Updated 6 yearss ago
Excuse the heresy, but there are attractions besides the gridiron on Saturday afternoons this fall in Gainesville, Tallahassee and Miami. Campuses and the cities that surround them are centers of culture and art, full of museums and parks — and tranquil countryside not so far away, or, in the case of Miami, world-class shopping. Consider these alternatives (or supplements) to the Big Game or good reasons to visit your alma mater — even when the team's away.
New World Center
While the University of Miami's footballers storm the former Dolphin Stadium, the Coral Gables campus remains in all its City Beautiful charm, full of tropical foliage and sophisticated arts. Throughout October, the university's Frost School of Music hosts Festival Miami 2011 with concerts by top classical Latin and jazz musicians, many on campus.
The school's Lowe Art Museum is one of the grandest in the south, covering 500 years and a world of dramatic art, ancient and contemporary. There are art films every weekend at the Bill Cosford Cinema on campus (and at the Coral Gables Art Cinema).
Nearby is the immense Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, 83 acres of palms, orchids, fruits and other tropicals.
Beyond lie the elegant shops and restaurants of the Miracle Mile and Merrick Park, plus the banyan-lined streets of one of Florida's most handsomely planned developments. Of all the attractions greater Miami offers, try to snag a symphony ticket to hear Michael Tilson Thomas conduct at the dazzling New World Center on Miami Beach. Could be as thrilling as?a seat on the 50-yard line.?
Harn Museum of Art
Not that far from the Swamp are two high grounds of art and nature. You can spend more than two halves in the Harn Museum of Art studying an endless collection of art from Africa, Asia, Oceania and ancient America and still not get to the Piranesi prints or Cindy Sherman photographs. An exhibit by Japanese women ceramicists opens Oct. 16.
If you miss the roar of the UF crowd, listen to wild music of whales, birds and bullfrogs at the Florida Museum of Natural History. For quieter pleasures, study centuries of dugout canoes and eons of fossils or delight in the huge butterfly garden. Or leave town altogether. To the south lies Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings country, Paynes Prairie with its buffalo and cracker houses and Micanopy's bookshops and antique troves. To the north, Gainesville Raceway has Test & Tune workouts on Saturdays and drag races on Sunday.
Museum of Florida History
Explore the mounds of early native Americans at Lake Jackson and Letchworth-Love parks. The arrival of Hernando de Soto is commemorated by markers of his winter encampment, and you can see more evidence of Spanish colonial life at San Marcos de Apalache and especially at Mission San Luis, where a 16th-century fort and native encampment are re-created in full regalia.
Revisit the late 1800s hunting-plantation society at the mansions at Goodwood Museum and Beadel House at Tall Timbers. See slave quarters and learn how black society developed after emancipation at the Museum of African American History.
Or take in the world of the Highwaymen painters at the Museum of Florida History. The Tallahassee Museum includes an Old Florida village ideal for children.
Explore the only caverns in the state parks at Marianna or head out to Bear Creek Educational Forest. The more adventurous can head to the Forgotten Coast for hiking, fishing and seafood eating.