Florida Gators: Things to Do on Gameday in Gainesville

by Dustin Schutte
florida-gators-things-to-do-gameday-gainesville

Outsider has teamed up with On3 to create the most in-depth Gameday guides.

UF Gameday Guides: Restaurants | Bars | Activities | Tailgates | Parking | Watch Parties

Gators don’t just occupy the lakes and swamps around Gainesville when Florida is in town on gameday. Tens of thousands of UF fans flock to the city on autumn Saturdays. The pride and passion Gator fans show for the orange and blue every week turns Ben Hill Griffin Stadium into one of the most intimidating environments in the country.

Everyone floods Gainesville to see the Gators on the gridiron. But there’s more to this SEC college town than just football. There are a number of other attractions, too.

We talked with Nick de la Torre and Corey Bender of On3’s Gators Online to get an idea of some of the best things to see and do while traveling to Gainesville for a gameday in “The Swamp.” There’s plenty to keep you occupied, whether you’re making a one-day trip or spending a full weekend in town.

Arriving Early?

Take a Hike at Sweetwater Wetlands Park

  • Location: 325 SW Williston Rd.
  • Hours: 7 AM – Sunset (Daily)
  • Price: $5 per car or $2 per person
  • Website

If you’re looking to live up to the Outsider name during your trip to Gainesville, be sure to hit the Sweetwater Wetlands Park and spent some time with nature. There are six different trails within the park, ranging from an easy one-mile trek to a 3.4-mile adventure.

You can spot a variety of birds, alligators, snakes and other wildlife at Sweetwater. So, if you’re a nature lover looking for something to do during your weekend-long stay in Gainesville, this a must-visit park.

Photo by Dustin Schutte/Outsider

Hit Up Bo Diddley Community Plaza for Live Music

  • Location: 111 East University Ave.
  • Parking: SW Downtown Garage (105 SW 3rd St.)
  • Price: FREE
  • Website

Listen up, music lovers, Gainesville has a great opportunity for you to catch some free tunes while in town for the big game. Bo Diddley Community Plaza offers a “Free Friday” concert series throughout the year, offering folks a chance to catch some great local talent with no cost.

The plaza is located downtown, so you’re around plenty of great restaurants, breweries and more. Grab some tacos and margaritas at Munecas Downtown Taco Garden (located right next to Bo Diddley Plaza), or order a coffee at Kava Gator Coffee Shop and enjoy some live local music. It’s a relaxing way to spend a Friday night before kickoff.

Paddle Through Gainesville’s Breweries

One of the best things to do in any SEC college town is to check out the local beer scene. Gainesville has plenty to choose from, all offering something unique. First Magnitude Brewing Co. has a giant beer garden, great indoor seating and a football-themed beer entitled, Head Beer Coach, named after Steve Spurrier.

During the football season, Swamp Head Brewery holds special events on Friday nights for a great pre-gameday party. Cypress & Grove Brewery and Big Top Brewing Co. are both located downtown. Blackadder Brewing is located a little bit further from campus but has a great beer selection. Can you hit all six during your trip to Gainesville?

Brewery and LocationHoursGo-To Beer
Swamp Head Brewery

 3650 SW 42nd Ave
Monday: Closed
Tuesday-Thursday: 3 – 10 PM
Friday-Saturday: 12 – 11 PM
Sunday: 12 – 7 PM
Big Nose IPA
First Magnitude Brewing Co.

1220 SE Veitch St. 
Monday: Closed
Tuesday-Thursday: 3 – 10 PM
Friday-Saturday: 2 – 11 PM
Sunday: 2 – 8 PM
Head Beer Coach
Blackadder Brewing Co.

618-A NW 60th St.
Monday: Closed
Tuesday-Friday: 4 – 9 PM
Saturday: 12 – 9 PM
Sunday: 12 – 6 PM
An Oranged Marriage
Cypress & Grove Brewing Co.

1001 NW 4th St.
Monday–Thursday: 3 – 9 PM
Friday: 3 – 10 PM
Saturday: 12 – 10 PM
Sunday: 12 – 9 PM
Well & Good IPA
Big Top Brewing Co.

201 SE 2nd Ave. #101
Monday: Closed
Tuesday-Saturday: 11AM – 11 PM
Sunday: 11AM – 6 PM
Wellyz Premier Florida Lager

Watch the Bats Take Over Gainesville’s Sky

  • Location: Museum Rd. (beside Lake Alice)
  • Price: FREE

So … this one is not for everyone, but it is a pretty unique experience to Gainesville. The University of Florida Bat Houses serve as homes to approximately 500,000 of these night-flying creatures. When the sun begins to set, bats fly out by the thousands for their nightly hunts.

If you’re an animal lover, you might find this to be a one-of-a-kind experience. If bats creep you out, probably best to stay away from Museum Road and Lake Alice at night.

Meet the “Head Ball Coach” at Spurrier’s Gridiron Grille

  • Location: 4860 Steve Spurrier Way
  • Hours: Tues-Weds: 4PM-10 PM; Thurs: 4PM-11PM; Fri: 4PM-12AM; Sat: 11AM-12AM; Sun: 11AM-10PM; (closed Mondays)
  • Website

Whether you’re a die-hard Gator fan or a college football aficionado, Spurrier’s Gridiron Grille has to be on your list when visiting Gainesville. This restaurant offers a full experience, with a 600-square foot memorabilia exhibit, as well as a rooftop bar — appropriately named Visors.

“It’s basically a museum and a restaurant. And the chances of running into Steve Spurrier are probably over 50%. He’s there all the time.”

Nick de la Torre, Gators Online

Not enough to send you to Spurrier’s? There’s another incentive — a chance to meet the “Head Ball Coach” himself. Steve Spurrier often walks through his restaurant, interacting with patrons and Florida fans. It’s a great opportunity to enjoy a little food, a few beverages, take in college football history and meet one of the sport’s legends.

For A Saturday Gameday Experience in Gainesville…

Check Out the Heisman Statues

  • Location: Outside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (west side, near the skybox entrance)

Before heading into the stadium on gameday, be sure you head to the west side of “The Swamp” and check out the life-size statues of Florida’s three Heisman Trophy winners — Steve Spurrier (1966), Danny Wuerffel (1996) and Tim Tebow (2007).

These statues were unveiled in 2011, honoring the accomplishments of Florida’s three Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks. It’s a great photo opportunity for any Gators fan.

Photo by Dustin Schutte/Outsider

Grab a Beer at Social at Midtown

  • Location: 1728 W. University Ave.
  • Hours: Tues-Thurs: 11AM-12AM; Fri-Sat: 11AM-2AM; Sun: 11AM-12AM; (closed Mondays)
  • Website

A Gainesville staple, fans can grab a beer or two at Social at Midtown on gameday. Because of the Gator Gameday tradition, this is a hopping place on Saturdays in the fall. Still it’s part of the experience when you’re in town for the big game.

“It’s definitely the place to be on a gameday. You get a view of the north end zone (of “The Swamp”) if you’re up on the rooftop. But you have to get there early, because it’ll be packed.”

Nick de la Torre, Gators Online

Social at Midtown sits just 0.3 miles from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, so you’re looking at a 10-minute walk on gameday. With plenty of TVs within the bar, this is also a great spot to enjoy a day of college football before the Gators take the field. It also offers a rooftop area, so if it’s not too hot you can enjoy the sunshine with your cold beer.

See Your Favorite Players at the “Gator Walk”

  • Location: North Lawn outside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
  • When: 2 hours 20 minutes before kickoff

A great pre-game tradition, especially for young Florida fans. The Gators head into the stadium 2 hours and 20 minutes before kickoff and fans line up on the North Lawn outside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to cheer on their team.

This is a great chance for kids to get to see their favorite players up close and get a fist bump or high five. If you’re looking to enjoy this experience, be sure to arrive early. It’s recommended to grab a spot at least 45 minutes in advance, otherwise you might be stuck in the back of the pack.

Take the Kids to Cade Museum for Creativity & Invention

  • Location: 811 S. Main St.
  • Hours: Thursday-Sunday: 10AM – 4PM
  • Price: Adults: $15; Youth (5-17): $10; Children (0-4): FREE; Seniors & Students: $12.50
  • Website

Bringing the whole family to Gainesville on gameday? The Cade Museum for Creativity & Invention might just make its way onto your agenda. It’s an interactive learning opportunity for kids and has a great sports tie-in.

The museum is named after Dr. James Robert Cade, the inventor of Gatorade. Kids and adults can learn about the creation of the famous sports drink in “The Sweat Solution,” exhibit, a permanent experience in the Cade Museum.

So, if you have a thirst for knowledge (sorry for the pun), be sure to visit the Cade Museum on gameday.

Walk Around the Tailgate Scene

  • Location: All over campus

Maybe this sounds too simplistic but drinking in the tailgate scene (literally and figuratively) can be a great way to spend an afternoon around the UF campus on gameday. Because these areas can be pretty spread out, you can hit several different areas of Gainesville and see what each spot has to offer.

“Florida’s tailgate scene can be a little disjointed, so it’s great to walk around and get the full experience of a gameday in Gainesville.”

Nick de la Torre, Gators Online

We’ll admit, that this one might be weather permitting. Keep an eye on the temperature, especially in the early portion of the season, as that Florida sun can get pretty toasty. There’s also a lot of rain in early fall, so you might want to pack a poncho or rain jacket if you plan to wander around the tailgate scene.

Enter “The Swamp” Early for Two Bits & Gators Entrance

  • Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
  • When to Arrive: 15 minutes before kickoff

Every college football team has its own unique pre-game tradition. At Florida, it’s Two Bits and one of the best entrances in the sport. Be sure to enter “The Swamp” early to see those two things.

About 10 to 15 minutes prior to kickoff, a special guest will lead the stadium’s Two Bits cheer, which dates back to 1949 when George Edmondson Jr first started in the stands. It’s been part of Florida’s pre-game tradition for decades.

Shortly after that, the Gators head out of the tunnel and onto the playing field. Before they hit the turf, though, the theme from Jaws echoes throughout the stadium while 90,000 fans partake in “The Chomp.” It’s an incredible scene, especially for those visiting Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for the first time.

Stick Around for I Won’t Back Down

  • Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
  • When: After the 3rd quarter

Regardless of the score, be sure to stick around and sing Tom Petty’s I Won’t Back Down at the end of the third quarter. This tradition began in 2017 and it’s one of the coolest in-game moments in the SEC.

Singing along with 90,000 Gator fans is especially fun if it’s a night kickoff. Seeing lights all throughout Ben Hill Griffin Stadium before the start of the fourth quarter will give any football fan chills — even on the hottest gameday.

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