From art to history to outdoor fun, discover all the great things to do in this vibrant city in northeastern Florida.
Jacksonville, Florida is more than a day at the beach. 22 miles of sand and shore also offers art galleries and gardens, a zoo and science museum, amusement parks, a baseball field, great shops, and a look at slave history.
Great Fun for the Kids
(Toddlers to Age 8)
Cummer Art Museum & Gardens
829 Riverside Avenue
One of the best features of the Cummer is its children’s area, which includes interactive, easy and fun activities to engage kids in creating art the way they want. Even adults can appreciate the “Please Touch” exhibit describing various types of Roman columns and medieval mosaics, as well as the “Five And Under” room if one can crouch down far enough. Bring the family here to promenade among elegant gardens fit for royalty and, inside, the museum’s permanent collection of impressionist works eighteenth century to the present, and a beautiful display of Meissen Porcelain.
Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens
370 Zoo Parkway
As a part of its mission, the Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens creates innovative exhibits to help guests achieve a better understanding of the environment around them and the importance of conservation. You can see this in each themed area of the 92-acre property, whether it be Zen Asian Bamboo Gardens, the Mayan-styled exhibit of the deceivingly gentle-looking Jaguar or the tree-covered habitat of the apes. Arguably the most exciting features are Stingray Bay – where you can feel a stingray’s kiss on your outstretched hand – and the zoo’s most recent addition, a rambunctious rookery of Magellanic Penguins.
Fun for Older Children
(up to Age 18)
2 Independent Drive
You’ll find The Jacksonville Landing immediately off the Main Street Bridge. This giant complex offers one-stop for everything from dining to shopping to live entertainment. Year round and for each holiday, the Landing brings in artists and other special vendors and there’s even an adjacent parking lot as well as plenty of other parking options in the immediate area. Check out the website for a schedule of special events.
Museum of Science & History
1025 Museum Circle
If you should take the Fuller Warren Bridge across St. John’s River to the Southbank, you’ll find the Museum of Science and History, or as the locals prefer to simply say, the MOSH. The museum has an exhibit that rivals that of Philadelphia’s Mutter Museum, describing and showing (in icky detail) the human body. Along with learning about the facility’s real life marine animal skeletons and a fun aquarium exhibit with live sea animals (and a few land animals, such as the astonishingly large-eyed barn owl), you can get your fill of Jax history by walking through “Currents of Time,” which highlights over 10,000 years of the area to the present.
Chamblin Book Mine
4551 Roosevelt Boulevard
If you simply want to sit down, sip a coffee and read a good book, visit this local favorite. This Jax treasure houses tomes of every subject imaginable, from Linguistics and Photography to vampiric teen novels and other extraordinary finds.
11676 Palmetto Avenue
To get to Kingsley Plantation, jump (or ride with your car) the Mayport Ferry across the river to Fort George Island. A long, bumpy road brings you back to the age of slavery during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. As a tour guide leads you through the property, you’ll see actual remains of slave cabins made of tabby as well as the house of the plantation owner Zephaniah Kingsley.
Fun for the Family
1944 Beach Boulevard
This theme park has something for everyone, young or old, from miniature golf and batting cages to laser tag and go-kart racing. During the summer season, Adventure Landing opens its Shipwreck Island Waterpark, complete with waterslides, a wave pool and a lazy river. Rain is never a factor here with the facility’s indoor area crammed full with arcade games, skee ball shoots, air hockey tables and more.
Jacksonville Baseball Grounds
301 A Philip Randolph Boulevard
Grab some hot dogs and peanuts and take your little leaguers to watch the Jacksonville Suns play at the Jacksonville Baseball Grounds. Admission is cheap for kids, so be sure to check out the website for season schedules, ticket prices and special events.
Ritz Theatre and LaVilla Museum
829 North Davis Street
Jacksonville, FL 32202
This popular art-deco era theater and its adjoining museum are hot spots of African-American heritage. They are located in an area that was once referred to as “The Harlem of the South” for its rich arts scene. The theater once jammed to the likes of Ray Charles and now hosts some of Jacksonville’s premier cultural events and receptions. The LaVilla Museum features several permanent exhibits tracing local African-American history from antebellum to the present, through photographs, artifacts, folk art, and special presentations on native musicians James Welden Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson, entitled “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” illustrating the history of these men through music, images, dialogue, and theatrical lighting. The presentation includes narrations by renowned educators and artists, including actor Ossie Davis.
500 Wonderwood Drive
East and north along the Jacksonville coast, you can find some room to stretch, either by lying out on the beach next to the large dunes (which are unfortunately off limits to humans, but which also benefit the area’s wildlife habitat) or by walking the length of trails running through Hanna Park. Here and there you may hear the rustling of an armadillo, catch a glimpse of a stock-still heron on the lake’s edge, or collect unique shells.
Riverside Arts Market
715 Riverside Avenue at Interstate-95
There’s no better way to while the day away on a slow-paced stroll through farmers’ markets. You can find that and more – entertainers, sweet-smelling Cajun and sea food, arts and crafts, and the occasional parade – at the Riverside Arts Market on the southeast side of the St. John’s River. The Fuller Warren Bridge is directly over the space, sparing ambling onlookers from the sun. Be prepared to find some bizarre finds, from wood pocket watches to unheard-of goat cheeses and bitter bee pollen. There is also live entertainment on the riverfront stage and kids activities to enjoy each week.
For some great restaurants in the area, see Restaurants in Jacksonville.
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