets are often heavily discounted for Florida residents. Still, even with the discounts, theme park tickets alone can cost hundreds of dollars! Plus, the parks are ridiculously hot and crowded during the summer.

We were ready for a change—so this year, we decided to vacation in Gainesville, Florida, the home of my alma mater, the University of Florida. We were a bit worried that we’d run out of things to do, but we actually wound up having so many activities that we extended our trip by a day.

Fun Things to do in Gainesville, Florida

These are just some of the amazing things you can do in Gainesville and the surrounding areas:

Ichetucknee Springs State Park
Go tubing, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, swimming, snorkeling, or scuba diving. Bring a picnic lunch or grab a bite at the concession stand. Admission is $6.00 per vehicle, and extra charges may apply for different activities.

tubing collage

Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo

This small zoo has a surprisingly large collection of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish, and invertebrates. Admission is $5.00 per adult and $4.00 for children ages 4-12. Kids 3 and under are free.

zoo collage

Samual P. Harn Museum of Art

This museum is located on the University of Florida and has free admission. There was a small interactive display near the museum entrance, but otherwise this is a "hands-off" museum.


Florida Museum of Natural History

Learn about Florida's history with a large variety of exhibits featuring paleontology, archaeology, and natural sciences. Bonus: It also has a hands-on play area with comfy chairs for sleepy parents. This museum is located next door to the Harn Museum of Art and also has free admission.

museum collage

Butterfly Rainforest

This beautiful garden features hundreds of free-flying butterflies and birds from around the world. This is a special exhibit in the Florida Museum and there is a fee for admission.


University of Florida Bat Houses

Every evening just after sunset, you can watch thousands of bats emerge from their home on the University of Florida campus. You have to see it to believe it!

bat house

Devil’s Millhopper

Don't miss this 120-foot deep sinkhole! The view is breathtaking.

devils collage

Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

And no visit to Gainesville is complete without a visit to "The Swamp!"

gator collage

Our trip to Gainesville turned out to be our best vacation yet. We saved some money, avoided the crowds, and got to do some brand new things. Next time you plan a vacation, think outside the box—you might end up planning your best vacation ever too!

What are your favorite places to visit in Florida?

bio Sharon is a mommy, a runner, and a licensed therapist. Sometimes she wants to run away, but she sticks with running marathons instead. Come visit her at Mommy Runs It, where she blogs about  motherhood, marathon training, and balancing it all without losing her mind.
The following two tabs change content below.


Latest posts by mommyrunsit (see all)


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Web Statistics