The Fun Isn’t Over if You’re Sober: Alcohol-Free Fun in Gainesville

By: Joshua Klafter

As a bustling college town crammed with over 50,000 students, Gainesville is well-known for its bar and clubbing scenes. Whether it be the jam-packed Midtown or varied Downtown, having a good time in the swamp is most commonly associated with drinking. As someone who isn’t yet 21, I, unfortunately, can’t partake in this staple pastime. Luckily, Gainesville does offer alternatives for individuals like me. Whether you’re under 21 or committing to sobriety, here are some alcohol-free options for having a great time in Gainesville.

The Hippodrome Theater


The Hippodrome is a cultural haven for film buffs and thespians alike. Whether it be a screening of a classic film or an off-broadway rendition of the most popular play, The Hippodrome has something for everyone in the entertainment department. Having showcased hit productions such as Avenue Q and screened notable films like “Ghostbusters,” there’s no secret behind the Hippodrome’s success as a staple Gainesville theater.

Lake Wauburg

lake wauberg

Located on the southern tip of the already famous Paynes Prairie, Lake Wauburg is a favorite spot among students, Gainesville residents and tourists. Relax and soak in the sun on the shores of the small, but stunning body of water. If you consider yourself adventurous and seek a more exciting kind of fun, Wauburg is a watersports playground of sorts. With so many options to choose from, Lake Wauburg is the perfect local spot for alcohol-free fun in the sun.



The Harn Museum of Art offers a wonderland of diverse art genres and movements in the form of ornate paintings, alabaster sculptures and other artifacts. The museum will satiate the tastes of a person who loves impressionism and yearns for Monet paintings or the one who wishes to examine an exhibit of modern day photographs and decipher their collective meaning. On the other hand, the Florida Museum of Natural History houses sprawling exhibits on ecosystems, fossils and people that comprise integral parts of the state’s story to date. You can even step into a tucked away cove of butterflies at the museum’s butterfly rainforest. Walking on the river-rock path through walls of dark green vegetation interspersed with orange, blue, pink and lavender hued flowers makes one feel as if they have stepped  into an undiscovered fairy-tale world.

Aside from these museums that sit near the Phillip’s Center on UF’s campus, there are more fun sites to satiate one’s creative eye and cravings for culture. For instance, on the last Friday of each month, Black C.  gallery hosts “Art Walk” downtown. From geometric modern pieces, to performance art, this event features local artists of various talents. So before you burrow yourself in cozy PJs to watch holiday movies for the weekend, you can enrich your mind with this avant garde event on Friday  Dec. 1 to get your fix of pop art and live entertainment.

If you want to enjoy an exhibit that will bring out the kid in you, then The Cade Museum for Creativity + Invention in Depot Park will entertain you with its interactive exhibits. It does not open to the public until Spring 2018. However, the museum currently offers classes that champion the principles of innovation in various areas, from the sciences to the arts, for children under 18.

Gator Football Games


Now. you may be thinking that Gator Football games are virtually synonymous with intoxication. Although it’s true that many drink heavily before shuffling into the swamp to watch the Gators play, this is not the only option. Gather your friends or family for the game and have a blast watching the Gators duke it out with a rival team. Just remember to stay hydrated, and you’ll have a great, sober day ahead of you.


Brunch at Civilization.
Coffee and espresso are frequent companions to the brunch table, so unless you have a hankering for mimosas, a midday meal of avocado toast topped with poached eggs or classic waffles with a side of grits should make way for more sober (and delicious) fun. Brunch spots continue to spread like wildfire in Gainesville, from chains and franchises to charming indie spots.

For vegetarians and vegans, Civilization on NW Second Street will charm you with its colorful dishes, from an avocado dish with lettuce and tomato topped with chipotle sauce on challah bread to “Florida cakes” drizzled with blueberry compote. On another hand, any person who appreciates a fluffy-yet-crisp waffle will find solace in Metro Diner, while another who loves a delectable pancake will taste a piece of Heaven at Peach Valley Cafe. Meanwhile, the Flying Biscuit Cafe in Northwest Gainesville serves savory egg dishes and Southern staples, like shrimp and grits, but there are some people who love it for the golden biscuits and spiced apple butter.

Those are just a few of the many options for alcohol-free fun in Gainesville. We hope you try out some of these hotspots for yourself. We’d love to hear any ideas you may have, and encourage you to share them in the comments.


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