Gainesville, FL

The Heart of Florida

At the heart of Florida, among the 969 square miles of Alachua County, lies a wilderness of forests, dotted with sparkling lakes and bird-filled wetlands. The mid-sized city of Gainesville and its nearly 100,000 residents are nestled in among this scenic landscape.

Although located about 120 miles north of Orlando, the city's culture is worlds away. Tourism, although a significant contributor to the local economy, is not the main force in this mid-sized college spot.

Home to the University of Florida, Gainesville is infused with an energetic arts and cultural scene and an influx of fresh ideas that come with the flock of new students each year. As Gainesville's educational anchor, the university brings internationally known scholars, and brilliant musical, theatrical, and visual arts events to the city. These amenities also draw countless retirees to the area. This mix of old and new has resulted in a diverse city that has enjoyed a consistent, measured growth.

Despite the excellent intellectual opportunities available here, living costs run well below the national average. Gainesville's prices are equal to or lower than the national average. A wonderful array of affordable houses is available from full-blown estates and condos on the golf course to comfortable family homes in quiet neighborhoods. Publications such as Money magazine, 50 Fabulous Places to Retire, and 50 Fabulous Places to Raise a Family all extol the affordable lifestyle here.

The city is also known for its quality medical facilities, perfect climate, and outdoor activities. An impressive variety of health care services can be found here, and residents are inspired to stay healthy because of the recreational opportunities available. More than 60 miles of roadways with on-street bicycle lanes inspired Bicycling magazine to rank the city one of the top bike-friendly cities in the United States. The Gainesville economy is growing, too. Bolstered by the university and a strong tourist trade, both small and large businesses are moving to the area. With so many firstclass resources, this city offers the perfect balance between a small town community and big city lifestyle.

Gainesville, FL At-A-Glance

Population: 124,350

Avg. July high: 90

Avg. January low: 43

Avg. Annual Precipitation: 51

Closest Big City: 78 miles to Jacksonville

Health Care: 5 hospitals with 1,239 beds

Cost of Living: About the same as the national average

Housing Costs: 134,000

Climate

Gainesville is located in northern Florida, about midway between Atlanta and Miami. Although the city is not situated on the coast, Gainesville still enjoys the benefits of tempering gulf breezes.

Summer days are hot and humid, often ranging in the 90s, and winters are luxuriously dry and mild. While Gainesville offers a mild climate, it still experiences a change of seasons, with the fragrant spring blossoms and golden fall foliage.

Gainesville's weather is one of its greatest perks, although people not used to seasonal rains and humid summers may need time to adjust. By March, the average daily high is about 75 degrees, and July high temperatures average in the 90s.

Autumn is a balmy season, with October daytime highs still reaching 80 degrees.

The weather begins to cool, and residents of Gainesville can enjoy the beautifully temperate days. In January, the heart of winter, even the lowest temperatures only dip down to a mild 45 degrees, and daily highs range in the 60s. The average year long temperature is in the 70s, making Gainesville's climate one of the most mild in the country.

Art & Culture

Money magazine voted Gainesville as a top place to live in America, and it's no wonder why. This small city offers a top-flight university, burgeoning business, and a climate that is simply perfect.

Some of Gainesville's many fantastic features are the countless cultural activities hosted by its active art community. The University of Florida regularly sponsors free lectures on campus and offers life enrichment courses.

The campus is home to the Harn Museum of Art and the University Art Gallery, both offering impressive exhibitions. The Florida Museum of Natural History is among the nation's top ten natural history museums.

A broad range of exciting theater performances exists in Gainesville. The university supports the Center for Performing Arts, a 1,800-seat auditorium staging plays, music, dance, and other special events.

The Hippodrome State Theatre has been producing the best in contemporary theater for more than 20 years, and its Cinema Program has brought the best foreign, independent, and non-mainstream films to Gainesville for more than 16 years.

Of course, the Gainesville community has a wide-variety of live performance companies, and visitors come from miles away to attend shows. Among the many names in town are the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre, Dance Alive, and the Gainesville Community Play House.

Music is a major draw for many, and the Gainesville Symphony Orchestra attracts international talent with its concert season.

The Gainesville Ballet Theatre is another locals favorite for sophisticated tastes. Gainesville also provides great children's events, including the All Children's Theatre (ACT), a professional-quality company featuring the Not Ready For Bed-Time Players.

City Recreation

The sunshine state is recognized for its wonderful year-round climate and generous variety of outdoor activities. Part of Gainesville's unique charm is its location among varied terrain; Alachua County is home to some fabulous natural areas.

Unique spots, such as Devil's Millhopper State Geological Site, offer a variety of landscapes for exploration. Sporting a 120-foot deep sinkhole, this geological site offers visitors a glimpse of rare and fascinating plant-life.

Bivens Arm Nature Park provides hikers with 57 acres of marshland to explore, and the nearby Morningside Nature Center is a living history farm that pleases adventurers of all ages. Kanahapa Botanical Garden provides locals with the wonders of woods, sprawling meadows, and impeccable gardens.

For the sports enthusiast, Gainesville is chock-full of things to do and places to go. The fishing in the area's more than a half-dozen freshwater lakes is some of the best in the region. Newnans Lake, only a few miles to the east, is also equipped with picnic facilities.

There are a several choice camping spots in the area, including the nearby Paynes Prairie State Preserve. Of course, Florida is also well known as a haven for golfers, and Gainesville maintains many shamrock-green courses. More than a half-dozen public and private courses are available here, and Gainesville has something to please even the most discerning golfer. Tennis is also one of the more popular year-round sports in the region.

The Gainesville Parks and Recreation services maintains about 30 public parks, swimming pools, and numerous welltrimmed fields and playgrounds for kids.

The department also runs a variety of sports programs for people of all ages.

Bicycling magazine ranked this city as one of the best cities for bicycles in the United States because it features more than 60 miles of bicycle lanes.

Gainesville is also host to many special events, such as the Celebration of the Autumn Moon, Spring Art Festival, and the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire. Don't forget swimming or tubing in one of the many natural springs or horseback riding at Canterbury, the local equestrian center.

Whatever one's preference, there's enough fun in Gainesville to keep even the most active people occupied.

Education

Gainesville is home to the University of Florida, the oldest, largest, and most comprehensive school in the entire sunshine state.

Education is a key social and economic element in Gainesville, and the community is dedicated to providing resources for life-long learning. Gainesville offers a full range of educational institutions, including a fine university, community colleges, vocational schools, and an excellent public school system.

Gainesville Public Schools have earned high honors statewide and offer residents outstanding educational opportunities.

Serving nearly 30,000 students, the public school system includes more than five dozen schools including two special education centers and a vocational/adult education facility. There are also nearly a dozen private schools in the county. The Gainesville area boasts the highest percentage of gifted students in Florida, and 60% of high school graduates go on to some form of higher education.

The University of Florida is the state's oldest, largest, and most comprehensive university. This school provides bachelor's , master's , and doctoral programs to its nearly 40,000 students. The beautiful campus sports the 81-acre Lake Alice wildlife sanctuary, and is home to multitudes of alligators, including the university's mascot.

There are also two private colleges in Gainesville - Webster College, an accredited junior college of business, and City College providing courses in business.

Santa Fe Community College serves more than 40,000 students.

Housing & Cost of Living

Publications like Money magazine and PC World rank Gainesville highly because of its affordable living and quality lifestyle.

Costs for goods and services in Gainesville are below average here, and compared to many other parts of the state, utilities and health care costs are low. In many cases child care costs reflect the low overall costs found throughout Florida. However, prices vary widely across the city. Parents will annually pay anywhere from $6,240 to $10,300 for infant care at an accredited center and from $4,700 to $9,620 for older children. Free care and a Pre-K education is available for all four-year-olds born before September 1 through the government- subsidized Voluntary Prekindergarten Program.

Housing prices also vary, but are overwhelmingly affordable. The average price for a single family home is $183,000, and more than half of the homes for sale cost less than $150,000. Residents have a variety of housing options from well-maintained apartments and condos on the golf course to a home in a family neighborhood and even luxury spots. Affordable housing prices have translated to high home ownership rates- about 50% of people own their own homes. Monthly payments for the remaining renters runs about $550.

Crime & Safety

Gainesville's overall crime rates reflect the higher overall Florida rates. However, the vast majority of crimes that occur are non-violent incidents, committed against property. Out of all these incidents, less than one quarter are considered violent, making Gainesville much safer than many other communities. In addition, overall crime rates are on the decline.

Local law enforcement works intimately with residents in crime education and prevention, and many social organizations conduct gun safety programs, home security checks, and consulting for neighborhood watch programs. The university student population is also very active, and has a comprehensive campus police system.

Earning a Living

Consistently ranked as one of America's best spots, this city is surrounding by undeveloped forests, lakes, and wetlands...

Like many thriving college towns, Gainesville has a diverse economy, and the unemployment rate remains enviably low.

Higher education accounts for the majority of Gainesville's employment, with health care running a close second. With a strong tourist trade, its no surprise that retail is next in line, and the service industry and small business make up the rest.

Insurance and environmental jobs are also steady in this area. An added bonus to employees in this area is that there is no state income tax here.

Given the central location of Gainesville, it is no wonder there are plentiful employment choices, resources, and incentives. The Sid Martin Biotechnology Development Institute gives business owners access to scientific labs, equipment, and office space for up to three years at a nominal fee. The area is burgeoning with opportunity for the small business owner or restaurateur, and telecommuting is gaining in popularity, too. In fact, PC World and Money magazine rank Gainesville second on a list of the best smaller cities to work from home.

With this diversified economy, Gainesville is ready to grow into the future. The strong education and tourist base here assures that opportunities will indeed remain abundant, and Gainesville locals have more resources at their disposal every day.

Health Care

Alachua County sports five hospitals with thousands of physicians and medical specialists. The area's multiple health care centers include a major teaching hospital, a veterans hospital, and two general care facilities. Shands Hospital, part of the University of Florida, is among the finest medical centers in the Southeast. Serving patients from all over the sate, Shands Hospital has state-of-the-art treatment and acclaimed medical research. The Veterans Administration Hospital is the site of research in geriatrics. Outstanding medical care is one reason why Money magazine ranks this city as one of the best places to live in the country.

Nearly a dozen assisted, independent, congregate, and continuing care centers serve senior citizens in Gainesville. Plus, retirees have access to a variety of services from the Retired Senior Volunteer Program to the Center for Aging Resources, a unit of the Mid-Florida Area Agency on Aging.