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A Great Place to Live
- Gainesville is not far from the northern border of Florida and is a little more than a one hour drive from either coast.
- The city has a pleasant, predominately warm climate.
- In the summer, the temperature drops about 20 degrees at night.
- In the winter there are short but stimulating cold spells.
- The average high temperature in January is 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
- The average high in July is 91 degrees 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 126,047.
- The median age of Gainesville residents is 24.9 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). In 2007, Gainesville was ranked one of the “best places to live and play” by National Geographic Adventure. The Gainesville Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area (Alachua & Gilchrist counties) was ranked as the number one place to live in the 2007 edition of Cities Ranked and Rated.
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. While the beaches of both coasts are quite different from each other, they are easily accessible. However, 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 in 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.
Gainesville and the North Central Florida area offer several state parks that provide opportunities to get close to nature without leaving the boundaries of the county. Three of these parks to definitely visit are: Paynes Prairie State Preserve State Park, Devil’s Millhopper State Geological State Park, and San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park.
There is a 280 acre wildlife sanctuary within Gainesville called The Morningside Nature Center. It has a permanent staff of naturalists and varied program 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. Additionally, Gainesville has a numerous variety of natural treasures and parks which are managed by the City of Gainesville Parks, Recreation & Cultural Affairs. There is a sanctuary within minutes of wherever you are in the city!
The headquarters of the City of Gainesville Parks, Recreation & 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. The Gainesville Community Playhouse, at the Vam York Theater is headquarters for the community theater in Gainesville. The Hippodrome Theatre, 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 Curtis M. 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 City of Gainesville sponsors guest artists as well as 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. UF Student Government and other organizations bring touring professional performers and productions to Gainesville.
The Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, adjacent to the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, is the major regional art center in Gainesville. Art galleries in the city also include the Thomas Center, the University Gallery, and several other galleries and exhibition areas on campus. Santa Fe College Fine Arts offers a variety of galleries, including the Santa Fe Gallery, Student Life Art Gallery, President’s Hall Gallery, and Fine Arts Gallery, and sponsors the annual 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 Gallery, a nonprofit cooperative for local artists and craftspersons.
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 Florida’s natural history. Located on the University of Florida campus, the museum is also home to the Butterfly Rainforest; a unique museum which includes a fantastic atrium. This living exhibit features a tropical ecosystem where you can come face-to-face with hundreds of exotic, vibrant butterflies. The Alachua County Historic Trust: Matheson Museum, Inc. serves to preserve and interpret the history of Alachua County with permanent and temporary exhibits.
There are a number of public golf courses, as well as tennis and racquet ball courts in Gainesville and on the UF campus. The city is well supplied with restaurants and movie theaters. The university provides Gainesville with many major collegiate spectator sports. Another Gainesville highlight, the NHRA Gatornationals drag races, always draws large crowds each spring.
Gainesville is served by more than 30 radio stations, including WUFT-FM, a classical music station which broadcasts from the UF campus. There are two local commercial television channels; WUFT is the University-owned public television channel. The Gainesville Sun is the local newspaper, and the UF student newspaper is the Independent Florida Alligator.
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. To the east lies Cedar Key, a picturesque fishing village that was the western terminus of the railroad to which Gainesville owes its existence. At Cross Creek, just south of 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: UFHealth, Malcom Randall Veterans Administration Medical Center, and North Florida Regional Medical Center. There are also clinics and nursing homes, more than 450 physicians and surgeons, and over 100 dentists in private practice.
The largest educational institutions in Gainesville are the University of Florida, with an enrollment of about 51,000 students, and Santa Fe College, with over 14,000 students. The Alachua County School Board is responsible for 24 elementary, 9 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 UF College of Education.
Continuing education and community education courses are abundant in Gainesville. In addition, Alachua County and Santa Fe College cooperate in offering noncredit courses, held in locations all over the city, many of them in the evening.
There are over 250 churches and synagogues in Gainesville and about 15 student chapels and religious centers near campus.
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 Airlines, Delta Connection, United Express, and US Airways Express. There is an Amtrak rail depot close by in Waldo. Intercity bus service is provided by Greyhound. Within the city, extensive bus service is provided by the Regional Transit System.
For more information about Gainesville, visit www.cityofgainesville.org