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15 Best Things To Do In Jacksonville

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Things To Do In Jacksonville

There’s so much to see and do in the “River City by the Sea.”Jacksonville is home to the largest urban park system in the country, more than 20 miles of beaches and a long stretch of the St. Johns River, so there’s lots to enjoy outdoors.

But there’s also lots of history and culture to be discovered as well. With so many options, it may be tough to decide what to do. To help you decide, here’s our list of the 15 best things to do in Jacksonville.

1. Beaches

Things to do in Jacksonville
Jacksonville Beach |Photo Credit – Paul Hamilton

Spending some time at the beach is one of the best things to do in Jacksonville. The city boasts more than 20 miles of public beaches so there are plenty of options to choose from. There are three main beaches in the area: Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach and Atlantic Beach.

Jacksonville Beach offers the most amenities and facilities. Enjoy miles of white sandy beach and great surf. Don’t miss the popular Jacksonville Pier, which stretches nearly a quarter mile into the Atlantic Ocean.

Atlantic Beach and Neptune Beach both offer a more laid-back vibe and are great places to just relax. Neptune Beach also offers excellent surfing. Join a guided e-bikes beach tour to easily explore several area beaches.

Find out more about the beach and what to do in Charlotte NC

2. Riverwalks

Things to do in Jacksonville
Jacksonville Riverwalks | Photo Credit – Rob Bixby

Strolling along the Jacksonville Riverwalks is a great way to explore Jacksonville. Stretching for more than 3 miles along the north and south banks, this popular network of pedestrian walkways connect parks, hotels, buildings and other attractions.

The Northbank stretches for 2 miles from the CSX Building to the Fuller Warren Bridge, while the Southbank stretches for 1.25 miles from Friendship Park to the Lexington Hotel. Walk along either side and enjoy stellar river and city views. Stop for a bite or a drink at a waterfront restaurant. Launch a kayak. Or hop on a river taxi and cruise the St. Johns River.

On Saturdays, be sure to stop at the popular Riverside Arts Market.

3. Friendship Fountain

Things to do in Jacksonville
Friendship Fountain | Photo Credit – jaxbot

Located at the western end of the Southbank Riverwalk, the Friendship Fountain is one of the most recognizable landmarks of Jacksonville. It was the largest and tallest fountain when it was unveiled in 1965. Fully renovated in 2011, it still delights visitors today. It can spray up to 17,000 gallons of water a minute up to a height of 120 feet.

The spectacle is even better at night, when it’s lit up by hundreds of computer-controlled colored lights. Enjoy the view from convenient seating nearby, including covered seating that protects from the sun and rain.

Afterwards, explore the nearby Museum of Science and History or Jacksonville Maritime Museum, or take a river taxi across to the north bank of the St. Johns River.

4. Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve

Things to do in Jacksonville
Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, Jacksonville | Photo Credit – Ken Lund

Spanning 46,000 acres, the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve offers a wealth of historic sites, cultural attractions, natural beauty and opportunities for outdoor recreation. It’s easily one of the best things to do in Jacksonville.

Explore a range of different natural habitats, such as wetlands, waterways and marshes. Enjoy activities such as hiking, biking, wildlife viewing, boating, kayaking and fishing. Look for remnants of the lost Timucuan culture. See a replica French settlement at the Fort Caroline National Memorial.

Explore the oldest standing plantation in Florida at the Kingsley Plantation. Other highlights include the Theodore Roosevelt Area and the Talbot Islands State Parks.

5. St. Johns River Taxi

Things to do in Jacksonville
St. Johns River Taxi, Jacksonville | Photo Credit – Michel Curi

The St. Johns River is a defining feature of Jacksonville. And what better way to experience it than on the river itself? The St. Johns River Taxi is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to enjoy the river. It’s only $10 for an all day pass. And regular tax service includes several stops on the Northbank and Southbank, including Friendship Fountain and Metropolitan Park Marina.

Enjoy the stunning city views as you cruise along the river. Get a unique view of the bridges that span the river.

And keep your eyes open for dolphins and manatees. They also offer special cruises, such as sunset cruises, eco tours and history tours.

6. MOSH (Museum of Science and History)

Things to do in Jacksonville
Museum of Science and History (MOSH), Jacksonville | Photo Credit – Michel Curi

Enjoy a day of learning and fun at the Museum of Science and History (MOSH). Located along the Southbank Riverwalk, this interactive museum features a variety of permanent and special exhibits on local history and different scientific topics.

Learn about how the human body works. Get up close and personal with local wildlife. Walk through 10,000 years of Northeast Florida history. Explore the latest in cutting edge technology.

One of the highlights is the planetarium, one of the largest single-lens dome planetariums in the country. There’s a special interactive play area for the youngest kids. The museum also offers special adults-only events, such as beer making classes.

7. Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

Things to do in Jacksonville
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Jacksonville | Photo Credit – Rob Bixby

The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is one of the best things to do in Jacksonville for families with kids and animal lovers. It’s one of the top rated zoos in the country. Home to more than 2,000 animals and 1,000 plant species, the zoo offers excellent exhibits and experiences for visitors.

Don’t miss the award-winning Range of Jaguar Exhibit. Walk through the Land of the Tiger exhibit with tigers on a unique elevated trail above you. Get up close to animals such as elephants, giraffes and manatees, and even feed stingrays in Stingray Bay.

There’s also an old-time train, carousel, scenic river cruise, a 4-D theater, play park and splash ground.

8. Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens

Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, Jacksonville | Photo Credit – twi$tbarbie

The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens is one of the best things to do in Jacksonville for art lovers. It’s housed in a series of buildings that overlook the St. Johns River.

The notable museum has a collection of more than 5,000 works of art. One of the top art collections in the Southeast, there’s a lot of European and American paintings, as well as an excellent collection of Early Meissen Porcelain.

There’s also an interactive children’s gallery. Another highlight is the 2.5 acres of gardens outside, which include an English Garden and an Italian Garden. Guided tours of the museum and garden are available.

9. Riverside Arts Market

Riverside Arts Market, Jacksonville | Photo Credit – Leigh Caldwell

Held every Saturday at the Northbank Riverwalk, the Riverside Arts Market is one of the top attractions in Jacksonville. This iconic outdoor market is a popular community event, and features plenty of vendors and live entertainment.

Find more than 100 artists and artisans offering handmade crafts, artworks and other items. In addition, there are also farmers, bakers and producers selling fresh produce, cheeses, breads and more, along with a range of food trucks.

Multiple stages offer live entertainment. Options include live music from local bands, jugglers, dancers, yoga and more. The market is held under the Fuller Warren Bridge, so there’s protection against the sun and rain.

10. Amelia Island

Amelia Island | Photo Credit – TimothyJ

Escape the big city with a trip to Amelia Island. The charming barrier island is only 30 miles away from Jacksonville and can be reached by road or by boat. Relax at Fernandina Beach. Or go hiking, biking or horseback riding in Amelia Island State Park. There are also plenty of water activities to enjoy. Try a guided kayak tour.

Afterwards, tour the historic downtown on the Amelia Island Trolley or explore Fort Clinch State Park. Browse the many cute boutiques and galleries where you can pick up some art or souvenirs.

Before leaving the island, enjoy a meal of fresh seafood and grab a drink at the Palace Saloon, the oldest still operating saloon in Florida.

11. Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary

Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary, Jacksonville | Phooti Credit – Clint P. George

Get up close and personal with big cats at the Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary. A non-profit organization, they rescue big cats and provide a safe place for them to live out their lives.

Residents include more than 40 lions, tigers, leopards, pumas, cougars, bobcats and lynxes. Learn about the animals’ habitat, their different personalities and how they ended up at the sanctuary on a guided tour.

Guided tours are available on certain days and nights. Nighttime tours are recommended as most of the animals are nocturnal and you will get a chance to see them feed during nighttime tours. It’s an experience you won’t soon forget!

12. Riverside and Avondale

Riverside and Avondale | Photo Credit – The Boys from Cherry Street

Historic, charming and eclectic, the neighborhoods of Riverside and Avondale is a must-visit. It’s been voted one of the top 10 neighborhoods in the United States.

Enjoy a rich arts, culture, dining, shopping and entertainment scene here. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, there are more than 5,000 historic buildings in the area.

Visit the hip and bohemian Five Points area for unique shops, funky cafes, craft breweries and nightclubs. The Riverside Arts Market is a must on Saturdays. The Shoppes of Avondale are a great option as well. The Cummer Museum and Gardens are also here. You can stroll around and explore the lovely tree-lined streets on your own, or opt for a guided tour.

13. Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park

Located between Atlantic Beach and Mayport Village, Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park is a great place to enjoy the outdoors. The pretty oceanfront city park offers 1.5 miles of white sandy beach and dunes. Poles, at the top end of the beach, is considered the best surfing spot along the First Coast.

There are also more than 20 miles of hiking and biking trails of varying levels of difficulty. You can walk and ride over boardwalks, sand and dirt.

In addition, there’s a 60 acre lake that’s ideal for fishing, kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding. There are also campsites, picnic areas and a water park in the summer.

14. Florida Theatre

Florida Theatre |Photo Credit – Michel Curi

The Florida Theatre was built in 1927, and it’s a real treat to watch a show here. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it’s one of only four remaining high-style Movie Palaces in Florida. The theater features a lavish interior, with decorative columns, terrazzo and tile floors, amber glass chandeliers and terracotta exteriors.

Today, it hosts more than 200 events annually. Events include classical music, operas and ballets, theater performances and live music concerts.

Over the summer, the theater still shows movies, usually on Sunday afternoons. The theater features a full bar and also serves light snacks.

15. St. Johns Town Center

Shop until you drop at St. Johns Town Center. Conveniently located halfway between downtown and the beaches, it’s one of the premier shopping destinations in Jacksonville. An open-air shopping mall with 1.2 million square feet of retail space, there are more than 175 retailers and  20 restaurants here.

Find everything here from popular names such as Target, Gap and Apple to luxury brands such as Tiffany & Co., Michael Kors and Louis Vuitton.

Refuel at popular restaurants such as The Cheesecake Factory and California Pizza Kitchen. Or enjoying pampering beauty and spa treatments. There’s also a play area for young kids.

Looking for ideas on what to do outside of Jacksonville? Check out our guide to the best day trips from Jacksonville.

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