by April Tisher and Renee Castro
We all want to get away sometimes, whether it’s taking a local trip just for the day, or flying across the world for a week. No matter what your budget is, there is a vacation for you!
Spend the day at Blue Springs: Gilchrist County, FL
Less than an hour drive from Gainesville lies the crystal blue water at Gilchrist Blue Springs $ State Park. The entry fee is only $4-6 per vehicle. There are pavilions available for picnics, concessions, restroom facilities and even camping if you want to stay longer. The crystal clear water and beach entry access is perfect for kids of all ages, and the large dive platform is a favorite to many! Hours of operation are 8 a.m. to sundown, 365 days a year.
Indulge on fresh wine: Clermont, FL
Located south of Gainesville, Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards offers a complimentary tour and wine tasting. The tours are held every half hour and begin with a small video on the growth of Florida’s grapes through the winemaking process. During the tour your personal guide will show you the production area and the view of the breathtaking vineyards where the grapes are both grown and harvested. The tour of the winery and the wine tasting lasts about 45 minutes from start to finish. Lakeridge creates a number of wines from a sweet to full body dry and even dessert. Gainesville wine lovers only have to trek about an hour and a half for some pretty spectacular views and a free wine tasting. What more could you ask for?
Road trip to Atlanta, GA
Venture out of Gainesville and head four hours north. Downtown Atlanta is home to so many amazing things to ensure you’ll never get bored. Purchase an Atlanta City Pass which is $76 per adult. The city pass includes Atlanta’s most popular attractions like the Georgia Aquarium, the CNN Studio Tour, the World of Coca-Cola and more! At the Georgia Aquarium, there are a number of things to experience like the dolphin, seal, sea lion or sea otter encounter, to the amazing Ocean Voyager where you can walk through an acrylic viewing window to see the gentle giants of the sea. After you experience the amazing attractions that the city pass has to offer, head over to SkyView Atlanta and view the beauty of the city through a large ferris wheel.
Bring the family to Great Wolf Lodge: Lagrange, GA
Get in the car for a five hour drive from Gainesville. There are several Great Wolf Lodge locations throughout the country, but this is the newest and closest location to North Central Florida. Room rates vary by room type and time of year, but for about $300-400 per night, a family of four can stay in a themed Wolf Den Suite. Included in your stay is all-day access to the indoor water park (kept at a temperature of 84 degrees year round). There are restaurants on-site as well so you don’t have to leave if you don’t want to!
Take a long weekend: Dallas, TX
We now have direct flights from GNV to DFW on American Airlines, so why not take advantage of them and visit the Lonestar State? Varying flight dates and times will dictate fares, but on average they are between $300-400 round trip. What you do when you get there is up to you. Hotel room rates at the Hyatt Regency Dallas (a four-star property) will run you about $200 per night including taxes. If sports are your thing, you won’t be disappointed. Take in an NBA Mavericks game or head to the famed AT&T Stadium in nearby Arlington for a Dallas Cowboys NFL game. If baseball is your game, Arlington is also home to the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park. Not into sports? The Big D is also home to a wide variety of museums, the Design District, the Dallas Arts District dining and the Dallas Zoo.
Have an adventure in the Galapagos Islands
You can comfortably spend 10 days hiking, snorkeling and swimming while experiencing the famed giant tortoises of the Galapagos Islands. This is a land, sea and air adventure spent island hopping, exploring volcanoes to kayaking bays. This tour is perfect for those who want to spend each night on dry land. Flights from Gainesville will add $1,400 each roundtrip.
Weekend Getaway: The Don Cesar, St. Pete Beach, FL
Florida is home to some of the most beautiful beaches, and St. Pete Beach is one of them. The Don Cesar is an iconic 1920s hotel situated on the white sands of the gulf coast. Grab your spouse for a romantic weekend at the beach and wellness spa. A one-bedroom, bayside suite with a balcony will run you $750 a night, plus resort fees and taxes. On this vacation you can marvel at the pink facade while enjoying gourmet cuisine and spectacular sunsets.
Bring out your passport and head to Prague, CZ
Want to venture to Europe? Visit the capital city of the Czech Republic? Prague is known for its historic Old Town Square, Gothic churches, the famed pedestrian Charles Bridge and the Prague Castle. Flights from Gainesville will run upwards of $1,500 each, and rooms at the Prague Marriott Hotel (a five- star property) has rates of $275 a night. Once there, Prague is a very walkable city with amazing local food. Don’t miss the Castle District sights, including the St. Vitus Cathedral and changing of the guard ceremony at the castle itself. The Christmas and Easter markets are also a treat if your timing is right.
Bucket list trip: Viking River Cruise Imperial Jewels of China-Beijing to Shanghai
If Asia is on your list, and you have over 10K to spend, this is the trip for you. A 14-day cruise along the Yangtze River will run upwards of $4,300 per person in addition to the airfare from Gainesville to Beijing around $900. You can relax once onboard your cruise, on your private veranda and luxury stateroom. Itinerary includes the Great Wall, TerraCotta Warriors and Three Gorges.
So next time that you think you might not be able to afford a vacation, do some research and map out your budget plan. You might just be surprised at what you can afford and the new things you can see and experience. Happy Travels!