Gainesville is a college town -- and proud of it. It
is the home of the 1996 / 2006 national and SEC champion football
team, the University of Florida's Gators. The team's
football prowess has reinvigorated an already vital
town. It's a place where things are happening and where
people are proud to live. When Money magazine still
issued its traditional "Best Places to Live in
America," Gainesville made the list in six out
of the last ten years -- in 1995, it ranked number one.
But residents -- then and now -- don't need anyone else,
even an influential national magazine, to tell them
their city is a good place to live.
Home Sweet Home
Gainesville's excellent medical facilities, quality
cultural offerings, pleasant climate and convenience
to coastal beaches combine to increase its attractiveness
to home buyers and homeowners, says the Gainesville-Alachua
County Board of Realtors. Although homes in the region
range from $30,000 to $500,000, many are priced between
$70,000 and $120,000. In 1999, for example, the medium
sales price of existing single-family homes in Alachua
County was $108,800, up 4 percent from 1998. For that
price, you can buy a three-bedroom, two-bath home with
a den and about 1,600 to 1,800 square feet or a four-bedroom,
two-bath home of the same size. Eighty-five percent
of Gainesville's housing inventory is made up of single-family
homes; another 15 percent is comprised of condominiums.
If you're looking for a single-family home, you'll find
30 to 40 subdivisions from which to select. Golf-course
property goes for $75 to $100 per square foot; waterfront
isn't a significant segment of this market.
The Gainesville Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA)
includes all of Alachua County.
Population: 128,460 as of 2014
Median age: 30
New citizens: 4,114 yearly
New job creation: 3.5 percent (1999)
Unemployment rate: 4.2 percent in Nov 2015
Cost of living: 89.90 percent (USA average=100
Per capita income: $25,408 in 2014
Median household effective buying income: $45,353
Rain & Shine
The overall average temperature is a comfortable 70
degrees Fahrenheit. Gardeners love it here because it's
cool enough to work in the yard most of the year, yet
warm enough to do it in relative comfort. The growing
season is 255 days, so the flowers and vegetables have
lots of time to develop. The average July high is 90
degrees Fahrenheit; the average January low is 50 degrees
Fahrenheit. It doesn't snow, but it does get a tad chilly
at times during the winter. The county averages eight
days yearly when the minimum temperature is below 32
degrees. It rains 51 inches annually, and some rain
falls an average of 116 days of the year. Yet few complain
about the rain, since is usually arrives on warm summer
afternoons in time to cool off the inhabitants.
More than 32 percent of the county's employed work for
some governmental unit, many for the University of Florida
but others for Santa Fe Community College, the school
board, the publicly owned hospitals, the county and
various communities. In addition to Gainesville, some
of the small towns--Alachua, Archer, Hawthorne, High
Springs, La Crosse, Micanopy, Newberry and Waldo, are
incorporated and provide city services.
Major area employers include the University of Florida
as well as the countywide public school system. The
largest private employers are Shands Hospital (7,519),
North Florida Regional Medical (1,400), Nationwide Insurance
Company (1,000), Moltech Power Systems, (700), AvMed
HealthPlan (544), Meridian Health Care (450), Hunter
Marine Corp. (425), BellSouth (407), Tower Hill Insurance
Group (390) and The Gainesville SunTower (300).
Extensive information about the schools in this area
is online at the state's Department of Education (http://www.fldoe.org).
There you'll discover everything you'll need to know
about Florida schools -- in general and in particular.
All you need is the name of your county and the names
of the schools students from your neighborhood attend.
Use links from the DOE home page for general information
about entrance requirements, immunizations and so forth.
For the nitty-gritty details that really matter, click
on the logo for the "Florida School Indicators
Gainesville is a good place to own a car. If you don't
have one, however, Regional Transit System (RTS) provides
area bus service and minibus transportation for the
Roads are good. Need to drive to Tallahassee for the
big game against rival FSU? No problem. Gainesville
is served directly by Interstate 75 , which connects
with Interstate 10 in Lake City just north of Alachua
County. I-75 will get you east to Jacksonville and the
Atlantic shoreline or west to Tallahassee or even farther
west to Pensacola--all the way to Los Angeles if you're
so inclined. Additionally, I-75 connects with the Florida
Turnpike to Orlando and on south to Miami. I-75 also
goes north to Atlanta or down Florida's west coast to
Tampa, Sarasota, Fort Myers and Naples.
Greyhound-Trail ways serves the city's interstate bus
transportation needs. Amtrak provides passenger rail
service. Jacksonville has the closest deep-water port
to Gainesville. The Gainesville Regional Airport's five
commercial carriers offer 25 daily non-stop flights
that connect to major transportation hubs in Atlanta,
Charlotte, Miami and Orlando. From those cities, you
can get virtually anywhere except Antarctica.
Some say Alachua is Seminole Indian for jug. They assume
the county received its name because of the sinkhole
in Paynes Prairie. Others interpret Alachua to mean
"grassy." They assume that the prairie itself,
not its centerpiece sinkhole, inspired the county's
colorful name. It probably doesn't matter, but it's
indicative of something special about the county. Even
though it's inland in a state famous for coastline,
the county enjoys both the beauties and oddities of
Whether or not the county is named after its big sinkhole--and
it probably is--you won't want to miss the Devil's Millhopper
State Geological Site, a 10,000-year-old sinkhole accessible
via 232 stairs. It's easy to get down, but remember
you'll have to reverse your steps to climb back up.
If you brave the descent and its consequent return climb,
you'll be rewarded with sights of rare and unusual plant
specimens. At least enjoy a scenic stroll around the
rim of the enormous--500-feet-wide--sinkhole. Energetic?
Walk the Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail, a 17-mile rails-to-trails
project that is used by bikers, hikers and horseback
riders. It passes through two of the area's best natural
sites--the 19,000-acre Paynes Prairie State Preserve
and the Lochloosa Wildlife Management Area. Along the
trail, three overlooks offer glimpses of different ecosystems.
For gators real and honorary, check out the UF campus.
Lake Alice fosters a wildlife sanctuary and botanical
gardens. You may see a gator sunning in the sanctuary.
They're definitely in the lake. For more critters, visit
the zoo. The Santa Fe Community College Teaching Zoo
is a "one and only" experience: the only one
of its kind in the country, college students run the
place and learn on the job about zoo management, animal
care and guest services. To see the stars, wander outside
on a clear, dark night or visit the UF Teaching Observatory
on Friday evenings. It's fun and it's free.
About 20 miles south of Gainesville, you'll discover
Cross Creek and the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings State Historic
Site. Located between two large lakes, it's a site of
great natural beauty as well as literary and historic
The pros don't play here and might not garner much support
if they did. On campus,
take a look at Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium,
a.k.a. the Swamp, where the Gators play football. This
is Gator Country. All the teams are good. Many are great--not
in football alone, but in swimming, diving, golf, tennis
and baseball. Plus, many of the women's teams stand
out in the NCAA crowd--especially in basketball. If
you get a yen for what some call "the next level,"
Jacksonville offers its football Jaguars, Tampa its
Buccaneers and Orlando its basketball Magic. The local
Gainesville Growlers are new and scheduled to compete
against five Florida minor-league football elevens.
Plus, the ever-active Gainesville Sports Organizing
Committee brings state and national sporting events
and even championships, mostly amateur, to town.
Individual sports fans have it made. Facilities are
great, partly because of the university's presence.
Gainesville sports seven golf and country clubs (with
more in the region) plus lots of good tennis courts.
Swimming pools and lakes are plentiful; beaches on both
coasts are conveniently close. It's about an hour's
drive to the Gulf of Mexico and it doesn't take much
longer than that to get to the Atlantic Ocean. Fishing
and canoeing on the Santa Fe River provide many pleasant
hours for residents who prefer freshwater sports. For
divers, five springs--Blue Springs, Ginnie Springs,
Ichetucknee Springs, Manatee Springs and Poe Springs--are
in or close to Alachua County. Even experts enjoy cave
diving at Ginnie Springs.
There's an active parks and recreation system, a Boys
Club, a Girls Club, an organization devoted to promoting
and organizing youth soccer and a YMCA with plenty of
programs in addition to its popular swimming-lesson
Hot Times in the City
Anyone who's bored in Alachua County has only himself
to blame. Whatever your hobby or passion, from weaving
to stargazing, from basket making to bread baking, from
computer programming to duplicate bridge, you can do
it here and find like-minded folks to enjoy it with
you. The university's proximity and an open-minded attitude
toward learning new things gives zest to community life.
Gainesville's has a high cultural base and is constantly
enriched--directly or indirectly--by university faculty
and students or their special guests, in town for seminars
or lectures or special performances. The Harn Museum
of Art showcases the university's collection, student
works and special traveling exhibitions. For a change
of pace, consider a visit to the Gainesville Artisans'
Guild Gallery. Musical groups abound: whether you prefer
jazz or classical, blues or alternative, you'll find
lots to listen to throughout the year. UF's Constans
Theater performances excite viewers and actors with
cutting-edge, avant-garde and classical theater, not
simply the latest Broadway show. At the Center for the
Performing Arts, famous entertainers--ranging from Itzhak
Perlman to Johnny Cash--take the stage on a regular
basis. Whatever the venue or group, the Hippodrome State
Theater, the Gainesville Community Theater, the Florida
Players, the Players of Santa Fe, the Gainesville Community
Play House, Dance Alive, Floridance Company, Danscompany
of Gainesville, Dance Theatre of Santa Fe, Gainesville
Ballet Theatre, the Gainesville Chamber Orchestra, the
Gainesville Civic Chorus and the Gainesville Community
Band all entertain and enlighten those who see them
Three fine museums await the curious: in addition to
the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, there's the unusual
Fred Bear Museum, displaying specimen animals downed
by the expert bow-hunter, and the highly rated and fascinating
Florida Museum of Natural History, featuring a full-size
limestone cave and a Mayan temple. Also worth a look
are the Morningside Nature Center, a living history
farm; the Thomas Center, the city's cultural home and
site of period rooms, art galleries and gardens; and
the Matheson Historical Center, with 16,000 Florida
postcards, plus prints, maps and books about the state.
Special events occur on a weekly, almost daily, basis.
For the big-time calendar events, experience the Gator
every March, the Spring Arts Festival in April, Pioneer
Days in High Springs during May, Newberry's Watermelon
Festival in June. Summer is quiet, although not uneventful.
Fall events in the "don't miss" category include
UF Homecoming and associated festivities in October;
the Alachua County Fair, Micanopy's Fall Festival and
Gainesville's Downtown Arts & Crafts Festival in
November; the Festival of Trees in Gainesville and Christmas
parades in High Springs, Hawthorne and the town of Alachua.
Shop 'til You Drop
There's a big mall in Gainesville. It's called Oaks
Mall and is home to five anchor department stores and
an additional 130 stores, specialty shops and restaurants.
In the immediate Gainesville area, another five shopping
centers with lots of "good goods" include
Butler Plaza, Gainesville Shopping Center, Newberry
Crossing, Newberry Square and Tower Center. Also in
Alachua County, Micanopy in the south and High Springs
in the north are both famous all over the state as fun
places to shop for antiques and collectibles.
Lots of restaurants, clubs and bars serve the residents,
but because 47,000 of the citizens are comparatively
poor college students, few eateries are very upscale.
Most diners seem to enjoy casual places like Applebee's, Ruby Tuesday's, T.G.I. Fridays and
Outback. For something special, residents often drive to
romantic Cedar Key in the Gulf of Mexico for dinner.
If you know of a town with 41,000 college students
that doesn't have a swinging nightlife and cutting-edge,
alternative music scene, let us know. Chances are good
it's not in Florida, where all the major public and
private schools are known for academics, sports and
fun--not always in that order. Gainesville's club scene
rocks year-round, but especially when a band played
on college radio hits town. And Gator Growl headliners
aren't the only groups making noise during Homecoming
Unless you cut to the chase by hyper linking to this
section, you've already read about the football team
and other sports activities at the University of Florida.
But UF is the state's flagship university, an academic
powerhouse with nearly 35,000 students, who come from
more than 100 countries, all 50 states and each of the
state's 67 counties. It has 26 colleges and schools,
plus numerous research, service and education centers,
bureaus and institutes that together offer more than
100 undergraduate majors. Numerous graduate programs
and professional schools in law, dentistry, medicine,
pharmacy and veterinary medicine are a proud part of
the university's diverse academic offerings.
Some students start at Santa Fe Community College (SFCC),
a two-year, state-supported school located in Gainesville
that enrolls at least 12,500 in for-credit courses.
Another 20,000 students take non-credit courses. The
college offers more than 40 technology and applied science
programs. The curriculum includes programs in nursing,
accounting, paramedics and cardiopulmonary technology,
Just for Seniors
Although Gainesville is a young town, its seniors aren't
ignored. One of Gainesville's claims to fame is that
it's the site of several highly rated hospitals in addition
to the Shands Hospitals, prestigious teaching hospitals
associated with the University of Florida and its medical
and dental schools.
The Mid-Florida Area Agency on Aging, which coordinates
the work of assisting the elderly in 16 Florida counties,
is located here. The Elder Helpline for Alachua County
Information and Referral (I&R) is 352/375-1155 or
1-800/262-2243. Many senior-tailored services are available
in Alachua County, including congregate meals, home-delivered
meals, homemakers, respite care and assistance with
everything from transportation to medical appointments.
A few programs that are state or federally supported
may have waiting lists. If you can afford to pay for
the service, you can often bypass the waiting list or
arrange for a private provider. The I&R staffers
can generally help with both public and privately funded
services for anyone over 60 years of age.