As a tourist lover’s state, Florida is known for many attractions including the amazing and entertaining Disneyland in Orlando, the pristine white beaches of Miami, and the rustic sights in Key West. There are so many places to visit, people tend to forget that Florida is quite a large state and there are other cities to explore too. As such, we’re going to highlight those places and we’re beginning with The Bold New City of the South, Jacksonville.
Jacksonville is the most populous city in Florida and in the southeastern region of the U.S. It is located at and it serves as the county seat of Duval County. It’s a sprawling urban jungle filled with historical and entertaining attractions. Other than that, the city’s people are both welcoming and kind to those that want to experience this city in its entirety.
Aside from its numerous memorable places, the city of Jacksonville is also rich in the arts and culture. There are countless sporting events being held in the city and of course, there are many activities to experience in it as well. If you are planning on visiting this city, you may want to free up your schedule as there’s just too much to do. That being said, let’s cover some of the important traveling tips you may need to understand first.
- 1 How to Get to Jacksonville
- 2 Best Time to Visit Jacksonville
- 3 Family Activities in Jacksonville
- 3.1 Fort George Island Cultural State Park
- 3.2 Mellow Mushroom
- 3.3 Dog Wood Park
- 3.4 Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve
- 3.5 St. John Town Center
- 3.6 Clarks Fish Camp
- 3.7 Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary
- 3.8 Theatre Jacksonville
- 3.9 Little Talbot Island State Park
- 3.10 Yes You Canvas!
- 3.11 Now and Zen Sailing Charters
- 3.12 Salt Life Food Shack
- 3.13 The Jax Ale Trail
- 3.14 EcoMotion Tours
- 3.15 Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
How to Get to Jacksonville
Getting to Jacksonville is made easy thanks mostly to the Jacksonville International Airport. This international airport in Florida is located around 13 miles away from the downtown area of Jacksonville to get to the city from the airport is as easy as taking a taxi, an Uber, a bus, or a rented car.
The Jacksonville International Airport handles flights from Allegiant Air, American Airlines, American Eagle, Delta Airlines, Delta Connection, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, United Airlines, and United Express. Its list of carriers can get you to Jacksonville from various local and international destinations. It’s also worth noting that the airport handles over 6 million passengers daily so it is very busy all throughout the year.
If you are driving to Jacksonville, there are several highways that will get you directly within the city’s boundaries. What you are looking for is to get to Jacksonville which is at the crossroads of Interstate 10 and Interstate 95. Moreover, the city is easily accessible via several US highways such as US 1, 17, 90, and 301.
Last but definitely not the least, you could reach Jacksonville via Amtrak’s trains. The Jacksonville Amtrak Station is located 20 minutes north of downtown and there are daily trips that pass by this station as well. Be sure to check Amtrak’s schedule before booking your trip to avoid any mishaps later on.
1Getting Around Jacksonville
When it comes to getting around, there are several convenient options as well. First off, we suggest renting a car around one of the many rental companies conveniently located around the Jacksonville International Airport. There are also two DC Fast Chargers in Jacksonville which are at JEA Tower Downtown, and in the St. Johns Town Center.
Aside from car rentals, there are several ways to get to the city from the airport such as taxis and shuttle services. Of course, you can also take an Uber to get to the city and even around it but that’s going to cost you a lot of money.
One unique way to get around Jacksonville and nearby areas is via the Jacksonville River Taxi. This provides transportation to points between St. Johns River at the center of Downtown. River Taxis are the best way to enjoy the breathtaking views in Jacksonville so be sure to book one just as when the sun is about to set for truly spectacular views.
While you’re at St. Johns River, be sure to try out the St. Johns River Ferry which can also carry passengers and cars between Mayport and Ft. George Island. It’s another unique way to explore the entirety of Jacksonville and nearby areas in Florida.
Aside from these, there are also bus and trolley services available in Jacksonville. If you want to explore the city at your own leisure while enjoying the views, then we suggest renting a bike. Jacksonville is touted as a bike-friendly city so there are dedicated roads for bikers.
Best Time to Visit Jacksonville
One of the best times to visit the city would be from March to May. Daily temperatures in the city will range from the 80s to the 50s. Aside from that, there might be precipitation within the city as well. As such, we suggest checking out weather updates if possible if you are going to visit the city during these dates.
The bright side of visiting the city during this period is that you can greatly save up on your accommodations. In March, you can save up as much as 35% on rooms. However, if you are visiting mid-May, you may want to book your room in advance especially if you are going to Ponte Vedra Beach as the nearby golf championships will result in fully booked rooms.
If you want to enjoy Jacksonville’s beaches to their fullest, then you could visit the city during the summer or spring. If you visit during one of these seasons, try to be patient as there will be quite the crowd waiting for you. As such, we suggest opting to visit during spring as this will be the less crowded season and there will be cheaper rooms up for grabs as well.
Family Activities in Jacksonville
Jacksonville is the largest city in Florida. Hence, there’s no shortage of fun and attractions for everyone here, making it one of the top places to be if you’re looking for the best place to travel too. From the kid-friendly museums to even the quirkiest attractions for adults, this place surely has everything for people of all ages. Of course, it also has some attractions and activities that both kids and adults can surely enjoy. In case you’re wondering what awaits you in this beautiful city, here are some of the best attractions and things to do in Jacksonville FL for families that you need to see and try out.
2Fort George Island Cultural State Park
The Fort George Island Cultural State Park is probably one of the best attractions for families that we can suggest. This is because this isn’t just a place for some photo op with the whole fam but it also has some stories to tell being it was constructed in 1928. You can even study the tabby material that was used to build the structures found in this park. Exploring this place is really one of the best things to do in Jacksonville for families as its history and attractions are very interesting.
Whether you’re a foodie or you just need a place where you can fuel yourself up with good food, Mellow Mushroom is one of the many restaurants in Jacksonville that we can recommend, especially if you love pizza as this place specializes in Italian-style pizzas. Some of its best-selling dishes that you need to try as well are its calzones, garden-fresh salads, and hoagies that will surely not fail your palate. Adults will also love their cool and crisp craft beer that goes better with their pizza. It’s a restaurant that you shouldn’t pass on when traveling to Jacksonville.
4Dog Wood Park
Dogs are family too. Hence, one of the best things to do in Jacksonville FL for families is to take the whole family in the Dog Wood Park. Here, you have 42 acres of space where you and your family, including your furbabies, can exercise, bond, run free, etc. in a safe and controlled environment. The best part of this attraction is that it offers our furry friends, as well as their humans, an array to recreational and fitness amenities, including a swimming lake for dogs, jogging and walking trails, fields for Frisbee and ball-throwing, exercise obstacles for dogs, full agility course, as well as a dog shower. Everyone will surely enjoy this place including our furry friends.
5Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve
If you want to get closer to nature, there is Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve that you shouldn’t miss as well. Here, you have 45,000 acres of waterways, salt, marshes, coastal dunes, and wetlands to enjoy, including the Kingsley Plantation, which is known as the oldest standing plantation in Florida that you can explore on a guided tour. Bond with the whole family, take pictures, learn about the state’s slave period, and more, this place is definitely something to add to your travel itinerary, especially if you’re traveling to Jacksonville with your whole family as you’ll not just be able to take in some good natural views but you can also get to have a glimpse of the state’s past.
6St. John Town Center
Of course, a trip to a certain place will not be complete if you will not take home some local goods or some items to remember your trip by or to give to your loved ones back home. And where else to head to than St. Johns Town Center? This open-air shopping mall features some good exclusive brands and retailers. It boasts of more than 100 stores, including big brand names like Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co., and Anthropologie, to name a few. And in case you need to take a break from shopping, St. John Town Center also has some cafes and restaurants around such as The Capital Grille, Seasons 52, The Cheese Factory, and the M Shack to fuel you with good food and drinks.
7Clarks Fish Camp
Speaking of good food, if you want to eat some more, dining at Clarks Fish Camp is also one of the best things to do in Jacksonville for families that you should try. This place serves delicious fresh seafood dishes. Plus it houses a live alligator on an exhibit. What makes Clarks Fish Camp all the more worth the visit is that it also provides a nice view of the Julington Creek nearby as you savor every bite of their dishes. You will not just be fueled with good food but you can also get to fill your eyes with some of the nicest views in town that will make you have that perfect travel photo for your Instagram as well.
8Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary
Visiting the Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary is also one of the best things to do in Jacksonville FL for families. This is because kids will surely enjoy the view of some wild animals like rescued and endangered big cats, as well as foxed and coatimundis that have been named “honorary cats.” You can also get to feed them too. And the best part of it is that you, as well as the younger members of your family, can get to learn more and understand these big cats, as well as their habitats with the guided day tours that the sanctuary offers. With that, it’s really worthy of that spot on your Florida travel itinerary.
Known as one of the oldest running community theaters in the US, Theatre Jacksonville is also something that you shouldn’t miss when traveling to Jacksonville. But aside from the fact that it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991, this place is also a must-visit because of the outstanding performances that you and your family can get to see. But aside from the amazing shows, Theatre Jacksonville aims to broaden cultural understanding via programs and plays of noted artistic excellence like Hairspray and Boy Meets Girl. They also offer summer camps for children, workshops, and other educational programs that even adults can try out. That said, visiting it is one of the best things to do in Jacksonville for families.
10Little Talbot Island State Park
If you want to relax away from the busy city. Going to the Little Talbot Island State Park is one of the things to do in Jacksonville that we can recommend too. Here, you have miles of beaches, untouched salt marshes, dunes, and forests to enjoy with your family. What makes it even better is that it is one of the beaches in Florida that will relax you because it is secluded away from commercial spaces and the city. Kids will love seeing river otters, rabbits, and flocks of beautiful birds in the area. In case you want some activity, Little Talbot Island State Park offers hiking, surfing, fishing, kayaking, guided paddle tours, and beachcombing. The place also has picnic pavilions that are perfect for families visiting the area. And if you want to stay longer in the state park, Little Talbot Island State Park has a campground for you. You’ll definitely love this place as much as we do.
11Yes You Canvas!
If you love art and drinking, why not combine these two and head to Yes You Canvas!? Yes, you read it right, this place allows you to do both – you can paint or learn how to paint and discover your artsy side and drink wine at the same time. Cool, right? Now why is this included on this list of things to do in Jacksonville for families when drinking is involved, you say? Apparently, this place is actually kid-friendly too. They even have summer camps made for kids. Don’t worry about the equipment, though, as the tools will be provided by Yes You Canvas!, including the easel, smocks, paint, and brushes. Plus, you have a guide you will assist you to create the kind of painting that you want to achieve. All you have to do is bring your favorite bottle of wine and you can start painting right away. You can even spend birthdays and other special events here.
12Now and Zen Sailing Charters
Another one of the fun things to do in Jacksonville for families is to try out signing up for tours by Now and Zen Sailing Charters. Here, you will set sail on a 42-foot 5-star Catamaran that will tour you around Jacksonville and Amelia Island. And as you cruise, you can savor the delicious dishes that they will serve you on their dinner cruise as you enjoy the views of the city, marvel at the Catamaran’s stylish décor, rest in the private sleeping cabins, or relax in the deck. They also offer sunset and day cruises that are also perfect for when you want to go sunbathing during the cruise too. And the best part of it is that you can rent it for special occasions like birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, or even proposals. You can also customize the tour to suit your needs.
13Salt Life Food Shack
In case you want some more snack, don’t forget to drop by Salt Life Food Shack as well. This place is so relaxing with the atmosphere that it provides. Many people even go here with just their bathing suits on. Of course, aside from the laid-back atmosphere that Salt Life Food Shack, the restaurant also serves mouth-watering fresh seafood dishes like local fried shrimp and sushi. Their drink selection is something not to be missed as well. It I also a nice venue for private parties and events like birthdays. But what makes it different from other event venues in the city is that you can get to enjoy tailor-made menus.
14The Jax Ale Trail
Touring Jax Ale Trail provides might not be one of the ideal things to do in Jacksonville for families with kids. But for families of adults, this one is one of the best activities to try out. This is because you can get to tour the city’s craft breweries and get to sample some drinks as you learn more about each brewery’s history. The best part is that if you finish the trail and collected “passport stamps” from every brewery you visited, you can to score some cool prizes and giveaways. It’s a fun and unique experience that you must try.
If you want some more outdoor activity, why not sign up for EcoMotion Tours? It’s one of the recommended things to do in Jacksonville for families as you can get to tour the beautiful grounds of the Kingsley Plantation that’s surrounded lush majestic sand dunes and lush forests. Plus, you can get to see spectacular views of the ocean. In this tour, you can get to have a glimpse of the rich history of the region through the remnants of several plantation structures that you can find in the area. This tour also lets you see the largest concentration of slave cabins in the world plus see some incredible wildlife ranging from marsh rabbits, bobcats and lizards to turtles, manatees, and dolphins. The kids will surely love seeing them too.
16Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
If you’re looking for some more things to do in Jacksonville for families with kids, going to Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is what you need to try out too. Here, you have approximately 2,000 animals to see. But what makes this place all the more worth your visit is that it also houses 1,000 exotic plant species. The whole family will also enjoy the zoo’s award-winning exhibits like the Range of the jaguar, Giraffe Overlook, and the Savanna Blooms Garden. The place also the Land of the Tiger exhibit that features innovative walk-through trail systems for the Jackson Zoo and Gardens’ three Malayan Tigers and two Sumatran Tigers.