To many, the beginning of fall in Gainesville means one thing: Gator football! And while the roar of more than 90,000 orange- and blue-clad fans cheering on their beloved Gators is near and dear to my heart, this University of Florida alumna can tell you that Gainesville's identity reaches far beyond football and its "college town" persona.
This North Central Florida city exudes a palpable cultural vibe and is home to at least as many museums, theaters and natural attractions as cities several times its size. So, whether you're a fan of football or arts and culture – or both – check out these four reasons why Gainesville's a winner for a fall getaway.
1 Fall Festivals and Events
Along with cooler temperatures, fall brings a full calendar of events to Gainesville.
In late October, all ages can mix a little fun with education at the Florida Museum of Natural History during ButterflyFest. Kids will enjoy crafts and watching tagged Monarch releases, while adults can take part in workshops and demonstrations on conservation and attracting butterflies. Be sure to stop by the museum's Butterfly Rainforest, a living exhibit that supports hundreds of vibrant, free-flying butterflies. Stroll down the winding path past waterfalls and lush plants and trees in the four-story screened vivarium for a one-of-a-kind experience.
Moving from biodiversity to cultural diversity, check out the free Kaleidoscope Festival held in late October or early November each year at the Gainesville Downtown Community Plaza. The annual festival brings together many cultures to share customs and traditions through song and dance, as well as food, music and attire.
Also in early November, hit the cultural jackpot at Gainesville's Downtown Music Showcase and Downtown Festival and Art Show. Enjoy stages of live music all weekend long by performers such as Chris Young, Blues-O-Matics, Magic Slim and the Teardrops, Jeff Kashiwa and Matt Marshak. Join thousands of spectators to browse more than 250 displays of original paintings, ceramics, jewelry, photography and more from the region's finest artists. You can also sample foods from around the world, create art with the kids or get a jump on your holiday shopping.
2 Museums and Galleries
Visit Gainesville museums and galleries to admire art in all forms, from digitized to traditional and groundbreaking styles.
Coming up in fall 2010 through 2011 at the Florida Museum of Natural History:
- CSI: Crime Scene Insects | May 8, 2010 - Jan. 17, 2011
- The Beetles: A Skeleton Crew | Sept. 4, 2010 - Jan. 17, 2011
- Symbiosis: Butterflies and Plants | Oct. 19, 2010 - March 13, 2011
- Dugout Canoes: Paddling through the Americas | Nov. 13, 2010 - Nov. 2013
- Florida Cowboys: Keepers of the Last Frontier, Photographs by Carlton Ward | Feb. 12 - May 8, 2011
- Florida Cattle Ranching: Five Centuries of Tradition | Feb. 12 - May 8, 2011
- Barrier Islands: Creations of Tide and Time | March 17 - June 26, 2011 Paintings by Brenda Hofreiter, Nancy Moskovitz and Mary Jane Volkmann
- Wild Music: Sounds & Songs of Life | May 28 - Sept. 4, 2011
- Cruisin' the Fossil Freeway | Feb. 4 - Sept. 3, 2012
With Artist Ray Troll and Paleontologist Kirk Johnson
Exhibits are constantly changing at The University Galleries, a family of three galleries all located on the UF campus:
- University Gallery, located on the east end of the Fine Arts Campus Complex, houses six contemporary art exhibitions per year
- Focus Gallery presents curated exhibitions of student and invited artists' work with shows changing monthly
- Grinter Gallery of International Art is located on the first floor of Grinter Hall (east side of campus) and is the venue for exhibitions of art created by international students and area artists, as well as a location for traveling exhibits of internationally based art (exhibits are installed for several months at a time)
Coming up at The Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art:
- Refraction: Contemporary Art from the Harn Museum Collection Aug. 24, 2010 - Aug. 7, 2011
- Jack Nichelson: Sojourner Dream Reliquaries June 22, 2010 - Feb. 6, 2011
- A Sense of Place: African Interiors Ongoing
- Highlights from the Asian Collection Ongoing
- Africa Interweave: Textile Diasporas Feb. 8, 2011 - May 8, 2011
- Alchemy: From Dust to Form March 1, 2011 - Sept. 11, 2011
For a little live action, catch a production at one of Gainesville's diverse performing arts venues.
Downtown, head to Gainesville's only professional theater, The Hippodrome, for cinema and live shows:
- "Dracula" Oct. 15-Nov. 7, 2010
- "This Wonderfule Life" Nov. 26-Dec. 19, 2010
- "A Christmas Carol" Nov. 26-Dec. 19, 2010
- "End Days" Jan. 7-30, 2011
- "Serendib" Feb. 25-March 20, 2011
- "The 39 Steps" April 15-May 8, 2011
- Summer 2011 to be announced
The UF Department of Theatre and Dance presents the following upcoming performances:
- "Gem of the Ocean" Sept. 17-19, 21-24 & 26
- "City of Angels" Nov. 5-7, 9-12 & 14
- "Agbedidi" Dec. 3-5
- The Grapes of Wrath" Jan. 28-30, 2011 & Feb. 1-6, 2011
- "Romeo & Juliet" April 1-3, 5-7 & 9-10, 2011
Check out more productions at the Gainesville Community Playhouse at the Vam York Theater and the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre. Be sure to check theater websites for updated season schedules.
4 Heritage Sites
Finally, take a peek into Gainesville's past with tours of some historic area homesteads. Join docent-led tours at the Historic Haile Homestead, one of the oldest houses in Alachua County (weekends only) and Matheson House.
Another must-see is Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park, which preserves the Cross Creek farm where the Pulitzer Prize-winning author lived and wrote about backwoods Florida. Her works include "The Yearling" and "Cross Creek." Guided tours of the house are offered Thursday-Sunday, from October-July.
For more information on planning a fall getaway to Gainesville, call 866-778-5002 or visit www.visitgainesville.com.