One of Florida’s most desirable areas in which to live, the Gainesville region is a top spot for art, culture, entertainment and recreation.
The region is home to the University of Florida, but it’s far more than a typical college town as it also lays claim to a chamber orchestra, a professional ballet company and a rapidly growing retail environment. In addition to Gainesville, FL’s many amenities, residents enjoy easy access to beaches, Walt Disney World, St. Augustine and other popular destinations.
Arts and Culture
Located on the UF campus, the Harn Museum of Art is one of the 10 largest art museums at a public university in the U.S. Part of the UF Cultural Plaza that also includes the Florida Museum of Natural History and the Curtis M. Phillips Center for Performing Arts, the museum offers more than 40,000 square feet of exhibits, five garden spaces, a 250-seat auditorium, a cafe and other attractions. Its permanent collection features more than 9,000 works, and it hosts temporary exhibitions that change throughout the year.
One of the Harn’s many popular programs is Museum Nights, a family-friendly event that takes place on the second Thursday of every month. During Museum Nights, the Harn is open late – from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. – and visitors can enjoy dance performances, live music, art-making activities and refreshments.
“We try to host exhibitions and programs that offer something for everyone, regardless of their age or interests,” says Rebecca Nagy, director of the Harn Museum of Art. “For example, we have a lot of programming designed for families with children, such as Family Day, Tot Time and summer art camps.”
People across the U.S. enjoy the Dance Alive National Ballet, a touring ballet company based in Gainesville composed of professional dancers from around the world. Dance Alive takes the stage at the Reilly Arts Center in productions such as The Nutcracker and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
“It’s rare for a city this size to have a professional ballet company,” says Kim Tuttle, executive artistic director of Dance Alive National Ballet. “We have an unusual and exceptional arts environment in Gainesville.”
The city also has plenty to offer music lovers, thanks to the Gainesville Orchestra, which performs at the Curtis M. Phillips Center for Performing Arts and the Santa Fe College Fine Arts Hall, and The Fest, an annual music festival that features more than 300 bands.
Growth and Expansion
Gainesville’s shopping and dining scene is growing, with mixed-use development Celebration Pointe in the works, and southwest Gainesville’s Butler Plaza in the process of expanding.
Situated just a mile from UF, Butler Plaza covers more than 1 million square feet and includes two supermarkets, a movie theater, specialty shops and discount department stores among its many and varied offerings. It’s also home to “Restaurant Row,” 24 restaurants located in a 1-mile stretch.
Butler Plaza is growing even larger, with destinations in the new 758,000-square-foot Butler North development opening throughout 2016, and the 350,000-square-foot Butler Town Center opening in 2018.
Celebration Pointe, which should be fully completed by fall 2017, will include more than 1 million square feet of retail, restaurants, offices, hotel rooms and residential properties. Marketed as the first "lifestyle destination" in Gainesville and Alachua County – a place to live, work and play – Celebration Pointe will also easily connect residents and visitors to the nearby Archer Braid Trail via a bridge across Interstate 75. In addition to more than 200,000 square feet of outlet shops, the development includes a 100,000-square-foot Bass Pro Shops and a 10-screen movie theater.
“Celebration Pointe will bring a different quality of life to Gainesville,” says Ralph Conti, Celebration Pointe development partner. “From a retail perspective, we’re going to offer several shops that don’t currently exist here, and when it comes to dining, I think we’ll be introducing some restaurant options that aren’t in this area at all.”