When Digital Bookmobile visitors find out that we are a national traveling exhibit, their first (of many) questions is always, “Where is your favorite place you’ve been?” It seems like an easy question to answer, but the truth is, I’ve loved every city and small town I’ve traveled to since starting at OverDrive in March. From Boston’s harbor to Chicago’s city center, I’ve had wonderful experiences in all 13 states I’ve visited. I guess, if I had to choose just one place to call my favorite, Gainesville, Florida would be slightly ahead of the rest.
Gainesville will always have a special place in my heart, simply because it was the first city I went solo on with the Digital Bookmobile. Being from a college town, I felt at ease in the home of the University of Florida. After settling into the historic Sweetwater Branch Inn, a complex of Victorian-era mansions turned bed and breakfast, I hit the streets to explore everything Gainesville had to offer.
Once I found out that the Florida Museum of Natural History had a butterfly jungle, it was at the top of my list of sites to see while in Gainesville. Although there were many wonderful exhibits in the museum, I spent most of my time sitting on a bench in the butterfly jungle, watching over 50 species of butterflies and moths float all around me. I could have sat there all evening, unfortunately the staff weren’t having it, so when the museum closed, I made my way to Dragonfly Sushi (the insect theme is a total coincidence, I swear!) and Sake Company where I indulged in the most delicious sushi and crab rangoon I will likely ever have. Mhmm, I still dream about that meal!
The next day I traveled south to Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the gardens were more gorgeous than I ever could have imagined. Even the drive over had beautiful shaded country roads. The property itself includes hundreds of plant species, koi ponds, waterfalls, gazebos, bridges, and various wildlife. Due to the high water in the Florida aquifer, there was limited access to the lower trails, yet I was still able to spend three hours touring the gardens.
My last day in Gainesville, my coworker, Mike, and I enjoyed some of Gainesville’s finest breweries. Swamp Head Brewery had excellent beer with an even better location, complete with outdoor seating and a delicious food truck. However, it was Cypress and Grove that had me wishing I could pack the entire brewery up into my suitcase and take them home to Cleveland. Unfortunately, the brewery wouldn’t be quite as special if it was in Ohio, as their beer is brewed with a distinct ingredient—water from the Floridian aquifer, which the brewery has access to through their very own well. It was incredible!
Any city that offers great beer, good food, and an abundance of nature peaks my interest and Gainesville didn’t let me down one bit. Next years tour is already coming together and, luckily for me, the Digital Bookmobile is set to return. Until then, I’ll wait anxiously for another taste of that glorious sushi.
What are your must-haves in the towns you travel to and where has made the top of your favorite places you’ve visited?