Best things to do in Jacksonville, Florida

Best things to do in Jacksonville


Known as the River City, Jacksonville is a popular destination hub in Northeastern Florida. Jacksonville is located in the region of Florida commonly known as the First Coast primarily because of neighboring Saint Augustine, Florida. This region is chock full of history and fun family activities. Jacksonville, itself, is known as the River City because of the multiple rivers that run through the area. With 950,000 people over an area of 875 square miles, it is the largest city in Florida by landmass and population. In fact, Jacksonville is four times the size of Manhattan! It is also home to the largest urban park system in the country and boasts two national parks, seven state parks, a National Preserve, 400 city parks and gardens, and an arboretum! There are some great sights to see in this city, so If you want to experience Jacksonville, here are the best things to do!

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Jacksonville Zoo and Botanical Gardens

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is a zoo, but it’s also an enormous botanical garden. Jacksonville Zoo is 122 acres and has over 2,000 animals. It has grown to be one of the top attractions in the entire city of Jacksonville with more than one million visitors annually! Along with award-winning animal exhibits and beautiful botanical gardens, the zoo also offers a number of other amenities including a train, a 4d theater, a carousel, a splash pad, play areas, and a petting zoo. The total experience tickets available on their website allow for you to experience everything the zoo has to offer.

JAX Beaches

What would a vacation in Jacksonville be like without a trip to the JAX Beaches? Jacksonville Beaches are considered to be very family friendly. This beautiful shoreline stretches for miles and miles with a little something for everyone whether you prefer quiet pristine beaches or beaches with lots of resorts and plenty things to do, there is a Jacksonville beach to meet your needs.

We weren’t really sure what to expect for Jacksonville Beaches. For some reason, due to some of the city’s other qualities, we had discounted the beaches in our minds and set the bar pretty low, but we were actually quite impressed with the beauty of the beaches. Sand quality goes a long way in our books, and we were impressed by the beautiful, soft, white sand on these beaches. We would definitely make JAX Beaches a priority on our next Jacksonville trip.

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The River Walk

The River Walk is located in Downtown Jacksonville, it is described as 1.2 miles of restaurants, shops, and museums, but actually, it’s a little bit sparse. Its best attribute is the unique views of the Saint Johns River and the nearby bridges, but overall, our observation of Downtown Jacksonville is that it is a little bit sketchy.

MOSH (Museum Of Science & History)

The Jacksonville Museum of Science and History was a fun experience for our family. There are numerous interactive exhibits. Health in motion used responsive screen technology to teach children about the various systems of the body. The Atlantic Tails exhibit teaches museum patrons about creatures which can be found along the First Coast. JEA PowerPlay teaches about the generation of electricity and includes a display where you can turn a crank to generate enough power for household electrical devices. There’s also a plant courtyard and an indoor animal exhibit with real live animals, including owls, snakes, lizards, fish, and more. In addition, there are a few natural history exhibits which contain education about dinosaurs and even some dinosaur fossils and skeletons.

The most impressive and extensive exhibit in our opinion is the exhibit dedicated to the history and development of Jacksonville. This exhibit tells about key aspects of Jacksonville history and contains some pretty impressive displays depicting life in Jacksonville through the centuries and recent decades.

Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens

Another beautiful nature spot is the Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens. This area will you a serene and peaceful place to go for a walk, run, or cycle. The arboretum has three miles of walking/running trails that wind through the gardens, palm forest, and wetlands areas. You can also bring your own picnic lunch with you (there are picnic tables available) or buy one from their cafe.The arboretum is home to hundreds of different types of trees and plants from all over the world; you could spend the whole day exploring them all.

The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens

The Cummer Museum of art is located in downtown Jacksonville. It is Northeast Florida’s largest fine arts museum. In 1958, Ninah Cummer bequeathed her art collection and riverfront home to create an art museum, and now that museum has grown from 60 pieces to more than 5,000 pieces of art.

When we visited, we happened upon the Summer at Cummer event, which, at the time, permitted us free entry. We enjoyed browsing the numerous, beautiful art galleries, and the gardens down by the riverfront. There was live music, and food available for purchase. Our children enjoyed running along the riverfront pathways and chasing one another across the greens.

The highlight of our experience was the children’s exhibit which contained a reading corner, interactive displays, and a small child-sized art gallery.

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Jacksonville’s “Hands On” Children’s Museum

This was probably our favorite thing to do as a family while we were in Jacksonville. Admittedly, the building is a little creepy from the outside, and many of the exhibits are quite dated. There is, for example, an old McDonald’s ball pit. Remember those?

Our children didn’t mind the age of the materials at all. We had tons of fun playing dress up, and putting on dramatic presentations in a small theater setting with actual theater chairs and a red carpet. We put on puppet shows for one another. Our children got to serve tables in the diner, shop in the grocery store, put on television and radio shows (even though they didn’t know what a radio is). There was an emergency vehicle exhibit where children could dress up like police officers, fire fighters, doctors, and EMTs and save one another’s lives, which is always a favorite.

There were so many fun things to do here. It would be impossible to be bored. We recall the price being fairly reasonable, and by the time we left, this place was jam packed with children and families having fun together!

The Avenues, Jacksonville, FL

The Avenues

While passing through Jacksonville on one occasion, it happened to be raining outside, so that limited what we were able to do in the city. In those situations, we typically opt for a shopping mall in hopes that there will be a play area. During our visit to The Avenues, we stopped by the food court for dinner, and found that there was a fairly decent selection of your typical mall food court staples. our children enjoyed an arcade which was situated near by the food court. There was a play area on the first level with a toy store near by. The vast majority of the stores were locally owned rather than only the typical selection of mall staples.

Saint John’s Town Center

For a more up-to-date shopping experience, you’ll probably want to head over to the Saint John’s Town Center. This is a more modern complex with recognizable name brands and a few upscale boutiques. It is your typical shopping, dining, and entertainment complex. There is a play area, and lots of interesting outdoor seating spaces for relaxing and socializing.

MOCA Jacksonville

MOCA Jacksonville is a contemporary art museum located in the heart of Jacksonville’s downtown district. The museum features more than 30 exhibitions annually, ranging from traveling exhibitions to site-specific projects inspired by the city and its people. MOCA has been committed to educating visitors about contemporary art since it was founded in 1971. The Museum’s educational programming includes lectures, classes, workshops and tours for children and adults alike who want to learn more about modern visual culture.

The Ritz Theatre and Museum

The Ritz Theatre and Museum is a historic movie palace located in the heart of downtown Jacksonville. It’s a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the history of Jacksonville and the theater itself, which opened its doors in 1927. The Ritz hosts concerts, plays, films and other events throughout the year.

Castaway Island Preserve

Castaway Island Preserve is a beautiful place to go for a walk and enjoy the nature around you. It features a modern, boardwalk that winds through the Florida marsh. Bring your camera, because you will more than likely spot some wildlife here. If you’re very observant, you may even see some alligators!


If you’re looking for a great city to visit, or just want to explore some new places in your own backyard, Jacksonville has something for everyone. From the beaches, boating and fishing, there is truly something for everyone here in Jacksonville!

For great deals on even more great things to see and do all around Jacksonville and the surrounding areas, CLICK HERE!

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