Alachua is a city of approximately 9,000 residents in Alachua County in north central Florida, just northwest of Gainesville.
Alachua is best known for its proximity to the University of Florida in Gainesville, but it’s also a relatively underdeveloped area, with many nearby state and national parks to choose from, offering activity-minded travelers a variety of outdoor recreation options .
Easy access to Interstate 75 to the west and Interstate 10 to the north provides easy access to the surrounding area for day trippers; the Gulf and Atlantic coasts are also only a few hours away.
Here are 15 things to do in and around Alachua, Florida.
1. San Ferasco Hammock Preserve State Park
The entrance to San Ferasco Hammock Reserve State Park is just off Progress Avenue in Alachua, and admission is based on a low per-vehicle fee, making it a great option for families on a budget.
The park is a particularly popular destination for mountain bikers who flock to use its extensive network of multi-use trails that meander through a multitude of diverse natural environments.
The trail stretches nearly 20 miles, so especially for beginners, it’s wise to stop and pick up a free trail map at the visitor center before heading out into the wild.
2. Dosa Coffee
Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you’re also addicted to coffee. For those in Alachua who find themselves craving a caffeinated java solution only, Doxa Coffee will be the perfect stopover.
Located on US Highway 441, Doxa Coffee is one of the most popular coffee shops in Gainesville and Alachua.
It’s not part of a national chain, which means most of your money will stay local. Previous guests have noticed that its decor is modern, stylish and inviting.
They also serve non-coffee drinks and even make things that aren’t on the menu, so don’t be shy if you’re craving something different.
3. Horse Retirement Home at Mill Creek
Unlike most humans who work their whole lives, horses have no pension to fall back on in difficult times. The Horse Retirement Home at Mill Creek is a true blessing for older horses without a home or future.
The facility is home to more than 100 horses, including dozens of acres of pristine land, allowing them to spend the rest of their days in peace.
Visitors are only allowed in on Saturdays from 11 to 3, but the price of admission is only a few carrots, making it one of the cheapest attractions in the area.
Visit days offer excursions led by staff and are popular with children.
4. Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park
Most guests to Florida are surprised to learn that the Sunshine State once had vast grasslands. Now, Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park is the only place to see bison and horses roaming freely.
This is a unique attraction located just minutes south of Gainesville in Micanopy, an easy and worthwhile drive from Alachua.
Covering more than 20,000 acres, the park was first discovered more than two centuries ago by a nationally renowned naturalist who named it “The Great Alachua Prairie.”
Various well-marked trails lead to different park areas, and a 50-foot observation tower offers wonderful panoramic views of the relatively flat landscape.
5. Mi Apa Latin Cafe
For culinary adventurers who have never tried authentic Cuban and Latin American cuisine, there is no better time than a trip to the Sunshine State.
Florida is full of international culinary influences, and according to many of their Cuban and Latin American ancestry, Mi Apa Latin Café is arguably the most authentic food they’ve ever tasted outside of their home country.
Their goal is to introduce newbies to their gastronomic wonders without breaking the bank. Their home-cooked dishes are prepared with locally sourced ingredients and minimally packaged ingredients, so visitors can expect vibrant flavors and affordable prices.
6. Cade Museum of Creativity and Invention
In the past, most attractions were meant to entertain children, but recently there has also been a trend to attract and educate them.
The Cade Museum of Creativity and Invention is one such place. Although it’s only been open for a little over a year, it’s already earned a solid reputation as the go-to destination for young people in need of a thrill.
The museum’s interactive exhibits address business and entrepreneurial skills such as teamwork, critical thinking, effective problem solving, and even money. Staff offer a variety of programs and field trips designed to expose children to the pillars of the business community.
7. Lake City Columbia County Historical Society
For many beach-loving tourists, spending a precious vacation in the dusty old historical society museum isn’t too appealing. But for those looking to save a few bucks and learn about the area’s interesting history, there’s no better place than the Columbia County Historical Society in Lake City.
The centerpiece of the museum is this historic home, which once belonged to a settler family in the 1800s. It includes art, furniture and household items common to that era.
The architecture of the home is equally unique, with wide porches, tall windows and fine woodwork not common today. The museum is open Thursday to Saturday from 10 am to 1 pm.
8. Olustee Battlefield State Park
The area around Alachua and Gainesville was the site of many important civil wars, the largest of which occurred in Olusti in February 1864.
The battle lasted five hours and, according to some reports, included more than 10,000 Union and Confederate troops from across the country.
The Confederates defeated the Union army that day, and when all was said and done, nearly 3,000 people died.
One of the must-see spots for military history buffs, Olustee Battlefield State Park is home to the poignant and breathtaking reenactment of the annual battle in February.
9. Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation
Home to a group of injured, orphaned or abandoned native and exotic animals, the Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation is a unique sanctuary dedicated primarily to rescue and rehabilitation.
While some animals are released into the wild, this is not an option for many; for those, they will spend their years in relative comfort within the Foundation’s confines.
The staff offers a variety of engaging educational programs, as well as private and small-group semi-private tours. Most of the proceeds go directly to helping animals. They are located at 225 East County Road in Gainesville, and they also accept donations.
10. Florida Museum of Natural History
The University of Florida campus in Gainesville is a great community resource, but one that is often overlooked by tourists visiting Alachua.
In addition to having several of the nation’s top-ranked men’s and women’s sports teams and world-class facilities, the campus is home to the Florida Museum of Natural History.
The museum’s permanent exhibits address science, the natural world, history, culture, technology and animals. Most guests agreed that this was one of the most memorable experiences of their Florida trip.
Admission is free, although they do accept donations generously and occasionally host special exhibitions and events that require a small admission fee.
11. Haier Homestead
For most of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, cotton was king in the American South, and most of it was grown on large plantations.
Haile Homestead is located within the historic Kanapaha cotton plantation; a visit is like stepping back in time, back in time when the area was rough and underdeveloped, with most of the labor coming from slaves.
Built in the mid-1850s, the homestead is one of the best-preserved in the area. It is unique in that its walls are adorned with historical writing detailing the lives and struggles of settlers and resident slaves.
12. Osceola National Park
Osceola National Park consists of more than 200,000 acres of native woodland and swamps in the National Forest of the same name. This is the perfect place for new tourists to start exploring this amazing natural resource.
Camping, fishing, mountain biking, and kayaking are popular park activities, and due to its vastness, many guests choose to do some online research before setting out.
Many of the park’s amenities and activity options are free year-round, but others — like fishing and hunting — are only open seasonally and require a permit and permit; make sure you familiarize yourself with the specifics before making a special trip.
13. Kaanapaha Botanical Gardens
Florida’s tropical and subtropical climate has ample rain and sun, as well as warm year-round temperatures, perfect for growing native and exotic plants, trees and flowers.
Located on SW 58th Drive in Gainesville, the Kanapaha Arboretum includes a variety of themed growing areas connected by nearly two miles of well-marked trails.
While beautiful all year round, many visitors with flexible schedules time their travels around March, when the gardens are in bloom, and the gardens often host Chinese New Years, fairs and guided tours – some of which are in the dimly lit evening hours. is magical.
14. Olustee Festival
One of the region’s premier annual events, the Olustee Festival is popular with lovers of history, culture, and Florida heritage. It happens every year in late February.
Featuring stunning parades and one of the largest Civil War reenactments in the state, the festival also focuses on the founding and development of the area and the Native Americans who called the area home long before it was officially settled.
Held in nearby Lake City, the festival includes arts and crafts, family activities, many food and drink options, and even live entertainment.
Dates vary slightly from one year to the next, so check online before arranging travel.
15. Swamphead Brewery
The large football field at the University of Florida is called “The Swamp,” and it’s packed with thousands of screaming fans during football season.
Swamp Head Brewery, located on SW 42nd Avenue in Gainesville, is the perfect place to grab a cold drink before or after a game, especially for those who prefer to make their beer locally rather than in a big Midwest facility.
Swamp Head Brewery has only been in operation since 2008, but has attracted a considerable and loyal following since then. Tours are offered every Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday, including samples of the brewery’s wide range of beer products.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Alachua, FL (FL)
Lowest price guaranteed.