Jacksonville, also known as the “River City by the Sea,” is home to a large number of young professionals and families. Visitors will find it to be a welcoming and safe city, and it is conveniently located near a variety of entertainment venues, culinary destinations, and outdoor recreation areas.
You can soak up the big energy downtown, explore the riverfront via water taxi, or choose from one of the city’s 22 miles of white sand beaches if it’s your first time in the city. There are a plethora of options.
Whatever it is that you enjoy doing while on vacation, Jacksonville will have something that is suitable for your needs. We’ve compiled a comprehensive list of everything you’ll need to know before visiting the bustling city of Jacksonville in this Jacksonville Travel Guide: how to get around, where (and what!) to eat, day trip suggestions, and the best things to do in Jacksonville FL!
- 1. Amelia Island
- 2. MOSH! The Museum of Science and History
- 3. The Jax Ale Trail
- 4. Atlantic Beach
- 5. Little Talbot Island State Park
- 6. Beaches Town Center
- 7. Friendship Fountain
- 8. Animal Adventures in Jacksonville, Fl
- 9. Alhambra Theatre and Dining
- 10. Jacksonville Riverwalk
- 11. Burnt Glassworks
- 12. The Greenhouse Playhouse
- 13. Big Talbot Island State Park
- 14. Jacksonville Beach
1. Amelia Island
Amelia Island, 30 miles northeast of Jacksonville, attracts families with its 13 miles of beaches, historic attractions, and laid-back atmosphere. Amelia Island was a safe haven for Black Jacksonville residents in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. Abraham Lincoln Lewis, Florida’s first Black millionaire, bought 200 acres of beachfront on Amelia Island and named it American Beach. No racial discrimination or violence threatened Black vacationers here. The beach was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. Consider visiting the American Beach Museum to learn more about beach culture, stories, and heritage.
On the island, you can learn about pirate history at the Amelia Island Museum of History, go on a waterway cruise to see alligators and wild horses, hike through Fort George Island Cultural State Park, or just relax on the beach. For a more intimate beach experience, head north to Fernandina Beach, a small community that stretches along the barrier island’s northernmost tip.
They are a long way from downtown Jacksonville, and traffic is a nightmare. If you want to make the most of your visit to these beach towns, consider staying on Amelia Island, which has some of the area’s most luxurious hotels, including The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island. You’ll also find large group vacation rentals and condos. If you’re visiting during the summer, make your reservations early.
2. MOSH! The Museum of Science and History
Museum of Science and History exhibits include both long-term and short-term displays focusing on science and local history. The museum is one of the city’s most popular destinations because of its prime location along the Southbank Riverwalk. There are a variety of exhibits at the museum, including ‘Brain Teasers’, which focuses on brain-boosting skills, and ‘Dinosaurs Unearthed,’ which features life-sized dinosaurs and skeletons from all over the world, as well as traveling exhibits. At the Bryan-Gooding Planetarium, one of the largest digital dome planetariums in the United States, visitors can see a wide range of celestial objects. The Alexander Brest Space Science Theater hosts a variety of performances, including live star shows, cosmic concerts, and theatrical productions. MOSH! One of the best things to do in Jacksonville, FL, with kids is the Museum of Science and History.
3. The Jax Ale Trail
Self-guided tours of the city’s craft breweries are available as part of the Jax Ale Trail, a unique experience for beer enthusiasts. Aardwolf Brewing Co., Bold City Brewery, Engine 15 Brewing Co., and others are among the breweries visited by the Brew Bus Jacksonville and Play Harder Tours. On the way, guests can sample local craft beers and delectable local cuisine at establishments such as Seven Bridges, which is also home to a brewery where they brew their own beer. For a chance to win cool prizes and giveaways, guests will receive a Jax Ale Trail Brewery Passport upon arrival.
4. Atlantic Beach
It was founded by Henry Flagler, who also built the Mayport stop on the railroad that connected Jacksonville Beach and Atlantic Beach, which is now known as Flagler Beach. In 1900, he completed the construction of the Flagler Continental Hotel, which has 250 guest rooms. It was one of the first hotels in the world to have a paved path leading to it as well as lights. The fishing pier on the beach, however, is what really sets it apart from the rest.
Today, Atlantic Beach is renowned for its miles and miles of unspoiled beaches with a laid-back atmosphere! At the time of its founding, Atlantic Beach was considered to be the first Native American settlement in North America. Surfers and beachgoers, shell collectors, and families all enjoy the beach’s amenities.. It is without a doubt one of the most enjoyable things to do in Jacksonville!
We guarantee that you will enjoy the coastal environment and will take pleasure in activities such as the boardwalk design competition, small town elements, friendly people, and other activities. So whether you choose to stay here, eat here, shop here, or simply relax on the sand or in the water, you will enjoy this beach to the fullest! It should be on your list of things to do in Jacksonville right now.
5. Little Talbot Island State Park
Visiting Little Talbot Island State Park in northeast Florida is a great way to take advantage of the warm weather and the Atlantic Ocean. About 25 miles northeast of downtown Jacksonville, Little Talbot Island has more than 5 miles of sandy shoreline that isn’t overrun by tourists. However, don’t just come to relax on the beach.
Little Talbot Island, a barrier island on the northeastern coast of the state, is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including salt marshes and sand dunes. Native species like river otters, marsh rabbits, and bobcats can be spotted by wildlife watchers.
Little Talbot Island is a great place to go hiking and biking, as well as relax on the beach, according to recent visitors. Others were wowed by the facilities, which included a variety of restrooms, changing rooms, outdoor showers, and grills powered by charcoal.
6. Beaches Town Center
It is located at the intersection of Atlantic and Neptune Beaches, where you can find some of Jacksonville’s best shopping and dining options. Just steps away from the ocean, you’ll find one-of-a-kind shops, beachy stores, art galleries, and delectable dining options.
7. Friendship Fountain
St. Johns River Park (also known as Friendship Park) is home to the Friendship Fountain, which can be found on the south bank of the river just west of Main Street. A Rotary Club member suggested the name “Fountain of Friendship” because it was the world’s largest and tallest fountain at the time of its debut in 1965. The fountain spewed 17,000 gallons of water per minute up to a 120-foot height. It quickly became a popular tourist attraction and recreational area thanks to its nighttime illumination. The fountain is currently being renovated. The skyline of Jacksonville can be seen clearly from here, making it an ideal location for taking pictures.
8. Animal Adventures in Jacksonville, Fl
8.1 Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary
You can take a tour of the Catty Shack to learn more about the big cat residents of the sanctuary (Siberian tigers among them) and the threats they face in the wild. A viewing of the animals is included in every tour, as well as a detailed explanation of their behavior. There are two options for visitors: a daytime feeding tour that begins at 1 pm or a nighttime feeding tour that begins at 6 pm. Children under the age of 2 are completely free of charge.
8.2 Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
Featuring over 2.400 rare and exotic animals and 1,000 different plant species, the Zoo is a true family adventure that offers something for everyone. Whether you are a visitor to Florida’s First Coast or a lifelong resident, we invite you to interact with people, wildlife, and the environment at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. We hope you enjoy your visit!
The Jacksonville Zoo, located on a beautiful riverfront landscape, has been supporting wildlife conservation efforts since 1914. It’s a treat for both adults and children to spend time feeding giraffes at the African Overlook and floating around with the otters in the Wild Florida exhibit. The zoo also has an Australian Adventure exhibit, which features brightly colored birds known as lorikeets. Hundreds of tigers swoop down from the Land of the Tiger exhibit, and Jaguars steal the show at the award-winning Jaguar Experiment. During your visit, take a stroll along the zoo’s picturesque Trout River dock. You might even get a glimpse of a manatee!
8.3 Augustine Alligator Farm and Zoological Park
Visitors to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park can enjoy a thrilling zip-line ride over the entire park, educational shows and exhibits, and an appreciation for the crocodilian species. All 24 recognized species of crocodiles are on display at this facility, which is the only one in the world to do so.
8.4 Marineland Dolphin Conservation Center
Originally known as Marine Studios, Marineland Dolphin Adventure was the world’s first oceanarium when it opened in 1938. At present, visitors have the option of simply watching the 14 resident dolphins in their natural habitats or even swimming with them. Children as young as 7 can participate in educational programs and summer camps at the facility.
8.5 Catty Shack Ranch
As part of its conservation mission, this ranch focuses on tigers and other big cats, which it frequently rescues from inhumane captivity. Guided tours of the ranch are given by volunteers, who tell visitors about the cats’ histories and provide detailed explanations of their operations. For a night feeding, you must purchase tickets in advance of the event. It’s an unforgettable experience to watch the cats pacing around their cages, tearing into whole carcasses.
9. Alhambra Theatre and Dining
In case you’re looking for a pleasant evening out, consider going to the Alhambra Theatre! Jacksonville has never seen anything like this before. The Alhambra Theater is the nation’s oldest and longest-running professional dinner theater, having opened its doors in 1899. A family-friendly venue where you can enjoy an unforgettable live show is available.
You can also enjoy a three-course meal at this establishment! The theatre is a top-notch venue for entertainment, whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or going on a fun date night. The three-course meals are always delicious, and the shows are constantly changing, which keeps things interesting.
Take, for example, the opportunity to see Guys and Dolls one week and The Play that Goes Wrong the next! Just make sure to contact the box office ahead of time and make arrangements– this isn’t the type of thing you can just walk into in Jacksonville. You must make the necessary preparations! So make a reservation for a performance. The dinner is merely an added bonus. This is without a doubt one of the most enjoyable things to do in Jacksonville!
10. Jacksonville Riverwalk
The St. John’s River flows through downtown Jacksonville, where the Jacksonville Riverwalk is located. This riverwalk in Jacksonville, Florida, is a popular stop for tourists looking for fun things to do.
The 1.25-mile trail along the south bank of the river passes the MOSH museum, military monuments, and a fountain named Friendship. The Jacksonville Landing and Performing Arts Center are connected by a 2.5-mile stretch of the north bank. So whether you choose to walk along the south bank or the north bank, you’ll be able to make a number of interesting stops!
The Jacksonville Riverwalk is one of the best things to do in Jacksonville, and it’s not just because it’s one of the free things to do in Jacksonville. You can spend an afternoon strolling along the river while enjoying a meal at Charthouse, one of the many restaurants and hotels along the way. For more food-related advice, click here.
11. Burnt Glassworks
Burnt Glassworks is the place to go if you want to get your hands dirty. We understand that going to a new location can be exciting, but we also enjoy doing things there! As a result, we recommend that you check out Burnt Glassworks. It’s a fun and interesting experience. It’s one of Jacksonville’s best-kept secrets!
It’s possible to make your very own glass paperweight or even a stemless glass bowl here! Color and shape glass in this location. While at this location, you’ll be able to use both traditional and personal means of self-healing.
What’s even better than that? You don’t need any prior knowledge! You don’t need any special training to do this. You’re good to go as long as you’re enthusiastic about handcrafted, one-of-a-kind items. The sooner you get in touch, the better. Because it’s so hands-on, we can confidently say it’s one of the best things to do in Jacksonville.
12. The Greenhouse Playhouse
Even if you’ve got kids, there are plenty of things to do in Jacksonville. As a result, the Greenhouse Playhouse is ideal for kids! This imaginative children’s play area, called The Greenhouse, can be found in Jacksonville.
Parents can leave their babies and young children here while they go out and have fun. Drop-off play is available in two-hour blocks. As a result, you can go out and do whatever it is that makes you happy! Little kid-friendly comforts can be found at the interactive stations.
Both you and your children enjoy a good time. There’s no need to worry if you just want to watch them run around here or let them run around here. It’s well worth the time and effort! We’ll keep our word. Jacksonville families should not miss this opportunity, especially those traveling with young children.
13. Big Talbot Island State Park
Big Talbot Island State Park is located on a unique sea island off the coast of Jacksonville, along the A1A highway. This diverse nature reserve contains a variety of habitats, including big pine, marsh, and maritime forest, among others. These are some habitats that you won’t find in many other places, so taking the time to see them while looking for the best places to visit in Jacksonville is an added bonus!
The Boneyard Beach trail allows visitors to get up close and personal with the buffs. It is also popular for visitors to see the “skeletons” of live oaks and cedar trees that used to grow on the shore. It is possible for visitors to climb up the bones of these now salt-washed trees. It makes for epic adventures and photographic opportunities! With children, this is one of the most enjoyable things to do in Jacksonville!
The Blackrock Trail is a popular attraction at this state park, which attracts a large number of visitors. Several of the world’s oldest rock formations can be found along this trail, which winds through them. Tides pools can also be found in this area, which are great for exploration! What do you mean, mini-ecosystems? What a fantastic idea!
This state park is a must-see for anyone looking for fun things to do in Jacksonville, and it is free to enter. An incredible backdrop against the blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean is provided by the old trees scattered along the beach.
14. Jacksonville Beach
Jacksonville is a city in Florida that is located on the Atlantic Ocean. It is referred to as Florida’s “First Coast” because of its location on the Gulf of Mexico. As a result, there are certain to be some spectacular beaches in this area. It is one of the most visited destinations in the United States, thanks to its more than 1,100 miles of coastline (more than any other city in the country) and 22 miles of beaches. This is why we recommend visiting the beaches in Jacksonville: they are some of the most enjoyable things to do in the city!
Jacksonville Beach was originally known as Pablo Beach, but it was renamed to the more familiar name we know today in 1925. This beach is home to a well-known fishing pier, dolphins swimming in the ocean, and a popular surfing location. Jacksonville Beach offers a variety of activities for people of all ages. It is a fantastic source of entertainment in Jacksonville!
It is also possible to bring your pet to this beach! It is the ideal location for sunbathing, beach volleyball, surfing, and sandcastle building. When you come to visit, there are restrooms and restaurants located along the boardwalk, so you can spend hours here and never get bored!
The Adventure Landing amusement park is located on Jacksonville Beach. A water park with a shipwreck theme can be found here. It is one of the largest water parks in the state of Florida’s Northeast region. In other words, it is one of the best things to do in Jacksonville with children! In addition, the Beaches Museum and History Park are within walking distance. Making a stop here is both educational and entertaining, and it only adds to the fact that there is so much to do at this beach. So make sure to include Jacksonville Beach on your list of the best things to do in Jacksonville!