Paul first visited Gainesville, Florida, in 2007. Three years later he relocated to the city and has been living there ever since.
I've lived in Gainesville for over 11 years, and before that I was a regular visitor to the city. Overall, I do generally enjoy living here. The University of Florida ensures that there are plenty of young and highly-educated people around to provide the city with a sense of vibrancy. There is lots to see and do for a place of its moderate size.
However, there are some downsides. For instance, the jobs market can be challenging, and it can be frustrating that the city only has a small airport. Also, while the sunny Florida weather might seem like paradise from afar, the reality is that the humidity and bugs can be hellish in the hotter months.
This article lists and looks at 10 of the negatives of living in Gainesville.
10 Downsides of Living in Gainesville, Florida
- Small Airport
- Humidity and Bugs
- No Beaches Close By
- College Town Seasonality
- Mediocre Restaurants
- Limited Options Regarding Utilities etc.
- The City's Liberal Politics Aren't For Everyone
- Construction Work
- Job Market Difficulties
- General Limitations of a Mid-Sized City
I explore each negative in more detail below.
1. Small Airport
For a college town, which has a lot of people traveling to and from it, both from other states and internationally, Gainesville isn't served well by airports.
Its own airport is pretty small and there are only a handful of direct destinations you can travel to from it. That means if you want to travel to or from the city, you almost always have to deal with connecting flights and schedules are relatively limited. You can also forget about direct international travel.
The nearest international airport is Jacksonville, which takes an hour and a half to drive to. However, the best drivable airport for a wide range of flight options and good price deals is Orlando, but that takes nearly two hours. The only other airport that's sizeable and relatively close is Tampa, which also takes over two hours to reach.
2. Humidity and Bugs
The humidity in Gainesville can be hard work, especially in the summer months. The air is heavy with moisture and just sits there because the city's so far inland. Most people in Florida want to live on the coast because there you get a sea breeze, which mitigates the humidity.
I should mention that the good side of being inland is that Gainesville doesn't get hit badly by hurricanes, as they generally lose their power once they come ashore.
Another problem of living in Florida is the bugs. Getting bitten or stung is a risk you take every time you step outside your house. I've heard it said that the official state animal should be a mosquito.
You also have to be scrupulous with your food hygiene indoors, as there are ants, cockroaches, and fruit flies constantly searching out opportunities to feast and breed.
3. No Beaches Close By
Most people associate Florida with beaches, and in the popular imagination, every place in the state sits right next to the sea.
The reality is somewhat different. Gainesville is around an hour's drive away from both coasts, but in practice, it can take much longer than that to reach the specific beach you want to visit.
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While it's good to have the choice between the two coasts and both do have outstanding beaches, the downside is you do usually have to plan around a full-length day trip or go for an overnighter.
The Gulf side is generally the quieter option of the two coasts. The water is calmer and the coastline is less populated. The beaches have silky and smooth sand.
The Atlantic coast is more dynamic. The beaches have bigger waves and there's a very active surfing scene. The east coast also tends to have larger cities and is generally more populated.
4. College Town Seasonality
Gainesville ebbs and flows according to the timetable of the University of Florida and other educational establishments. The college population is over 70,000, so the student population impacts the city greatly.
- During term time, the downtown roads are packed with cars and scooters. The bars, restaurants, and stores are full of students. There is a lot happening.
- During holiday periods, particularly in the summer, the city gets very quiet.
Both extremes of the college year can be challenging in their own way for permanent residents, as well as local businesses.
5. Mediocre Restaurants
Although there are some noticeable exceptions, I wouldn't say that Gainesville is generally a great place to eat out. Maybe I should qualify that by saying that it's a great place for affordable restaurants but perhaps less interesting for fine dining or those seeking more adventurous eating experiences.
The large student population tends to prioritize low prices over quality, affecting the types of businesses that are viable. As in many places, new restaurants are opening and closing all the time, and it's not uncommon to find one that you like, only for it to close down a short time later.
The standards of service can also be a little questionable, too. I think that's mainly because a lot of places are staffed by students, who naturally see waiting tables as very much a temporary state of affairs. I think many establishments have a high staff turnover.
Nearby Ocala, which generally doesn't have much going on entertainment-wise, is actually a better place for restaurants, at least in my experience.
6. Limited Options Regarding Utilities etc.
There's not a lot of choice over things like utilities and certain other services in the city.
Gainesville Regional Utilities effectively have a monopoly over things like electricity and gas. Things aren't cheap, and my experience is they'll make you pay a big security deposit at the smallest excuse.
For things like high-speed internet services, Cox Cable is the only big cable company operating in the city. Options for D.S.L. connections, T.V., and phones are also fairly limited.
It's frustrating if you're from a larger city or any place where you are used to having more choices. A company has you over a barrel if they know you don't have any other good options to use but them.
7. The City's Liberal Politics Aren't For Everyone
Politically, Gainesville and the surrounding county is a very liberal place. That's fine if you lean leftwards, but my conservative friends get frustrated with the city's politics.
I guess most cities with large state universities are liberal, so it's perhaps no surprise that Gainesville has that tendency. Back in the 1960s, the city was a hotbed of student activism and was labelled the "Berkeley of the South." There was also a period of intense activism during the mid-1980s during the campaign against apartheid in South Africa.
That said, Gainesville and surrounding county basically form a blue island in a red sea. Drive fifteen or twenty minutes outside the city and the environment becomes more rural and the culture more conservative.
8. Construction Work
I've lived in Gainesville for over 11 years and for most of that time, large parts of the city have been covered with construction sites.
Part of it is that the city's population is continually growing, causing a (mainly westward) expansion.
However, there's also a trend toward older, smaller, single story buildings in the downtown and university areas being demolished. These are then replaced with much bigger and more substantial buildings, typically huge apartment buildings for students or others to live in. These private developments are radically changing the city, much to the chagrin of many long-term locals, who see Gainesville as gradually losing much of its old charm.
That said, some of the public projects—the creation of urban and scenic cycle trails, and the development of Depot Park and surrounding area—have been great.
9. Job Market Difficulties
The large numbers of students and highly-educated people in Gainesville profoundly affect the job market and can make finding well-paid work difficult.
There are some opportunities in healthcare, for instance, at UF Health Shands and North Florida. The university is a big employer, as are the City of Gainesville and Gainesville Regional Utilities.
Generally speaking, those seeking work often find themselves competing against students and graduates. Even for posts requiring advanced qualifications, you may find a glut of people who are just as qualified as you.
10. General Limitations of a Mid-Sized City
Mid-sized cities can sometimes have the problem of offering neither the full benefits of a small place (quiet, intimate, scenic) nor the bonuses of a large city (always new people to meet, fresh things to see and do).
Gainesville has much more happening than most cities of its size, but there are still limitations. After being here for over 11 years, I sometimes go through periods where I feel like I've visited every attraction in the city that I want to see, met every person I want to meet, and eaten at every restaurant I want to visit.
There are big cities not that far away, namely Jacksonville, Tampa, and Orlando, which can be explored if you're prepared to make a journey. The neighboring Ocala is good for restaurants but isn't generally a happening place (the locals nickname it "Slow-cala," and they're more likely to come to Gainesville for entertainment rather than the other way around).