Length 4.7 km (2.9 miles), terrain: flat
Photos courtesy of Google Maps. Thanks!
For more running routes, see Route List.
Gainesville FL, although it is now a sprawling city that covers a wide swath of land, still has a heart that could be found in a thousand southern small towns. There are quiet streets lined with old wooden homes with wrap-around verandas, yards full of dogwood, azaleas and giant live-oak trees, dripping with Spanish moss. There are three historic districts in the center of town, all with beautiful old streets.
There is also a (partly) old-fashioned downtown with a lively restaurant scene. In short, it's a nice spot for a run! I should know, I lived there for 10 years, and it's the place where I began running. And my last years in this dynamic town were spent in this neighborhood.
|Live-oaks in the Northeast Section|
The three historic districts surrounding the downtown are the Northeast Section (Duck Pond), the Pleasant Street district, and the Southeast Section, each with its own character. This route will loop through all three, but you might want to later zig-zag through more of the neighboring streets in further runs. They're worth discovering!
|The start at the clock tower. Head up that street on the left!|
|The author with his Gainesville clock tower T-shirt|
|Entering Pleasant Street Historic District|
At NW 4th Street (Grove Street), turn right and run north for two blocks until you pass the red-brick church, where you turn right (east) onto NW 5th Avenue. This street has a few shops and new sidewalks, forming the heart of the neighborhood.
|Along Grove Street|
Now turn right onto NW 2nd Street (Pleasant Street) and run south until you get to NW 3rd Avenue, where you turn left and soon leave the Pleasant Street District.
NOTE: The Pleasant Street Park, a pleasant playground (what else would you expect on Pleasant Street?) surrounded by white picket-fences, is just a block north of here, if you want to take a quick little detour!
You'll cross NW 1st Street, where we started, but continue eastwards into the Northeast Section. This is already the next historic district. The Northeast Section is known for its jungley yards, wide verandas and its huge live-oak trees.
|Houses in NE section|
NOTE: I used to live just a block from here, and it always does me good to be back in this beautiful neighborhood.
|Homes along NE 4th Street|
At the north end of the building, at NE 7th Avenue, turn right and run downhill the two blocks to the little stream that defines the neighborhood: Sweetwater Branch Creek. Sweetwater runs through a park-like median strip between the two halves of NE Boulevard.
Turn right here and run south along the creek. In just a block, the creek widens to become the Duck Pond, with a little island full of cypress trees in the middle.
|Along the Duck Pond|
But now turn the other way, heading east along NE 5th Avenue two more blocks to NE 7th Street, where you turn right and head south, exiting the Northeast section, and coming back to University Avenue in a few blocks.
Now continue south into the third, and smallest, of the historic districts, the Southeast Section. Unfortunately, some of the old homes have been torn down near University Avenue, and downtown buildings have encroached from the west.
Continue to the first cross-street, SE 1st Avenue, and turn right. Many of the houses are a bit funkier here, and smaller, than in the Northeast Section, more like cottages.
|In the Southeast Section|
You'll now pass the typical, bunker-like buildings you find in most American downtowns, like the federal building and the county building. When you pass the parked sheriff's department patrol cars at the Alachua County Courthouse, you'll run past a square, the Bo Diddley Community Plaza. It's named after the creative founder of rock and roll (who lived his last years outside Gainesville).
You'll see a little brick building with a roofed-over entrance, next to the street. This is the Bethel filling station, the town's oldest gas station, now used by a snack bar. We'll be back at the plaza in a few minutes, but first comes one, last little detour.
You're heading for what looks like a Greek temple straight ahead: the Hippodrome Theater. The former post office houses a theater troupe which began as a group of theater-loving hippies in the 1970s, who quickly built a reputation for creative experiments. And they're still going strong.
|The Hippodrome Theater|
Now run through the plaza, towards the left and you'll come back to the bell tower where you started. Nice little town, huh?