Gainesville, Florida

Visitors explore the Florida Fossils hall in the Florida Museum of Natural History. John Jernigan/Alachua County VCB
The Hippodrome State Theatre (The Hipp) in downtown Gainesville John Jernigan/Alachua County VCB
The Harn Museum of Art on the University of Florida campus features strong African, Asian and contemporary collections. John Jernigan/Alachua County VCB
Alachua Sink in Paynes Prairie State Preserve Alachua County VCB

Population: 108,655 (2006)
Percentage of retirees: 9.1% in 2006
Cost of living index: Average
Public libraries: 4
Public transportation: Gainesville Regional Transit System provides buses. Daily Amtrak services from Waldo (12 miles away)
Access to airports: Gainesville Regional Airport has daily services to Miami, Tampa, Atlanta and Charlotte.
Cultural Highlights: Strong museum and performance arts through the University of Florida.
Access to Healthcare: Good, owing to the presence of the University of Florida.
Climate: Hot summers but pleasant winters, and the inland location helps mitigate the hurricane threat.
Nearby Attractions: The Gulf Coast and "old Florida"-style fishing towns like Cedar, the Ocala area Thoroughbred horse farms, the Silver Springs Botanical Gardens (an old Florida glass-bottom-boat attraction), the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park in Cross Creek, and a handful of natural, spring-fed pools are all within an hour's drive.
Tax breaks: In Florida, retirement income is not taxed. Starting in 2007, individuals, married couples, personal representatives of estates, and businesses are no longer required to file an annual intangible personal property tax return reporting their stocks, bonds, mutual funds, money market funds, shares of business trusts, and unsecured notes.
Number of museums: 3
Number of cinemas: 6
Annual precipitation: 48.36 inches
Useful link: City Of Gainesville, FL
In the Know: "We might otherwise be just a little farm town with a great climate if it weren't for the University of Florida, a huge research university that fills our city with innovative people. Another thing, it's a very close drive from the center of Gainesville to open, green and rural space, rivers, lakes, the ocean-alligators, sandhill cranes, bald eagles, deer, even buffalo. This has been Florida's Eden for a long time. Native Americans flourished here for 10,000 years. With the memory and artifacts of that ancient community and our own more recent history, Gainesville and Alachua County have a profound sense of human-rootedness.
-Jack Donovan, Gainesville City Commissioner

The slogan of this progressive college town is "every path starts with passion," and that does seem to embody the local approach to life. This is not typical Florida fare—neither a golf nor a beach community. Residents are committed to preserving their natural, north Florida surroundings, celebrating the arts, and cultivating an open attitude toward all comers.

The University of Florida, about two miles from downtown, sets the tone and certainly enriches Gainesville culturally with the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. It features groups representing music and theater from throughout the world; the Harn Museum of Art, with strong African, Asian and contemporary collections; and the Florida Museum of Natural History, with a memorable butterfly rain forest. Both museums are free.

Downtown Gainesville has the appeal of a small southern city and its own cultural offerings include free Friday night films on the plaza, fall and spring arts festivals, and the 1920s Hippodrome State Theater. Restaurants add to the nightlife, many concentrating on seasonal and organic cuisine, and such lovely old neighborhoods as the Duck Pond area are within an easy walk of downtown.

At the southeastern outskirts of town, Payne's Prairie Preserve State Park protects 19,000 acres of wildlife-rich wetland. Biking and hiking, canoeing and kayaking, fishing, camping, and bird-watching are all available in this designated national natural landmark. Farther afield but still close by are the rolling hills, small towns, and low-key living of "old Florida."

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