*In-state, two semesters' tuition and required fees. Source: U.S. News Best Colleges 2012.
UF traces its roots to East Florida Seminary in 1853, which opened in Ocala and moved to Gainesville in 1866. The Florida Agricultural College was chartered in 1870 and opened in Lake City in 1884. The two schools ultimately became the University of Florida, which opened in Gainesville in September 1906.
Town: Gainesville (pop. 124,354)
Enrollment: 50,116 (Fall 2010)
Nickname: Gators, established in 1908 when Gainesville shop owner Phillip Miller ordered alligator-emblazoned Florida pennants to sell at his store.
Colors: Orange and blue
Traditions: To make the Gator Chomp gesture, extend the arms straight out from the body, palms facing one another, and clap them to imitate the jaws of an alligator. George Edmondson is Mr. Two Bits, who led Gator fans from 1949 to 2008 in the classic cheer: Two bits! Four bits! Six bits! A dollar! All for the Gators, stand up and holler!
Eats and treats: Next to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (nicknamed The Swamp), The Swamp Restaurant is on several national lists for best college sports bars and restaurants. Satchel’s Pizza might remind Columbians of Shakespeare’s.
Places and spaces: Snap a photo beside the French Fries, formally known as “Alachua” by sculptor John Henry. The iconic Century Tower, built for the university’s centennial, is 157 feet tall and houses a 61-bell carillon that chimes weekdays every 15 minutes. The Florida Museum of Natural History includes the Butterfly Rainforest, which showcases hundreds of species.
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, commonly known as "The Swamp," has a seating capacity of 88,548. Photo courtesy of Kristen Bartlet Grace.