There are two types of seniors at UF, and you’re either one or the other.
There’s the senior who has made an effort to let every single person in Gainesville know, not excluding Albert and Alberta, who are, in fact, large reptiles, the exact date and time to which they are graduating. This senior has taken their graduation photos months in advance, already has a job lined up and, while you want to secretly hate their success, you have to admire their hustle.
Then there is the other senior, the one who is so deep in denial they can’t even say the word “graduation” without rushing to get a peach milkshake from Sweetberries just to momentarily ignore their responsibilities – just me? OK, moving on. This senior is just now tearfully coming to the realization that they have to say goodbye to Gainesville in a few short weeks, and that can be a very hard thing to go through, especially with finals. Thankfully, I’ve come up with a few out-of-the-box things to see and do that would be perfect for any graduating senior – no matter what type you are.
Devil’s Den Spring
Just a quick, 30-minute drive out of Gainesville is a gorgeous natural underground spring that will make you feel like you’ve just entered the universe of Jurassic Park (without the violent dinosaurs of course). While you visit one of North America’s most prehistoric sites and swim through their crystal clear waters, set at a comfortable 72 degrees year-round, you can enjoy the scenery, which includes animal fossils dating back to the Pleistocene Age. Don’t be intimidated by the name – the website states that early settlers coined the name “Devil's Den” due to the steam-like smoke you can see pouring from the cave’s opening on cold, winter mornings. Access to the spring is limited to those who are planning to snorkel and scuba dive, but there is also a heated swimming pool for those who just want to relax. More info at devilsden.com.
Florida Fun Bikes
Who would have guessed that combining alcohol with exercise would be a good idea? Well, it turns out this innovative creation is completely genius. I mean, when you’re drunk, you don’t even realize you’re breaking a sweat. The masterminds behind this idea, Derrick Robinson and his fiancée, Amber, are Gainesville residents, so while you’re biking through town, you’re supporting a local business. The bike is a multi-passenger vehicle completely powered by your feet on the pedals, which means you’re also helping the environment by being green. No need to worry about grabbing an Uber while you’re pub-crawling through Gainesville because you’ve got your rad 16-person bike, employed with a sober driver to make sure you don’t get into any trouble. Who would have thought getting tipsy off of some of Gainesville’s best bars located in downtown and midtown would be so environmentally conscious, safe and responsible? More info at floridafunbikes.com.
University of Florida Bat Houses
No student can leave Gainesville without checking out the Bat Houses. While it may seem unusual, it would be senseless not to take advantage of living so close to the world’s largest occupied bat houses and being able to see these animals so close. If anything, this would be a great conversation starter at grad school or a quirky first date. This is also the perfect time to see them, as the Florida Museum of Natural History’s website states, during spring through early summer when days are increasing in length.
When walking to and from class, constantly surrounded by the chaotic blaring of construction as more buildings are constantly being repaired or added to, it becomes evident that the best parts of Gainesville are the ones untouched by humanity. This U.S. National Landmark encompasses a 21,000-acre savannah, so it’s definitely not small, and thus, the activities you can do are endless. The park has eight trails where you can either hike, horseback ride, bike or stroll. You can spend the night at one of the campsites, go fishing at Lake Wauberg or if you like it so much – you can even get married here! It’s sometimes just relaxing to take a break from our heavily structured lives and spend a day encompassed by nature. Paynes Prairie is the perfect destination to do just this.
Attendees at Paynes Prarie stargazing event check out the night sky a few years ago in January 2015.