10 Things Guys Should Know When Traveling to Gainesville, Home of the Florida Gators

1. Graduates of the University of Florida will tell you they loved their college experience. There are some honest enough to admit that other schools had better looking girls or better tailgates, but the sum of the parts is what makes Gainesville a good time. As you expect, the girls are pretty attractive. It may not be Athens or Ole Miss quality, but they’re not far behind. It’s also a more diverse group of girls than what you’d see at a standard SEC school because Florida itself is more diverse and UF is the best state school. Most of the extras are located just north of campus with downtown not too far away for a change of pace. The football crowd is a serious bunch, who can talk game with the best of them. (Just don’t tell them Tim Tebow can’t play quarterback.) Finally you can wear jorts and it’s acceptable. (I had to say that at least once.)

2. As with heading to Athens, GA, the unfortunate thing about going to Gainesville is they play their biggest rival, Georgia, in the game no longr officially known as the “The World’s Largest Cocktail Party” in Jacksonville. Being in the SEC East, Florida alternates home games every year with Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt. A lot of Gators come back to town for The Tennessee game because they were strong rivals for a while, but South Carolina is the best of those options these days as long as the ol’ Ball Coach keeps the Gamecocks successful. Plus the fact that Spurrier used to coach at Florida makes it slightly more interesting. The good thing about SEC’s insistence on sticking with the “6-1-1” schedule system is that Florida also alternates home games with LSU, which is another really good option. I haven’t even mentioned in-state rival Florida State, who comes to town every other year as well and is perennially ranked. If you’re lucky, that other games against an SEC West opponent will be against Alabama or Texas A&M and you’ll have a quality game on your hand. The bottom line is there are plenty of good games to see in Gainesviile.

3. When you can’t stay with friends, your best option in Gainesville is to rent an apartment for the weekend. It’s a big enough town where there will be places available whether it be near the stadium or something cheaper downtown. The Holiday Inn on 13th and University Ave is a great location, but you’ll be paying close to $500 if you’re lucky enough to book in advance. The Hampton Inn downtown isn’t a terrible option because you can always taxi from downtown on gameday. You can always slum it at the cheaper hotels on 13th St. south of Archer Rd, but you get what you pay for in terms of convenience and comfort.

4. So before we get into the tailgating scene, I want to point out that the open container situation in Gainesville is not so good. You can only have an open container on the campus side of University Ave. If you wander across to the other side of the street with an open container, they’ll lock you down with a ticket in next to no time. And I’m not breaking balls because it happened to me when I was there. The best part is that out-of-staters have to pay a higher fine than Floridians. Lucky me. There’s also the unofficial policy that you’re fine drinking until you start walking to the stadium, so make sure you finish up before you start the walk.

5. As to where you want to tailgate, it’s pretty spread out along the lines of what you see at Georgia as opposed to Ole Miss or Alabama. Getting on the lawn north of the stadium is ideal so that you can be close to the “Gator Walk,” but those spots lock down early. Otherwise you can just park yourself in one of the open spots along University Ave on the campus side. Those wanting to avoid the sun can head to the Plaza of the Americas near the library. It’s a standard tailgating atmosphere with your games, food, and hot chicks in sundresses. Have Gator Beverage deliver a keg to the house you’re staying at to make things easy for you.

6. There are a couple places nearby to kill sometime with alternate activities. Ocala Jai Alai offers poker tournaments and live games and is only a 30 minute ride away. You can bet the ponies too. The river tubing over at Ginnie Springs is fun if you can put a group together. You can also scuba dive and do other water activities. That still might not compare to the fun you’d have at Café Risque. You can enjoy some food and watch some strippers you’d probably never want to see naked. But the entertainment value is always high, so it’s good for a practical joke or two on your buddies.

7. Every college town has its go-to food spots and Gainesville is no different. Hogan’s Great Sandwiches is a simple spot, but they do things right. You get a very good meat to bread ratio, which is key for those of us who like a good sandwich. Most people lean towards getting the Italian, aka the #1, but the meatball sub is good too. There’s also a surprisingly strong beer selection. Burrito Bros. Taco Co may give you a stomach ache, but it’s the best stomach ache you’ll ever have. I’d lean pork over chicken or beef, but make sure to make your burrito “a primo” and go with a side of the fresh guacamole. Italian Gator Pizza offers the best slice in town and keeps slinging them until 2:30 a.m. You might just be surprised when you realize it’s served out of a tiny window next door to Jimmy John’s. Leonardo’s isn’t a bad pizza alternative, but they shut up shop by 10 p.m. You’ll want to grab some garlic rolls with that pizza. Last on the pizza list is Gumby’s, which is a chain, but you’ll enjoy the 2-for-1 sticks on Tuesdays. Another late night food option is the Cuban fare at Flacos and ordering something other than the Cuban sandwich is the wrong answer.

8. Dragonfly is one of the fancier restaurants in town with sushi and cocktails, but that’s not the best part. Ryan Lochte, yes that Ryan Locthe, loves it, so the restaurant gets plenty of attention. Mark’s Prime is the steakhouse of note, but it’s nothing compared to what you’d get in Texas or even at a chain like a Morton’s. You can get a well-rounded casual dining experience at The Ballyhoo Grill where the coolest thing to do is put your burger in between two grilled cheese sandwiches. The fish is generally pretty good as well. The best breakfast in town comes at Ivey’s Grill, but you might have to wait about an hour to get it and service is definitely on the slow side.. Potato pancakes are a thing here, but you can’t go wrong with the Eggs Benedict of the French Toast either. The relatively new 4 Rivers Smokehouse is part of a chain, but it’s offering stiff competition to the local barbecue joints. Burnt ends and brisket will send you home happy. If you’re rather have local barbecue and screw off the chain lifestyle, you can get decent food at Adam’s Rib Co.

9. The bar scene in Gainesville is rather explosive in a good way as you’d expect from one of the better party schools in the country. The Swamp is the most well-known of the bars with a lively atmosphere at all times and lines down the street on gameday weekends. Everyone loves “Beat the Clock” Fridays at Grog House down the street. Pitchers start for a quarter at 9 p.m. and go up every fifteen minutes. As you’d expect, the place fills up early and gets ugly quickly. But hey, there’s good dancing. (And by dancing I mean drunk people groping each other while they grind away on the dance floor.) The Salty Dog is a more laid back experience, but there’s still fun to be had. If you can drink all 50 beers from 50 different countries, you get a free t-shirt. (Though I don’t expect you to do that in a weekend. Consider me impressed if you do.) You honestly can’t go wrong with all the rest of the spots either, so I’ll rattle off the names: 101 Cantina, Gator City, Balls (all you can drink from 6-8 p.m. for $7), Tijuana Flats, and Fat Daddy’s.

10. There’s a good downtown scene too that trends a little older. Tall Paul’s Brewhouse is a great place to grab a beer. (That shouldn’t be surprising on the name, but bear with me.) They’ve got local and some harder to find non-local as well. And they recently added a liquor license, but you’d only want to go there to drink beer. Continuing with the beer theme, Stubbies and Steins is a sweet spot with 400 different bottled beers, but sometimes the service is lacking. You can get your share of Irish at Lillian’s (slightly upscale) and Durty Nelly’s. :08 (aka Eight Seconds) gives you all the country music you can handle. You can also get a different kind of live music at Rockey’s because bitches love piano bars. If you end up there on aTuesday, head to 101 Downtown and bring your glowsticks because it’s Techno Tuesday! Otherwise I don’t expect you to go clubbing in Gainesville, but you can if you want to. Envy, Fubar, the Vault all exist if that’s what you’re into.

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