Are you ready for another weekend getaway?
Looking for a destination that is packed full of fun outdoor activities and unbelievably delicious dining options?
Located just a little over an hour north of the Villages of Citrus Hills, Gainesville is a thriving college town that offers one of the best destinations for a weekend getaway packed full of great food and fun activities.
While just about everyone in Florida knows that Gainesville is the place to be during home football games every fall, we have actually found the town is just as enjoyable during the rest of the year as well.
If you are in the market for an easy weekend getaway where all the details are planned out in advance, here is the 48-hour itinerary that we recommend for a first trip to “The Swamp.”
Day One: Casual Dining and School History
Assuming that you are going to plan on arriving in Gainesville hungry, our first stop is going to be Public & General. This is a hip lunch spot where patrons serve themselves from a menu of specialty sandwiches or by customizing a cheese and charcuterie plate.
Following lunch, we are going to introduce you to the thing that Gainesville is most famous for: The University of Florida. We’ll spend the afternoon exploring the exciting student union building and walking past the massive Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
For dinner on your first night in town, it has to be The Top. This casual downtown restaurant specializes in big-time burgers, but make sure that you also order some of their famous Corn Nuggets.
You’re welcome to hang out at The Top as late as you like, but when you’re ready for a change of scenery we recommend a quick stroll over to Madrina’s for a fantastic selection of craft cocktails to close out your night.
Day Two: Butterflies, Cubans, and Fine Dining
The first stop for our second day in Gainesville is going to be the 6,400-square-foot Butterfly Rainforest. On any given day, you will find up to 50 different species of butterflies occupying this amazing space, making it the most popular non-football-related attraction in all of Gainesville.
After enjoying the Butterfly Rainforest, our next stop is La Cocina De Abuela for some authentic Cuban cuisine. This is a great lunch spot because everything is fast and easy. Just pick the type of rice, beans, and meat you want and you’re on your way. We recommend going with the Mojo Pork.
Following lunch we’re heading back outdoors to explore the swamps that this town is known for at Paynes Prairie. This is a beautiful outdoor space that might give you the chance to catch a glimpse of an authentic Florida gator, wild horses or even bison.
For your second dinner in Gainesville, it’s time to class things up a bit, so we’re making reservations at Ember’s Wood Grill. This is a first-class steakhouse so you can feel confident ordering your favorite cut, and make sure you get the Lobster Mashed Potatoes.
After having an outstanding meal at Ember’s Wood Grill, there is nothing wrong with heading straight to bed. But if you would rather enjoy your last night in town, we suggest heading down to Sidecar Gainesville to cap off your visit in true college fashion.
Day Three: History, Brunch, and Shopping
The last popular attraction that you have to see on your first trip to Gainesville is the Florida Museum of Natural History. This is a small museum, but it is packed full of interesting local history, and you can’t argue with the price because it’s FREE!
We can’t recommend coming back from any 48-hour adventure without having a decent brunch, and the place to find a great one in Gainesville is Daybreak Pleasant Street. Whether you are looking for basic pancakes, huevos rancheros, or something a little more specific like the Daybreak Hash, this is a brunch that will not let you down.
If you are looking to do a bit of shopping before heading back home, downtown Gainesville is the perfect place to explore all kinds of unique shops that all feature plenty of University of Florida gear.
In addition to all of the things to see and do in Gainesville, there are also plenty of lodging options in and around this popular college town.
So the next time you are looking for a good destination for a little weekend getaway, think about heading north to Gainesville….just remember to check the football schedule before you book your trip!