Thursday, October 28, 2010

Beyond Gator Nation

Is there anything beyond Gator Nation, you might ask? It’s hard to see past the orange and blue of the University of Florida, but if you dare, you will find a charming, hip, cultural and natural Florida town. After more than a half dozen trips to the 352 since my daughter has become a Gator, I have ventured to explore this enduring city. Upon some research, I learned that Gainesville has survived more than its share of tragedies. Struck in 1851 by a fire, 1903 by a cyclone, and 1936 by a tornado, this thriving college town has sustenance.

Hosted by
Visit Gainesville, the County’s official tourism organization, this year’s FACVB Annual Meeting (Florida Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus) was a downtown treat. With our meetings held at the Hampton Inn & Suites on First Street, the pavered playground of restaurants, nightclubs, boutiques, government buildings and historical architecture was a delight. The first night of my arrival for the welcome reception at Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grille was met with the weekly Wednesday afternoon Farmers Market in the town plaza. From there, lunch at Ti Amo! and dinner at Mark’s Prime Steakhouse caused the group to venture out beyond the conference room walls.

Inspired by this resurgent downtown, I further visited
Dragonfly for some amazing sushi, a few of the boutiques and the historic Hippodrome Theater, the 1909 classical revival building originating as Gainesville’s Post Office. During my stay the downtown culture came alive, hosting the Gay Pride Festival in the city’s Bo Diddley Community Plaza. All in all, I find this city to be a mix of old Florida history meets high intelligence meets hip culturalism. Honestly, I love college towns!