Home of the University of Florida, Gainesville is worth a visit. Located north of Ocala near Orlando and Jacksonville, it has a hip vibrant scene. The live oaks are covered by Spanish Moss (as are the southern magnolias and deciduous trees)  giving the area a different feel from points south with their plethora of palms and subtropical plants. Redbuds reach their southern limit here. The pines and scrub palms are also beautiful.


Across the street from the Hilton are two free museums on the University of Florida campus. The Harn Museum of Art has a great exhibit entitled Florida Impressions. Racial issues are tackled in the Shadow to Substance exhibit. They also have an Asian Art Gallery.  The Florida Museum of Natural History next door is also free. Pay an extra $15 and enjoy the outdoor butterfly exhibit. Learn about Northwest Florida waterways and wildlife and the South Florida people and environments.

A short walk away is Alice Lake, a beautiful park on the campus.  Enjoy the orb web spiders across the street in Harmonic Woods or watch the bats fly out of their bat cages at sunset. Beware of alligators by staying away from the water. Just up the street is the Student Union where you can grab a bite.

Downtown is also a must. You can walk around the lake downtown at Depot Park or bike on the bike and hike rail trail. The nearby Cade Museum is very interactive and chronicles the development of Gatorade which provides royalties to this date to the University.  Thursday’s is the GNV market at the Heartwood Sound Stage. The market features food and other unusual vendors and has a hippy Southern rural flair not found in other parts of the state. The nearby Hippodrome in the original library building has musical shows.


The University Club is GNV’s lone LGBTQ bar. It features a piano bar on Friday and has drag shows weekend nights. It’s a fun friendly hangout right in downtown (near the Hampton Inn). Try the Urea IPA (from First Magnitude Brewing, the local microbrew).  Details at University Club,

Gainesville has many popular drag brunches, including Curia on the Drag.


I took Delta through Atlanta right into Gainesville, a small easy to use airport. If you fly into Orlando or Jacksonville, Hitch private and shared rides may be able to get you to Gainesville without renting a car. Check them out at ridehitch.com. They also have Red Coach bus service to South Florida from Gainesville. You can easily get around without a car. Gainesville Transit can take you to the campus as well as downtown.


I stayed at the Hilton on the University of Florida Campus. It’s handy to the nearby Crunch Gym (2002 SW 34th) where you can work out for $10 (pass good for 24 hours). It is a one mile walk to Butler Plaza, an upscale outdoor mall which has a Publix (the locally owned grocery store of Florida) where you can pick up some Florida strawberries or citrus, get a salad or food to go, etc. You will find them at 3100 SW 35th Boulevard.  They also have Chui’s Mexican Restaurant and a Bonefish Grill. Plus 150 stores.

For more information, check out VisitGainesville.com

About the Author

Bill Malcolm is the nation’s only LGBTQ+ syndicated value travel columnist. Residing in Indianapolis, he travels with a focus on the local and value orientation.