Gainesville, FL, is home to the prestigious University of Florida, has a flourishing healthcare industry, and is surrounded by extensive natural beauty. With a population of just under 135,000, Gainesville feels like a small city, but still has enough going on to satisfy the most cosmopolitan of residents. As a university town, Gainesville has a younger population, which means there’s always something fun to do. Plus, its affordable housing and low cost of living are major attractors. Nestled in the heart of Northern Florida, Gainesville is a paradise for those who love all that the legendary Florida wetlands have to offer in terms of outdoor recreation.
One of the other wonderful things about Gainesville is that it’s close to nearly every other major city in Central and Northern Florida. From Gainesville, you can hit an interstate and be in Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Daytona Beach, Tampa, or Orlando all within less than three hours. That means if you and the kids decide to get up at 6 o’clock one morning, you could be putting on mouse-ears or riding wizard-coasters by 9 am.
Living in Gainesville, FL: What to Know Before Moving to Gainesville
Gainesville puts you right in the heart of Northern Florida, making it an easy drive to most other Northern and Central Florida cities. It’s a small city with big opportunities for fun and great living. Gainesville’s population of around 132,250 residents makes it a Goldilocks-sized city. It’s not too big and not too small. But it’s important to know that the Greater Gainesville Metropolitan Area has a population of 288,210 — more than double the city’s.
In addition to its convenient geography, the prevalence of education and healthcare jobs in the area make it very attractive for young professionals and their families to start a life in Gainesville. In this section, we’ll examine what life is like in Gainesville. From population growth and job prospects to tax rates and nightlife, we’ve outlined the key things you need to know before you move to Gator Country.
Pros and Cons of Living in Gainesville
- Small-town/College-town feel: Gainesville is home to the University of Florida, a major university, but the town itself still maintains a small-town feel. As a college town, Gainesville always has something school-related going on, from sports to festivals and other events. The appeal here is that one can have a small-town/suburban lifestyle with opportunities for all kinds of cosmopolitan activities right around the corner.
- Nature: Gainesville has over a dozen parks, natural areas, wildlife management areas, nature preserves, and wetlands parks. Whether your outdoor pleasure is ornithology, hiking, fishing, hunting, or boating, you’ll find adventure just outside your doorstep. Plus, Gainesville prides itself on having more trees than any other place in Florida.
- Sunshine: Just like the rest of Florida, Gainesville is drenched in sunshine with an average 224 days of sunshine per year — nearly a month more than the national average.
- Limited Job Market: Unless you work in education or healthcare, you may find it difficult to establish a career in Gainesville. Of course, there are other industries in the city, but the bulk of the jobs in the area are definitely in healthcare and at the university.
- Higher Property Taxes: Taxes in Alachua County are about a tenth of a percent higher than the Florida state average. They are, however, on par with the rest of the nation, at roughly 1.212%.
- Car Necessity: Because the city is so spread out, and public transportation options are fairly limited, owning a car is most likely going to be a necessity. There are walkable neighborhoods, but getting to other parts of town without your car can be problematic.
- Property Taxes: The property tax rate for Alachua County is 1.212% of assessed home value. This rate puts the tax bill for a $250,000 home at around $3030 per year. The national average for the same assessed home value is $3028 per year. The rest of Florida, however, enjoys a lower tax rate of 1.10%.
- Sales Taxes: Gainesville also has a slightly higher sales tax rate. The 7% rate is a combination of Florida’s 6% rate and Alachua County’s 1% rate. However, in the rest of the country, some cities of comparable size see sales tax rates of well over 8%.
- State Income Taxes: Florida, along with only six other states, doesn’t subject its residents to a state income tax. While you may pay more in property and sales tax compared to other cities in the country, your overall tax burden in Gainesville could be somewhat lower.
Housing prices make Gainesville an attractive option for people moving to Florida from the northern states and some other Florida cities. The median home value is $184,000, according to Zillow. Over 43% of the occupied homes in Gainesville are valued at between $100,000 and $200,000. The housing market saw a big boom over the last five years, but in the last year, it seems to have slowed. Over the last 12 months, the Gainesville housing market has grown by 6%, while nationally, home values have appreciated by around 7.7%.
As a college town, it’s not surprising that over half of the residents in Gainesville rent. The average rent is on par with the national average at around $1350 per month. However, you can find a studio apartment for between $700 and $800 per month.
Cost of Living
When compared to Florida’s other major college town, Tallahassee, and with other similarly-sized cities in the nation, Gainesville’s cost of living is slightly lower. The cost of living index on bestplaces.net uses a US average of 100 when rating a city’s cost of living. According to bestplaces.net, the Gainesville cost of living is 95.6, and for Florida, in general, it’s 99. Although Gainesville residents pay slightly more for health and utilities, they pay less than the national average for groceries, housing, transportation, and miscellaneous expenses.
Weather and Natural Disasters
For 224 days of the year or so, Gainesville is a sunny Florida paradise. The other 142 days, however, can be a little dicey, as it is all over Florida. Whether the sun’s out or not, it’s usually warm in Gainesville. Like the rest of the south, summers are hot and humid, with daytime highs in the low 90s and nighttime lows in the 70s. Winters are generally mild. Even in the depths of winter, the temperature rarely dips below 45 degrees at night and the daytime highs in January average 66 degrees.
Of course, there’s the other side of the coin. Florida has more than its fair share of severe weather, and Gainesville isn’t immune. Gainesville residents are susceptible to tornadoes, floods, severe thunderstorms, and hurricanes, just like the rest of Floridians are. While these events are not necessarily “common” occurrences, they are a fact of life in the region, which you should consider when deciding to move to Gainesville.
Economy & Job Market
Gainesville’s economy and job market revolve mainly around the healthcare and education industries. The University of Florida is the largest employer in the city, and many residents complain about the lack of diversity when it comes to available jobs. However, the job market has grown by 1.6% over the last year, and over the next ten years, job growth in Gainesville is expected to outperform the rest of the nation by over 6%.
While the cost of living in Gainesville is about 3% lower than other cities in the nation, so is the average income. The median household income is $46,386, compared to an average of $53,482 for the rest of the country. Still, when one considers that Gainesville is a college town, those averages start to make a little more sense. A large portion of the population is university students who work minimum-wage jobs while they go to school, lowering the median income data.
Aside from education and healthcare, the other main industries in Gainesville are retail and food services/hospitality; and professional, scientific and tech services.
Some 23% of residents work in educational services; 16% work in health care and social assistance; 12.7% work in accommodation and food services; 12.1% find employment in retail trades; and almost 6% work in professional, scientific, and tech services. The remainder of Gainesville residents work in transportation and warehousing; information, finance, and insurance; real estate; arts, entertainment, and recreation; and public administration.
Traffic and Transportation
A web of state highways divides Gainesville in all directions. Just to the west is I-75, which will take you to Atlanta and beyond if you head north. If you head south, the interstate will take you to either Orlando or Tampa. Hawthorne Rd is the major east-west thoroughfare, while both 13th and 34th streets provide good north-south access.
In the city itself, locals recommend learning back roads and alternate routes, which will help navigate the city during football season and other big University of Florida events when traffic is heavier.
Things to Do
Gainesville is home to at least a dozen state and local parks, wildlife conservation areas, and wetland reserves. Some stunning areas worth making an effort to see are:
- The Ichetucknee Springs State Park offers hiking, swimming, and abundant wildlife watching. You can tube, kayak, canoe, or snorkel the crystal clear river
- Gainesville’s gorgeous Kanapaha Botanical Gardens
- The annual October Florida Bat Festival at the Lubee Bat Conservancy
- Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation, a sanctuary for rescued exotic animals and local wildlife
- Morningside Nature Center with 260+ acres of walking and hiking trails.
- Payne’s Prairie Preserve State Park with its 50-foot wildlife viewing tower
- The 125+ acre man-made wetland habitat at Sweetwater Wetlands Park
If you’re looking for more metropolitan activities, Gainesville doesn’t disappoint. As a university town, there’s plenty of nightlife plus opportunities to enjoy extensive arts and culture. Don’t miss:
- The University’s Harn Museum of Art with over 9000 works
- Florida Museum of Natural History with its Butterfly Rainforest
- The Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention which aims at stimulating young minds through its education programs
- The Matheson History Museum in historic downtown
- Acrosstown Repertory Theatre
- Quinn Jones Museum and Cultural Center
- Boulware Springs Park and Historic Waterworks
Schools and Universities
Gainesville is home to the prestigious University of Florida. Its beautiful campus sprawls through the center of downtown. And Santa Fe College, the local community college, offers transfer degrees to the university or other independent two-year programs.
The University of Florida is renowned for its research in medicine and environmental sustainability solutions, particularly regarding coastal wetlands in the gulf-coast region. According to both Forbes and U.S. News, the University of Florida consistently ranks among the highest public universities in the country.
K—12 educational options include many charter and magnet schools. Like most other cities its size, some schools and districts are better than others, depending on which neighborhood you live in. The top-rated elementary school is Expressions Learning Arts Academy, a K—5 public charter school. For middle schools, P.K. Young Developmental Research school gets the best marks with a 7/10 from greatschools.org. The best high school in Gainesville is F.W. Buchholz High School.
Here’s perhaps the biggest problem with Gainesville. According to Neighborhoodscout.com, you’re 80% more likely to be a victim of violent crime in Gainesville than anywhere else in Florida or the rest of the nation. When it comes to property crime, that number is slightly lower at 54%. There are, however, neighborhoods that are worse than others, and we’ll detail some of the safest and best neighborhoods in the section below.
Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) handles electric, gas, and water utilities for the city, as does Mid-State Electric Co. You can purchase gas service through Infinite Energy, and there are solar options as well.
For television, internet, and phone service, GRU provides some services, but there are also three nationwide providers servicing the area. Cox, AT&T/DirecTV, and Dish all offer both television and internet services. All major cell-phone carriers also service Gainesville.
Use the links provided above to get your service started before you move in.
Best Neighborhoods in Gainesville, FL
A lot of factors go into deciding the best neighborhood in which to buy or rent a new home. If you’re moving to Gainesville to attend the University of Florida and you don’t want to live on campus, there are plenty of great neighborhoods near the campus that offer everything college life is supposed to have. On the other hand, if you’re moving to Gainesville to work in the medical field, at the University, or another job sector, you may prefer a more quiet, suburban feel. In either case, there’s a neighborhood in Gainesville that’s just right for you. We’ve compiled a list of eight of our favorites below.
Archer Road/Southwest Gainesville
This neighborhood is very much a “college” part of town. A lot of students live closer to the University area, which forms the northwest border. Abundant shops, restaurants, clubs, and bus stops are found in this part of town. Those looking for urban adventure can find it on every block, while the farther away from the University you get, the quieter life in Southwest Gainesville becomes.
The rest of the neighborhood’s northern boundary is formed by W. Newberry Rd, part of the major east-west thoroughfare that crosses the city. To the south, the neighborhood ends at SW Williston Road and SW 121st Ave. From east to west the area stretches from Highway 441 to Parker Rd.
Because of its proximity to the University, the population of Southwest Gainesville fluctuates, but it generally hovers between 6,000 and 7,000 people. Like the rest of Gainesville, many of the residents in this part of town rent. The average rent for a two-bedroom unit is between $900 – $1000 per month. A house of your own will cost you about $225,000.
The public school quality in Southwest Gainesville is mixed. Five of the twelve elementary schools are rated above average, while most of the remaining schools received a grade of 5/10 from Greatschools.org. Only one middle school rates above average. However, FW Buchholz High, which serves this area, is one of the highest rated schools in the city.
Something to try: Shopping and dining at Butcher Plaza.
According to Gainsvillian.com, living in Downtown is “Stylish… yummy, [and] walkable.” Like most downtown areas in bigger cities, Gainesville’s Downtown offers something for just about everyone and is the epicenter of the city’s nightlife and culture scene.
The boundaries of downtown run from NE 16th Ave on the north side and funnel down along SW 13th St. on the west and SE 11th St. until the intersection of S. Main St. and Highway 331. As with the Archer Rd/SW Gainesville neighborhood, Downtown’s population fluctuates with the school year. However, there are, on average, around 20,000 residents living in Downtown Gainesville at any given time.
Downtown housing is a mixture of modern-style condos that sit atop unique local shops, bistros, and other businesses, or single family homes, many of which accommodate apartment living. The median home price is slightly lower than the surrounding neighborhoods at just over $150,000, and the median rent for a two-bedroom unit is cheaper too, at around $1000 per month.
Downtown Gainesville is served by elementary schools that rate average (5/10) or below according to Great Schools. For secondary schools, things aren’t much better — most secondary schools in the area rate at or below average.
Something to Try: Go on a Saturday guided tour at the University of Florida’s Harn Museum of Art.
Just north of the UF campus is Midtown Gainesville, the heart of the University lifestyle that’s usually abuzz with activities relating to student life. It’s filled with students heading to class, one-of-a-kind shops, restaurants, and bistros. Around 15,000 people live in Midtown, with a relatively low population density of 1400 people per square mile.
Some of the best student housing is found here, so that means rentals. Rent prices run around $1100/month for a two bedroom unit. However, there are homes for sale, and the median home value for the neighborhood is around $200,000.
The schools in midtown are on par with most of the other schools within the city limits — twelve of twenty elementary schools rate at or below average. At the secondary level, only four of the fifteen middle and high schools in the neighborhood rate above average.
Something to Try: Have a meal at Relish Midtown on University Avenue, then head over to The Midnight on Main Street for a craft beer.
Life in many Gainesville neighborhoods revolves around the University of Florida, and its hustle and bustle. If you’re looking for a place to live that takes you away from all of that, you might want to consider Northwest Gainesville. Gainesvillian describes it as “Relaxed, friendly, [and] slower-paced.” The area has a much more suburban feel to it, with less traffic, more trees, and strip-malls rather than bars and night clubs. The boundaries of this neighborhood stretch from NW 93rd Ave on the north to W. Newberry on the south. The eastern boundary is Main St. and the neighborhood stretches west to NW 143rd St.
Housing options are much more permanent in Northwest Gainesville, as there are fewer rental options. The median home value is just under $212,000, while the rent is slightly lower at around $1050 per month for a two bedroom unit.
Half of the public schools in Northwest Gainesville rate above average. Like the rest of Alachua County, the options available are a mixture of district, charter, and magnet schools. The most highly rated school in the neighborhood is the Healthy Learning Academy Charter School, a K-5 elementary school.
Something to Try: Make a new friend — strike up a conversation with one of the friendly residents at the post office or grocery store.
If you’d rather live outside of Gainesville for a more rural feel, you should be looking at High Springs. Niche rates it as one of the best places to live in Florida, let alone Gainesville. It has a population of around 5,000, an abundance of great parks, and better-than-average schools. High Springs sits just west of I-75, on the northwest outskirts of the Gainesville metro are at the intersection of US Highways 441 and 27.
Most people in High Springs own their homes, and the population is a little older and more conservative leaning than some other Gainesville neighborhoods. The median home value is $157,000, and the median rent is just over $900 per month.
Above average schools are probably the biggest selling point for this neighborhood — especially if you have or will be starting a family. Approximately 35% of High Springs’ schools earn a rating of seven or higher, according to Great Schools.
Something to Try: Canoe or kayak down one of the many springs that surround the town.
Alachua sits right across the interstate from High Springs on the east side. It’s home to 9,676 residents, almost twice as many people as High Springs, but it still offers residents a suburban feel on the outskirts of Gainesville. Like High Springs, there are a lot of parks and great schools. More rental options are available, and the residents tend to be younger and more liberal leaning.
While not as hot as some of the other housing markets around Gainesville, Alachua is growing. The median home value is just under $200,000, and the median rent is higher, at over $1,100 per month for a two-bedroom unit.
Alachua’s schools, like those in High Springs, are better than average. Though Santa Fe High School, the town’s main high school, is only rated as average, the elementary and middle schools in the area are rated very highly.
Something to Try: Visit the San Felasco Hammock State Park.
A few miles south of High Springs, on the western outskirts of Gainesville, is Newberry, another fine option for those looking for a more small-town or rural feel than the college-town atmosphere that central Gainesville offers. Natural beauty and agriculture surround this quaint town.
About 85% of the town’s 5,000 residents own their homes. The median home value is around $155,000, and the median rent is just over $900. Newberry receives an A- from niche.com for ‘housing,’ an A- for ‘good for families’, and A- for ‘ethnic and economic diversity.’ Over half of the schools serving Newberry earn a rating of at least a B from Niche.com, with six schools earning a rating of A- or higher. The most highly rated school in the area is the Expressions Learning Arts Academy.
Something to Try: Check out the Newberry Farmer’s Market.
Settled among the numerous lakes and wetlands that make up the area just south of Gainesville, Micanopy houses around 700 residents and has plenty to do for those who love the outdoors. The overall feel of the area is rural/suburban, so you’ll just as easily find adventure in a new local shop as you will in one of the many lakes surrounding the town. Micanopy is a popular antique-hunters destination with over 15 specialized shops to browse through.
Located 15 minutes south of Gainesville along I-75, Micanopy is a picturesque area of majestic oaks with strands of gray Spanish moss hanging from their limbs and branches. Its proximity to Ocala makes it a vibrant horse community as well.
About 75% of residents own their homes, and the median home value is much lower than the rest of Gainesville at $118,000. The median rent is much higher, however, at over $1500 per month. The town features beautiful colonial architecture and lush green tree-lined streets.
There are only two schools in Micanopy. Great Schools gives the elementary, Micanopy Area Cooperative School, an 8/10. The secondary school, Micanopy Academy, only earned a 6/10 rating. Both are charter schools.
Something to Try: see the wild horses and bison at the Paynes Prairie State Reserve.
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