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Is Jacksonville Fun? Here's Everything You Need to Know

By: Swena Kalra

Edited By: Scott Sidders

Updated on November 6, 2023

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Jacksonville is a city full of surprises. While it may not be the first choice for a vacation destination, there are actually a lot of fun things to do in Jacksonville. For starters, the city has a thriving arts and culture scene.

There are several museums and art galleries to explore, as well as a number of theatres and performing arts venues. Jacksonville also has a number of great parks and outdoor spaces, perfect for a picnic or a day of hiking. And, of course, no visit to Jacksonville would be complete without spending some time on the beach. With so much to see and do, Jacksonville is a city that is definitely worth exploring.

Top 10 Attractions & Things To Do in Jacksonville

There is no shortage of things to do in Jacksonville, Florida. From its beautiful beaches to its many parks and museums, Jacksonville has something for everyone. Here are just a few of the top attractions and activities in Jacksonville:

1. Visit the Talbot Islands State Parks

Sawpit Creek at Big Talbot State Park, Jacksonville, Florida, USA.

The A1A highway takes visitors on a scenic route to the Little Talbot Island State Park and the Big Talbot Island State Park. These parks are located just a short drive from Jacksonville, Florida. Both parks offer a variety of activities for visitors to enjoy, including hiking, kayaking, and wildlife watching.

In addition, both parks have beaches where visitors can swim, sunbathe, and surf. Other amenities available at both parks include picnic shelters, playgrounds, bike, and canoe rentals, and boat launch sites. One of the highlights of Big Talbot Island State Park is Boneyard Beach. This beach is famous for its long-dead, bleached live oaks. Another popular spot in the park is Blackrock Beach, which gets its name from the black rocks along the shoreline.

2. Stroll through Jacksonville Riverwalk

Downtown Jacksonville Skyline at Sunrise as seen from the Southbank Riverwalk along St. Johns River in Florida, USA.

A three-and-a-half-mile-long set of pedestrian walkways called the St. Johns Riverwalk runs along the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Florida, connecting various hotels and attractions. The river is a popular spot for walking, jogging, biking, and running, and it is also safe to swim in. Street performers often play music here, and it is not uncommon to see dolphins swimming in the river. The best time to walk along the river is at dusk when the city lights up on either side of the water. There are also several good restaurants located along the Riverwalk.

3. Attend a Performance at the Florida Theatre

The Florida Theatre is a beautiful, old-world performance art theatre that opened in 1927. It has seen some of the world's most famous performers, ranging from rock to classical musicians and everything in between. Elvis Presley even had his first solo show here. The Ritz Theatre & Museum is another Jacksonville cultural landmark that focuses on African-American culture. It features music and dance performances, theatrical productions, films, and educational programs. The museum area displays artifacts and information relating to the lives of African-descended people in the area.

4. Explore the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens

Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens

A local philanthropist by the name of Ninah May Holden Cummer had the dream of creating a "center of beauty and culture" in Jacksonville, but she, unfortunately, passed away before she could see her dream come to fruition. In 1961, the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens opened in Jacksonville, thanks to Cummer's bequest to the city. The museum contains more than 5,000 pieces of art from a variety of time periods and cultures, including Early Meissen Porcelain from the Wark Collection.

The Cummer Museum also has four different gardens on its premises: an English garden, an Italian garden, and two other gardens that are each more than 100 years old. Guided tours of both the museum and gardens are available, and there is also a café located on the grounds.

5. Enjoy the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

Tiger sitting in the Jacksonville Zoo

With so many things to do, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is a great place for a family day out. As well as seeing all the different animals from around the world, you can also take part in activities such as behind-the-scenes tours, close encounters with the animals, and a walk-through of the Butterfly Garden and Land of the Tiger exhibit.

For the kids, there is a Play Park and Splash Ground to enjoy, and at Stingray Bay, they can pat the stingrays. There's also an old-fashioned carousel and the opportunity to sign up for the Zookeeper For A Day program. Getting around the zoo is easy on the Old-Time Zoo Train, which goes to all the exhibits, or you can take the River Quest Scenic River Cruise. Other highlights include a 4D theatre and the chance to feed the giraffes.

6. Visit Fort George Island Cultural State Park

Fort George Island Cultural State Park is a place of natural beauty and historical landmarks. It's a great place for recreation, with activities such as boating, fishing, kayaking, cycling, birding, and hiking. The island is also home to the Kingsley Plantation attraction and the Ribault Club. The Ribault Club was a popular spot for the rich and famous in the 1920s. Kayak Amelia offers guided tours of the island on a Segway.

7. Spend a day at Amelia Island

Amelia Island view of Fernandina Beach, Florida, USA.

It is Amelia Island's unique history that sets it apart from other places in the United States. This small island has been fought over by some of the most powerful empires and countries in the world. Its strategic location and natural resources have made it a valuable prize for centuries.

Today, Amelia Island is a popular tourist destination. Its main town, Fernandina Beach, is filled with shops, restaurants, and galleries. Visitors can take horse-and-buggy rides through town, go hiking or biking, visit the island's museums, or take part in ghost tours. History buffs will enjoy the Civil War reenactments at Fort Clinch. The Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival is held every May.

8. Check out the Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary

 Lioness walking around at the Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary in Jacksonville, Florida, USA.

With a mission to educate the public on the dangers of owning big cats as pets and on the threats to these animals from changing weather patterns, environmental pollution, diminishing habitats, and human hunters, this non-profit organization provides a safe haven for some of the world's most exotic cats.

Ownerless and brought to the sanctuary mostly by those who couldn't care for them, the lions, tigers, pumas, cougars, leopards, bobcats, foxes, and coatimundis that live here are given the best possible care by employees who work out of love for these animals. Guided tours of the sanctuary are available to visitors.

9. Explore the Atlantic Beach

Atlantic Beach near Jacksonville, Florida, USA.

Any visit to Jacksonville would be incomplete without spending some time at the beach. Atlantic Beach is one of the most popular beaches in the area. With its wide stretches of white sand and crystal-clear water, it's no wonder that this beach is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. There are plenty of activities to keep you busy at Atlantic Beach. You can go swimming, sunbathing, surfing, fishing, or kayaking. Or, you can simply relax on the sand and enjoy the stunning views.

10. Visit the Kingsley Plantation

Kingsley Cotton Slave Plantation

The Kingsley Plantation is a must-see for anyone interested in Southern history or architecture. This grand plantation house dates back to the pre-Civil War era and provides a fascinating glimpse into the lives of both the plantation owners and their slaves. Zephaniah Kingsley, who owned the plantation at one point, married one of his slaves, who later became a successful property owner herself. However, the family eventually left Florida due to discrimination. Today, the plantation house is the only remaining one of its kind in Florida and offers guided tours to visitors. You may even spot a ghost or two!

Top 4 Day Trip Ideas from Jacksonville

The following are five great day trip ideas from Jacksonville:

1. Amelia Island Guided Kayak Tour

Two bridges connecting Amelia Island and Big Talbot Island, Florida, USA.

The morning kayaking tour on Lofton Creek is the perfect way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. You will be able to see a wealth of wildlife, including otters, turtles, and even manatees. The tour is beginner-friendly and suitable for kids and adults. All of the necessary equipment and training will be provided so that you can relax and enjoy the beauty of nature. It is an accessible way to experience all that Florida has to offer. Don't miss out on this opportunity to connect with nature and wildlife.


2. Jacksonville Inshore Fishing Charter

Aerial view of Jacksonville Florida along the St. Johns River

The St. Johns River is one of the only rivers in the world that flows north and is a popular destination for fishing enthusiasts because of the abundance of redfish, tarpon, spotted sea trout, flounder, and cobia. Jacksonville has all types of fishing within easy reach, and the beautiful scenery makes it even more enjoyable. Fishing charters are guided by a licensed captain in a modern inshore boat, and all the necessary equipment is provided. While visiting Jacksonville, be sure to check out the Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary, Big Talbot Island State Park, or the Kingsley Plantation!

3. St. Augustine Historic Walking Tour

St. Augustine, Florida, USA

St. Augustine is the oldest city in the United States, and its history dates back to the 16th century. The Spanish founded the city in 1565, and it has been a major cultural and historical center ever since. The St. Augustine Historic Walking Tour takes you through the narrow streets of the old city and past more than 100 historic landmarks. You will learn about the city's architecture, history and culture as you explore its colonial-era buildings, museums, churches, and fortifications.

4. Blue Springs State Park

Wintering Manatees in the Blue Spring State Park

Blue Springs State Park is a natural spring that is home to a variety of wildlife, including manatees, alligators, turtles, and birds. The spring is a popular spot for swimming, tubing, and kayaking, and there are also hiking trails and a campground. The park is located in Orange City, Florida, which is about a two hours drive from Jacksonville. Blue Springs State Park is a great place to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature.

And if you're willing to make the journey, there are always fun things to do in Charleston, South Carolina too!

Top 3 Places To Stay in Jacksonville

With so many things to do in Jacksonville, you may want to stay a while! Here are our top three picks for places to stay in Jacksonville:

1. Ponte Vedra Inn & Club

With its prime beachfront location, the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club is an upscale resort that offers guests a variety of luxurious amenities and accommodations. The property features ten low-rise buildings housing tastefully appointed rooms with private balconies or patios, flat-screen TVs, and coffeemakers. Many of the rooms offer stunning ocean views. For guests needing more space, the resort offers suites with separate living areas, kitchenettes, or full kitchens.

The penthouse suite even comes with its own private elevator and whirlpool tub. Guests can also take advantage of the property's golf course, tennis courts, four pools, spa, and multiple dining options. The resort fee covers in-room Wi-Fi, fitness center access, and more. Plus, guests have the added perk of being able to use the facilities at the nearby Ponte Vedra Lodge & Club.

2. Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront

The Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront is a modern and upscale hotel located on the banks of the St. Johns River. The hotel is just 2 miles away from the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens and EverBank Field, making it the perfect place to stay for those who want to enjoy a sporting event or two. The rooms and suites at the hotel are all equipped with complimentary Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, and work areas, and some of them even have private lounge access with perks like breakfast and evening snacks. The suites at the hotel are especially spacious, featuring kitchenettes, separate living areas, and pull-out sofas – perfect for families or longer stays.

3. Best Western Premier Jacksonville Hotel

Located just off I-95, the Best Western Premier Jacksonville Hotel offers a relaxed setting just 8 miles from the shops and attractions at Jacksonville Landing and 10 miles from EverBank Field. The conservative, warm guest rooms and suites come complete with free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, and microwaves, along with minifridges and coffeemakers. Suites also feature living rooms with pull-out sofas. Additional free perks include parking and an area shuttle. Guests can also enjoy the hotel's outdoor pool, 24-hour fitness center, American restaurant, and bar. The hotel also offers four meeting rooms and a business center.

Final Thoughts

Jacksonville Skyline, Florida, USA

It's safe to say that Jacksonville is a pretty great place to live or travel- especially if you enjoy spending time outdoors. From the beaches to the many parks and museums, there's no shortage of things to do. And, of course, let's not forget about all of the amazing places near Jacksonville to explore as well. So, if you're looking for a fun and exciting place to visit, Jacksonville is definitely the place for you!

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