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Looking for a fun holiday activity for the family? Try this downtown Gainesville train scavenger hunt
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Play the train game on Gainesville's square, a scavenger hunt that runs through Dec. 31, 2020. Photo courtesy Nicole Ricketts

A new scavenger hunt is chugging into the square, one that pays homage to one of the city’s favorite landmarks — Gainesville Midland No. 209.

Running from now through Thursday, Dec. 31, families can search for 15 train decals hidden in downtown businesses. Each is paired with a QR code, which will offer a few words once scanned. 

Nicole Ricketts, Gainesville’s Main Street manager, said people can record the words to unlock a secret message. Once the phrase is determined, participants can fill out a form online at to be entered for a prize. 

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Each week, Ricketts will draw people’s names from a hat, and the chosen person will receive “Main Street Money.” She said this form of currency acts as a gift certificate at more than 25 businesses in downtown and midtown Gainesville. 

“It’s really to get people to support downtown businesses,” Ricketts said. “It’s the heartbeat of Gainesville. Especially in the middle of a pandemic, we’re trying to showcase some of the business and remind people they’re there.”

When scanning the QR codes, participants will be prompted to complete a “joy ride.” Some of these challenges include taking a selfie at a mural or searching for a specific retail item. 

Holiday Train Scavenger Hunt

What: Find all 15 train decals hidden among downtown Gainesville businesses 

When: Until Thursday, Dec. 31.

Where: Businesses on Gainesville square

Guide and more info:

Those wanting guidance during the scavenger hunt can print out the holiday train game flyer at or at one of the participating businesses on the square. The form displays a list of all the shops with hidden train decals. Some of these include Next Chapter Bookstore, Rahab’s Rope and Sweet Magnolias. 

Ricketts said the train game was inspired by the success of downtown Gainesville’s History Hunt, which provided a walking tour full of historic riddles and clues to solve. 

“It was a great way to draw foot traffic, not crowds,” Ricketts said. “We’re trying to think of ways to encourage people to come downtown, but do it safely. We thought, let’s come up with something different for the holidays.”

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Play the train game on Gainesville's square, a scavenger hunt that runs through Dec. 31, 2020. Image courtesy Nicole Ricketts