Are you looking for fun things to do to in Jacksonville, Florida? We have you covered with this list of 17 best things to do in Jacksonville!
Jacksonville is located in Northeast Florida, a little over an hour northeast of Gainesville, which is a popular college town destination (for more on this city check out our article on 17 things to do in Gainesville too!). Jacksonville is the most populous city in Florida, and is the largest city in the United States measured by area. The 840 square miles that feature this city are massive and packed with fun, so you know that there are going to be plenty of things to do in Jacksonville with that size!
Situated on the Atlantic coast with 22 miles of beachfront, Jacksonville was first colonized in 1564 by the French who named it Fort Caroline. In 1822, the United States gained control and named the city after Andrew Jackson, who was actually the first military governor of Florida. We highly recommend spending some time here, as we have it mentioned on our 15 Fun Florida Road Trips article, but we recommend this city even more because there are tons of Jacksonville attractions, which means there are cool places in Jacksonville that you must check out!
Home to the Jacksonville Jaguars, we promise you won’t be disappointed with this city: there are beaches, state parks, museums, gardens, historical preserves and so many more things to do in Jacksonville. So start prepping and packing for your visit today!
17 Best Things To Do In Jacksonville FL You Shouldn’t Miss
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens first opened in 1987 and is spread across 117-acres. The zoo’s massive size allows it to house to over 2000 exotic animals, while the gardens is home to over 1000 plant species. It is no wonder that this is one of the best things to do in Jacksonville!
The garden areas are incorporated into the zoo’s landscape and broken up into several areas: Savanna Blooms, Trout River, Riverview Garden, Asian Bamboo Garden and River of Color. When looking for the top things to do in Jacksonville, make sure to take some time looking at the stunning plants of these gardens! But don’t forget that these plants are a part of the zoo too– you don’t want to miss out!
The zoo itself features several unique elements such as Wild Florida, which a 2.5-acre natural wetland that is home to native animals such as alligators, bald eagles, and black bears. Here you can also interact with stingrays while feeding and petting them in an educational exhibit: it is one of the coolest things to do in Jacksonville with kids!
We want to note the Range of the Jaguar and Land of the Tigers exhibits specifically! These exhibits have won national awards for creating a natural habitat for animals. Here, large cats can roam freely.
All in all, the Jacksonville zoo is one of only 7 zoos in the United States to focus on animal welfare. It is a great Jacksonville attraction that we highly recommend checking out! So add the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens to your list of best things to do in Jacksonville to helps support animal welfare and have a blast!
Alhambra Theatre and Dining
If you are looking for a nice evening out, consider the Alhambra Theatre! This is true entertainment in Jacksonville. The Alhambra theater is the nation’s oldest and continually operating professional dinner theatre. It is a family friendly place, where you can see an unforgettable, live show.
Better yet? You can enjoy a three-course meal here too! So whether this is a special occasion or a fun date night, the theatre is top notch for entertainment. The three-course meals never disappoint and the shows always change, which make this exciting.
For example, you can see Guys and Dolls one week, and The Play that Goes Wrong the next week! Just make sure you contact the box office before hand and make arrangements– this isn’t the typical thing in Jacksonville you can just stop at. You need to plan accordingly! So book a reservation for a show. The dinner is just a plus. This is truly one of the best things to do in Jacksonville!
The Jacksonville River walk is located in downtown Jacksonville on the St. John’s River, hence its famous name! There are tons of things to do on this riverwalk, making it a popular destination when visiting cool places in Jacksonville.
The south bank itself is a 1.25-mile trail that passes the MOSH museum, military memorials and Friendship Fountain. The north bank, on the other hand, is 2.5 miles and connects the Jacksonville Landing and Performing Arts Center. So whether you decide to walk down the south bank or up the north bank, there are plenty of stops to make along the way!
Popular with joggers and tourists alike, the Jacksonville Riverwalk is one of the best things to do in Jacksonville, and not because it is one of the free things to do in Jacksonville either! With restaurants, hotels, and water boats you can spend an afternoon taking a stroll while later dining on the River at Charthouse. And for more recommendations on food, make sure to check out our article on the 15 Best Restaurants in Jacksonville— you may even see a few of these on the Riverwalk itself!
Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve
The Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve is a 46,000-acre preserve with over 6,000 years of history. This preserve is located on costal wetland on the Atlantic and is one of the best things to do in Jacksonville! We love recommending this as one of the attractions in Jacksonville because preserve aims to share the history from the Timucuan Indian tribe, European Settlement, and Civil war. It is an informational and educational stop!
Fort Caroline National Memorial, which we mention in our article of the 12 Best National Parks in Florida, is located within the Timucuan Preserve. The memorial was originally named after the French King, Charles IX. French Huguenots established a colony here in 1564 although it was short-lived. But what makes this Preserve so important is its historical importance: it was the first contact between Timucuan and European settlers!
The Kingsley Plantation are on these grounds as well, and it is another place to visit if looking for historical things to do in Jacksonville. Located on the northern tip of Fort George Island it was built in 1765. Named after Zephaniah Kingsley who resided from 1814 to 1830s it was home to 60 enslaved labors, and his wife, who was a former slave!
A visit here should be on any visitors list of free things to do in Jacksonville, with no fee to enter the preserve! So make sure to add something educational to your list of the best things to do in Jacksonville, as we just gave you plenty of options!
If you’re interested in doing something hands on, then look no further than Burnt Glassworks. We understand that visiting a place is fun, but we also love to actually do things! So we suggest looking at Burnt Glassworks. It is something unique and fun. It truly is one of the cool things to do in Jacksonville!
Here you can create your own glass paperweight, stemless glass, bowl, or even a cute little flower! This spot teaches you how to color glass, and shape it. When here you will be using traditional tools as well as your own breath.
Better yet? There is no experience necessary! This is something anyone can do. As long as you have a passion for handmade, unique items, you are set! Call for a tour or book an experience today! We promise it is one of the best things you can do in Jacksonville because it is so hands on!
Huguenot Memorial Park
Huguenot Memorial Park is a 295-acre horseshoe-shaped peninsula on the Northside of Jacksonville. It is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, Fort George Inlet, and the St. John’s River, meaning there is water on every side of you! This unique formation means we had to add it to our list of best things to do in Jacksonville! We promise you will love this lovely beach area.
If looking to drive your car on the beach add this to your list of things to do in Jacksonville as it is the only beach you can do so on! How cool is that? But if you are looking to park and explore, those are valid options too! This fantastic park also allows you to explore the Great Florida Birding Trail. This trail is known for some of the greatest bird watching spots! But even if you want to do more than that, you can also go camping, surfing, kayaking, and fishing here too!
So whether you want to lay out, explore, swim, drive, or do other water sports, this is one of the things to consider adding to your itinerary when looking at what to do in Jacksonville. The park is open from 6 am to 6pm, unless you are camping at one of the 70 camp sites available. Admission is only $5 per vehicle!
The Greenhouse Playhouse
You didn’t think we would forget about the kids, did you? There are plenty of things to do in Jacksonville with kids, but sometimes you need adult time. So the Greenhouse Playhouse is perfect for children! The Greenhouse is an inspired play space located in Jacksonville.
Parents can drop off their infants and children here so they can play. Drop off play is offered in 2-hour increments. This lets you go explore what you want, or allows you to have a date night if you need it! The interactive stations feature child-size amenities.
Kids love to have fun, and so do you. So don’t stress if you want to let them run around here, or if you want to watch them run around here. It’s worth it! We promise. Add this to your list of best things to do in Jacksonville, especially with kids!
Amelia Island, which we’ve mentioned before in one of our articles that features the 12 Prettiest Islands in Florida, is located 30 miles from Jacksonville but had to be included on our list of fun things to do in Jacksonville. We know it is a bit of a drive, but this is one of the places to go in Jacksonville since it is known for its tranquility, pristine beaches, and charming town-essence!
Amelia island has over 13 miles of beaches, which is perfect for our beach lovers ! But for those wanting to visit a cute town, they can check out other areas on the island too. We recommend adding Fernandina beach to your list of best things to do in Jacksonville in particular! This historic town has over 50 blocks to explore. And if you want more cute towns, check out our 10 Prettiest Small Beach Towns in Florida!
Amelia Island State park is located on the southern tip of this island too. It features over 200 acres of protected salt marshes, beaches, and costal forests, meaning you can see the island’s natural beauty. They also offer horseback riding if that is on your list of things to do in Jacksonville! Entry fee is $2 per person.
Better yet? The Civil War Era Fort Clinch Sate Park is also on Amelia Island. Entry fee is $6 per vehicle. So as you can tell, there are tons of things to do in Jacksonville, including just on Amelia Island! So take a trip and visit the island that is one of the top things to do in Jacksonville!
Top Golf Jacksonville
Top Golf should be on every golfers and non-golfers lists of fun things to do in Jacksonville! Top golf provides a fun interactive venue for people of all ages with a driving range, entertainment, food, and drinks.
This stop is great for friends and family alike. While here you can rent a bay (which is a driving range tee) complete with waitstaff. Each ball you hit off the tee is microchipped, which means you can keep score with your group! Or just play for fun! This is one of the best things to do in Jacksonville, but it is also one of the top things to do in Jacksonville for adults, especially during the evening. People love to come here and eat and drink and play!
There is a full menu, with gluten free and vegetarian options. There is also a full bar menu! We promise you will enjoy relaxing at the rooftop terrace, and a 14 hole miniature golf course too. Rates start at $27 per hour for a group! Tuesdays are half price for those looking for a fun Jacksonville attraction. Check it out!
Big Talbot Island State Park
Big Talbot Island State Park , as mentioned in our 15 Fun Florida Road Trips article, is located along A1A in Jacksonville on a unique sea island. This diverse nature reserve has several habitats such as big pine, marsh, maritime forest. These are some habitats you won’t see in many places, so it is extra special to check them out while looking for the best places to visit in Jacksonville!
Boneyard Beach trail allows visitors to visit the buffs. People also love to visit the “skeletons” of the live oaks and cedar trees that once grew onshore. Visitors can climb these bones of these now salt washed trees. It makes for epic adventures and pictures! This is one of the best things to do in Jacksonville with kids!
While at this state park, people also love to visit the Blackrock Trail. This trail cuts through rocks that are some of the oldest rock formations in the world. You can also find tide pools here, which is great for exploration! I mean, mini-ecosystems? How cool!
This state park is a must-visit for any visitor looking for cool things to do in Jacksonville. The old trees scattered along the beach make for an amazing backdrop against the Atlantic Ocean. They are views you don’t want to miss. But be warned: parking is limited to 15 cars. Come early! Stay late! Parking is $3!
Little Talbot Island State Park
Little Talbot Island State Park is located just north of downtown Jacksonville on A1A. What makes this one of the top things to do in Jacksonville is the 4-mile Dune Ridge Hike. The white sand, fallen trees, and high-energy coasts make it one of the best places to visit in Jacksonville.
With over 5 miles of beach access and 3 miles of biking trails, Little Talbot is known for its wildlife you will often see. Here you can witness white-tailed deer, bobcats, and Marsh rabbits in their natural habitats! But better yet, we love that this is an undeveloped barrier island in Northeast Florida. The untouched natural beauty is sure to catch any eye.
An outdoor lover should add Little Talbot to their list of things to do in Jacksonville! Here you can go beachcombing, surfing, fishing, hiking, kayaking and more. So sit and relax, or go out an explore. There is lots of land to cover, and endless things to see! We promise is is one of the attractions in Jacksonville that is worth your time! And remember: entrance is $5 per vehicle. The park is open 8 am to 5pm unless camping onsite!
Museum of Science and History (MOSH)
Museum of Science and History– also known as MOSH– is located on the South Bank of the Jacksonville Riverwalk. (We weren’t lying when we said there were tons of things to do in Jacksonville, especially on the river walk!).
Exhibits at this museum are ever-changing, but the MOSH also features core exhibits. These include Atlantic Tails, which shows animals found along the Atlantic Ocean. You can also check out the JEA energy exhibit, where you can create your own electricity! Lastly, you can walk through the Currents of Time exhibit, where patrons can learn about the history of Jacksonville and how the Timucuan tribe lived.
The MOSH is great museum to add to your list of best things to do in Jacksonville. We highly recommend it as one of the things to do in Jacksonville with kids. Better yet? The Bryan-Gooding Planetarium is also located here. This is the perfect thing to do with children in Jacksonville as there is a dedicated “Kidspace” playground with learning experiences.
The MOSH museum is open Thursday and Fridays from a 10 am to 5 pm, Saturdays until 6pm, and Sunday 12 pm to 5 pm. Admission is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, and children. And it is only $2.50 for those with an EBT card. Add this to your Jacksonville attractions today!
Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens
Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens’ motto is “let nature challenge you.” This 120-acre urban oasis has walking trails and is a relaxing place to escape! It opened in 2008 and is one of the best things to do in Jacksonville.
Between 1941 and 1961 the land was used by Humphries Gold Mining Company. They stripped the land and left behind white sand with no vegetation. It later became a dumping site for junk. What is unique about the land it was left untouched for over 30 years. But thanks to this, it has transformed into 13 different ecosystems!
Conservation minded nature lovers will want to add the Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens to their list of things to do in Jacksonville! There are several trails around the Gardens, such as Jones Creek Trial that is popular. Many trails take visitors through swamps, by dogwood, and past bald cypress trees. Many love to see the natural habitat that sprung from destruction, especially at Jones’ Creek. There is a suggested donation of $3 per person when you visit here! So donate, and add this to your list of places to go in Jacksonville!
Jacksonville is located on the Atlantic Ocean. It is considered being Florida’s “First Coast.” This means that there are bound to be amazing beaches here. If you want, check out our article on the 10 best Beaches in Jacksonville if this interests you! With over 1,100 miles of coastline, which is more than any other city in the United States, and 22 miles of beaches Jacksonville Beach is one of the most popular to visit! This is why we recommend the beaches here: they are some of the best things to do in Jacksonville!
Jacksonville Beach was originally named Pablo beach, but in 1925 became the familiar name we love. This beach is home to a famous fishing pier, dolphins swimming offshore, and a popular surfing spot. Jacksonville Beach has something for everyone. It offers great entertainment in Jacksonville!
This beach is also pet friendly! It is perfect for sun worshiping, beach volleyball, surfing, or playing in the sand. When visiting, there are restrooms and restaurants located along the boardwalk, which means you can spend hours here and never leave!
Jacksonville Beach is also home is an Adventure Landing. Here there is a shipwreck themed water park. It is one of the largest water parks in Northeast Florida. This means it is one of the things to do in Jacksonville with kids! There is also a Beaches Museum and History Park close by. Stopping by here is educational, and only adds to the fact that there is much to do at this beach. So add Jacksonville Beach to your best things to do in Jacksonville!
Museum of Contemporary Art
The Museum of Contemporary art (MOCA) is located in downtown Jacksonville, across from Hemming Park. The museum began as an art society over 90 years ago in 1924! This means there is plenty of history within the walls. Better yet? It is perfect place for history and entertainment in Jacksonville!
The Museum of Contemporary Art aims to promote the knowledge and discovery of art and artists through its exhibitions and educational programs. There are over 800 pieces and 500 artists in the museum’s collection on display. Typically, there is a permanent collection in addition to changing exhibitions that rotate throughout the year.
The museum offers free guided tours which should be on your list of things to do in Jacksonville. Admission is free for children under 5 years old and $8 for adults, and $5 for seniors, students, and children. Virtual tours are also offered for $5. Make sure to check out the hours and tour dates before you book to make sure they line up with your plans, though! But we promise, any accommodations for this stop is worth it! It is one of the best things to do in Jacksonville!
Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens
The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens is the largest fine arts museum in Northeast Florida. It was founded in 1961 thanks to Ninah Cummer, the wife of Arthur Cummer. He was the largest landowner in Florida.
Ninah purchased her first piece of art in 1906 while on their honeymoon. It was called “Along the Strand” by Paul King. Starting at the time of her husbands death in 1943, Ninah began amassing her collection of 60 pieces over a 15-year period. It grew into what it is today after her passing.
Today this fine arts museum a must-visit for art lovers. It is one of the best things to do in Jacksonville as it features over 5,000 works of art. The works span 2100 BCE through today and include such works from everyone such as Norman Rockwell and Eugene Charvot.
The 2.5-acre Gardens on the land feature native Florida plants, live oak trees, reflecting ponds and fountains. There are also English gardens that feature Cyprus trees, wisteria and azaleas. And you can’t forget the Italian Olmsted Gardens. They feature marble and bronze statues in addition to their plant life.
Tickets are $10 for adults and $6 for children, seniors, and students. Make sure to check the dates and times when you come to visit, but do make sure to come to visit. This is one of the true artistic places of Jacksonville. This makes it one of the best things to do in Jacksonville!
The Atlantic Beach was founded by Henry Flagler who built the Mayport stop of the railroad between Jacksonville Beach and Atlantic Beach. In 1900, he built the Flagler Continental Hotel, which is a 250 guest room hotel. It was one of the first hotels to be complete with paved path and lights. But what really made it stand out is the fishing pier on the beach.
Today Atlantic Beach is known for its miles of long stretches of laid back beaches! Atlantic Beach is believed to be the first Native American settlement in North America. The beach is loved by surfers and beach goers, shell collectors and families. It is truly one of the best things to do in Jacksonville!
We promise you will love the costal environment, and enjoy things such as the boardwalk design competition, little town elements, friendly people and more. So whether you stay here, eat here, shop, or just relax on the sand or in the water, you are going to love this beach! Add it to your list of things to do in Jacksonville today!
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