Tell me about Gainesville, Florida

So, I don’t want to go into too much detail yet, but there’s a high possibility Sr. Weasel and I will be moving to Gainesville this summer. We’ll know for sure in about three weeks.

We know absolutely nothing about this area, other than this is a college town near University of Florida. I’m doing my own research of course but I’m curious from people who know the area what their impressions are.

I guess I’ll say a little about the kind of person I am… I’m 30, no kids, married to a Ph.D. student who is All But Internship (hence the possible moving), have a career in nonprofit development so I write a lot of grants. It would be nice to find a job I like in Florida, but as I currently live in Jersey I’m sick to goddamn death of horrible long commutes. I don’t know how robust nonprofit life is in this area, though, or my odds of getting a good job close by.

I’m very socially liberal and love diversity. I’d really like access to natural environments. I love hiking, taking walks, and just being outdoors in general. I’d say easy access to the great outdoors as well as other physical activities is a top priority. That’s something I really don’t have right now in New Jersey.

**Sr. Weasel **asked the interns during his interview about parks, and they warned us that the state park nearby is gator country, but I’m not sure what that means, practically. I don’t know if gators are viscious predators or if they’ll just leave people alone as long as they don’t feel threatened. All I really want are some trails to explore.

My husband and I are also massive geeks so we’re hoping to find likeminded folk. From comic books to sci-fi and gaming, we are into all of that stuff.

Well, those are some things. I’d be really interested in hearing from some likeminded people about what the Gainesville experience might be like.

Thanks very much for your time!

well, my cousin went to Univ of Florida - Gainseville and said it is culturally Deep south, conservative and religious, not what most people think of in terms of Florida, including people from Florida (he grew up in the Tampa area), but to be fair, that was in the 90s and it could have changed a lot since then.

I went to the rival university (Go Noles!), but have lots of friends from UF. I’ll see a few of them at a party tonight, and at work tomorrow. But here’s what I know off hand.
Gainesville certainly has the “southern” attitude. Geographically, it’s a nice location - north central Florida-ish. It’s less than two hours to Disney, if you ever want to do that. Similar times to get to Orlando and Tampa, so there are big cities close.

I know lots of people speak highly of Ginnie Springs, which is less than an hour away:

I’d expect UF to have active clubs for just about any activity, and that they woud allow people who aren’t actually affiliated with the University to participate.

I’m not sure about non-profits, but I’m sure Universities need people who can write grant proposals.
Good luck. Let me know if you want me to ask any of my friends anything specific…although I’d be surprised if we don’t have a few Gators on the board here.

I will tell you from poking around online it looks like a natural paradise. Might be a nice change of pace to not have to scrape snow off my windsheild every morning. And the rent prices I’m seeing are very reasonable. Better than here, actually.

The religious conservative thing is going to be the hardest part. I’m used to being very open about my social justice commitment and don’t actually want to work for anyone who would judge me for that. Like, if there are not LGBT friendly businesses, we will have a problem.

My family lived in Gainesville for 10 years until we moved two years ago. We really enjoyed our time spent there.

Politically the city itself is pretty liberal, the surrounding county more conservative. There’s no state income tax but property taxes are high. That being said in general the cost of living is pretty low so I suspect you’ll come out well ahead of New Jersey in just about any cost of living metric. There’s no traffic to speak of and you can get from any place in the city to any other in 15 minutes.

There are many opportunities for outdoor activities. They have a tremendous botannical garden with miles of walking trails through water features, forests, bamboo forest, sink holes… it’s just wonderful. We had annual passes every year there and took our kids all the time.

The huge nearby state park is Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. It has gators but also wild horses, cattle, Bison, and all the other wildlife you can imagine… Passing through the park is a 16 mile rails to trails bike/walking/horseback riding path. If you stay on the paths the gators won’t bother you.

It’s definitely a smallish city, but because of the university it has better shopping, restaurants, and entertainment options than most other cities of its size. Lots of touring groups (bands, musicals, chinese acrobats, and what have you) come through to perform at the university auditorium. Also because of the university the airport has a fair number of flights in and out, or you can drive to Jacksonville, Orlando, or Tampa for flights, each of which is less than 2 hours drive.

Locals go to the beach near St. Augustine, about 1 1/2 hours away, or drive an hour to Cedar Key on the gulf coast which is a bit of an artists & fishing community.

The weather isn’t bad even for someone from up North like myself. It actually doesn’t get much hotter than it did when I lived in Boston, it just stays hot for much longer. It can also get pretty cold, down into the twenties or even teens a couple times a winter, but it doesn’t stay that way for more than a couple days and it never snows. We had one hurricane during the 10 years we lived there but everything is built up to code so it just knocked out the power for a few days. In general you spend a lot of time indoors during the summer and enjoy the great weather the rest of the year.

Honestly my whole family loved living there. We’d still be there except for the fact that unless you work for the University there aren’t many technical jobs. We ran a small software shop but over time all of our work was coming from companies in Raleigh NC so we ended up moving there to be closer to our clients.

My information is a bit outdated, but I know there are botanical gardens and other nature reserves outside and around Gainesville. Gainesville is bland and has no culture, and is sprawled, not compact. Despite its lack of culture, it does OK in having multiple cultures and UF is big enough that the cultural activities sponsored by the student organizations are worth enjoying. The campus shuts down during football days, just like a lot of southern schools. There are gators even on campus, but just don’t feed them.

There are all kind of clubs, the university is huge! And even outside the university, the city is big enough to support some clubs and activities without depending only on students.

And just to be clear, Sr. Weasel would be considered a U of F employee, so I imagine we would be close to campus and taking part in some university activities.

There are certainly lots of conservative people in the area, and there’s virtually a church on every corner, but at the same time you’re likely to see more darwin fish than jesus fish on cars. Because of the university people tend to be tolerant of other beliefs, but remember that’s a two way street.

Gainesville also has one of the better disc golf courses I’ve played which has hosted a number of tournaments if you’re into that.

It also has a fencing academy whose coach has worked with Olympians. My kids had fun going to day camps there.

Thank you, I appreciate this thoughtful repsonse.

I appreciate all of the thoughtful responses in this thread! (which is all of them.)

I don’t live in Gainesville, but I moved to Florida in 2005 and plan to stay here forever. I love this state and I am a very liberal person. Parts of Florida are more right wing than others but we did swing for Obama so there is hope yet.
But gators are not slow moving creatures you can just step around, they are dinosaurs that eat dogs and locals frequently enough to avoid in the wild completely.

I was at UF as an undergrad in the late 90s and again as a resident in the mid 00s. I really enjoyed my time there, although now that I’ve lived in a couple of large metropolitan areas it would be pretty hard to go back. Another option for outdoor activities is Lake Wauberg, a man-made lake open to UF students and staff. They have kayaks, swimming, picnic facilities, and the like.

Actually, you’ll be surprised how heavy the traffic is for such a small city. Archer Rd. (the southern edge of campus) and 13th St. (eastern edge of campus) can be hell at rush hour.

My former in-laws lived in Gainesville. I’ve visited several times, but never lived there, so my opinion is based on the limited amount of time spent there.

I hated it. The summers are extremely humid with temps in the high 90s, and rain/thunder showers nearly every afternoon. I do not enjoy hot, humid weather so it was like hell on earth for me. There is no breeze there like you find near coastal towns. The air just hangs around you, heavy and wet.

Assume every body of water you encounter in Florida is inhabited by crocodiles. This is not limited to ponds and lakes. Roadside drainage ditches, canals and large puddles may also contain bitey crocs.

There isn’t much to do that appeals to anyone other than college kids.

There are several small towns near Gainesville that are speed traps. Lawtey and Waldo on 301 between I-10 and Gainesville are the ones that stand out in my memory. Don’t exceed the posted limits.

You’re trading cold snowy days in the winter for hot humid days in the summer. If you’re fine with that, you won’t have a problem in FL.

Traffic in Gainesville will be light compared to what you’re used to. I’ve spent plenty of time driving in both states (NJ and FL), and I would choose FL any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

You’ll have plenty of outdoors. There is a lot of empty land in Florida.

Don’t really know what you mean by “LGBT friendly”. You’ll likely not find many businesses that cater specifically to the LGBT community, but very few will be openly hostile to the community.

Could you define ‘‘hell’’? My commute from my last job was 1:30-1:45 hours (each way) mostly on the New Jersey Turnpike. My commute for my current job is an hour on the parkway on a good day, 2 hours on a bad day, and 3 hours during a snowstorm. We’re talking six lane highways and semi trucks.

Also, when you say ‘‘rush hour’’ do you mean like a long period of time? Rush hour around here is from about 3pm to 7pm.

This is just me bitching about driving in New Jersey. But seriously, I’m beginning to think almost anything would be better, commute-wise. Plus does anyone know what the public transportation situation is there? I could get into that.

I just mean not discriminating in employment policy. Ideally offering benefits to same sex partners but I’d also be pretty happy with just not firing/refusing to hire people because they’re gay.

I wouldn’t expect much in the way of public transportation, but then again, your commute is going to be so much easier you’ll cry with happiness. :wink:

It certainly won’t take you an hour each way, but still, there will be a lot of stop-and-go traffic. There is a pretty good bus system. It was pretty bad when I first started as an undergrad but slowly improved, adding more routes and more buses per route.

Actually, last I went to Gainesville (2007), their transportation system, while not as good as say, NYC, was waaaaay better than other comparable college towns and even bigger cities (I’m looking at you Baton Rouge, LA, and Athens, GA). It is possible that recession affected it, but the transportation system was OK. And I managed to live in Gainesville for 3 years without a car and without major problems (something I was not able to do in either Baton Rouge nor Athens).

Haven’t been in 40 years, so will not address businesses and politics.
Hot, sticky, miserable.
Palmetto bugs: Think 6" cockroaches - and they fly! Into your face!
You will be awakened at 06:00 by trucks spraying poisons to control mosquitoes.
Termites: few old wooden houses; concrete block and brick are popular.

Cute chameleons are native, so there’s that.

After rains, “magic” mushrooms appear in cow patties. The local kids know the good collecting points, as do the local cops. I would not be surprised if they wrote it up as felonies.

Gators, unless hungry, are not going to bother you unless disturbed. It takes little to disturb one, and how do you know how hungry it is?

When I as there, the whites grudgingly accepted the blacks. Harmony? Not so much…

Redneck hick town with a big University summed it up back then.

I live in Gainesville right now, and I fellow doper Dung Beetle lives here as well.

I love it here. Gainesville has a lot going for it. It’s a great hybrid of “small city” and “big town.”

Gainesville is fairly liberal, but it’s an island. Thirty minutes in any direction gets you into the deep south: people who joke about Florida being a northern state don’t know anything about north Florida. Gainesville itself is a different story. Our last mayor was openly gay, and my understanding is that he hung out fairly regularly at the UC, which is a gay bar.

“Rush hour” in Gainesville really just means “avoid a few specific stretches of road during specific parts of the day, and especially during a home game.” Unless you absolutely can’t avoid those stretches, you’ll be just fine. I can get literally anywhere in town inside of 20 minutes. Public transportation here, like a lot of other stuff, revolves around the school. Easy to get to campus, less easy to get elsewhere.

Gainesville is a quintessential college town. The population is transient, and lots of stuff revolves around the student community. For example, a friend of mine recently had to ask on Facebook whether anyone knew of any trans support groups that weren’t campus-based.

Gainesville doesn’t have all the amenities of a true big city. We’re sorely lacking in a wide spread of ethnic restaurants, and the really great traveling shows are going to hit Orlando or Jacksonville rather than here. On the other hand, if you’re looking for natural springs and state parks that are within a two-hour drive, get ready to be amazed. Two hours will also get you to Orlando, Jacksonville, Tampa (more or less), and St. Augustine.

Paynes Prairie is, according to the literature, the largest concentration of top-level predators in North America due to the amount of gators. It’s absolutely amazing to be out there during breeding season, surrounded by the fuckers. Just don’t get between them and the water or they might think you’re trying to cut them off from an escape route.

The gaming scene here is, in my opinion, kind of hit and miss. There is a community of wargamers and board gamers, and I’m happy to hook you up with 'em, but I generally prefer to game with my own circle of friends.

Happy to answer any specific questions about my hometown swamp.