Fondly known as “Jax,” Jacksonville is a youthful, vibrant city in Northeast Florida where southern charm, culture, and history seamlessly blend with modern sights and experiences in stark but interesting contrast.
Bisected by the St. Johns River and bordered by the ocean in the east, Jacksonville features a variety of pristine landscapes that offer a wealth of outdoor activities. From beautiful beaches and dense maritime forests to marshy wetlands, forgotten plantations, and barrier islands, Jacksonville is a natural wonder.
Rich in cultural and historical heritage, the city is home to plenty of museums, art galleries, and cultural institutions to explore, and the riverfront area along the banks of the river is lined with casual and fine dining restaurants, bustling farmer’s markets, gourmet coffee shops, and brand stores. The Jacksonville Water Taxi ferries locals and visitors across the river to enjoy both sides of the city.
Let’s explore some of the best things to do in the “River City by the Sea.”
1. Explore the Riverside Avondale Historic District
The Riverside Avondale Historic District is a charming historic district comprising the Riverside and Avondale neighborhood that offers a distinctive mix of history, culture, character, and community. Listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, the neighborhoods are two of Jacksonville’s oldest suburbs and are home to a hip, young population with a warm and welcoming urban atmosphere.
The district boasts a wealth of things to see and do from Riverside’s bohemian ‘Five Points’ with quaint antique stores and art galleries, laid-back sidewalk cafés, busy restaurants, and buzzing nightclubs. King Street is home to several excellent breweries and restaurants and top attractions to explore in the area include Memorial Park, the Riverside Arts Market, and The Shoppes of Avondale.
Address: Jacksonville, Fl
Suggested Tour: Home Tour
2. Amble Along the Southbank Riverwalk
Overlooking the St. Johns River, the Southbank Riverwalk is a mile-and-a-quarter wooden boardwalk that winds its way along the river. The boardwalk is a popular place for walking, jogging, cycling, and sitting and soaking up the views from one of the benches that line the promenade.
Stroll down to the famous Friendship Fountain at the west end of the Southbank Riverwalk or enjoy stunning skyline vistas from one of the many cafés, restaurants, and bars that line the riverside boulevard.
Suggested Tour: Downtown Southbank Historic Walking Tour
3. Visit the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens
The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens is one of the city’s top attractions featuring an impressive collection of artworks dating from 2,100 BCE to the 21st century and spectacular gardens. Founded in 1961, the museum boasts the collections and gardens of Ninah Cummer, including her original garden designs and a section of her home and historic furnishings.
There are over 5,000 works of art, including American and European paintings and an impressive selection of Meissen porcelain. The gardens are breathtaking with three flower gardens surrounding the museum whose layout dates back a century.
Address: 829 Riverside Ave, Jacksonville, FL 32204
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Saturday: 11 am – 4 pm / Sunday: 12 – 4 pm
4. Have Some Fun at MOSH! The Museum of Science and History
Located on the famous Southbank Riverwalk, MOSH! The Museum of Science and History is a great place to learn about local history and have some fun with science. Check out the ‘Brain Teasers’ exhibit which explores the innermost workings of your mind and ‘Dinosaurs Unearthed’ to see life-sized dinosaurs.
The museum is also home to the Bryan-Gooding Planetarium, one of the largest single-lens digital dome planetariums in the country where you can watch live star shows. You can also watch plays and enjoy community events at the Alexander Brest Space Science Theater.
Address: 1025 Museum Cir, Jacksonville, FL 32207
Opening Hours: Thursday – Saturday: 10 am – 5 pm / Sunday: 12 – 4 pm
5. Visit the Kingsley Plantation
The Kingsley Plantation, also known as the Zephaniah Kingsley Plantation Home and Buildings, is the oldest in the state. Located on Fort George Island, the plantation is named after Zephaniah Kingsley and is an outstanding example of a traditional plantation that made use of slaves.
The plantation can be explored on guided tours. Check out the nearby Fort Caroline National Memorial which delves into the tumultuous history of Europeans and Native American Indians.
Address: 11676 Palmetto Ave, Jacksonville, FL 32226
Opening Hours: Wednesday – Sunday 9 am – 5 pm
6. Picnic and Surf at the Little Talbot Island State Park
Little Talbot Island State Park is a haven for relaxation with gorgeous white, sandy beaches, salty marshes and coastal forests, and rolling dunes. One of a few remaining undeveloped barrier islands in northeastern Florida, the island is home to a wealth of endemic wildlife, such as bobcats, marsh rabbits, river otters, and migratory birds.
The park offers a variety of outdoor activities for visitors to enjoy, including swimming, surfing, fishing, hiking, and beachcombing, and several beachside picnic pavilions are ideal for a day at the beach. There is a campground along the eastern salt marshes of Myrtle Creek, and you can explore the island’s shoreline with rented kayaks or on a guided paddle tour.
Address: 12157 Heckscher Dr, Jacksonville, FL 32226
Opening Hours: 8: 15 am – 6 pm, daily
7. Explore the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve
Known as “the area where the waters meet,” the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve is a national preserve with over 46,000 acres of wetlands, waterways, salt marshes, and coastal dunes. Located in the Fort Caroline National Memorial in northeastern Duval County, the preserve includes historic areas such as Fort Caroline National Memorial and the Kingsley Plantation.
Spend a few hours exploring the amazing landscapes of hardwood hammocks, salt marshes, and coastal wetlands, and then visit the Fort Caroline National Memorial and the Kingsley Plantation, which boasts a plantation house, kitchen house, slave quarters, and an interpretive garden.
Address: 12713 Ft Caroline Rd, Jacksonville, FL 32225
Opening Hours: Wednesday – Sunday 9 am – 5 pm
8. See Some Big Bats at the Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary
If you want to see some big cats, head to the Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary which is home to bobcats, cougars, lions, leopards, and tigers. The animal care ranch provides a safe and loving environment for rescued and endangered big cats with the primary focus of taking care of animals that have been rescued.
The park is also home to foxes, and coatimundis, which have been named “honorary cats” and is well worth a visit to support a great cause. You can enjoy guided day tours and night-time feeding tours where rangers tell you all about the facilities and the residents of the ranch, and their natural habitats.
Address: 1860 Starratt Rd, Jacksonville, FL 32226
Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday: 1 – 3 pm / Friday and Saturday: 6: 30 – 7: 30 pm
9. Stroll Around the Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens
The Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens is a 126-acre arboretum and public garden with some spectacular landscapes and a variety of walking trails that wind through them. The gardens are set around a two-acre tree-lined lake which is encircled by the Lake Loop walking trail that makes its way past trees such as black cherry, longleaf pine, and live oak.
Other trails in the garden include the Jones Creek Trail and the Ravine Trail, which follows the rim of a deep ravine with a bubbling stream flowing at the bottom.
Address: 1445 Millcoe Rd, Jacksonville, FL 32225
Opening Hours: 8 am – 5 pm, daily
10. Take in Some Art at the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville
The Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, also known as MOCA Jacksonville, is one of the most significant contemporary art institutions in the Southeastern United States. Located next to City Hall on historical Hemming in the heart of downtown Jacksonville, the museum features an impressive collection of more than 800 works of contemporary and modern art by regional, national and international artists.
You can listen to lectures and watch movies in the 125-seat theater and the Museum Store @ MOCA sells a unique selection of pottery, glassworks, and handmade jewelry. Grab a coffee and bite at the upscale Café Nola @ MOCA.
Address: 333 N Laura St, Jacksonville, FL 32202
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Saturday: 11 am – 5 pm / Sunday: 12 – 5 pm
11. Horseback Ride Along the Beach at Amelia Island State Park
Protecting over 200 acres of unspoiled wilderness along the southern tip of Amelia Island, Amelia Island State Park is one of the most popular spots to visit in Jacksonville. Just seven miles north of Little Talbot Island State Park, the park features sandy beaches, salt marshes, and coastal forests that harken back to original Florida.
You can enjoy horseback riding excursions along the Atlantic Coast beach and through the coastal woods, as well as excellent fishing, beachcombing for shells, bird watching, and guided tours of the island.
Address: State Road A1A, Jacksonville, FL 32226
Opening Hours: Open 24 hours
12. Head to the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is one of Jacksonville’s top attractions with over 2,000 animals and 1,000 exotic plant species. Located at the mouth of the Trout River, the zoo and gardens have a range of outstanding exhibits and offer fun activities like a unique walking safari of the grounds.
Top attractions include the award-winning ‘Range of the Jaguar’ and the ‘Land of the Tiger’ with a special trail system for the zoo’s five tigers. You’ll also see gorillas and elephants from Africa and kangaroos, cassowaries, and lorikeets from Australia, as well as plenty of animals endemic to Florida.
Address: 370 Zoo Pkwy, Jacksonville, FL 32218
Opening Hours: 9 am – 5 pm, daily
13. Hit the Water in the Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park
The Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park is a 450-acre park that stretches for 150 miles along the Atlantic Ocean and offers a wealth of outdoor attractions and recreation from beautiful beaches and a freshwater lake to hiking and biking trails.
The park features over 20 miles of scenic trails for hiking and mountain biking through the mature coastal hammock of live oak trees and shoreline. A large freshwater lake is ideal for boating, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, and swimming, and there are plenty of picnic areas along the shore. Overnight cabin and tent camping are also available in the park, and the beach is perfect for sunbathing, swimming and surfing. Watch out for nesting sea turtles from May through October.
Address: 500 Wonderwood Dr., Jacksonville, FL
Opening Hours: 8 am – 6 pm
14. Go Back in Time at the Museum of Southern History
The Museum of Southern History, also known as the G. Howard Bryan Museum of Southern History, tells the story of the culture and lifestyle of the antebellum South. The museum features a collection of artifacts relating to the Civil War era, exhibits on civilian and military life during the Civil War, and a 6,000-volume research library for genealogy. Head to the courtyard to touch and fire old muskets from the Civil War in educational re-enactments.
Address: 4304 Herschel St, Jacksonville, FL 32210
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Saturday: 12 – 4 pm
15. Wander Around the Jacksonville Farmers Market
Established in 1938, the Jacksonville Farmers Market is the oldest operating outdoor farmers market in Florida. The bustling, vibrant market is home to over 200 vendors serving a wide variety of fresh produce, herbs, and vegetables, and handmade arts and crafts.
The historic market is located a few minutes away from downtown Jacksonville and is a great place to spend a Saturday morning, strolling around the stalls, shopping for fresh produce, and enjoying delicious homemade food and drinks. Head to Andy’s Farmers Market Grill for a sumptuous breakfast before shopping.
Address: 1810 W Beaver St, Jacksonville, FL 32209
Opening Hours: 7 am – 5 pm, daily
16. Browse Around the Jacksonville Public Library
Located downtown near City Hall and Hemming Plaza, the Jacksonville Public Library is worth a visit to see its beautiful architecture. It also boasts a collection of over three million items and is one of the largest library systems in Florida, so if you are looking for a book this is the place to find it.
It has state-of-the-art technology with 250 public computers, satellite, and video conferencing capabilities, as well as a BOOKtique bookstore, and a casual café that serves food and drinks.
Address: 303 N Laura St, Jacksonville, FL 32202
Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday: 10 am – 6 pm
17. Check out Gopher Tortoises in Fort Clinch State Park
The Fort Clinch State Park is a 1,400-acre park based around the historic Fort Clinch that offers a wealth of outdoor activities. You can visit the fort, which was an important strategic building during the Civil War, and learn about the lives of Union soldiers through interesting living history programs.
Other amenities in the park include several paved and gravel multi-use hiking and biking trails that wind through massive arching live oaks, as well as canoeing, kayaking, fishing, swimming, surfing, and fishing along the coastline. The park is home to a large population of gopher tortoises, so watch out for those, along with several other species of wildlife.
Address: 2601 Atlantic Avenue, Fernandina Beach FL 32034
Opening Hours: 9 am – 5 pm, daily
18. Connect with Nature at the Tree Hill Nature Center
Situated in the heart of Jacksonville, the Tree Hill Nature Center is a 50-acre urban wilderness preserve and a perfect place for visitors to connect with nature. The preserve is home to a variety of landscapes from hilltop and wetland areas to southern mixed hardwood forests and mixed hardwood swamps fed by freshwater streams.
Other facilities at the Tree Hill Nature Center include an indoor nature center with interactive exhibits, nature trails, wildflower gardens, wildlife viewing areas, and a learning laboratory. There is also an amphitheater for outdoor events.
Address: 7152 Lone Star Rd, Jacksonville, FL 32211
Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday: 8:30 am – 4:30 pm
19. Take the Kids to the Hands-On Children’s Museum
Want to keep the kids occupied for hours? Take them to the Hands-On Children’s Museum which features a variety of interactive and hands-on exhibits that encourage children of all ages to learn through discovery and play. Interactive exhibits at the museum include a grocery store, radio and television station, a castle, and fire rescue station, and several play areas.
Address: 8580 Beach Blvd, Jacksonville, FL 32216
Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday: 8:30 am – 5 pm
20. See the Famous Treaty Oak at the Jessie Ball DuPont Park
The Jessie Ball DuPont Park is a beautiful historic park in the Southbank area of Jacksonville that is home to the 200-year-old Treaty Oak. The massive oak is over 70 feet tall with a trunk of more than 25 feet in circumference and is famous for being the tree under which native American Indians and white settlers once met to sign peace treaties in Times Union reporter Pat Moran’s fictitious stories.
The surrounding park has plenty of grassy lawns, walking paths, and lovely picnic areas where you can spend a few hours relaxing.
Address: 1207 Prudential Dr, Jacksonville, FL 32207
21. Watch a Play at the San Marco Theatre
The San Marco Theatre Jacksonville is one of the oldest running community theaters in the United States and produces an array of productions throughout the year. Based in a building known as the Little Theater in the neighborhood of San Marco in downtown Jacksonville, the theater is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a must if you love old Art Deco buildings and great theater shows.
Address: 2032 San Marco Blvd, Jacksonville, FL 32207
22. Throw a Line in at Jacksonville Beach Fishing Pier
The Jacksonville Beach Fishing Pier is a large wooden pier that extends out into the Atlantic Ocean and is a favorite fishing spot for locals. The quarter-mile-long wooden pier has a T-shaped end that is 22 feet deep at high tide and is the best spot for catching several kinds of fish. The pier has several fish cleaning stations, a bait shop, a concession area, and restrooms.
Address: 503 1st St N, Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250
23. Explore the Beaches Museum & History Park
This is a charming community park that explores the rich heritage of the area, documenting the history of the boardwalk, the experiences of the pioneer settlers and what life was like on the road, and the lifestyle of early river pilots and fishermen. Permanent displays include a historic chapel and an old steam train, and you can stroll along the veranda of a gilded-age seaside resort and soak up some stunning ocean views.
Address: 381 Beach Blvd, Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Saturday: 10 am – 4 pm / Sunday: 12 – 4 pm
24. Have Some Fun at the Adventure Landing Shipwreck Island Waterpark
The Adventure Landing Shipwreck Island Waterpark is a family-focused theme park with a wealth of fun things to do for the whole family. The park is home to Adventure Speedway Go-Karts, the Wacky Worm Roller Coaster, the Frog Hopper, and two 18-hole miniature adventure golf courses.
You can also take a ride on a flight simulator, play laser tag in a massive multi-level arena or play billiards on one of several tables, practice your baseball hit in the batting cages or hit the gaming arcade and win some redemption prizes. Two themed snack bars and several concessions around the park serve food and drinks.
Address: 1944 Beach Blvd, Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250
Opening Hours: 11 am – 6 pm / 7 pm, daily
25. Go Bowling at the Batt Family Fun Center
The Batt Family Fun Center is a state-of-the-art 45.000-square-foot family-centric center that offers a wealth of fun for the whole family. The center has a modern bowling alley with 32 bowling lanes, including a private, eight-lane VIP area, billiards tables, a games arcade with more than 40 games, 18 holes of Krazie glow golf, and a full-service snack bar.
Address: 1838 Cassat Avenue, Jacksonville, FL 32210
Opening Hours: Monday – Thursday 10 am – 11 pm / Friday & Saturday: 10 am – 1 am / Sunday: 11 am – 11 pm
26. Explore Jacksonville’s Breweries on the Jax Ale Trail
The Jax Ale Trail offers beer lovers a fantastic adventure with self-guided tours of the craft breweries in the city. You can take tours with Brew Bus Jacksonville and Play Harder Tours, both of which visit most of the breweries in and around town, including Aardwolf Brewing Co., Engine 15 Brewing Co., Green Room Brewing, Bold City Brewery, Intuition Ale Works, Pinglehead Brewing Co., and Veterans United Craft Brewery.
You’ll also visit local restaurants and bars that brew their beer for samplings and tasting of local craft beers and delicious local cuisine and you’ll get a Jax Ale Trail Brewery Passport, which is stamped at every brewery visited to receive cool prizes and giveaways.
27. Explore the Riverside Arts Market
Tucked beneath the canopy of the Fuller Warren Bridge at the end of Northbank Riverwalk, the Riverside Arts Market is a fantastic community market where vendors, producers, farmers, and artists showcase their wares. Over 100 artists showcase the city’s creative side, with a wealth of artworks, arts and crafts, and handmade products from paintings and pottery to sculptures and silkscreen shirts. Three stages around the Market host live entertainment, from barbershop quartets to belly dancers, fire-eaters, and jugglers.
Address: 715 Riverside Ave, Jacksonville, FL 32204
Opening Hours: Saturday 10 am – 3 pm
28. Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth at Sweet Pete’s Candy Shop
Sweet Pete’s is a confectionary emporium and classic sweet shop in the historic Seminole Club that is renowned for its incredible array of handcrafted quality chocolates and over a thousand different types of candies.
One of the largest candy shops in the country, Sweet Pete’s spans 23,000 square feet and features a fully operating factory with a full restaurant and bar, a dessert bar, an interactive gallery, and a casual rooftop patio with great views.
Address: 400 N Hogan St, Jacksonville, FL 32202
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Sunday: 10 am – 6 pm
29. Shop Until You Drop at the St. Johns Town Center®
If you want to shop, head to the St. Johns Town Center® where you’ll find a wealth of retailers, exclusive brands, restaurants, and bars. Conveniently situated at the intersection of J. Turner Butler Boulevard and the Interstate 295 East Beltway, the upmarket open-air shopping mall in Southside is home to over 100 stores, including big brand names such as Louis Vuitton, Anthropologie, Apple, Tiffany & Co., and Nordstrom.
Address: 4663 River City Dr, Jacksonville, FL 32246, United States
Opening Hours: Monday – Thursday: 11 am – 7 pm / Fri & Sat: 10 am – 8 pm / Sunday: 12 – 6 pm
30. Walk the Dogs in Dogwood Park
Dogwood Park is a fantastic 42-acre off-leash park that provides beautiful surroundings for owners to exercise and socialize their dogs. The park features jogging and walking trails for humans and canines, an array of fitness and recreational amenities, Lake Bow Wow, a lake for dogs to swim, grassy fields for games, shady areas for resting, and a dog shower cooling off and cleaning muddy paws.
Address: 7407 Salisbury Rd, Jacksonville, FL 32256
Opening Hours: Mon – Fri: 10 am – 4:30 pm / Sat & Sun: 9 am – 5 pm
The Best of Jacksonville, FL
Best Neighborhoods to Stay in Jacksonville, FL
- Bartram Park
Best Hotels in Jacksonville, FL
The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island
Overlooking a beautiful sandy beach, this luxury hotel has stylishly decorated guest accommodations with marble bathrooms, fireplaces, and modern amenities. High-end facilities include a deluxe spa and fitness center, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, an 18-hole golf course, and four restaurants and bars. The hotel is a few miles from Amelia Island State Park.
Address: 4750 Amelia Island Pkwy, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034
One Ocean Resort & Spa
This spectacular oceanfront hotel is within walking distance of Beaches Town Center and boasts breathtaking views of the ocean. Elegant guest rooms and suites have designer décor and ocean views, and amenities include a full-service spa and fitness center, a heated outdoor swimming pool, an upscale restaurant, and a chic lounge with an outdoor veranda and a fire pit.
Address: 1 Ocean Blvd, Atlantic Beach, FL 32233, United States
Ponte Vedra Inn & Club
The Ponte Vedra Inn & Club is an upscale beachfront resort spread over 10 low-rise buildings that offer refined accommodations with private balconies or patios, kitchenettes or full kitchens, and modern amenities. Hotel facilities include four swimming pools, tennis courts, a luxury spa, and a golf course.
Address: 200 Ponte Vedra Blvd, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL 32082
Best Beaches Jacksonville, FL
- Atlantic Beach
- Neptune Beach
- Jacksonville Beach
- Ponte Vedra Beach
- Mayport Beach
- American Beach
- Fort Clinch State Park
- Big Talbot Island State Park
Best Restaurants in Jacksonville, FL
Located in River City Marketplace, Green Papaya is a modern restaurant serving Asian cuisine with a Thai twist.
Address: 13141 City Station Dr #149, Jacksonville, FL 32218, United States
A stylish French restaurant serving seasonal French fare and creative cocktails in an elegant setting.
Address: 3630 Park St, Jacksonville, FL 32205, United States
Taverna is a trendy wine bar serving seasonal Italian and Spanish eats and brick-oven pizzas in a sleek yet warm atmosphere.
Address: 1986 San Marco Blvd, Jacksonville, FL 32207, United States
Best Bars in Jacksonville, FL
303 Atlantic Blvd, Atlantic Beach, FL 32233
River & Post
1000 Riverside Ave #100, Jacksonville, FL 32204
101 E Bay St, Jacksonville, FL 32202
Best Coffee in Jacksonville, FL
929 Edgewood Ave S, Jacksonville, FL 32205
1176 Edgewood Ave S #1, Jacksonville, FL 32205
Bold Bean Coffee Roasters
869 Stockton St, Jacksonville, FL 32204