All of Gainesville’s fun may seem like it lies in the vibrant bars and nightclubs of Midtown and Downtown, but there’s actually so much more to it. You don’t have to buy a beer to have a good time in this city. In fact, lots of locations all over Gainesville offer fun, free activities for everyone to enjoy -- and who doesn’t like free stuff? These events offer great opportunities to try new things, engage with the community, explore the city, and make some new friends.
Free Activities Around Town
- Free Yoga at Bo Diddley Plaza: Every Thursday at 6pm, Bo Diddley Plaza offers free yoga classes with Certified Yoga Teacher (CYT) Jackie Morone. The sessions offer a combination of Hatha and Vinyasa yoga. Basic poses and breathing techniques are the main focus, but some dynamic poses are incorporated as well. These classes are tailored for beginner yogis, but people of all skill levels are welcome -- just make sure to wear something comfy and bring your mat and water bottle.
- UF Barn & Bat House: One of the most iconic locations on the University of Florida campus is the UF Barn and Bat house, located on Museum Road across from Lake Alice. The 18' x 18' structure was built in 1991 to give bats their own home after so many of them were living in campus buildings. It’s known as the largest bat house in the world and has gained quite a bit of fame. In late spring, summer, and early fall visitors can watch 40,000-70,000 Southeastern and Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from their residence at nightfall. There are benches you can sit at and even an information kiosk if you want to learn more. The bats normally emerge 15-20 minutes after sunset on calm, warm evenings when temperatures are at least 65 degrees.
- Morningside Nature Center: Morningside is one of the most beautiful parks in all of Gainesville. Its 278 acres feature a spectacular wildflower display and diverse wildlife including deer, wild turkey, box turtles, gopher tortoises, skunks, and numerous birds. There is even a “Living History Farm” that recreates a single-family rural household in the year 1870. The farm includes a cabin from the 1840s, a board and batten kitchen, a barn and one-room schoolhouse, an heirloom garden, and live farm animals. On the first Saturday of each month (Sept-May) the Farm offers live interpretive experiences. Fall wildflower walks are held every Saturday in October, and native plant sales are held in the fall and spring. For other special events, visit the center’s website.
- Free Fridays Concert Series: Every Friday from 8-10pm, Bo Diddley Plaza hosts a free concert. A new band is featured each week, performing music of all genres, including classic rock, reggae, R & B, soul, ska, funk, blues, and more. You can look at the event calendar online to see what band will be playing on any given Friday.
- Depot Park: Located on SE Depot Ave, right by Rosa Parks Station, Depot Park is a large park with stunning views and a variety of fun features. The playground has something for everyone to enjoy, with slides and tunnels galore. There is also the “Blue Grotto,” an aquatic splash pad inspired by the underwater caverns of Central Florida. It’s fun for kids and adults alike, with waterfalls, ground jets, water cannons and hidden fossils. Depot Park also features many sights to see, as you stroll down the promenade or look out onto the wildlife conservation area. In addition, the park hosts an assortment of lively events, from concerts to festivals.
- Florida Museum of Natural History: This museum is truly a treasure of Gainesville. General admission is completely free to permanent exhibits, which take you through Florida’s rich and diverse history. The exhibits feature displays of prehistoric fossils, simulated wildlife environments, recreated cultural scenes, and more. One of the most popular features is the Butterfly Rainforest exhibition, which allows visitors to walk through an enclosed garden space, where butterflies, moths, and small birds are lounging in the trees. Note that the Butterfly Rainforest requires a fee, however. Behind the museum is also a series of trails and gardens. Make sure to explore all that it has to offer.
- The A. Quinn Jones Museum and Cultural Center: The AQJ Museum showcases exhibits attributed to A. Quinn Jones, the civil rights activist. There is also a string of other exhibits that tell the stories of influential champions in the civil rights movement. Visitors can explore the power of education, the history of civil rights in Gainesville, and the role of churches in the movement.
- The Harn Museum of Art: The Harn boasts a collection of over 9,000 objects in their exhibitions. The large displays are eclectic and unique, manifesting the manifold cultures of communities all over the world. There is an array of African, Asian, modern and contemporary art, photography with representations of Ancient American and oceanic art, as well as a growing collection of natural history works on paper. Five garden spaces, a 250-seat auditorium, a study center, a museum store, a café and classroom spaces are all part of the museum, making it a wonderful place to hang out at any time of the day.
- The Solar Walk: If you’re looking for a scenic path to take while out for a jog or stroll, the Solar Walk is the ideal place to go. Located at NW 34th St and NW 8th Ave, the Solar Walk is a 4 billion to 1 scale model of the solar system stretching for almost a mile. There is a monument designated to the sun and each planet, designed by artist Elizabeth Indiano. There is also a bronze plaque customized for each planet, designed by Tim Males. The Solar Walk is a stimulating and educational experience perfect for those days when you’re looking to burn some energy.
Maximizing Your Experience
Gainesville is a beautiful city with tons of parks and hiking trails, as well as cultural centers and museums. There is truly something for everyone to enjoy in the city -- the options are not limited. Whether you’re spending the afternoon with your family or hanging out with a couple of friends in the evening, it's not hard to find a free and fun activity in Gainesville.