15 Best Things to Do in Jacksonville, FL: Top-Rated Attractions 2022
Jacksonville is in an attractive geographic position in Northeast Florida, where the St. John River meets the Atlantic Ocean. As you can imagine, water hobbies are very popular here with the Jacksonville Beaches communities that straddle the adjacent Atlantic coast.
There is so much to enjoy from swimming and surfing the island’s nearby beaches, such as Neptune Beach and Jacksonville Beach.
If you want to do something more natural, you will be pleased to know that the city prides itself on having championship golf courses, including the famous TPC Sawgrass of Ponte Vedra Beach, home of the PGA Tour.
There are also plenty of museums and cultural offerings to keep you and the roughly 1 million inhabitants busy here too!
Let’s take a look at the best things to do in Jacksonville:
1. Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens
Housed in a series of 20th-century buildings, the Cummer Museum opens onto the St. Johns River, an active waterway in Florida. This fabulous museum for children, striving to teach them that art appreciation can be fun!
A large section of the museum is dedicated to interactive exhibits that allow parents and children to explore and understand how art changes over time.
The collection is powerful on American and European paintings and includes more than six thousand works of art dating from 2100 BC to the 21st century.
There are also three flower gardens in the museum grounds to enjoy, the oldest dating back to 1903. They are lovely all year round, and they are incredibly wonderful to see in the spring when the orchid show is on display!
2. Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary
The Sanctuary is a beautiful place for the care and rehabilitation of wild cats. Most importantly, once an animal is taken, they are guaranteed to have a loving home forever, as the Sanctuary does not raise or sell any of its animals.
Children, in particular, will enjoy “hanging out” with residents, from tigers, lions, leopards, bobcats, and cougars. If possible, try to stop to witness an evening feeding, which begins with a guided tour, followed by feeding in which keepers go hand in hand first to feed these magnificent animals.
It’s obvious how much the volunteers love their job, and all the animals and each helper are eager to answer all of your questions—a must for all ages. The Sanctuary offers a snack truck and portable toilets on site.
3. Museum of Science and History
A must for the whole family and especially for those of your children interested in science and history, as the museum specializes in exhibits of science and local history.
It features a leading exhibition that changes quarterly and three floors of permanent exhibits, including the Bryan-Gooding Planetarium.
The Museum exhibits teach all about the human body, the history of Jacksonville, how waterworks, and has a fascinating presentation on the Great Fire of 1901, which was one of the worst disasters in Florida history, burning 146 blocks of the city and destroying more than 2,368 buildings in eight hours.
4. Friendship Fountain
After visiting the Museum of Science and History, hopefully, you will have time to take a walk next door to see the Fountain of Friendship. Built in the 1960s, it consists of more than 60 nozzles that shoot water at the height of 120 feet.
In particular, it is a beautiful sight at night, as the fountain is illuminated with colored lights, creating a beautiful spectacle. The park surrounding the fountain also has spacious picnic tables and benches, making it an excellent snack or picnic stop for you and your family.
To get the feeling of truly being in the South, you’ll want to visit Riverside, one of Jacksonville’s oldest neighborhoods. It is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places to prove my point.
One of the neighborhood areas, Five Points, is now a lively bohemian neighborhood with funky cafes, antique shops, one-of-a-kind shops, and something of interest for the whole family, whether it’s just admiring the beautiful architecture or enjoying a stroll around the area.
It’s just a two-mile drive along State Road 221. It’s not too far from downtown. Stroll down King Street, which now features locally-owned breweries including Intuition Ale Works and Bold City Brewery (with soft drinks for the kids), and for lunch, there’s always Southern Roots Filling Station, serving local food with a healthy twist.
6. Jacksonville Fire Museum
Conveniently located right next to Kids Kampus in Metropolitan Park, the fire museum is worth a stop, especially if you have aspiring firefighters in the family! The fire station itself houses the museum that opened in 1903, shortly after the devastating Jacksonville fire that destroyed most of the city.
It is understandable on the National Register of Historic due to its fascinating collection of artifacts, fire fighting equipment, and memorabilia, including a fully restored horse-drawn fire engine from 1902 and a fire truck from 1926.
Guided tours are also available that last about 45 minutes. Please note that the museum will be closed for renovations between March and November 2016 and reopen with expanded installations and exhibits.
7. Timucuan Ecological Preserve
I have separated the two places even though the plantation house is situated on the ground because it is worth an in-depth explanation of its own.
The Preserve sits on several parcels of Land separated by the St. Johns River and consists of 46,000 acres of coastal dunes and salt marshes, showcasing some of Florida’s key historic sites.
It was named after the Timucuan Indians who resided here until Jean Ribault arrived in 1562. More than 30 Timucuan-speaking tribes inhabited central and northern Florida and southeastern Georgia, whose culture was believed to have remained unchanged for over 1000 years. Sadly, he became discouraged, and the tribe disappeared in 1800.
As you hike through some of the nature trails, there is an excellent chance to meet dolphins, shy manatees, and some resident birds.
8. Kingsley Plantation
A visit here to the beautiful grounds of Kingsley Plantation is a lovely opportunity for you and your family to learn a little about Florida’s past. The site was named for its first owner, Zephaniah Kingsley, a multiracial and polygamous home controlled and resistant to the problems of race and slavery.
It’s certainly worth a tour. With a bit of luck, you can find yourself walking in a historical reenactment of life in the area with live actors in costume, participating in the daily activities of the time.
If you forget this, there is also a welcome center to get a free audio tour package. The friendly rangers are always happy to help answer any questions.
9. Clark’s Fish Camp
This is a fish restaurant with a difference! In addition to marveling at the choice of food, there is also an excellent chance to see the water life live, in the form of alligators leisurely roaming the lilies below the restaurant, as well as enjoying the large, jungle-themed aquarium in the Pub.
The area that is sure to keep the kids fascinated! But let’s go back to the menu; How does the choice of oysters, eels, exotic mahi-mahi, shrimp, and much more work? If you don’t like fish, there are plenty of other tasty options.
One of the restaurant’s attractions is the location that allows you to dine while watching the sunset all around you.
One thing to keep in mind is the fantastic variety of stuffed animals featured here. Note that taxidermy was performed only on animals that died of natural causes.
10. Little Talbot Island State Park
This beautiful state park is certainly worth the short drive. Located just 17 miles Northeast of the city on State Road A1A, you’ll find yourself in 2,500 acres of outstanding parkland, with trails leading through woods and also to the beach.
The area is never crowded, and a walk on the delicate fine white sand or the beautiful forest is something extraordinary for the whole family to remember. You also have a chance to meet some of the local birds if you are lucky!
11. The Florida Theater
Opened in 1927, this historic theater is one of four remaining high-style movie channels built in the Art Deco era of the 1920s. It is now actually on the US National Register of Historic Places.
This is relatively easy to understand as you view its old-time beauty, showcasing its French, Spanish and Italian décor with motifs and furniture in the old flamboyant style, including marble and wrought iron.
Railings, decorative columns and moldings, wrought iron and amber lamps, chandeliers, terrazzo and tile floors, and coffered ceilings.
Jacksonville is very proud of its venue and is often used for movies and live concerts. It is worth a visit while you are here.
12. Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens
The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is located at the mouth of the Trout River and occupies 117 acres, with more than 2,000 animals and approximately 1,000 plants.
The zoo has cleverly adapted the areas to reflect its resident animals, from wandering the plains of East Africa where you can imagine coming face to face with the king of the jungle, to Australian adventure, or admiring the stunning great apes, Majestic Giraffes in Giraffe Perspective, the Land of the Tiger perspective and much more!
Kids will love it, especially in the areas where they can get closer and closer personally; for example, visitors are encouraged to feed the colorful and lively parrots and laugh at the cheeky monkeys. The facilities are very well maintained and clean, with a good restaurant serving reasonable prices.
13. Hands-On Children’s Museum
This brilliant museum is formulated to encourage creative and inventive play through its many engaging exhibits. Screens include a post office, bank, grocery store, and even a radio station.
It is the perfect place for the youngest children in the family, almost like a preschooler, with the ability to explore and use their ever-curious imagination!
An excellent place for your child to learn about the world around them. A bonus is the air conditioning, which is very welcome on a hot day.
14. Adventure Landing
Adventure Landing markets itself as a multi-sport fun spot and a fun place that it is indeed. Children will enjoy it here! Shipwreck Island Play Village is the central attraction for kids of all ages.
Add to that the four main waterslides, the huge pirate park, the water cannons, the miniature golf courses, the adventure circuit, a go-kart track, a laser tag, 100+ interactive arcade games, hardball, softball, slow or fastpitch cages perfect for individual and team practice, plus delicious pizza and ice cream to enjoy, Adventure Landing are sure to guarantee hours of fun for the whole family!
15. Tree Hill Nature Center
A lovely day out for the family would be visiting the Tree Hill Nature Center. The Center is a fascinating nature preserve built and organized for those interested in seeing the natural world of Jacksonville.
The Land was given to protect and preserve an urban desert and is home to plants and animals from nearby developments. The city park opened in 1971 and is very popular with locals and visitors alike.
It is a beautiful place, particularly for urban children, with farmyard animals to feed and pet, turtles, alligators, possums, owls, tortoises to see, and maybe even a fox or two!
Frequently Asked Questions: Best Things to Do in Jacksonville, FL
Is Jacksonville Florida worth visiting?
Ranked as one of the nation’s most value-friendly travel destinations, Jacksonville is home to 22 miles of relaxing beaches, unforgettable eco-adventures, world-class public art, deep rooted history, exciting attractions and the best dining scene in the region.
Are Jacksonville beaches nice?
When it comes to beautiful beaches, Jacksonville, Florida doesn’t disappoint. Jacksonville’s 22 miles of white sand beaches offer a great escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. And what’s really great about Jacksonville’s beaches is that they’re family friendly.
How far is Jacksonville FL from the beach?
Jacksonville is home to 22 miles of beautiful white sand beaches. Find out everything you need to know about hitting the beach during your trip to Jacksonville.
Why is it raining so much in Jacksonville?
The heat over summer has been tempered by more rainfall. This is due to warmer air’s ability to hold more moisture; which explains why it has rained more often. Rainfall has increased by about an inch per year with the greatest increase during the summer and autumn months. Latest seasonal averages for Jacksonville.
How long is the Jacksonville Riverwalk?
The 2-mile Northbank Riverwalk is one of the most popular and well-used attractions in Downtown Jacksonville. Developed incrementally between 1987 and 2008 for a total estimated investment of $8.5 million, the riverwalk stretches two miles from I-95 in Riverside to Berkman Plaza near the Sports District.
Is Jacksonville underrated?
Jax is the most misunderstood city in America. In the long list of unfairly maligned American cities, Jacksonville might be at the top. Critics of other oft-mocked places like Buffalo, Cleveland, and Detroit will still point out those cities’ unmistakable character and unwavering civic pride.
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