A Florida place many across the country haven’t heard of or thought about a lot, Gainesville has quietly but steadily marched to the head of the class. Gainesville is a right-sized college town centered on the 36,000-student University of Florida. The university is the area’s largest employer, and the economic picture, recently mixed, has recovered well and the area is now one of the strongest and most diverse economies in the state.
Located away from the coast, the area has more of small Southern town demeanor; it is not a touristy coastal city. The university has made Gainesville a center for the arts, particularly the performing arts, and the city has excellent arts venues. College sports are an obsession particularly during fall football season. The economy has diversified far beyond the university, attracting research and high tech, along with a large medical center and Veterans Administration hospital. The population has a strong concentration of young people and active retirees seeking the energy of a college town.
Gainesville has gained popularity among northern migrants seeking a Florida climate and intellectual stimulation without the high prices, tourist bustle and stigma most commonly associated with the state. Not only attractive as a lifestyle destination, it has also become an attractive place to start small businesses. The area is also important as a nature and wildlife-viewing center, and nearby natural springs offer good recreational opportunities. A relatively high violent crime rate and hot, sticky summers are negatives, but many like the small-town feel and find Gainesville one of the most livable cities in the state.
The terrain is fairly level with forests of live oak and southern pine within the city and nearby. There are several nearby lakes to the east and south. The central location away from water causes more persistent heat. Winters are mild, with minimum temperatures averaging 44 degrees. Freezing does occur 18 days per year with record lows in the teens. Rainfall is appreciable in every month but is most abundant from summer showers and thunderstorms. August, which averages 8 inches of rainfall, is the wettest month. Because of its inland location, Gainesville does not have serious problems with hurricanes.