Gainesville is a nice place and centrally located to both costs, many springs, and is within two hours or less from Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville. It gets unbearably hot during the summer though, since there is no sea breeze. Traffic can be nighmarish during rush hour, especially on the major avenues leading to I-75.
Some nice spots in the city or nearby are Paynes Prairie, Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, UF museum plaza and San Felasco Hammock Preserve.
If you want to live in Gainesville, your best bet is to get plugged in to the University of Florida and see what they have cooking in terms of sporting events, concerts, lectures, etc.
The next thing is to enjoy the outdoors as much as you can. Unlike Miami, Gainesville is pretty land locked. But, Paynes Prairie is beautiful and there are things to see and do in the nearby forests. If you want a glimpse of the water, Cedar Key isn't too far away. You could also drive to Ichnetucknee (spelling?) Springs and go on a float trip in the cool spring water.
On the other side of Payne's Prairie lies the town of Micanopy. It has a very walkable main drag filled with antique shops and similar rustic attractions.
Gainesville itself is home to the Hippodrome State Theatre and the Florida Museum of Natural History. Both are very worthwhile. As a college town, Gainesville actually has some good places to eat cheap - Burrito Brothers and Leonardo's Pizza come to mind.
I have lived in North and South Florida. Gainesville is a world away from Miami. I currently live 30 miles outside of Gainesville, but go there regularly. Like anywhere, there is both good and bad. It still has a lot of "small town" feel in some places, yet has advantages of location to just about anything you ever want to do within a day's driving.
I really like Gainesville because it's a small-ish town (around 200,000 people -- don't know the official number) yet still has everything you would want (shopping, bars, events, etc). I've lived in Gainesville for 3 years and honestly don't think I could live anywhere else in Florida. Having UF brings events, speakers, and an interesting artsy-scene to Gainesville. However, drive outside of Gainesville and it's almost like being in Alabama -- very down south. That being said, Gainesville is a more liberal island in a see of red. It's sort of like Austin, except a much smaller town.
I know I'll be leaving grad school in about a year and hence leaving Gainesville. But I really hope I can end up in a town like this once I decide to settle down.