A cultural and foodie metropolis meets swimming and surfing beach town in Jacksonville! You can have the best of both worlds in this Sunshine 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.
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Animal Adventures in Jacksonville, Fl
Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary – The Catty Shack 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 combined in 92 acres. 50% DISCOUNT for members of other Association of Zoos and Aquariums, 10% Military Discount and children under age 2 FREE.
Augustine Alligator Farm and Zoological Park – The St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park is a zoo providing guests with a thrilling adventure via the zip-line that runs over the whole park, 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. 10% DISCOUNT for AAA, Military & Senior Citizens.
Marineland Dolphin Conservation Center – Marineland Dolphin Adventure 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 coastline. The Center also hosts educational programs and summer camps for children as young as 7 years old.
Jacksonville Outdoor Adventures and Beaches
Little Talbot Island – Little Talbot Island is 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.
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.
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 offers visitors boating, fishing, bicycling, hiking or even a guided Segway tour.
Big Talbot Island – 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 – The 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 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.
Ringhaver Nature Preserve – As home to the Ortega Stream Valley nature area, Ringhaver include 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 this fort memorializes the French presence in 16th Century Florida. The memorial is also home to the exhibit “Where the Waters Meet”, showcasing 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 march 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 event 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 WaterPark – For families looking for swimming and water fun with no sharks, no sand and no jellyfish, Shipwreck Island 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.
Sweet Pete’s – Skip the diet – you have to make a stop at this local candy factory with daily tours and candy making classes. It is in the heart of Downtown Jacksonville and it is a modern-day Willy Wonka factory!
Florida History in Jacksonville
Kingsley Plantation – 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 visitor’s center also 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 outdoor memorial and torch with an eternal flame contains that names of Jacksonville service members in all branches from World War One through the current war on terrorism in remembrance and tribute of their service.
Museums in Jacksonville
Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens – The Cummer Museum and Gardens is 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. FREE for children under 5 and reduced admission for students, seniors and military. FREE admission for everyone Tuesday from 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm and the first Saturday of the month from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.
Museum of Science and History MOSH – The Museum of Science & History 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. Discounted admission on $5 Fridays with extended hours. Reduced admission for students, seniors and military.
Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville – The Museum –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. FREE for children under 2 and reduced admission for students, seniors and military. FREE admission for everyone the first Wednesday of each month from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm.
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 focused 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. FREE for children ages 4 and under with DISCOUNTED admission for students, seniors and military. Each ticket includes a two-day admission.
Festivals and Events in Jacksonville
Riverside Arts Market – Open Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 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.
Friendship Fountain – Friendship Fountain offers four different synchronized water programs with up to 6,500 gallons of water per minute being molding into a sparkling mist by lights. The fountain is adjacent to the Museum of Science and History and offer green space and pedestrian access to park.
Jacksonville Landing – The Jacksonville Landing hosts 600 events over the year in downtown Jacksonville. Visitors can also experience history by taking a tour of the Founder’s Food Hall and viewing the 17 silhouettes of the original settlers to the area. A statue of Jacksonville’s namesake, Andrew Jackson also sits in the front of the Landing.
Downtown Art Walk – Held on the first Wednesday of every month in the heart of Downtown Jacksonville, this 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.
Brewery Tours in Jacksonville
Aardwolf Brewing Company – Aardwold is a family-friendly and dog-friendly taproom and brewery located in a renovated ice home from the early 1930’s open to tastings. A new pilot batch of beer is released each Wednesday.
Zeta Brewing Company– Zeta creates traditional American ales and lagers just steps away from Jacksonville Beach. They offer 5 beers and a full family-friendly dining experience with lunch, dinner and kids menu during the week and a brunch menu for weekends.
Budweiser Brewery Tour – The Jacksonville Anheuser-Busch Brewery offers four different tours where visitors can hear, smell, see, touch and taste how beer is brewed as well as history and the heritage of the company. Tours range from self-guided experiences or the more in-depth Brewmaster experiences. Guests of all ages are invited to take the tour. Guests 21 and older receive a complimentary sample at the tour entrance and can sample in the Tap Room at the completion of the tour.
Jax Brew Bus – After boarding the Brew Bus Jacksonville, 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. Guest will sample beers from multiple breweries on the tour.
Johns River Taxi and Tours – Families can take river taxi tours from Friendship Park on the Southbank to the Jacksonville Landing on the Northbank, 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.
Jacksonville Walking tours – Guided tours of the River City share the history of Jacksonville from Top to Bottom with stops at the tallest building in Jacksonville and the underground tunnels of Downtown.
E2ride Bike Tour – E2Ride showcases the Jacksonville area on guided bike tours along the Beach, through the Riverside – Avondale area (one of the top 10 neighborhoods in America according the American Planning Association) or the historical Mandarin area, located along the St. Johns River. Bikes, helmets and all gear is provided. Families are welcome with children as young as 3 months riding along in trailers.
Sailing and Kayaking in Jacksonville
Now and Zen Sailing Charter – The Now & Zen sailboat charter offer sunset cruises, day sails and sailing vacations for groups of up to 12 people. The options on board range from the learning about sailing at the helm of the boat to the relaxing of reading a book in the cockpit or snuggling up in the salon.
Kayak Amelia – Visitors to Kayak Amelia can explore the local with guided tours via kayak or Segway while learning more about the local history of the area. Kayak tours start with instruction on land before going through the salt marshes while the segways explore the dry side of the Fort George Island State Park. Seasonally, they offer special firefly, sunset and moonlight tours as well.
Adventure Kayak – 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 rentals of bikes, beach cruisers and kayaks.
Jacksonville Kayak Company – For a truly family-friendly kayak experience, the Jacksonville Kayak Company 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.
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 padding, guided eco-tours, racing, surfing and adventure trips.
Finally – if you’re thinking of flying from ATL to JAX, then consider a ride on Southwest Airlines. We love these tips for Southwest Check-in.
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After 18 years in software development, Lesli bailed on the corporate scene. When she’s not traveling, she’s hiking in the mountains or checking out Atlanta’s culinary scene, whiskey in hand.
Lesli has two kiddos -Cooper and Elliot- plus two bonus kids currently at UGA, and she’s happily married to her soul mate.