Where is a Safe Spot at College?
Safe, sane, and happy…is that possible? Colleges are doing their best to come up with new norms and protocols to keep our students safe and healthy on re-opened campuses. Then, we’re left to hope that our students will continue to apply those guidelines to life after they leave their classrooms. Let’s face it — it’s not easy to enforce social distancing in a population that has both the tradition and tendency to gather. Isn’t socializing one of the best parts of college?
Realizing we can’t replace a good frat party or tailgate, HaveUHeard that we have some alternatives to offer for fun near campus? Since outdoor fun appears to be the safest alternative these days, we’ll concentrate on open-air ideas in this blog. And, given these ongoing and unprecedented circumstances, we recommend double-checking with your destination about days and hours of operation, the need for reservations, etc., before heading out. Some features or activities may be modified or there may be a limit to the number of persons in each party.
Staying Safe in the Great Outdoors…
- Alfred A Ring Park – 1801 NW 23 Blvd, Gainesville, FL. No off-leash area. Over a mile of trails wind through upland mixed forest and slope forest, tracing the course of Hogtown Creek. A hiking trail runs through this densely forested park with a wildflower garden.
- Cedar Lakes Woods and Garden – A beautiful botanical garden with cascading waterfalls, 50+ garden displays, koi ponds, and countless breathtaking views.
- Cofrin Nature Park – 4810 NW 8th Avenue, Gainesville, FL. No off-leash area. Features a half-mile long hiking trail. Once a horse farm, much of this park is returning to the forest through natural succession.
- Devil’s Den Spring – Located in Williston (a town between Gainesville and Ocala), this underground 50 ft. sinkhole inside a dry cave has been the source of many extinct animal fossils dating back to the Pleistocene Age. These fossils are on display at The University of Florida’s Museum of Natural History. Devil’s Den Spring is for snorkeling and scuba diving but swimming is not allowed. You can rent a mask, snorkel, and fins (which are required) if you don’t have your own. If someone in your group isn’t going to snorkel or scuba dive, they can head next door to visit Cedar Lakes Woods & Gardens (a Japanese botanical garden) or Two Hawk Hammock, which has a flying trapeze experience!
…and Finding Adventure, Too!
- Gilchrist Blue Springs – Located about 20 miles from Gainesville, this park contains a collection of natural springs boasting absolutely clear and pristine water. Paddling, snorkeling, and swimming are all popular activities. Pavilions are available but, as of right now, the concession is still closed. The springs are open 8 a.m. to sundown, 365 days per year. Entry cost is $6 per vehicle (limit 2-8 people per vehicle), but the park will close when it reaches capacity, with no further vehicles, cyclists or pedestrians allowed to enter except for registered campers. Maintaining six foot social distancing is enforced between small groups.
- Lake Wauburg – Located eight miles south of campus on Highway 441, Lake Wauburg North Park and South Shore is a great place to relax and enjoy the great outdoors. Many water activities are available, including boating, swimming, stand-up paddleboarding, water skiing, and wakeboarding. Other features include a climbing wall, volleyball courts, and more. Admission and activities are free with a Gator 1 Card. A Gator 1 cardholder may bring up to four guests. The current adjusted hours are Wednesday – Sunday, 12:00pm – 6:00pm; the park is closed Monday and Tuesday. You can check the RainOut line for any weather-related closures.
- San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park – 11101 Millhopper Rd, Gainesville, FL. Biking and Equestrian Trails. Restroom availability may be limited at this time. Six foot distancing and small group gatherings are enforced.
More Gator Escapes
- Sweetwater Wetlands Park – This is a man-made wetland habitat, shaped like the head of an alligator — of course! It was designed to improve water quality by filtering out pollution and nutrients. Here you’ll find trails, wildlife viewing decks, and one of the best local birding sites. You can walk more than 3.5 miles of crushed gravel trails and boardwalks to experience this slice of natural Florida. Updated hours are 7:00am – 7:30pm, with some park trails closed or re-routed in order to maintain social distancing. Entry is $5 per vehicle or an annual pass is available for $78.
- Tubing – Northern Florida has some beautiful freshwater springs. Choose between Ginnie Springs or Ichetucknee Springs (south entrance), then rent a tube and float down the river. Along the way, you can stop on the riverbank to jump into the water from one of the many trees. Rent the tubes there or bring your own tubes and rafts. Stand-up paddleboards and kayaks are also available.
- Big Lou’s NY Style Pizzeria
- Blaze Pizza
- Boca Fiesta
- Dragonfly Sushi
- Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grille
- La Tienda Latina
- Las Margaritas
- One Love Café
- Satchel’s Pizza
- SubLIME Tacos
- The Top
- If It Is Kitchen & Cafe
And picnics can be a year-round thing for Gators here in our Sunshine State, even if they pick up food to-go.
Finally, if you notice that your student is experiencing any type of stress or anxiety, there are resources available. Learn more in our blog The Stress Happens to All. Here’s to a safe and healthy school year for all.
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