A cultural and foodie metropolis meets a swimming and surfing beach town in Jacksonville! You can have the best of both worlds in this fun Florida city.
We’ve got a complete list of things to do in Jacksonville FL that will knock your socks off! Pack up the kids and head south for the vacation of a lifetime. Here are 37 things to do in Jacksonville, Florida that you don’t want to miss.
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COOLEST PLACES TO STAY IN JACKSONVILLE
- Rooftop Pool: The Hyatt Regency Jacksonville hotel is adjacent to the St. Johns River and a 6 minutes’ walk from shops and dining at Jacksonville Landing. Features include a rooftop pool and free WiFi. SHOR Seafood Grill and Tavern, featuring regional seafood and other signature entrees, is their amazing onsite restaurant.
- Best Near Airport: Celebrate your style in Florida’s biggest, busiest city at the newly renovated Aloft Jacksonville Airport. It’s close to shopping at River City Marketplace and just outside Jacksonville International Airport. Features an outdoor pool, and plenty of onsite dining options.
- Best Tried and True: Located off Interstate 295, Country Inn & Suites by Radisson offers rooms with free WiFi and a flat-screen TV. It features an outdoor pool and is just 5 minutes’ drive from shopping at Orange Park Mall. You’ll love the hot breakfast buffet!
ANIMAL ADVENTURES IN JACKSONVILLE
CATTY SHACK RANCH WILDLIFE SANCTUARY
The Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary welcomes groups on tours to learn more about their rescued, exotic big cat residents (Siberian tigers, cougars, leopards, foxes, lions) and the dangers these animal face in the wild.
All tours are fully guided and include a viewing with the facts about the animals. Guests can either enjoy a daytime tour beginning at 1:00 pm or nighttime feeding tour beginning at 6:00 pm. Children under age 2 FREE.
JACKSONVILLE ZOO AND GARDENS
With more than 2,000 rare and exotic animals and 1,000 plant varieties, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens offers visitors a walking safari with botanical exhibits and animal exhibits ranging from the Plains of East Africa to the Australian Adventure and Wild Florida or Stingray Bay and Land of the Tiger combined in 92 acres.
Buy tickets in advance of your visit date & save $5. Children 2 and under are FREE.
ST. AUGUSTINE ALLIGATOR FARM AND ZOOLOGICAL PARK
The St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Zoological Park is a zoo providing guests with a thrilling adventure via the zip-line that runs over the whole park! They also have educational shows and exhibits, as well as an appreciation for the crocodilian species.
They are the only facility in the world to exhibit all 24 recognized species of crocodiles, conducting important research and assisting with worldwide conversation efforts. They also offer special tours, like a Behind the Scenes Tour and a Galapagos Tortoise Encounter. Children 2 and under are FREE.
MARINELAND DOLPHIN CONSERVATION CENTER
The Marineland Dolphin Conservation Center opened in 1938 as Marine Studios, a set for underwater footage for Hollywood movies and the world’s first oceanarium.
Today, guests can choose from observing the 14 dolphins or even swimming with them in their habitats located along the Atlantic beach coastline. The Center also hosts educational programs and summer camps for children as young as 7 years old. Take a tour, or become a dolphin trainer for a day! This is a fun spot for everyone.
JACKSONVILLE OUTDOOR ADVENTURES AND BEACHES
LITTLE TALBOT ISLAND STATE PARK
Little Talbot Island State Park is home to an undeveloped barrier island perfect for camping, fishing, hiking, kayaking and beachcombing with more than five miles of beaches. The Island also hosts forests, dunes and salt marsh for a diversity of habitats.
This state park is popular for paddling, hiking, biking, surfing and swimming.
AMELIA ISLAND STATE PARK
For a glimpse of undeveloped Florida, Amelia Island State Park offers 200 acres along the south tip of Amelia Island for fishing, horseback riding on the beach, searching for shells or walking on the George Crady Bridge Fishing Pier.
Biking, paddling, horseback riding, picnicking and fishing are all popular activities here.
FORT GEORGE ISLAND CULTURAL STATE PARK
Visitors are welcomed to explore the history of Fort George Island at the Ribault Club, a one-time resort and current visitor center.
As a site inhabited by humans for more than 5,000 years, and a history that includes Native Americans, colonial settlers and the Smart Set of the 1920s, Fort George Island Cultural State Park offers visitors boating, fishing, bicycling, hiking and more.
BIG TALBOT ISLAND STATE PARK
Big Talbot Island State Park offers premier locations for nature study, bird-watching, photography, kayaking, hiking, biking, rollerblading or exploring on the paved Timucuan Trail, shoreline, salt marsh or maritime forest.
Visitors can launch a boat alone or take a guided paddle tour via kayak. Boneyard Beach is a must see at Big Talbot, with dozens of oak skeletons lining the shore.
KATHRYN ABBY HANNA PARK
Kathryn Abby Hanna Park is home to more than 20 miles of trails for mountain bikers and hikers, access to The Poles, one of NE Florida’s best surfing spots, a 60 acre fresh water lake, campground areas, and a Kids Splash Park open seasonally.
TREE HILL NATURE CENTER
As the home to 50 acres of trails, Tree Hill Nature Center provides a family-friendly location to explore the Jacksonville natural environment. They are also the home of a Florida Natural History Museum, gardens for butterflies & hummingbirds and a please touch children’s museum.
Animals that live onsite include goats, chickens, turtles, snakes, a gator and a variety of others. FREE for children under age 2 with reduced admission for children, students, senior and military.
As home to the Ortega Stream Valley nature area, Ringhaver Park includes a boardwalk and pier for canoeing and kayaking, as well as soccer fields for open play.
FORT CAROLINE NATIONAL MEMORIAL
Nature hikes are offered every Sunday at 2:00 pm at Fort Caroline National Memorial, which memorializes the French presence in 16th century Florida. The site hosts the visitor center for the entire Timucuan Preserve.
The Timucuan Preserve Visitor Center hosts the exhibit “Where the Waters Meet.” This exhibit showcases the richness of the environment in northeast Florida and how humans have interacted with this environment for thousands of years.
CASTAWAY ISLAND PRESERVE
Located on the Intracoastal Waterway, the Castaway Island Preserve welcomes visitors to explore the salt marsh ecosystem and view marshland wildlife along the wooden boardwalk. Visitors can also visit the family friendly interpretative nature center and participate in educational center programs or use the kayak launch to explore the marsh.
THEODORE ROOSEVELT AREA
Visitors to the Theodore Roosevelt Area can explore a 600-acre section of the Timucuan Preserve National Park. The area includes hardwood forest, wetlands, and scrub vegetation over miles of nature trails, grassland and archeological remains that point to previous inhabitants of the area.
UNIQUE ADVENTURES IN JACKSONVILLE
DISC GOLF CLUB AT EDWARD AUSTIN PARK
If your family is looking for a unique activity, Edward Austin Park is also known at the Fore Palms Disc Golf Club and hosts a full 18-hole disc golf course. Weekly events and tournaments are held on the course, however it’s open to all levels for normal course play.
WORLD SKYDIVING CENTER
If jumping from 10,000 feet sounds like fun, the World Skydiving Center offers tandem skydiving for anyone over the age of 18 willing to take the jump.
Their experienced skydivers will guide you to safely as you hit average speeds of 120 mph.
SHIPWRECK ISLAND WATER PARK
For families looking for swimming and water fun with no sharks, no sand and no jellyfish, Shipwreck Island Waterpark has water play areas for all ages, four extreme slides, a lazy river and Typhoon Lagoon, a half million gallon wave pool.
It is open seasonally as part of the Adventure Landing amusement center in Jacksonville Beach.
FLORIDA HISTORY IN JACKSONVILLE
Visitors to Kingsley Plantation can explore the grounds of this former plantation, which include the slave quarters, barn, waterfront, plantation house, kitchen house, and interpretive garden.
The site name comes from one of the families who lived here during Florida’s plantation period. Anna and Zephaniah Kingsley lived here from 1814 to 1837.
The visitor’s center offers history of the area since the first human inhabitants 6,000 years ago until today. The plantation is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and has FREE admission.
VETERANS MEMORIAL WALL
The Veterans Memorial Wall in Jacksonville is the the second largest Veterans Memorial Wall, second only to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC.
The outdoor memorial and torch with an eternal flame contains that names of Jacksonville service members in all branches from World War I through the War on Terror in remembrance and tribute of their service.
Located in downtown Jacksonville, the historic Florida Theatre is a great place to take in a show. This 1,900-seat theater opened its doors in 1927 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Here you’ll find all sorts of amazing performances — from live music concerts to ballets and shows. They have many great special events throughout the year, as well. Seeing a show here is a must!
MUSEUMS IN JACKSONVILLE
The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens is one of the premier Jacksonville museums. They have more than two acres of historic garden design and more than 5,000 pieces to display in their permanent collection with rotating special exhibits.
The riverfront gardens showcase the architecture style and design in the Italian, English and Olmsted gardens. Children 5 and under are FREE.
MUSEUM OF SCIENCE AND HISTORY
The Museum of Science & History (MOSH) is home to 10 interactive core exhibits supported by a variety of special exhibits that can entertain visitors of all ages.
The museum is home to the Florida Naturalist’s Center, an exhibit housing animals native to Northeast Florida. Additionally, there are daily science shows, live animal shows, planetarium programs and the KidSpace children’s area.
MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART JACKSONVILLE
The Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville houses more than 800 pieces in its permanent collection as well as special exhibitions. More than 95% of its exhibitions are created in house. It is also a cultural institute for the University of North Florida and offers special lectures, art-course and campus affiliated-exhibitions.
Through VyStar Credit Union’s generous support, members of the community will have greater access to contemporary art through free admission every Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
JACKSONVILLE HANDS ON CHILDREN’S MUSEUM
With 25 different exhibits, the Hands On Museum encourages children to experience life through realistic play situations. Some of the exhibits include a TV station, fire & rescue station, grocery store and mechanics garage; each one has real working parts so children can be hands on.
WORLD GOLF HALL OF FAME
The World Golf Hall of Fame focuses on honoring the history of the game and the legacies of those who have made it great by sharing stories and exhibitions related to the game.
Among the special exhibits, there are sections that share the history of the game, honor the recent accomplishments of the game as well as honor the history of African Americans in the game.
FESTIVALS AND EVENTS IN JACKSONVILLE
RIVERSIDE ARTS MARKET
Open Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 pm, the Riverside Arts Market is an outdoor family-friendly marketplace that hosts events and offers artists, food vendors, and growers a destination to sell their products.
The marketplace supports a green lifestyle and strong environmental consciousness among is vendors and offers free parking spaces along with bike racks and walking areas. FREE entry.
The Friendship Fountain was the world’s largest and tallest fountain when it originally opened in 1965. Located at St. John’s River Park, also known as Friendship Park, the fountain has become a popular tourist destination.
You’ll find the fountain on the south bank of the river, just west of Main Street. The colored lights at night are a must see, and the views of the city of Jacksonville from here are unforgettable!
FIRST WEDNESDAY ART WALK
Held on the first Wednesday of every month in the heart of Downtown Jacksonville, the aptly named First Wednesday Art Walk is a free street festival brings live music, local food vendors, artist and craft makers to the city’s core from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m.
Art Walk is held every month rain or shine.
JAX BREW BUS
After boarding the Jax Brew Bus, visitors are taken on a guided tour of local Jacksonville craft breweries while being educated on the history of Jacksonville’s breweries, the brewmasters, the beer, home brewing, and even a little history of beer in America.
During this 4.5- to 5-hour tour, you will visit three local breweries, and you’ll try 10-12 beers. This is a great way to get to know Jacksonville’s craft beer scene! They offer both public and private tours.
ST. JOHNS RIVER TAXI AND TOURS
With St. Johns River Taxi and Tours, families can take river taxi tours from Friendship Park on the south bank to the Jacksonville Landing on the north bank. They also offer eco tours, sunset tour and water tours from Downtown to the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.
The taxi also runs to Metro Park Marina on Jaguar game days — making for a fun way to get to the game and avoid traffic.
You’ll also find specialty cruises offered here, like dolphin cruises, sunset cruises, fireworks cruises, brewery cruises, and even combo cruises – like their Cruise and Bike package, or Cruise and Paddle. Such fun!
TOP TO BOTTOM WALKING TOUR
AdLib Luxury Tours offers a really unique walking tour of Jacksonville called the Top to Bottom Tour that you’ve just got to check out.
During the Top to Bottom Tour, you’ll take in rooftop views and then get a behind the scene downtown tour through many buildings — including the secret underground tunnels! This is one tour you don’t want to miss.
Enjoy a guided bike eco tour through Big Talbot Island State Park with Kayak Amelia. You can explore the gently rolling nature trails through tree hammocks, pine flats, and ancient dunes systems.
Of course, Kayak Amelia also offers guided kayak tours as well! (More below.)
SAILING AND KAYAKING IN JACKSONVILLE
NOW AND ZEN SAILING CHARTER
Now and Zen Sailing Charters offers sunset cruises, day sails and sailing vacations for groups of up to 12 people.
You can learn more about sailing at the helm, relax on the trampolines, bring your own drinks and snacks, or have a gourmet meal catered. There are so many options, so it’s easy to make sure you get the type of vacation you want.
Visitors to Kayak Amelia can explore the local waterways with guided tours via kayak or SUP while learning more about the local history of the area.
Kayak tours start with instruction on land before going through the salt marshes, while those interested in Stand Up Paddleboarding can take an intro class, or a 2-3 hour SUP Ecotour. Seasonally, they offer special firefly, sunset and moonlight tours as well.
ADVENTURE KAYAK FLORIDA
Adventure Kayak Florida specializes in taking visitors to experience the outdoors deep into backwater creeks and rivers of the area. They offer guided kayak tours and kayak camping, as well as instruction and expeditions from the area. They also provide bike, beach cruiser and kayak rentals.
Try their Full Moon Paddle for a really fun way to explore Jacksonville!
ADVENTURES UP THE CREEK
For a truly family-friendly kayak experience, Adventures Up The Creek offers a number of tandem kayaks so families can explore the local area during a guided tour. On a tour, some of the animals commonly seen are dolphins, birds, turtles, manatees, rays and even wild horses.
Go island hopping, or explore black-water creeks and salt marshes. You’re guaranteed to have an amazing time.
JACKSONVILLE SURF AND PADDLE
For beginning or experienced surfers, Jacksonville Surf and Paddle offers programs for all different types of surfers and stand-up paddleboarders. They provide instruction for flatwater paddling, guided eco-tours, racing, surfing and adventure trips.
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MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO FLORIDA
- YOUR FLORIDA VACATION
- ST. AUGUSTINE: 33 Sensational Things To Do In St Augustine For All Travel Types
- AMELIA ISLAND: 29+ Things To Do In Amelia Island That The Locals Want Kept Secret
- STUART: 21 Things To Do In Stuart For A Great Family Vacation
- DAYTONA BEACH: 15 Fun Things To Do In Daytona Beach You’ll Love
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