About the City of Gainesville
Great Place to Live
- It’s not far from the northern border of Florida and little more than an hour drive from either coast.
- The city has a pleasant, predominately warm climate.
- The temperature drops about 20° Fahrenheit at night in the summer.
- There are short but stimulating cold spells in the winter.
- The average high temperature in January is 65° Fahrenheit.
- The average high in July is 91° Fahrenheit.
- Gainesville averages 7.75 hours of sunshine per day. The annual rainfall averages 35 inches.
- The coast is close enough to enjoy, but generally far enough away to reduce the likelihood of damage from tropical storms and hurricanes.
- The present urban population of the city is more than 124,391.
- The median age of Gainesville residents is 27 years.
Spanish explorers traversed what is now Alachua County as early as 1529. Gainesville and the University of Florida had their separate beginnings in 1853, when the first state college (the East Florida Seminary) was founded in Ocala, and the Alachua County Commission decided to move the county seat to a new location along the route to be taken by the Florida Railroad. The new city was named for General Edmund Gaines, captor of Aaron Burr and victorious commander in the Second Seminole War. The state college, after several moves, was merged in 1905 with the Florida Agricultural College of Lake City to form the University of Florida, which moved to Gainesville the following year. In 2005, Gainesville was named one of the Top Ten Cities in the USA for outdoor activities and the most Technologically Advanced City in Florida (30th in the nation).
Economic ties between the university and the city and county are close. The University of Florida is the principal employer, and is also involved in agriculture, the most profitable business of the area. Since at least the sixteenth century, when the Spanish made the area the hub of their cattle ranching, Alachua County has been a main center for agriculture in Florida. Cattle and dairy products, poultry, vegetables, tobacco, corn, and timber produce the greatest revenues.
Many of the pleasures of living in the Gainesville area are water-related. The beaches of both coasts (quite different) are easily accessible. But it is not necessary to leave Alachua County to enjoy fishing, swimming, sailing, and similar sports; of its 965 square miles, more than one in twenty are covered by water.
Many springs are within easy reach of Gainesville. These springs and the lakes and rivers they feed have exceptionally clear, cool water, and (usually) a white sandy floor. Some (such as Silver Springs at Ocala, about 40 miles south of Gainesville) have been developed into full-blown tourist attractions, with underwater viewing galleries for fish-watchers, cruises in glass-bottomed boats, and water shows of various kinds. Other springs are virtually undiscovered. Many afford opportunities for camping, swimming, canoeing, and underwater exploration. It is not uncommon for divers to find fossils or Indian artifacts. Tubing (drifting downriver on an inner tube) can be enjoyed on the spring-fed Ichetucknee River. For naturalists the terrain is especially interesting.
There is a 280 acre wildlife sanctuary within Gainesville itself. The Morningside Nature Center has a permanent staff of naturalists and a varied program of activities, from natural history, farm, and folk life courses to nature walks and craft workshops.
The 57 acre Bivens Arm Nature Park is also within the city limits. The preserve and Morningside Nature Center are managed by the City of Gainesville Recreation and Parks.
The headquarters of the Gainesville Department of Cultural Affairs is the Thomas Center, a building of considerable interest to architects and historians; in its pattern of growth it has been described as a microcosm of Gainesville itself. A lively calendar of cultural events keeps the Thomas Center and its gardens busy year round. Gainesville has a number of drama groups. The Acrosstown Repertory Theatre performs in the historic Baird Center and the Constans Theater Box Office on the UF campus is the home of the University’s Florida Players. The Gainesville Community Playhouse at the Vam York Theater is headquarters for the community theater in Gainesville, and the Hippodrome, with a fine professional company, is one of Florida’s three state theaters. This handsome, Beaux Art-style building, formerly the Gainesville post office, now contains a main theater, a smaller cinema theater, and gallery space for art exhibits. The 1800-seat Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, on the western edge of the university campus, is the area’s major concert and theater space for touring and local talent.
The Samuel P. Harn Museum, adjacent to the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, is the major regional art center. Art galleries in Gainesville also include the Thomas Center, the University Gallery, and several other galleries and exhibition areas on campus. Santa Fe Community College has a Gallery of Art and sponsors the Spring Arts Festival in downtown Gainesville, one of the best of its kind in the Southeast. The Gainesville Fine Arts Association sponsors shows at the Thomas Center and in area shopping centers. There are several commercial galleries and the Artisan’s Guild, a nonprofit cooperative for local artists and crafts persons. The Butterfly Rainforest recently opened on the University of Florida campus. Visitors can see displays in the museum and then go outside to see live butterflies in a covered atrium.
The county and the community college cooperate in offering noncredit courses, held in locations all over the city, many of them in the evening. There are a number of public golf courses and tennis and racquet ball courts in Gainesville, as well as on the UF campus. The city is well supplied with restaurants and movie theaters. The university provides Gainesville with major collegiate spectator sports, and the Gator National drag races held each spring draw large crowds.
The City of Gainesville sponsors guest artists and music and performing arts by local performers and companies at the Thomas Center. The university’s Department of Music offers opportunities for local musicians to participate in its performing groups, which range from the symphony orchestra to jazz combos. Student Government and other organizations bring touring professional performers and productions to Gainesville.
Gainesville is served by more than 15 radio stations, including WUFT-FM, a classical music station. There are two local commercial television channels, and WUFT is the University-owned public television channel. Cable television gives access to over 50 channels. The Gainesville Sun is the local newspaper, and there are several student newspapers, the main one being the Independent Florida Alligator.
Gainesville is the home of the Florida Museum of Natural History, a good starting place for those who want to know more about Alachua County and to explore beyond as well as within it. It is located on the university campus. The Matheson Historical Center serves as the Alachua County Museum and Archives. Paynes Prairie State Preserve, Devil’s Millhopper State Geological Site, and San Felasco Hammock State Preserve afford opportunities to get close to nature without leaving the boundaries of the county.
Within a radius of about 100 miles of Gainesville there are places of interest of all kinds. Beginning with the Okefenokee Swamp (north of Gainesville), and going clockwise, one may visit Jacksonville (with its big-city amenities and beaches), St. Augustine (the oldest city in the United States, established by the Spanish in 1565), the Kennedy Space Center, Disney World and EPCOT and Cedar Key, the picturesque fishing village that was the western terminus of the railroad to which Gainesville owes its existence. At Cross Creek, close to Gainesville, the home of author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings is preserved as a state historical site. Because of its hospitals and the university, Gainesville is one of the state’s main centers for medical research and treatment. It has three hospitals: UF Health (Shands UF), Veterans Administration Medical Center, and North Florida Regional Medical Center. There are also clinics and nursing homes, and more than 450 physicians and surgeons and 100 dentists in private practice.
There are over 250 churches and synagogues in Gainesville and about 15 student chapels and religious centers near campus.
The largest educational institutions in Gainesville are the University of Florida, with an enrollment of about 51,000, and Santa Fe College, with an enrollment of more than 16,000. The Alachua County School Board is responsible for 24 elementary, 7 middle, and 7 high schools. There are also more than a dozen private schools and the P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School (K-12), which operates in association with the university’s College of Education.
Travel to and from Gainesville is easy. The main highways are Interstate 75, US 441, and US 301.
The Gainesville Regional Airport is served by four airlines – American Eagle Airlines, Delta Connection/ASA, US Airways Express/PSA, and Silver Airways/United Airlines. There is an Amtrak rail depot close by in Waldo. Intercity bus service is provided by Greyhound. Within the city, bus service is provided by the Regional Transit System.
For more information about Gainesville, visit www.cityofgainesville.org