Learn to be a zookeeper, take a shower of butterflies — experience Gainesville

09/01/2014  |  Florida Field Trips

Nearly 30,000 people a year come through the gates to visit a unique site on the Santa Fe College campus — a teaching zoo. The program is the premier wild animal technology program in the United States and the students learn what it will take to become a zookeeper. The animals range from alligators to tree climbing kangaroos, which, oddly enough, are not really great climbers. Each trip to the zoo comes with a guided tour led by one of the students. The lush tree canopy makes the zoo a year round attraction great for all ages.

Ever taken a shower of butterflies? Gainesville now offers the chance to come face-to-face with exotic, vibrant butterflies fluttering atop a lush tropical canvas of foliage and flowers as you experience the Butterfly Rainforest, at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the University of Florida Campus. A screened vivarium is home to subtropical and tropical plants and trees which support 55 to 65 different species of butterflies. Hundreds of butterflies circle guests as they stroll through the Butterfly Rainforest on a winding path relaxing to the sounds of cascading waterfalls. The majority of the butterflies in the rainforest are bred on commercial butterfly farms around the world because they help protect natural habitats from destruction and promote conservation. Outdoor adventurers love being able to go the Florida State Parks year-round and so will you. Want to see alligators, Sandhill cranes, and maybe even a bison? Then Paynes Prairie State Preserve, located just 10 miles south of Gainesville on U.S. 441, is where you should hike to view all of them. Another natural treat is the Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park in the northwest part of the city. Taking the stairs 120 feet to the bottom of the sinkhole allows you to enter a miniature rainforest where certain plants grow nowhere else in the state.

Discover a little bit of history while you are in Gainesville at Dudley Farm Historic State Park, an authentic working Florida Cracker farm. The Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Home State Park is also full of stories and tales of life during the 1930s and 1940s. Experience Gainesville, the place “Where Nature and Culture Meet.”

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