[2022 – Edited to reflect changes in Gainesville’s growing market]
While I never intended to live in Gainesville, Fl past my Gator undergrad years, I have grown to love the people and places this city has brought me in the last 12 years. I’ve done the most growing in this town. Gainesville gave me the season of dating Wayne, meeting some of my best friends, Molliner Photography, Ethan, more depth in my relationship with the Lord and it is where I learned what true community looks like. Learning to love this city was difficult at first, as I grew up a city girl, but the pace of Gainesville has offered my heart a kind of peace like no other city.
I don’t know how long the Lord has us here, but I do know that wherever you are planted there is purpose there. Take in what the Lord is offering from that city and season in your life. Some of that took intentionality in exploring Gainesville and making memories. As I have embraced this town like my own, I wanted to share several favorites this town has offered.
I would ONE HUNDRED percent say that Depot Park is my favorite spot to spend time with my family! A long time ago, this park was an old railroad transportation hub and now it is a Gainesville staple for activities for the kids and kids at heart. When the city was designing the space, they even kept some of the original railroad tracks as part of the landscape design. Here are some of my favorite things about this place:
- There’s a splash pad for the kids on site. We live in Florida which means that our summers are brutal. We love heading to the splash pad to cool off for the afternoon. The best part about the splash pad is that there is a covered pavilion right next to it for the parents to sit and watch as the kids play. This is gold!
- Several times a year, they have movies and concerts on the lawn. One night, we took Ethan to watch Moana! They even had popcorn and snow cones!
- Their playground is the nicest and most diverse in terms of age group. Plus, the majority of their playgrounds are covered.
- The Pop A Top Boxcar is a perfect little spot to grab a snack, popsicle, cold beverage (kid and adult-friendly *wink*) or a toy for the park (think frisbee!). Right outside of the train boxcar is an area where local food trucks will pop up. It’s the perfect space to grab a bite to eat.
- Events, concerts and celebrations are plentiful here every week. Check out their calendar of events on their Facebook page.
Other favorite family spots:
- Northside Park
- Hogtown Creek Headwaters Nature Park
- Town of Tioga Playground
Hands down, my go-to spot for an iced coffee in town is Patticakes. While their downtown location is now closed, they have two other options in Tioga and Haile Village. They are my spot for both coffee and community. I have enjoyed sipping many cups of coffee here, perched up at their counter meeting with potential brides, or spent my days editing away. This shop is also one of my favorite spots to spend time with the Lord. I love this location because:
- The baristas are some of my closest friends. They really do cultivate community with the way they interact with each person who walks through the door. You’re family at Patticakes.
- Cafe con leches. Enough said.
Other coffee shops worth mentioning are:
My favorite Gainesville activity was the Union Street Farmer’s Market! The Market takes place every Wednesday afternoon from 4-7p in the heart of downtown. I’ve spent many afternoons here with Ethan, grabbing wildflowers from my favorite floral vendor or having a snack before dinner.
One summer marked my very favorite farmer’s market moment. It was one of those rainy summer evenings in Florida and the public were hiding out under the tents to stay dry. Ashley, Ethan, and I went to the middle of the plaza and danced in the rain to the jazz band that was playing on the stage that night. It was the perfect summer scene! The farmer’s market, rain or shine, will forever be my favorite evening activity in Gainesville.
- When I’m pursuing the Market, the first booths I’m likely to visit are the pretzels at LEJ Pretzels, the gorgeous wildflower bouquets from Swallowtail Farm and the empanadas from Grab N Go Lunch.
- This is another great family spot! Every week, this generous Gainesville citizen brings a bag of bouncy balls and hula hoops for the kids to run around and play with. It’s so much to watch Ethan run around the space, meeting new kids and playing with them.
- It’s a perfect spot to sit and picnic with a friend. Many evenings, I have thrown a blanket down as the sun sets over the trees.
[*Edited to add that since the pandemic, the Union Street Farmer’s Market no longer exists, but a lot of their vendors and its vibe continues through other markets like the GNV Market on Thursday evenings and the Saturday morning Haile Farmer’s Market.]
There are so many great options for date nights in this city. I feel like every week, a new place is popping up. Date nights for Wanye and I look very simple in this season. Between being pregnant, chasing around a toddler and Wayne’s school schedule, we just don’t have a whole lot of energy or free nights. We have more quiet, quality time date nights at home during this time, but when Wayne and I get the opportunity to sneak away to a local restaurant, these are my favorites:
- The Top. Located downtown, this hip restaurant has yummy burgers, corn nuggets, Pesto Gnocchi, and sweet potato fries. Those are my jam. Right around the corner, you’ll find my favorite Gainesville art wall. The local artists are so talented!
- Scuola Pizza. Best Greek restaurant in town! More importantly, I would argue that it is the best pizza in town. We often pick up a pizza on our Thursday night dates.
- Cilantro Tacos. They’re a family-owned business with locations in Tioga, downtown and several food trucks (they are often at the Farmer’s Market). I love that they are a business who really cares about the sources of the ingredients they use. They only purchase local and fresh. Friends of ours hired them to cater their wedding reception and Cilantro Tacos served the best elote (street corn) I have ever had. Probably my favorite wedding food to date.
- Afternoon Restaurant. Absolute must for brunch! Such unique dishes and fun atmosphere. Grab a table outside and enjoy the weather!
If you have visited us, most likely we have taken you to Satchel’s Pizza. This restaurant is DEFINITELY a Gainesville staple. It is the most eclectic spot with tons of unique spaces to enjoy a pizza. Here are a few reasons to love Satchel’s Pizza:
- The famous Satch Salad is one of the few things I do not like to share. I always, always, always order a large portion and give a quick side-eye to anyone who suggests sharing. It is THAT so good. There are not enough words to say that can recommend it enough.
- On-site, there is a unique junk shop called The Lightning Salvage. This shop is filled with the most random assortment of gifts and toys. Pretty positive most of these items you could not find anywhere else. It’s located in one of their two indoor seating spaces, which is an experience in itself. Almost all of their tables in this space have nostalgic items under a glass topper (think, cassette tapes, flip phones, classic comics, coins, and baseball cards).
- My favorite thing about this funky Gainesville gem is their outdoor seating that displays a wide collection of trinkets. I’ve had pizza in their Volkswagon van, the greenhouse, under an airplane and in their old treehouse table (no longer there).
- In order to order dessert, you have to look through an old-school red View-Master toy. As you flip through, you will see photos of their yummy dessert options, from buckeyes to vegan pie. So unique and yummy!
While I am not much of a dessert lover, I highly recommend the following places in town. Uppercrust is the perfect spot to pick up an afternoon treat on your way home from a long workday or to meet up with a girlfriend.
This is a small little French bakery that serves wine, coffee and pastries. Funny story, for Ashley’s birthday one year, I popped into Uppercrust to buy her a little treat. She loves these almond cream-filled pastries that are drizzled with chocolate. I purchased two, one for me and one for her. I started making my way to her house and ate mine on the drive over. Confession: It was so good I ate both of them on my drive over (side note: her house is exactly a mile away)! I felt so guilty that I told her and then showed her the empty box! In disbelief, she kindly asked that in the future, I do not tell her if I accidentally ate a pastry I had intended for her. LOL!
- The owner is actually from a small town outside of Paris. Which tells me, I can trust their pastries!
- My favorite pastry is a tie between the raspberry cream rose or Nutella croissant.
- On Saturdays at the shop, they have wine and cheese tastings! This is quite the experience, you get to try all types of cheese and wines and mingle around the delightfully little shop. They even have the cutest selection of cards and gifts. You can find Rifle Paper Company products here!
The Hyppo is a popsicle shop that originated in St. Augustine, Florida. I am so glad they decided to open up a location here in town. They are great to pop into (pun intended) when you need to cool down in the summer.
- Since the popsicles are all-natural, I feel like Ethan isn’t eating as much sugar as the popsicles that are found in a grocery store.
- My top two flavors that I love are their watermelon hibiscus and sangria pineapple pops.