Finding places to go on a budget or with a large group of family and friends can be tricky, but checking out the best free attractions in Gainesville is a great start! Some of these places may require a parking fee, but that's usually only a couple of bucks per car.

San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park

The San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park is a beyond beautiful outdoor nature preserve that's free with multiple trails, making it the perfect spot for a hike with your friend or furrier-friend.

This preserve is also one of the few remaining mature forests in Florida. Because it's a mature forest, bobcats, white-tailed deer, gray foxes, turkeys, and many species of songbirds make their homes here. Feel free to pack a picnic and find the comfiest log to sit on and enjoy the peace and quiet.

Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

If you're interested in checking out Florida's first state preserve, take a visit to Paynes Prairie and its many trails. I've personally seen wild bison, horses, cranes, alligators, and plenty of other unique and wild species roaming around the preserve.

Paynes Prairie provides magical views anytime of day and, because each trial is so different, you can experience everything Paynes Prairie has to offer every time you visit. There's a parking fee of $6 per vehicle, but admission to the park itself is free.

Related content: Top Things to Do in Gainesville

Depot Park

Depot Park is one of the few places in Gainesville that's not only entirely free to visit but also fun for adults, people with dogs, and families. Depot Park is a newly-constructed park in Downtown Gainesville that has a playground with water features for children.

There's also a long rap-around promenade perfect for a walk with your dog, and you can have a drink and snack under the pavilion at The Boxcar Wine & Beer Garden. Even cooler is the newly-constructed Cade Museum for Creativity + Invention also on the Depot Park campus. The Cade Museum isn't free, but it's a great addition to this free attraction.

Related content: Best Splash Pads in Gainesville for Your Kids to Enjoy

The Bat Houses at the Florida Museum of Natural History

If you're looking for a free attraction that doesn't start until night fall, check out Lake Alice and the University of Florida bat houses, the world's largest occupied bat houses! They're located on the University of Florida campus, so parking can be a little tricky but, after sun down, most of the nearby parking decals are lifted for visitors.

The bats usually make their nightly appearance roughly 15-20 minutes after sundown. Friendly reminder: the bats only appear on nights that are warmer than 65 degrees, and guests are more likely to see the bats by keeping their phone lights low and remaining as quiet as possible.

Devil's Millhopper

Check out Gainesville's largest sinkhole at Devil's Milhopper. Unfortunately, due to Hurricane Irma, the staircase that used to go down into the sinkhole was destroyed. However, renovations are underway and coming along quickly.

Visitors can still peer into the sinkhole from above and catch great views of the waterfalls for free. The trail is also still open around the top of the sinkhole but does not currently loop around the sinkhole like it usually does. Instead, it's cut off just a bit due to other damage from the storm.

There's a parking fee of $4 per vehicle and, with a cost that low, it's definitely worth it to check out one of Gainesville's most fascinating natural phenomenons!

Related content: The Five Best Parks to Spend a Sunny Afternoon in Gainesville

Gainesville has so much to offer from nature preserves and state parks to great restaurants and artistic hangouts, but make sure to check out these free attractions while you're here!

For more things to do in Gainesville, register on 352area and stay up-to-date on everything North Central Florida has to offer.


Cover photo courtesy of Adobe Stock Images