Florida is full of surprises. From crystal-clear turquoise springs to real-life mermaids, you never know what wonders await in the Sunshine State. Every time we think we’ve found the next best thing in Florida, another teeny tiny town comes on our radar, and we’re once again stunned by all it has to offer. Our latest discovery is the town Alachua, located just a 30-minute drive north of Gainesville in the north-central part of the state.
From the moment Alachua’s (pronounced uh-la-choo-uh) idyllic Main Street comes into sight, you’re overcome with a sense of calm. Time slows, your pace becomes a meander, and worries drift away. Once you’ve made your way through downtown, visit with Alachua's equine residents as they graze through rolling pastures or find quiet in a mystical natural preserve. Here are the best things to do in Alachua, Florida.
Begin Your Day with Delicious Breakfast
Start your morning strong with a meal worth getting out of bed for. Local flavor trends in two directions, so you can choose how you want to treat your tastebuds. Find authentic Cuban cuisine at Mi Apa Latin Café. A classic Cuban breakfast of Ropa Vieja y Huevos (two eggs, shredded beef, and Cuban toast) will only set you back $11. Order that plus a Café con Leche or natural guava juice, and you’ll be set clear through noon. If you’re craving the full spread, head to Brown’s Country Buffet, a longstanding family-owned restaurant where you can trust that everything from the cheese grits to buttermilk biscuits are made by and for Southerners.
Feed the Horses at Mill Creek Farm
This nonprofit equine sanctuary provides elderly horses with room to roam. On Saturday afternoons, visitors are invited to come by and say hello, all for the reasonable admission rate of two carrots (to feed to your new friends!). Take a leisurely walk through the bucolic pastureland and enjoy watching these beautiful gentle creatures enjoy their home. Trails range from 1.6-2.9 miles, and donations are appreciated to keep the farm running.
Take a Walking History Tour of Downtown Alachua
Bradford pear trees and historic lampposts line the charming streets of Main Street Alachua. The town was founded in 1905, so you’ll find turn-of-the-century architecture, grand Victorian homes, and vintage charm everywhere you turn. History buffs should follow the online walking tour map created by the Alachua County Historical Commission and the Alachua County Tour Service in 1986. It points out significant landmarks and gives the history behind some of the town’s oldest homes and buildings.
Have Tea at Teatime Tranquility and Treasures
It’s hard to miss the sprawling Victorian house, complete with rose pink trim and a white picket fence, as you stroll through downtown Alachua. Having a cup of tea and pastry at Teatime Tranquility and Treasures is practically a rite of passage in Alachua. And the tearoom spares no expense. We’re talking floral-patterned teapots and cups, white tablecloths, a dining room filled with antiques, dozens upon dozens of tea blends, and a varied menu of tea cakes, cookies, scones, and desserts. For the full experience, call ahead and schedule high tea.
Shop on Main Street
Once you’ve become acquainted with downtown’s history, head back to Main Street to enjoy its modern-day uses. Find boutique fashion at Pink Threads, consignment clothing at Valerie’s Loft, and home goods and other gift items at The Cardinal’s Nest.
Hike at San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park
The scenery at San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park is second to none. You can spend an entire day marveling at the natural beauty of the mature hardwood forests, tropical hammock landscape, and shaded swampland. Choose from three different hiking trails that range from 0.9 to 5.6 miles. There are also specially marked equestrian and mountain biking trails for those who prefer to leave their hiking boots at home. If you’re quiet, you may spot a white-tailed deer, gray fox, turkey, or any number of the many beautiful species of songbirds that call the preserve home.
Have Lunch at Bev’s Better Burgers or Tony and Al’s Deli
Follow the line outside Bev’s Better Burgers (located on one end of Main Street) to the best handmade steak burger and handspun milkshake you’ll ever have. The walk-up counter-only restaurant is a local favorite for a classic meal. If it’s okra season, make sure to get an order of the Southern-fried veggie. One block over, you’ll find Tony and Al’s Restaurant, an Italian eatery where you can get everything from a specialty pizza to linguine and clams.
Go Berry Picking at Deep Spring Farm
The memories you make at Deep Spring Farm will last a lifetime because the experiences you can have there are timeless. The humble family farm is set on 22 acres of gorgeous Florida land covered with Spanish moss-covered trees, lush greenery, and deep-blue ponds. In June, blueberry season begins, and guests can use their $10 entry fee to pick and take home organic blueberries. After you’ve filled your bucket, head to Deep Spring Pond where you can enjoy a picnic lunch under the shade of a giant live oak, then dive into the cool, refreshing spring-fed water.
Hit Up a Happy Hour Haunt
The Sippin’ Seven Alachua County Ale Trail runs through Alachua (the town) by way of Daft Cow Brewery. The town’s first and only craft brewery, Daft Cow’s taproom is an inviting spot to sit down to a pint of one of 15 brews on tap on any given day. Snag a bar swing and order anything from a double dry-hopped hazy IPA to a American amber to a sour flavored with cotton candy. If suds aren’t your style, set your sights on Beaker & Flask Wine Company, a modern wine bar serving up craft cocktails and a never-ending list of wine from around the world.
Have a Steak at Conestogas Restaurant
After 25 successful years in business, Conestogas hasn’t slowed down one bit. The western-themed steakhouse is known for its house-marinated, hand-cut steaks and giant juicy burgers. Feeling extra bold? Take on the Main Street Monster Burger, three 16-ounce patties on a giant bun. If you eat it, plus a salad or baked potato on your own, you’ll score a free T-shirt and slice of key lime pie. It's not part of the competition but kudos to anyone who can finish the pie, too!
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