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HC UFL’s Ultimate Guide to Going Out in Gainesville: Midtown/Downtown

The only thing more diverse than the UF’s academia is Gainesville’s nightlife. When students aren’t hitting the books, they’re hitting the bars. But in a school that is consistently ranked on the “Top Party Schools” list, it can be a little overwhelming to choose a venue for where you want your nightly shenanigans to take place. I mean, for $3, would you rather drink 11 cups of beer in a race against the clock followed by a late-night Jimmy John’s run, or do you want to chase down bottom-shelf cranberry vodka wells and get your dance on to Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”? Decisions, decisions.

Fortunately, you can do both. You’ve got all semester… Or maybe you can do it all in one night. In Gainesville, anything is possible. It’s up to you to decide, but HC UFL is here to help you map out your options.

Disclaimer: Be mindful of the law when reading this, and remember that you shouldn’t be consuming alcohol if you’re under 21. Bottoms up!

Page 2: Midtown, Page 3: Downtown

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MIDTOWN

Ah, Midtown. With a cluster of the nation’s most quintessential college bars and delectably greasy food joints all just a few feet away from campus, it’s no wonder this hotspot is the go-to option for newbies and oldies alike. Here’s a rundown of our Midtown favorites:

1. Balls Bookstore a.k.a. Balls: Gainesville’s bar scene is constantly changing, but one dive bar that hasn’t gone anywhere since its opening in 1988 is Balls. Gator alums will often tell you they met their spouses here. With hundreds of sweaty night prowlers cramped inside its graffiti-ridden walls, Balls is hardly a destination to go looking for love. But who knows? Maybe you’ll meet that special someone and have a kid who will someday ask, “Really, Mom? You met Dad at a place called Balls?” It sounds nuts (pun intended), but it’s still a better love story than Twilight.

Notable Nights: 

  • Tuesday/$2 Tuesday – All night special; $2 cover; $2 bottled beer; $2 mixed shots; $2 double wells; $2 drafts; $2 LITs; $2 top-shelf singles
  • Wednesday/AYCD Wednesdays – $7 cover for AYCD (All You Can Drink) from 10 p.m. to midnight
  • Friday – $7 cover for AYCD Happy Hour from 6 to 8 p.m.; $1 single wells, $2 double wells, and $5 Keystone pitchers until midnight
  • Saturday – $1 single wells; $2 double wells; $5 Keystone pitchers; $1 Keystone drafts; all deals last until midnight 

2. 101 Cantina: While this half indoor, half outdoor tiki hut establishment is full of people speaking anything but Spanish, you’ll feel like you’re part of a real Mexican fiesta, with a emphasis on the fiesta part. Tequila, anyone?

Notable Nights: 

  • Sunday/Sunday Funday – 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.: 3-4-1 wells; 10 p.m. to close: 2-4-1 wells; $5 Natural Light pitchers all day; free shots every hour on the hour starting at 11 a.m.
  • Monday/Margarita Monday – $1 house margaritas from 10 to 11 p.m.; free margaritas with purchase of entrée (or three taco sliders); 2-4-1 wells from 10 p.m. to close
  • Birthday perk – Go to 101 Cantina on your birthday to receive a complimentary drink! 

3. Swamp Restaurant: Restaurant by day, hoppin’ bar by night. Originally the house of a UF professor in 1915, the nearly century-old landmark is now home to thousands of Gators each year as a Gainesville bucket list eatery and brew house. If you haven’t already tried the restaurant’s mouth-watering sweet potato fries, get on that. And when the sun goes down, stick around to cheer to tradition and continue the legacy. 

4. Gator City/Envy: It’s a bar! It’s a club! It’s a pool hall! If you didn’t get that Superman reference, shame on you. But unlike the classic hero in the sky, you don’t have to distinguish between what exactly this place is because it’s all three at the same time. Yep, that’s right. It’s Superbar. You want country music? Rap? Pop? Strobe lights? Football? A game of cornhole? Burgers? Beer? Liquor that costs less than what the Tooth Fairy used to slide under your pillow? This place has it all.

Notable Nights: 

  • Wednesday/Ladies Night – Ladies drink free all night with college IDs (9 p.m. until close); $3 wells; $1.50 Keystone pitchers; $2 kamikazes
  • Friday – $5 cover; 25-cent wells from 9 p.m. to midnight with college IDs; $3 Keystone pitchers from 9 a.m. to midnight

Loophole: If you want to save $2 on cover and skip the lines, go to Gator City on Friday at 8 p.m. for the $3 burger special, which lasts from 4 to 10 p.m. Once you eat, you’ll get a wristband that will give you entry later on without paying an additional fee. Then later, after you fill up on your 25-cent wells, use that extra $2 to satisfy your drunken munchies at Pizza by the Slice right next door. Why? Because it’s Pizza by the Slice. 

5. Grog: Drink enough of the stuff this nightspot was named after, and Grog will most likely provide you with one of those awesome, nostalgic nights you won’t remember with the people you can’t forget. It’s basically impossible to go here without seeing someone you know, be it your math class bestie or that random guy from Tinder you swiped right for. After you belt out Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” with pretty much the entire student population, you’ll probably end up hooking up with some guy in front of the rest of your classmates and gawking friends.

Notable Nights: 

  • Wednesday – Ladies Night; ladies drink free all night (guys until 11 p.m.)
  • Friday – Beat the Clock; $5 cover; starting at 9 p.m., pitchers of beer are 25 cents and the price increases by 25 cents every 15 minutes

Warning: Girls, try not to wear sandals in here. Take one look at the floor to understand what I am talking about. Trust me on this one. 

6. Tatu: It may or may not be a known fact that this place may or may not serve alcohol to unde(rage)rs. Here you’ll typically find 19-year-olds celebrating a birthday and sorority girls having a powwow, but everyone can agree that Tatu’s spicy tuna rolls are the bomb-dot-com and that their sake bombs are all that and then some.

7. Salty Dog Saloon: USA Today calls it one of the best college bars in the nation. Why shouldn’t they? For about 50 years, unique (and wonderfully cheap) drink specials change each day for its loyal patrons. Music flows from its jukebox, and beer flows from its taps.

Deals by Day: 

  • Sunday – Happy Hour all day; 2-for-1 mimosas; $2 off import and micro pitchers; $2.50 Bloody Mary wells
  • Thursday – $2 wells; 30 cent wings; $3.75 import drafts; $3 long islands; $2.50 Jager shots
  • Friday – Happy Hour from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; $4.95 select pitchers; shot and drink specials change weekly
  • Saturday – $2 wells; $3.75 import drafts; $3 long islands; $2.50 Jager shots; $4 Jager and Red Bull; $2 draft cider for ladies; all deals last from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. 

Check out the next page for all things Downtown Gainesville!

[pagebreak] DOWNTOWN

If you fall into the category of hipster, GDI, grad student, ACR (Alachua County Resident), music buff, foodie, or clubber, you’re probably looking for something other than the frat-tastic takeover that runs rampant in Midtown. If this is the case for you, head downtown to wine, dine, and dance with a more diverse crowd. Unlike Midtown, in which venue popularity is heavily based on a day-by-day schedule, most places in downtown will treat you to a surprise each time. Unless it’s Thursday because everything rocks on Thursday.

1. Thursday Spots: 

  • :08 (Eight Seconds): If you’ve ever wanted to try riding a mechanical bull or kickin’ up your cowgirl boots, this is the place to do it. The action here happens on Thursday when there’s a Ladies Night special (free wells until 12:30 a.m.; $5 for over 21; $7 for under 21). And if you come at 10:30 p.m., there are free lessons to help you brush up on your line dancing.   
  • The Atlantic: Two words: Indie Night. Each Thursday, you can “Doowutchyalike” at the best indie music dance party around. For $4 ($6 if under 21), you can dance your heart out to alternative beats without some creepy guy grinding all over your personal space. Well, on most nights, there isn’t much space, but a night at The Atlantic usually guarantees a good time.  
  • Rockeys Dueling Piano Bar: Go on any night to hear both classic hits and raunchy songs dedicated to the birthday girl and occasional bride-to-be sitting atop the piano, but go on Thursday to get the best bang for your buck, or lack thereof. Show up to listen to live music and sip on high-end drinks completely free for Ladies Night. Plus, there’s no cover. The only catch is that it’s strictly 21 and up, and if you go too often, the music and punch lines will start to sound repetitive.

2. For the Beer Lovers: 

  • Tall Paul’s Brew House: For a chill, mature atmosphere with a variety of beers and a bigger variety of patrons, you can drink local brews, play some games, and hang out with friends in a casual setting. Go on a Wednesday to hear live jazz music.  
  • House of Beer: Forty beers on tap and a life-size Jenga game. Need I say more?  
  • Stubbies & Steins: After filling your belly with bratwurst and schnitzel, say “Prost!” with a nice, tall one at this German franchise that boasts the best variety of beer in town.

3. For the Clubbers: 

  • 101 Downtown: If not for Techno Tuesday’s free cover and $1 drinks from 10 to 11 p.m. with drink and shot specials all night, go to bust out your funky moves on the dance floor. And if electronic tunes don’t tickle your fancy, try the Sunday brunch. 
  • Simon’s Nightclub: Simon’s can be a hit or miss, and while it may never be as popular as it once was in the ‘90s, it will always be synonymous with great Gainesville nightlife. The music can be cookie-cutter house stuff, but something keeps bringing us back for more. 
  • Spannk Speakeasy Lounge: If you’re into wacky crowds and hypnotic beats, Saturday’s infamous Neon Liger dance party is a breath of fresh air. Bring a hair tie – ‘cause you’ll definitely need it – and your swankiest dance moves, and you’re in for a good time. If you’re not comfortable with seeing two guys hooking up, however, this may not be the place for you. But really, you should try it at least once.

4. Honorable Mentions: Harry’s Seafood Restaurant Bar and Grille has deals throughout the week – most notable is the “Fat Tuesday” happy hour special – and delicious, although pricey, food that embodies the spirit of New Orleans. Also, Half Cork’d is a dip in your wallet, but for a few extra bucks, a laidback evening at this classy wine bar won’t disappoint.

 

IN CONCLUSION: 

  • Do this now: If you enjoyed this handy guide and want to take a condensed version of it with you wherever you go, download the “Party Tutor” app on your phone. Seriously, this app is awesome. Do it. Once you have it, simply select the day of the week and it will tell you all of the available steals and deals you need to know about. Another great resource is www.nightgator.com.  
  • Additional tip: Even though prices are already ridiculously cheap, there are promoters virtually everywhere – street corners, on your Facebook newsfeed, etc. – that are eager to hand you discount cards for reduced cover and special deals. If you know where you’re going, make sure to RSVP to guest lists, friend request the promoters, or just find them in front of where you’re headed for an even bigger bargain.   
  • A note to the underage collegiettes™: Your time will come. We’ve all been in your place – waiting patiently for our turn to trade those ugly Xs on our hands for colored wristbands and horizontal driver’s licenses. And while there are ways to get around the system (which Her Campus does not endorse), and ways to obtain a fake ID (which you definitely shouldn’t), don’t let your underage status stop you from hanging with the big kids and having a grand ‘ole time. Luckily, most places in Gainesville, especially Midtown, let in anyone who is 18 and older. However, there is usually a $2 upcharge to any cover at the door. I know, I know. It sucks. But like I said, we’ve all been there.

Rage responsibly, my friends, and party on.

Marisa Ross is a proud Gator alumna from the University of Florida's College of Journalism, where she had the privilege of working with the UFL chapter of Her Campus as a writer, blogger, and editor. Shortly after graduating in 2015, she spent some time abroad teaching English in Madrid, Spain, and voluteering with the press team for the Rio 2016 Olympics. Currently, Marisa resides in South Florida and is thrilled to be a part of Her Campus yet again, this time as the Branded Content Specialist for Integrating Marketing with the national team. In her free time, she stays active by training for races, playing volleyball, and doing anything outdoors or on the water. And if she's not daydreaming about her next travel itinerary, she's probably embarking on a cultural adventure to explore new cities, cuisines, and activities.
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