Fire up the ye ol’ Google and type “college town” in the search bar and you’ll likely find Gainesville in all of its Gator-lovin’ glory. And it has all of the classic hallmarks of one, too: university flags waving from front porches, bike-riding students zipping to class from off-campus housing and a mighty roster of gloriously dive-y bars.
But the birthplace of Tom Petty, Tim Tebow and, yes, Gatorade is also a magnet for young families looking to get in on the top-notch education — which helped Gainesville clinch a spot on our Top 100 Best Places to Live list this year — as well as a wealth of job opportunities offered by the University of Florida.
A mostly blue-and-orange wardrobe isn’t a problem for you, right? (That’s UF’s official colors, by the way.)
Local Obsessions: Gators football, natch.
Climate Described in 6 Words Or Less: It’s nicknamed “the swamp.” The end.
Top Industries and Employers: Higher education and health care companies are the major employers here, but many local businesses and an emerging tech scene offer opportunities as well.
Local Dream Job: Any member of “The Croc Docs” team, a group of UF biologists and other experts who study — you guessed it — crocodiles, alligators and other animals.
Quintessential Meal: If you’ve never let yourself fall face first into a basket of Gumby’s Pokey Stix at 2 a.m., are you really a local?
Favorite Weekend Activity: Enjoy sweeping views of downtown Gainesville and grab a cocktail at The Bank Bar & Lounge, a swanky spot housed in the city’s first financial institution.
After-Work Meetup Spot: Madrina’s brings the charm of Old Havana to Gainesville. This spot specializes in craft cocktails and has a killer happy hour special.
Best Local Beer: A rich and hearty Midnight Oil stout from Swamp Head Brewery
Beloved Bookstore: Indie-book wonderland Third House Books specializes in titles from small, independent presses and never carries more than 300 titles at any given time, so readers can fully enjoy the experience.
Free Way to Have Fun: The Union Street Farmers Market can’t be beat. The market is held every Wednesday from 4 to 7 p.m. and hosts more than 60 vendors each week.
Truly Hidden Gem: If you love spend time outdoors or learning about nature, Gainesville's got you covered. Sweetwater Wetlands Park, for example, offers 125 acres of ponds and wetlands, where you’ll see tons of native plants and animals. Downtown Gainesville is also great for shopping, eating, drinking, live theater and nightlife.
- Jackie Gutierrez-Jones & Cara Sanders