See Ya Later, Gators, around Gainesville; Much to Do near University of Florida

Article excerpt

Byline: Roger Bull, The Times-Union

Gainesville will fill up Saturday. The University of Florida Gators kick off their football season with tens of thousands of screaming fans in orange and blue in attendance.

Consider that when 90,000 people fill up Ben Hill Griffin Stadium six times each fall, about 52,000 of them come from outside Gainesville. There's no data on how many are from Jacksonville, but if you've ever been on U.S. 301 on game day, you know it's plenty.

Of course, football isn't the only thing that draws visitors to Gainesville and the university. UF's women's soccer and volleyball teams have begun their season, and both are used to success. The soccer team has both a Final Four appearance and a national championship in the recent past. The volleyball team is a regular in the Final Four and last year went to the national championship game.

The Alachua County Visitors and Convention Bureau estimates that 1.76 million people came to town and spent a night in Gainesville motel and hotel rooms in 2003.

So, the question is this: If you get down early for a football game (Saturday's kickoff isn't until 6 p.m.), what else is there to do? Or maybe you're going over to visit your student at UF and need something to do after you've gone out to eat and seen where they live (and you don't want to stay there any longer than necessary).

Don't worry, here are four other things to do in Gainesville.

-- Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park

OK, it's just a hole in the ground. But as sinkholes go, the Devil's Millhopper is a pretty cool one. It's 120 feet deep with some small waterfalls cascading down the sides. It's not the adventure it once was when previous generations of college students visited at all hours, creeping down the steep sides into the darkness below.

The state runs it now. Steps lead down to the bottom, and a 1/2-mile walking trail circles the sinkhole on level ground. It's closed at night, but it still feels like another world during the day.

The park is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, with guided tours at 10 a.m. Saturday. It's closed Monday and Tuesday.

Admission: $2 per vehicle, $1 for pedestrians and bicyclists.

It's at 4732 Millhopper Road. But if you're around the campus, drive west on University Avenue, take a right on NW 43rd Street, then left on NW 53rd Avenue. It's on your right.

Information: (352) 955-2008 or www.floridastateparks.org/devilsmillhopper.

-- Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art is part of the University of Florida, but its artistic range goes well beyond the university. It's a big place, almost 70,000 square feet devoted to art. In addition to its permanent collections, the Harn has a continuous series of temporary exhibits.

A few will be ending soon: "Four Sculptures from the Margulies Collection" on Sunday, Oct. 3, and "Balance and Abundance: Concepts of Gender in African Art" on Sunday, Oct. 17.

"Gods, Kings, and Commoners: Indian Paintings from the Harn Museum Collection" opened last month and will stay up through January 2005. Next Tuesday, "The Tumultuous Fifties: A View From the New York Times Photo Archives" opens. That's followed by a photo exhibit of the effect of global capitalism on local communities, an examination of the culture and context of Asian art and 70 pieces of Chinese ceramics. …