We FBGs wanted to give readers a “Fit Bottomed Tour” of our towns, showing the fit and healthy places we love to frequent. Kind of like if you came to visit us from out of town—it would be all the places we’d show off! So without further ado…
There’s not much I love more than showing off my favorite fit spots to friends visiting me in Gainesville. It’s partly because, well, we have loads of fun, healthy things to do and places to see, and partly because many of those places come with fun, healthy people.
8 Places I’d Suggest to Fellow FBGs Visiting Gainesville, Florida
1. Best trails to walk, run or mountain bike: San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park. You might think you know Florida, but I can almost promise you you’re in for a delightful surprise with San Felasco. We’re not all beaches and palm trees, you know — San Felasco features several trail heads with trails of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty. Want to take a leisurely two-mile hike? Run a tough six-mile route? Mountain bike for a few hours? Shoot, you can even go horseback riding on some of the trails. Every single one of them is totally gorgeous and — even better — several degrees cooler than anywhere outside of the shaded paths.
2. Best place to fill your shopping cart with local, healthy products: Ward’s Supermarket. Ward’s has been a local staple since 1951. It’s locally owned and operated, features local produce, seafood, meats, baked goods and bath products. The bulk-food section offers about a zillion different kinds of granola and cereals, nuts, beans, flours, grains, seeds, pastas and other snacks, which means you can walk away with a ton of nutritious staples for not a lot of money. (That being said, we also have a Trader Joe’s, which I adore, and there’s a Publix about a quarter mile from my house with its own fabulous produce and Greenwise sections. I have no reason to ever have an empty fridge.)
3. Best gym in town: Gainesville Health and Fitness. My gym has a well-earned reputation for offering the latest in just about everything. GHF has three locations (one of which is less than two miles from my house, and another that’s strictly for women), and offers all the classes you’d expect (yoga, spin, Zumba, Body Pump, step, and even water aerobics) and quality equipment. It’s pretty, it’s clean, and there’s even a smoothie bar at the main gym. You know how I feel about smoothies.
4. Best place for a post-workout burrito: Burrito Bros. Taco Co. Most of us learned about the beauty that is Burrito Bros. as students, since the tiny outdoor restaurant is located just across the street from campus. But you don’t have to be in the midst of earning a bachelor’s degree to recognize that grabbing a sweet potato burrito with corn salsa is a perfect way to follow up a killer run. Just try to get there before they run out of their famous guac. Trust me.
5. Best place to sweat like a Gator: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. One of the coolest parts of living in a college town is the fact that the football stadium is open to the public when not in use for actual school activities. Almost any night of the week you can find people running stadiums and doing various workouts using the stadium stairs, ramps and other sections of the building. And really, how can you not be motivated to kick a little ass when you’re sweating in The Swamp?
6. Best places to get in a ride or run away from traffic: Hawthorne Trail and Nature Coast Trail. If you want to get in some miles on your bike without riding on the road, you’ll love our nearby paved trails. The Hawthorne Trail, just east of Gainesville, spans 16 miles through Paynes Prairie — keep an eye out for bison and alligators. The Nature Coast Trail, about 30 minutes west of Gainesville, offers a few more miles (31.7 to be exact), as well as a bridge over the Suwannee River, which, if you ask me, is pretty much the best spot in the world to stop for a quick stretch.
7. Best place for hill repeats: The 16th Ave. “Bacon Strip.” If you’ve ever read Once a Runner, you’ll remember the morning run along the “Bacon Strip,” which I can assure you is absolutely real. You can run a loop that includes these rolling hills, or, if you just want to get some hill work in, you can go back and forth along NW 16th Ave. Your legs will either thank you or kill you dead.
8. Best dinner featuring local fare: The Top and The Jones B-Side. This was a toughie for me, so I’m going to cheat and include two. Sue me. Both feature fresh, local ingredients, creative dishes, options for a variety of diets (vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, paleo), and are positively delicious. Oh, and if you’ve got a thirst that Gatorade can’t quench, they each have a list of tasty cocktails that’ll make you squeal. Or maybe that’s just me. At The Top, I love the Prairie Bison, and at The Jones B-Side, I’m all about the Dixie Hotel. You’re welcome.
And, if all else fails, walking, running or biking around campus (especially around Lake Alice) is always a winner. Sure, it’s warm here, but that just helps you work up a better sweat in the summer, you know?
Are there any other Gators out there with favorite spots I missed? Or do you live in a college town with similar fit finds? —Kristen