You may be looking to explore the 840-mile beauty of Florida. The good news is, there are tons of fun things to do here in Jacksonville Florida, especially if you take delight in nature-filled waterways, stunning beaches, splendid nature parks, scrumptious dishes, and more. Whether you’re going as a couple or with little ones, you’re sure to have all the fun and relaxation from these heart-warming destinations.
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The Parents Guide to Jacksonville/St. Augustine Area
Gear up with your best running shoes, yoga pants, hiking shorts or whatever suits your fancy as we bring you the hottest attractions for partners and parent-child tandems in Jacksonville, FL.
1. Family-Friendly Beaches
Do you love being near or under water? If so, Jacksonville Florida is a water wonderland you don’t want to miss. Atlantic Ocean, St. John’s River, Intracoastal Waterway, lakes, and marshes are just some of the majestic sites to conquer in this area.
Take your partner, kids, or friends at a day of paddle-boarding, fishing, kayaking, canoeing or playing sports such as football, softball, T-ball, or basketball – the fun opportunities are endless. You can also go nature viewing or enjoy a picnic with the family at the beach picnic pavilions.
Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park
This 150-mile public attraction boasts a feature-rich city park that lets you in a freshwater lake for fishing, access to the beach, biking routes, hiking trails, paddle boats, kayaks, canoes, and picnic area. The beach is nice and sandy, and proudly holds The Poles – a premier surfing location in Northeast Florida.
Apart from the beach and fun water activities, the park also houses the Dolphin Plaza, an ideal venue for various events. For summer, you can let your kids cool off at the Kids Splash Park. Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park is open 7 days a week from 6am – 8pm Mondays through Fridays and 7am – 8pm on weekends.
2. Fun Outdoor Activities
Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail
Located at the western part of downtown Jacksonville, Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail combines wildlife and rural setting to bring you a 15-mile of biking, hiking or walking adventure. The area encompasses a dense tree canopy, which provides natural habitat to animals including stilts, hawks, wood storks and a whole lot of other wildlife creatures.
Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail’s scenic and well-maintained path is ideal for bikers, hikers, or walkers that want to witness and mingle with wildlife as they go. Amenities include 5 bike racks, 31 benches, 8 picnic tables, 2 restrooms, and multiple paved, unpaved, and equestrian trails.
Addressed as one of the most popular and well-used outdoor spots in Downtown Jacksonville, Riverwalk offers a great venue for residents and tourists to witness the beauty of the skyline and the river. The view is even more enchanting during the day, when buildings are glossy and shimmering water accentuates speed boats and sailboats. You and your walking buddies will seriously enjoy this 1.2 mile area, filled with thrilling shops, restaurants, marina, and museum.
Tree Hill Nature Center
Situated in Lone Star Road, Tree Hill Nature Center provides an ideal place for families to bond and take advantage of community environmental programs. Delight your kids and yourself to a 50-acre trail hike while reveling in the beauty of native animals, hummingbirds, butterflies, and verdant gardens. The center is open from Monday to Saturday 8 am to 4:30 pm. Once a member, you’ll get not only 1 year of free admission to the park, but also free access to Butterfly Festival, 5% discount on all programs and parties, 10% discount of park shop purchases, and exclusive education in the center’s Outdoor Laboratory.
North Florida Fishing Charters
If you’re an enthusiast or simply want to try out fishing for the first time, North Florida Fishing Charters is the perfect destination. Treat yourself at a day along the scenic waterways of Northeast Florida, where 3 of the most popular game fishes roam. These include flounder, redfish, and spotted seatrout. Guided by Captain Ron Schurr, your adventure will take place starting along the bays, tidal creeks, and spartina islands of the region.
Bent Creek Golf Course
Also known as the official Golf Club of Jacksonville, FL, Bent Creek Golf Course has and continues to endow fun and thrilling experience to the golfers of Northeast Florida. The property is currently supervised by Bill Casper Golf. They host affordable golf programs, including discounted rounds and infinite use of their well-lit practice facility.
3. Indoor Thrills
Autobahn Indoor Speedway
Kids and adults alike will surely enjoy the competitive fun as they race with go-karts along the Grand-Prix style tracks of Autobahn Indoor Speedway. Compete with your team or other groups as you’re scored by a state-of-the-art timing system and live lap timers and secured by high-tech safety reflective barriers.
Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena
Concerts, basketball games, circus performances, it’s easy to find an event according to your liking through Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. Find your spot in this 15,000-seater multipurpose stadium by purchasing tickets at Ticketmaster.com, Downtown, or Walmart.
Castillo de San Marcos
Situated in Matanzas Bay, St. Augustine, Florida, Castillo de San Marcos is hailed as the oldest masonry fort in the US. Originally built as military outpost by Spain, this place is now a designated by the US National Park as a National Monument attraction. Take your kids in a 20-acre land of adventure exploring casements and weapon exhibitions or watching actors’ play wearing period costumes.
The Lightner Museum
Considered as one of the top attractions in St. Agustine, Florida, the museum is enclosed in a beautiful structure formerly known as Alcazar Hotel. Here, you’ll find stunning pieces of artwork and highly-valued antiques, which beautifully the history of the museum and Alcazar Hotel. In the first floor, a historic Victorian Village is located, along with a Science and Industry Room, and a music room with all sorts of instruments. By going up, you’ll see piles of amazing glass artwork such as Tiffany stained glass. Go up one level (third floor) to see their collection of paintings, sculptures, and furniture.
Price: Free – $
Ponte Vedra Concert Hall
Found in the center of Ponte Vedra Beach, Ponte Vedra Hall makes an ideal place for families or couples craving for live performances done in a 450-seater multi-purpose theater. The Ponte Vedra management is working to add 400 more seats to the venue so it can facilitate all sorts of events with ease. For event organizers, the concert hall is accepting reservations for multiple purposes including weddings, recitals, performances, visual arts presentations and other rental options.
4. Educational Facilities
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
This 93-acre walking safari is currently the highest-paid attraction in Northeast Florida. Picture you and your kids enjoying interaction with over 2,000 wildlife and 1,000 plant species. Or chilling while sipping your favorite cocktail at the African Savana. Or having a unique dining experience at South American Village and roaming through Land of the Tiger. Exciting, right? The zoo also lets you delve into Play Park and Splash Ground, Butterfly Hollow, and Stingray Bay or simply engage into a fun talk with the zookeepers. With Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, you and your kids are in for a fun-packed day ahead. Zoo is open every day starting 9am to 5pm.
Museum of Science and History
For kids, the Museum of Science and History (MOSH) makes learning more stimulating by recreating science and history artifacts. By becoming a member, you’ll receive bunches of great privileges such as free exclusive access to museum, planetarium shows, member-only exhibit previews, and so much more. There are currently five MOSH membership levels namely Atom, Molecule, Compound, Compound+, and Alloy.
Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary
A well-maintained facility with neat animals and hands-on tourist guides, Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary lets you get up close and personal to creatures of the wild. Interact with lions, Siberian tigers, black leopards, bobcats, coatimundis, and foxes, among others in this wildlife sanctuary. 45-minute tours start at 6 pm, with intervals of 15 minutes per batch. To catch feeding time, it’s best to arrive at 7 pm in the sanctuary. Admission for kids is free.
The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens
Along Riverside Avenue is the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, which aspires to engage people through education, gardens, and art. The museum started in late 1961 with only sixty pieces of artifacts collection. Today, they encompass over six thousand of amazing artwork, showcasing art industry’s 8,000 years in history. Admission is free for kids, while adults pay membership fees to get exclusive access to museum programs and facilities.
Timucuan Ecological & Historical Preserve
This place allows you to enjoy the relaxing ambiance of waters as you go along its 46,000-acre area. As soon as you visit this national park, you want to be prepared to witness the beauty of thousands of acre woods, salt marsh, and water. You’ll also get to see Fort Caroline, St. John and Nassau Rivers, and Kingsley Plantation. The staff are friendly and accommodating, guiding your way through the museum, shop, and restrooms. Whether you want to walk, bike, or sail, the preserve offers limitless possibilities.
Museum of Southern History
Just along Herschel St. is Museum of Southern History, a facility that focuses of educating the youth through historical educational programs. Afterwards, children are given the chance to touch and fire old muskets in the courtyard of the museum. Not only for youths, adults are also encouraged to experience history, especially if they’re from organizations like retirement groups, church groups, and others. The museum also gives out educational materials that adults can use when they get back to their communities. To grab the exciting benefits of exhibits, educational programs, unlimited museum and library access, and other museum amenities, you’ll have to pay for annual membership.
Jacksonville Historical Center
If you’re into naval history and looking for fantastic place to learn it from, the Jacksonville Historical Center is your ultimate destination. Whether pictures, artifacts, or valuable information, the center (also known as Jacksonville Historical Society or JHS) has them all covered. However, it’s not just for navy enthusiasts, families will also have a great time discovering Jacksonville Maritime Heritage. Be a member of JHS and be part of a group of history buffs, be informed ahead of upcoming exhibits and events, get free access to Archival Repository, and loads more.
St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park
In this kid-friendly alligator farm, science comes alive. The park currently provides various educational programs for the kids. For teachers, it’s a perfect opportunity to give students a real-world interaction with animals and nature. Even parents are given with educational resources, too!
5. Parks, Sightseeing & Attractions
Little Talbot Island State Park
People who’d like to get away from the crowd or simply want to sight-see once in a while has the perfect attraction with Little Talbot Island State Park. It’s currently one of the few untouched barrier islands of Northeast Florida. Treat your family or friends – indulge in natural beauty of the waters, desert-like dunes, undeveloped salt marshes, and maritime forests in this park for very minimal fees. Walk the shore, explore nature, or go camping, this island is highly ideal for individuals craving for things to do in Jacksonville, FL.
Located at Friendship Park or otherwise known as St. John’s River Park, Friendship Fountain was once hailed as the largest and tallest fountain in the world, squirting 17,000 gallons of water per minute at height of 120 feet. At night, the spot is accentuated by lovely lights, which interchange into colorful hues to entertain and enchant viewers. Nearby the fountain is a bridge, river, and architecture, which are also majestic by themselves. We strongly recommend visiting this place, especially if you have kids.
The park accepts guests from 8 am up to 12 midnight.
Fort Caroline National Memorial
Are you looking to enjoy the wonders of nature? Or you want to get to know history a little bit more? Whether you’re here for education, leisure, or business purposes, Fort Caroline National Memorial Park is a great place to spend the day. Apart from relaxing natural wonders, the park offers curriculum materials and field trips to students of Florida. For teachers, they provide workshops as part of their Professional Development Program. Children and youth can experience being a junior ranger or simply have an awesome day of park fun. They also have bookstores inside, where purchases help support the preserve.
Fun and budget-friendly, this is how we dub the Adventure Landing Shipwreck Island Waterpark. This fun-filled placed offers a lot of features for the whole family, including arcade, miniature golf, Area 51 laser tag, Teddy Bear factory, Sweet Adventures Candy Shop, and the list goes on. For groups and companies, they offers hugely discounted prices, depending on the number of guests. Themed birthday party packages are also up for grabs.
St. Augustine Aquarium
Built just beside Courtyard Marriott, St. Augustine Aquarium is the coolest new attraction in Florida. Embark on an exciting snorkeling adventure or interact with beautiful marine creatures like sharks, stingrays, or fishes. The aquarium park also offers annual passes, VIP experiences, and behind the scene tours.
6. Local Food Farms
To keep everything simple – this is the main principle of Freshfields Farm. Presently, it is known by Florida shoppers as the ultimate destination for getting freshest produce and meats. These products are derived directly from local growers, farmers, and packing plantations. Freshfields swear that their goods are of finest quality, great freshness, and affordable price.
Jacksonville Farmers Market
To provide a unique shopping experience to customers of all ages – Jacksonville Farmers Market swears to maintain this promise. Visit the marketplace and treat yourself to an open air, festive ambiance while strolling the bays of each section. They also let you get a closer contact with famers as they proudly show off their manually picked produce and other selection of food items. Aside from fresh items, you’ll also find imported specialties and ethnic products in this market.
Rype & Readi Farm Market
If you’re a fan of anything organic, Rype & Readi is just the place to go. This farm market supplies fresh and all-natural food to promote health and wellness. Some of the products found here are freshly-prepared foods, frozen foods, fresh produce, meat, and seafood, dairy products, baked goods, and a whole lot more. For kids and families, the place offers activities such as cooking classes and animal feeding. It is also open for reservations for private events.
7. Kid Friendly Restaurants
Candy Apple Café and Cocktails
Sharing the same building with Sweet Pete’s Candy Shop, Candy Apple is a sweet café embellished with vibrant colors and festive decorations all over the place. The menu is packed with French-inspired dishes, along with kids’ menu that’s dedicated to make your little one’s mouth water. Crossing the street will take you to Hemming Park, a breezy spot with great play area for kids.
Price: $ – $$
Perhaps, nothing is more kid-friendly than a classic piece of hamburger. And, M Shack delightfully serves children and adults alike in multiple locations in Jacksonville, including Atlantic Beach, St. Johns Town Center, and Riverside. The great thing about this burger joint is that they serve organic angus beef burgers, with patties ground fresh daily. Kids will also delight in their handspun milkshakes, which has thrilling variants such as Oreo Cheesecake and Bananas Foster.
Maple Street Biscuit Company
Maple Street is Jacksonville’s most favorite breakfast stop for a good reason. Their menu is packed with kid-friendly goodies, including freshly-baked biscuits, fried chicken breast, collard greens, sausage gravy, and other delightful goodies for your little ones. To top it all off, the staff are super friendly. Instead of getting your name when ordering, they would ask, “What’s your favorite cartoon as a kid?”.
8. Romantic Destinations
One Ocean Resort & Spa
Get away from stress of bustling city life – take your partner for a day at One Ocean Resort & Spa. For couples looking for a luxurious treat, the resort encompasses multiple relaxation and luxury amenities to alleviate fatigue. You and your partner can stay, dine, or grab special services at the spa.
Alhambra Theatre & Dining
If a show and dinner tickles your fancy, the Alhambra Dinner Theater is surely a place you would enjoy visiting. It is one of the oldest dinner theaters in Florida, and is currently offering a 3-course gourmet menu that alters with every set of shows. Some of the specialties to check out in this dining spot are prime rib and crab leg buffet.
This destination is a perfect match for adventurous couples looking for romantic things to do in Jacksonville FL. Aside from kayaking, you can also do stand-up paddle boarding, hike, surf, and go on guided tours. Discover Kayak Amelia’s tours on unspoiled creeks and marshes to enjoy a day of adventure you surely won’t forget.
San Marco Theatre
Want to break away from overcrowded cinemas? The answer is San Marco Theatre. Here, you can finally relax and stay intimate with your special one while enjoying the amazing architecture, show, and your choice of food and refreshments.
Originally a prestigious movie palace, the Florida Theatre is one of the oldest historic theaters in Jacksonville, FL. Every year, it introduces over 200 cultural and entertainment events. Best of all, it is surrounded by great dining spots and famous watering holes. Surely, it’d be a date you and your beau won’t forget!
9. Top Golf Courses
Bent Creek Golf Course
Experience golf the way it should be. Go over Bent Creek Golf Course and have your shot at challenging rounds of gold, offered at different levels. At the moment, the club is offering affordable programs such as unlimited use of well-lit golf facility and discounted golf sessions.
Blue Cypress Golf Club
Great fun never stops at Blue Cypress Golf Club, a friendly golf atmosphere located in University Boulevard, Jacksonville, FL. The great thing about this facility is that they allow you to focus on enjoyment and leave unnecessary distractions behind. Among the many activities they offer include senior leagues, 9-hole tournaments, Wednesday games, Thursday steak nights, Friday games, and random Saturday matches.
NAS Jacksonville Golf Course
Get ready for an awesome golf fun with NAS Golf Course and Shop. They offer championship golf matches with 27 holes that wind through beautiful tree-lined grounds. A well-lighted practice facility is available for use, complete with professional staff to assist you as you sway away that golf club.