Gainesville is situated in the heart of Florida, close to Interstate 75 for easy access. It is the largest city in Alachua County, located seventy miles southwest of Jacksonville and forty miles north of Ocala. While hardly the largest city in the state, land or population wise, it is home to a rich history and cultural diversity, thanks largely to the presence of the University of Florida. Home to thousands of students from around the world, UF attracts a great number of visitors by virtue of a championship football program and a host of cultural activities. UF’s annual homecoming festivities, culminating in the popular Gator Growl, are known to attract major music acts.

Speaking of music, did you know the town is birthplace and home to a number of legendary performers? Rock icon Tom Petty was a native, as is actress and singer Maya Rudolph, daughter of R&B vocalist Minnie Riperton. More than that, the popular sports drink Gatorade was invented in the city, made originally to help UF athletes combat dehydration.

Just a few sites of interest around town include:

Florida Museum of Natural History: Funded by the University of Florida , the museum offers a distinct tour of Florida ‘s natural beauty, featuring flora and fauna indigenous to the state and enjoyed for centuries before settlers came to develop the land. Special to the museum is the exotic Butterfly Rainforest, a permanent exhibit showcasing more than fifty species of beautiful butterflies!

Kanapaha Botanical Gardens: Take a tour through lush gardens of Florida and see the land as it once was.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park: Take a hike through this beautiful natural preserve and spot flora and fauna native to our wonderful state.

The University of Florida: Of course, no visit to Gainesville would be complete without a tour of this beautiful campus. Watch out for the stray gator (and we don’t mean the students!) and be sure to ask about the legend of the tower. Very interesting, and funny, lore!

Tom Petty Park: Named for the late, great musician, the renamed Northeast Park in Gainesville has become a pilgrimage spot for Petty’s many fans.

Educational, natural, yet always fun, Gainesville is a great place to visit on a whirlwind tour of Florida. Make some room in your vacation for an overnight stay.

Pat McCants, with her husband Tom, is owner and innkeeper of The Camellia Rose Inn, a Gainesville, Florida bed and breakfast. Just a short stroll from the historic downtown area, The Camellia Rose Inn offers six spacious rooms, each with private baths and free wireless Internet access. Make your online reservation today.