Beautiful photo spots aren’t always far away; you just have to know where to look. Here at Fracture, we’re always encouraging others to take advantage of photography because it preserves a memory, a moment, an adventure. With that in mind, we decided to start exploring. Over the next months, we’ll show you more of our adventures to celebrate the most beautiful spots across our country.
We start with our own backyard. One of our friends, Garrett Schmidt, shared his photos and thoughts on the beautiful places in Gainesville, Florida. – Drew
The Thomas Center is located near the Duckpond area in downtown Gainesville and has had a long and beautiful history.
Once a house, then a hotel, and even a school for a short time, you can feel that the history of the building is strong. Parking is free, but the spots are limited in the front. Street parking is usually the best route to take.
The building hosts many events throughout the year so make sure to check their website to stay up to date. If I’m visiting, you can find me under the big oak tree daydreaming.
Paynes Prairie La Chua Trail
This is one of the most visited trails in the Paynes Prairie Nature Preserve. You can see alligators, snakes, wild horses, and even bison if you’re lucky.
There is a $4 fee to park at the main parking lot. If you feel like exercising and the weather isn’t scolding, you can go for a bike ride. Bicycle parking is available at the entrance for $2.
Paynes Prairie Lookout Tower
The main entrance into the preserve is located on Highway 441. This lookout gives you an incredible view of the 21,000-acre preserve. You can see all the wildlife the park has to offer, just don’t forget some binoculars or a long telephoto lens.
The entrance does charge a $4 fee to enter, which is subject to change according to the website. Overnight camping and lodging are available. Check their website for a more in depth look at fees, or give them a call; they’re open every day.
Paynes Prairie 441 Dock
If you’re going south on Highway 441 right outside the city of Gainesville, there is a lookout dock. You can watch the sun set or rise over the prairie there. Be sure to check current weather conditions as it is prone to flooding.
Downtown Art Walls
A few years ago, our downtown area got a little more colorful, thanks to the 352walls/Gainesville Urban Art Initiative. This public art project has been in play for 3 years and has taken over 27 walls and 7 utility boxes in Gainesville. Their mission is to “put Gainesville on the map as a vibrant cultural destination, stimulate urban renewal, foster cultural tourism and economic development, beautify the urban landscape, boost community pride, and serve as a platform for urban art studies,” according to their website.
I love walking around downtown Gainesville and browsing the once barren walls full of paint and soul. They make an amazing place to take some pictures with a creative background. Even a picture of them alone can add character to any wall at home.
I had such a good time exploring the newly renovated Depot Park. There are so many things to do for the entire family. Just make sure that you stay up to date with events on their site. They have concerts on the lawn, a beautiful kids park, and a paved trail that circles the park. That is where I spent most of my time to get these shots.
Hearing the laughter and endless conversations of others created a perfect ambiance. The sunset was icing on the cake to a great day.
There isn’t much I need to say about the Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Aside from football games, the most traffic it sees is during graduation season.
In front of the stadium lies a long walkway with the stadium as the background. The field also opens up during graduation season so graduates and their families can enjoy time on the grass taking photos. “The Swamp” will always be one of the staples of Gainesville.
The tower can be seen from pretty much every area of the University of Florida campus because it is 11 stories tall. It can also be seen from downtown Gainesville if you get to the top of the parking garages.
Century Tower is dedicated to the alumni who lost their lives in World War 1 and 2. There are 61 bells at the top of the tower which can be heard throughout the day playing harmonious tunes.
Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park
This park has drawn people in for hundreds of years. There are many fossils displayed at the visitor center at the front of the park. There is also an interactive museum in the visitor center. Keep a lookout on their website for closures.
Currently the bridge leading down to the hole is closed for construction after Hurricane Irma. Even though it is closed at the moment, the half-mile trail around the hole is very nice and full of benches to rest and enjoy shade from the trees.
Fanning Springs is one of the many springs located in a 45-mile radius of Gainesville. This was a fun area for me to shoot. I am from Chiefland, and I have enjoyed this spring since I could walk.
It was nice seeing it again from a different perspective. Usually I go to swim with friends, but this time I got to walk around and actually focus on the wildlife and plant life.
We don’t experience fall changes in Florida like up north, but I definitely saw orange hues coming out around the springs this year.
This area is located on the east end of town. The lake is massive and it would take you a couple of days to explore the entire area. Not only is there a lake, but there are several places to hike in the area too. I explored an area full of fishermen taking a day to themselves to get out of town.
I was walking around when I saw just how still the water was on a little inlet of the lake. It was like a mirror. I really enjoy seeing all the cyprus knots sticking out of the water. It just speaks Florida to me.
Downtown Parking Garage Lookout
There are a few parking garages downtown. It’s the only place you can really get an aerial view of the downtown area. The southwest parking garage is a great one to start with. It looks down a beautiful cobblestone street (SE 1st avenue). On a clear day, you can watch the sun set over the UF campus. I got to experience a rare day in Florida when I went out to explore the garage.
It was overcast and really foggy. It gave such an eerie effect on the landscape. It’s something we don’t get much of, so I wanted to take advantage of it.
The building itself brings in so much natural light because it’s mainly made out of glass. It is a beautiful place to relax and meditate, and a simply stunning place to have a wedding. As I walked around the building, there was a piano player practicing his music. If you ever find yourself on the UF campus, go check this place out. You could be treated to views and a free music performance.
If you look out of the main window of the Baughman Center, you will see Lake Alice. On calm-winded days the water will remain still like glass.
There are so many spots to hang a hammock or sit on a bench to watch the wildlife of the lake.
You can hit all three spots in the area in one day if you plan it right. The Baughman Center, the UF Bat Houses, and Lake Alice are all within a hundred feet. I spent the afternoon at the Baughman Center, captured sunset at Lake Alice, and watched the bats shortly after.
Loblolly Woods Nature Park
Loblolly Woods Nature Park was one of the first trails I experienced when I moved to Gainesville. I really owe a lot to that park because I learned how to use my camera there on the trails. There is no end to what you can capture there during the year.
Lush green forest floors remain for most of the year, and the Hogtown Creek flows through the area as well. This is an easy place to hike for the whole family, create memories, and experience some of Gainesville’s natural beauty.
Bivens Arm Nature Park
Bivens Arm is one of the oldest parks in Gainesville. There are several little trails through the park. There are also newly built lookouts and trails to keep Bivens up to date. You can hear traffic from the nearby roads, but that is to be expected with a park being so close to town.
There is a fair amount of wildlife so keep your eyes peeled when visiting. Bathrooms and a playground are at the front of the park to accommodate all.
Sweetwater Wetlands Park
“In 2009, the Paynes Prairie Sheetflow Restoration Project began as a way to reduce pollution to Alachua Sink by restoring the prairie’s natural sheetflow and creating a wetland habitat,” according to their website. This is one of my favorite parks in Gainesville. It’s fairly easy to see it all in one day because of how maintained the trails are.
There is a lot of wildlife throughout the park. Usually right before the sunsets and the park closes, wild horses will start to come into the park. The bodies of water are so calm at sunset or sunrise, it makes for a nice reflection of the skies.