Get on down to The Swamp.
A quintessential Southern vibe blankets Gainesville, Fla. as thick as the Spanish moss that drapes its tree-lined streets. This north Florida town is one of the top places to live in the United States, and although it is most definitely a football community through and through, we have uncovered the perfect itinerary that includes fun beyond the gridiron.
Where to stay
What’s not to enjoy about a little Southern charm in your hotel décor? At the Sweetwater Branch Inn Bed and Breakfast, relax in a Victorian complex of restored historic buildings and enjoy nearby McKenzie Garden. This sweet spot can book up quickly during game times, so look to Holiday Inn and Hilton Garden Inn for affordable and comfortable accommodations.
Where to eat/drink
Courtesy of Florida
After every football game, we like to put in time across the street at The Swamp Restaurant. A destination for straightforward bar grub and drinks and named best college bar in America several times over, you’ll understand why we insist. The menu is pared down during game days, but that shouldn’t deter you from finding something tasty. Plus, you’ll most likely be distracted by the revelry happening. It’s easy to do. If you’re still thirsty, head to Loosey’s, a pub that specializes in a vast variety of 50 American-made brews. You might not find a website for this next pit stop, but The Top is overall the number one favorite restaurant in Gainesville. Don’t let the “hipster” reputation rub you the wrong way. The food is crazy delicious. We’re a big fan of brunch on vacation, so with omelets and pancakes on the brain, get in a meal at The Jones Eastside.
Game day tips
University of Florida football is a long-held tradition in Gainesville and has been for more than 100 years. From the singing of “We Are the Boys from Old Florida” at the end of the third quarter to fans using their arms to chop through the “Jaws” theme song, traditions permeate the games. The team walk is a relatively new tradition and gives fans the opportunity to greet their players and coaches at the stadium two hours prior to kickoff.
Fans plan their tailgating activities months in advance, some even arriving days early in their RVs to stake a spot in the middle of the action. Keep in mind that when trying to find parking for the game, try to get to the stadium way earlier than you might think (we mean hours earlier), and be prepared to pay up to $100 for a spot close to the action.
What to do
If you decide to spend a few days in Gainesville, here’s our list of must-see destinations. Stop by downtown to walk the quaint square where shopping, art and restaurants abound. Here, you can also experience the only professional theater in the region at the Hippodrome, currently attracting more than 200,000 theater goers every year and housed in the old Federal Building. The Florida Museum of Natural History is a great place for the entire family to learn and explore fossils and science, and for more local history, the Dudley Farm Historic State Park presents living history of how farming developed in the area. Explore an authentic 1880s kitchen outbuilding and view original furnishings in the farmhouse in this 18-building homestead where park staff replicate life from that period. Not far from campus, Ichetucknee Springs State Park is a popular destination, especially on the weekends. Experience the beauty of the Ichetucknee River, try to spot some of the indigenous wildlife, and toss the football around after a hike and picnic.