Whether you’re visiting a college student at the University of Florida, escaping to the south for a warm-weather vacation for the long weekend, or are a new resident to Gainesville, you may wonder how you will best spend Thanksgiving in Alachua County. In the past we’ve written about how to enjoy the winter holidays, but with this post we’ll focus on this special time of year—the official transition from fall festivities to winter celebrations.

With pleasant weather, lovely foliage, and lots of activities and attractions, fall in North-Central Florida is a wonderful place to be. Keep reading to learn our tips for how to stay busy and enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday in Gainesville and Alachua County.

What To Expect from Fall in Gainesville?

Fall in the south arrives later, and with less extreme shifts than those found in more northern climates. Nonetheless, we do experience a real fall season here in Gainesville—so expect to enjoy (slightly) cooler temperatures and traditional signs of Autumn.

Mild temperatures and sunny days mark this time of year in Gainesville. With nightly lows in the 50s, you’ll find late November in Gainesville to be overall pleasant, with just a slight fall chill in the air. But during the day, expect agreeable average daily highs around 72 degrees and very little rain—November has the least precipitation of any time of the year around here.

And those sunny days will last just a little bit longer for you if you are traveling from up North. Gainesville doesn’t lose as much daylight as it approaches winter as other parts of the country (we still enjoy an extra hour over places like New York City). But do expect sunsets to come a little earlier this time of year than in the summer months—about 5:30 in the evening.

While you may not be heading to Florida for leaf peeping, don’t be surprised if you get to enjoy the tail end of our fall foliage season. With an estimated peak around November 21, North Florida is one of the last places in the U.S. to witness fall’s beautiful colors.

Where to Enjoy Fall Activities

While many fall activities have wrapped up by the end of November, residents of Alachua County and visitors arriving earlier in the month can enjoy a number of seasonal festivities and opportunities including:

And don’t forget to hit the trails and parks (more on this below) to enjoy this beautiful time of year, too!

Where to Eat Thanksgiving Dinner

If you are coming to Gainesville from out of town—or just don’t feel the need to cook a major holiday dinner this year—there are numerous restaurants open on Thanksgiving Day to help you celebrate and gather with family and loved ones, without the hassle. Just be sure to call ahead to make a reservation! Here are a few of our top picks:

  • Covey Kitchen and Cocktails at Hotel Eleo. One of Yelp’s top 100 restaurants for 2022, enjoy Floridian cuisine and handcrafted cocktails.
  • Great Outdoors Restaurant in High Springs. A wonderful and local fine dining experience, the Great Outdoors offers “Chairman’s Reserve hand-cut steaks, vegan, vegetarian, gluten free options, and items featuring local sourced ingredients.”
  • Prime & Pearl. This Gainesville favorite, Prime & Pearl’s menu features perfect pairings of your favorite foods and flavors—and of course, everything pairs well with the right cocktail.
  • Looking for a simple meal to eat in or carry out? Consider Los Pollos for ¼ to whole roast chickens, and an assortment of delectable Peruvian foods.

This list is not exhaustive! Call your favorite restaurant to find out if they will be open or serving take-home holiday meals.

Black Friday and Small Business Saturday Shopping

Once Thanksgiving is over, the holiday shopping season officially begins. There are tons of wonderful shopping experiences throughout the Gainesville area, including national retailers, as well as local small businesses.

Black Friday is the best day for deals from top brands across the country. If you’re up for a drive, consider checking out the Orlando International Premium Outlets, Florida’s largest shopping destination featuring over 180 stores.
If driving to Orlando doesn’t seem appealing the day after Thanksgiving, try local Celebration Point, with dozens of popular shops including Skechers, Bass Pro Shop, Tommy Hilfiger and the Nike Factory Store, or Butler Town Center, whose stores, including Bath and Body Works and Best Buy, are guaranteed to feature great Black Friday deals.

If you’re staying locally, you might prefer to shop locally, too. And there are hundreds of small, resident-owned shops in the region that offer unique holiday gifts. On Small Business Saturday, consider supporting a local business in downtown Gainesville or Tioga Town Center, or check out our Gainesville-Area Shopping Guide.

Things To Do in Alachua County

With mild temperatures and sunny days, mid to late fall in North Florida makes the perfect time of year to explore the outdoors, and Alachua County has dozens of parks and gardens, including:

  • University of Florida’s Wilmot Botanical Gardens in Gainesville. Famous for their collection of Camellias, these university gardens are home to a thriving therapeutic horticulture program.
  • Kanapha Botanical Gardens Southwest of Gainesville, near Lake Kanapha. Walk the 1.5 mile paved trail through beautiful landscapes and the largest herb garden in the Southeast.
  • Gainesville-Hawthorn State Trail. Starting in Gainesville, this 16 mile trail is perfect for walking, running, bicycling, and even offers some great fishing opportunities!
  • San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park. These woods provide an excellent opportunity for birding, some of the best off-road biking in the state, as well as wonderful hiking trails for all levels.
  • Loblolly Woods Nature Park. West of Gainesville, the trails of Loblolly Woods are a relaxing place to stroll, bike, or observe Florida wildlife.

For more outdoor opportunities in the greater Gainesville area, visit our guide to Local Parks, Trails, and Forests.

In addition to checking out the natural beauty of north-central Florida, there are many wonderful cultural institutions to visit over the holidays as well. Here are some ways to enjoy our local arts and culture scene:

  • Go see a film at the Hippodrome Theatre, Gainesville’s Only Art-House Cinema
  • Enjoy live music at The Backyard at Boca Fiesta and Palomino, a fun and eclectic outdoor music venue located between Boca Fiesta Restaurant and Palomino Pool Hall.
  • Visit the Florida Museum to learn about the natural history and wildlife of the area. If you become a member, you can get a great deal on unique gifts at their gift shop at their annual holiday sale starting the weekend after Thanksgiving.
  • Check out the Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention. Housed in a nautilus shell inspired space, they host a number of fun and often free events including the Food & Agriculture Festival.
  • If you’re looking to support local artists in the upcoming season, consider visiting the Gainesville Artisans’ Guild Gallery. Purchase beautiful works of textile art, painting and paper crafts, pottery, and woodworking.

While many places will maintain regular hours throughout the week, nearly all will be closed on Thanksgiving, and some will have other minor adjustments in their schedules. Inquire in advance before you make a trip to be sure your intended destination is open.

In addition to the above year-round options, there are many events happening during Thanksgiving week for you to enjoy. Here are just a few:

  • Top Bird Turkey Trot: Partnering with Critter Creek Animal Sanctuary for 2022, this 5k on Thanksgiving day will run through the fields, pastures, and forests of this verdant 125 acre preserve.
  • Shrek The Musical: Enjoy this beloved movie in musical form at the Vam York Theater in Gainesville.
  • If you’re in town the weekend after Thanksgiving, be sure to check out the University of Florida Craft Show, a great place to catch up on your holiday shopping!
  • Watch the Gators: While there are no Gator home games over the holidays, you can support as they take on Florida State with an at-home tailgate or watch party.

Lastly, visitors to Gainesville might not be aware of their proximity to ‘The Horse Capital of the World,’ located in Ocala—just 45 minutes to our south. With many beloved equestrian destinations including the World Equestrian Center and the Florida Horse Park, among other venues. Riding enthusiasts and visitors will marvel at the scale of these facilities while enjoying the ride through the rolling countryside. And there are many holiday events this time of year, too, including the AHAF Holiday Festival Arabian/Half Arabian Horse Show on Thanksgiving Day, a special Thanksgiving dinner at Stirrups, and a Winter Wonderland decoration and light display at the World Equestrian Center’s Grand Plaza. Check out our guide for more about the equestrian community of Marion County.

Kickoff the Holidays in Gainesville

If by the end of November, you’ve had enough of fall seasonal activities, there are plenty of additional ways to begin celebrating the winter holidays, too! Here are a few ways to kickoff the holiday season:

Relocate to Gainesville

Whether you’re visiting a family member or vacationing, there are many things about Alachua County that you might fall in love with over your stay. When you do, remember that many people call Gainesville and its surrounding communities home—and for good reason. With a wide variety of homes with the perfect features for holiday gatherings—from gourmet kitchens and enough yard space for flag football, to expansive family rooms to watch the game—you’re sure to find something just right for you and your family.

Alachua County is a wonderful place to call home, with beautiful neighborhoods, excellent healthcare options, and renown restaurants. Considering a move? Browse the latest Gainesville/Alachua County home listings, check out our Gainesville Moving Guide, and Alachua County First Time Homebuyer’s Guide. Contact a Gainesville real estate agent to help you find your perfect home.