3. Gainesville, FL
There's a lot to celebrate about living in Gainesville, FL. Maybe that's why the University of Florida consistently ranks as one of the top party schools in the nation. Residents and students enjoy a near tropical climate, thriving business climate, vast entertainment options, highly competitive sports teams and pristine natural areas. It's good to be in Gator Country.
With more than 50,000 students and a 2,000-acre campus, the university is the focal point of Gainesville. Innovative research efforts, such as the new HiPerGator supercomputer, help lure businesses and create job opportunities. Residents get invited on campus for art exhibitions, musical performances, educational seminars and job fairs. Professors often interact with local officials in planning new public spaces, infrastructure improvements and community festivals.
Hundreds of UF students donate their time and talents to better Gainesville and the surrounding community. About 700 students participate in one-day service projects each year, while nearly 400 mentor at-risk children in the Alachua County school system. While many of their peers head to the beach, hundreds of students take what are called “alternative breaks” to do charity work across the state.
Considered the cultural center of North Central Florida, Gainesville's quaint downtown is the city's entertainment epicenter.
Spanish moss drapes trees that line streets leading to shops, restaurants, theaters and clubs. University Avenue's bars, dance clubs and music venues appeal to students. Musicians often play at the Bo Diddley Community Plaza. The historic Hippodrome State Theatre hosts film screenings, live performances and art shows. The city's culinary scene includes a hefty helping of BBQ restaurants, seafood joints and plenty of organic, locally sourced menus.
Gainesville maintains 37 active parks encompassing more than 450 acres, while opportunities to fish, snorkel, hike and camp are just a short drive away. Bicyclists find Gainesville an easy ride with more than 60 miles of on-street bike lanes.
Student population: 50,000
Don't Miss: Butterfly Rainforest at the Florida Museum of Natural History where visitors come face-to-face with up to 80 species of butterflies
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