Wednesday, 23 November 2011 16:35
Sure, you’ve heard of Satchel’s Pizza and Lake Wauburg. You might have even impressed a date at the Florida Museum of Natural History’s Butterfly Rainforest or attended an after-hours event at the Harn’s Museum Nights.
But what about the slightly hidden hotspots that don’t have an address near University or Archer?
For the even more impressive second date or a lazy Friday backup plan, here are some of our staff’s picks for a five-mile tour, pizza not included. (You’ll want to head to Satchel’s—or Blue Highway—for that.)
By Aliza Bresnick and Katie Finney
A. Sinkhole at the Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park
Take a walk down an extensive bridge system to the bottom of this 120-foot-deep sinkhole, which is an exquisite miniature rainforest home to an array of wildlife and unique animal fossils on the northwest corner of town.
B. Kanapaha Botanical Gardens
These 62 acres just off Archer Road gardens include 24 collections of bamboos, herbs, lilies, unique florae and more. Tour the hummingbird garden, the ginger garden, the butterfly hill and a palm hammock before resting in a gazebo.
C. The Thomas Center
The Thomas Center is a restored Mediterranean Revival-style hotel in the Duckpond Neighborhood of downtown Gainesville. Now home to local government offices, art galleries and wedding receptions, it is on the National Register of Historic Places. Tour the art galleries, 1920s-era rooms, historic exhibits and the Thomas Center Gardens.
D. Tioga Town Center
Tioga Town Center is like a mini-town out west with food, shopping and apartments. Within the center, visit Down To Earth Boutique (exotic house décor along with jewelry and women’s clothing); Sabore (upscale, funky restaurant with a global twist on tapas); and GatorTec (an Apple Authorized Service Provider).
Go for brunch on the quaint side of Gainesville with this restaurant in Haile Village, five miles from campus and a destination itself. Try the Challah Bread French Toast, filled with sautéed apples and smoked bacon, grilled ham and gruyere, or ricotta and spiced peaches. Then, tour this old-fashioned-style community’s shops and Saturday farmer’s market.
F. The Pearl Country Store and Barbecue
Hidden behind a gas station and convenient store in Micanopy, “The Pearl” may look unassuming, but this 13th Street gem serves up some of the most savory pulled pork and ribs in the area. Sides include mac and cheese, green beans and Texas toast.
G. Kika Silva Pla Planetarium
A 34-foot Spitz dome, two state-of-the-art projectors, room for 60 guests … this planetarium doesn’t just give you a look at the stars, it transports you there and completely surrounds you with video and sounds of the universe. This Santa Fe College attraction welcomes all visitors at little to no cost.
H. Morningside Nature Center
With seven miles of trails, animals like gopher tortoise and wild turkey and a Living History Farm, Morningside Nature Center is a 278-acre longleaf pine preserve just south of the airport. The Friends of Nature Parks organizes two annual native plant sales to turn your backyard into paradise.
I. Dudley Farm State Park
Travel west on Newberry Road, and you will be transported 150 years back in time. At Dudley Farm, you can see how farming in North Florida has evolved, down to the corn shucking, cane grinding and period clothing. This historical landmark is only $4 per vehicle or $1 per person.
J. Dogwood Park
Take your pooches for a day trip to Dogwood Park & Daycare, and they’ll think they’ve died and gone to doggie heaven. The facility has dog pools, an indoor playroom and icy treats. On vacation? Dogwood will board your dogs in large, two-dog apartments (no cages).
K. Thornebrook Village
Chocolates, stained glass, salon and spa, fine jewelry and fashions, even a Dirty Bar. Thornebrook Village has everything you need for a day (or week) of shopping, eating, relaxing and drinking. Just four miles from campus on Northwest 43rd Street, the Village is also home to a weekly farmer’s market and annual arts festival.
L. Historic Haile Homestead
One of the only antebellum homes in central Florida, Haile Homestead was completed in 1856 and has been preserved so that visitors can experience life from when Gainesville started to develop. Tour the 6,200-square-foot home, and come back on Dec. 4 when the homestead hosts a holiday party with live music, hot cider and holiday decorations. – KF
M. Gainesville Raceway
Watching a drag race at Gainesville Raceway will make you appreciate the need for speed. Every March, the raceway’s NHRA Gatornationals brings throngs of fans to town and sets world records in the process. Visit the raceway for its weekly Test & Tune to see how your four wheels match up on the track.