Adventure and Culture in and around Gainesville, Fla.

    The Gainesville area promises adventure, activities and fun that include visiting a park where wild horses roam, tubing down a spring-fed river, and discovering museums designed to ignite the imagination. Read on to learn about some of this destination’s offerings.

    Florida’s largest Civil War battle, the Battle of Olustee, will be re-enacted Feb. 14 to 16. Because 2014 will be the 150th anniversary of the battle, organizers expect this year’s event to be the largest Civil War re-enactment in the Southeast.

    Florida's largest Civil War reenactment takes place at Olustee Battfield Historic State Park in February of each year and features full-scale artillery, military drills and living history demonstrations by more than 2 300 reenactors.

    - Florida State Parks

    Olustee Battlefield

    Olustee Battfield Historic State Park is a half-hour drive from Gainesville on U.S. 90 in Sanderson. Designated as Florida's first state park, this site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was built to preserve the location of the Florida's largest Civil War battle.

    A small interpretive museum, a 1-mile interpretive trail, and a monument to the Union and Confederate armies are open to the public free of charge.

    An annual battle reenactment-- Florida's largest Civil War reenactment -- takes place in the park in February each year and features full-scale artillery, military drills and living history demonstrations by more than 2 300 reenactors.

    Call 386-758-0400 or visit the park's website to find out more.

    Paynes Prairie

    Ever wonder what Florida was like before it became one of America's most popular destinations?

    Visit Micanopy's (pronounced MICK-ah-no-pee) Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park on U.S. 441 10 miles south of Gainesville. This preserve is among the nation's most significant historical and natural areas with 20 different biological communities.

    For an in-depth study of the preserve, hike, bike or ride a horse on the extensive trails traversing the park - you're likely to happen upon the herd of bison or wild horses that roam free.

    Go to the preserve's website for more information.

    Charlie and Dorothee Walters, of South Carolina, swim in the head waters of Ichetucknee Springs

    Charlie and Dorothee Walters, of South Carolina, swim in the head waters of Ichetucknee Springs

    - Peter W Cross for VISIT FLORIDA

    Paddlers move along the six miles of the Ichetucknee River, the same place Franciscan priests baptized Timucua Indians.

    Paddlers move along the six miles of the Ichetucknee River, the same place Franciscan priests baptized Timucua Indians.

    - Selina Kok for VISIT FLORIDA

    Ichetuknee Springs

    Looking to cool off? Try Ichetuknee Springs State Park,.

    Millions of gallons of water pour into the river daily from eight major springs, with water so crystal clear that snorkeling is also an outing option.

    There are two tubing runs ranging from 45 minutes to three-and-a-half-hour excursions. Your best bet? Climb into a slippery tube and float away the day at a snail's pace.

    Tubing from the south entrance of the park four miles west of Fort White on U.S. 27 is available year round. Canoeing is an optional way to enjoy the natural beauty of the river year round as is swimming at either Ichetucknee Spring or Blue Hole Spring both available at the north entrance.

    If a day in the water isn't what you're looking for you can still experience this beautiful park through the three unique hiking trails.

    Trail maps are available at the ranger station or information booth. Visit the park's  the park website.

    Museums


    It's back to school for art lovers in Gainesville. In this football-frenzied town, the University of Florida is also home to one of the largest university-affiliated museums in the country ,the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art. Established to consolidate and care for university collections, The Harn is notably strong in photography, Asian, African, modern, and contemporary art. The museum also displays numerous traveling exhibits throughout the year. 

    Right next door, don't miss the Florida Museum of Natural History, where you can explore the fascinating world of original Florida natives, diverse natural habitats and much more. Visit the museum's website for more information.

    Located in scenic Depot Park in Gainesville, the Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention celebrates invention and wonder, immersing visitors in the creative process of inventors through exhibits and experiences.  Build an invention at Edison’s Pile of Junk, get a little messy with an art project, and be sure to check out the Age of Electricity theme, guaranteed to deliver a charge with stories highlighting the lives and breakthroughs of Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison and Lewis Latimer, an overlooked pioneer who perfected the filaments that keep your family’s lights on.

    Places to Remember

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