Gainesville's subtle landscape offers more than stereotypical Florida scenery. Visitors to Gainesville will see palm trees, yes, but also massive live-oak trees draped with hanging moss. The city's tree canopy creates a comforting and inclusive atmosphere for visitors, making Gainesville less a city with a view than a city in a forest.
Visitor attractions such as freshwater springs, pristine rivers and Paynes Prairie—a 21,000-acre/8,500-hectare nature preserve that supports a range of wildlife, including bison—are within a 30-minute drive of Gainesville's center.
On the weekends, visitors to Gainesville will see cars with kayaks and bicycles strapped on. Gainesville has 80 mi/130 km of bike lanes and trails—more than any other Florida city—and has received a silver award from the League of American Bicyclists for being such a bicycle-friendly place.
There's both a pleasant, small-town feel in Gainesville and lively nightlife centered on the University of Florida and its more than 50,000 students. A progressive, eclectic gem, Gainesville draws artists and intellectuals, scientists and musicians, healers and entrepreneurs. And it offers a refuge for visitors fleeing southern Florida's more developed strip-mall-and-subdivision regions.
Restaurants, galleries and bars dot Gainesville's downtown, which abuts historic residential districts. It has its growing pains—traffic can be formidable—but, overall, smart urban planning and streetscapes make for an attractive, if sprawling, travel destination.
Note: Florida sustained widespread damage during Hurricane Irma in September 2017. Travelers should investigate current conditions prior to planning a visit.
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