In late 2016, Gainesville welcomed a big renovation to an old railroad transportation hub. Depot Park emerged as the “Central Park” of Gainesville. This signature park will “provide a space for outdoor public enjoyment unique to the city,” according to Depot Park website. From picnic pavilions to a general store to an epic playground, this park offers a wide variety of activities for all explorers.
Sticking to grounds of Depot Park is a great option for those looking for a milder exploration. Activities such as playing on the playground, splashing around in the Blue Grotto or lying out on the lawn does not take much planning or extra effort.
For the more experienced explorer, below is a typical day from an adventurous and experienced park-goer. Rachel Davila, 21, Gator Blader Club Member and Junior studying at the University of Florida, shared her routine when visiting Depot Park. She warned that this adventure may involve some high-speed rollerblading and sweet beverages.
First, I drive to Depot Park, park in one of the surrounding lots and pack my backpack.
“I always bring a backpack filled with lots of water and a small first-aid kit because I never know how far I plan on taking the trail,” said Davila.
Davila is referring to the Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail, which stretches 16-miles through Paynes Prairie and beyond to the city of Hawthorne. According to the Florida State Parks website, this recreational trail is intended for those cycling, horseback riding, walking, blading and running.
The wide-rim walking path around Depot Park links right up to the Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail.
Next, I typically rollerblade down to the Sweetwater Overlook from Depot Park.
The Sweetwater Overlook is approximately 2.4 miles from the Depot Park path. The overlook will be on the righthand side of the trail when coming from the park.
“The overlook provides a beautiful view of Paynes Prairie and it has a covered bench to take a water break,” said Davila.
Last, I finish off my adventure with a cold beverage from the Pop-A-Top General Store.
With over the 50 types of sodas, the Pop-A-Top General Store is a soda-lovers dream. Not only do they have a myriad of soda choices they have a deli, snacks and ice cream options, too.
“I prefer a handcrafted root beer. Last time, I tried Maine Root’s Root Beer and it was delicious,” said Davila.
Overview of Depot Park
Depot Park is approximately a 20 to 25-minute walk from University of Florida’s campus. Over the past few months the popularity of this park has picked up as more and more Gainesville residents are finding out about the city’s hidden treasure.
“I try to avoid the park and the trail on the weekends because those are busiest times. The secret is to go on a weekday afternoon,” said Davila.
Difficulty of Exploration: 2/10
Items Required: transportation to park, activity-dependent item (i.e. roller blades, bicycle, Running Shoes), cash for general store, bag (backpack or fanny pack) and water
Travel Time from Gainesville: Generally 20-25 minutes if walking from UF’s campus [dependent on traffic and mode of transportation]
Contentment Level Post-Trip: 10/10