Jacksonville, Florida, is the largest city by landmass in America. You might be surprised to learn that Jacksonville is four times the land mass of Manhattan. Located in Northeast Florida, just south of the Georgian border, it also has the most shoreline miles out of any city in Florida. In 1513, Northeast Florida was discovered by Ponce De Leon and inhabited by his Spanish crew. In 1822, the land was donated by settlers and the site was named “Jacksonville,” in honour of the territory’s first provisional governor, Andrew Jackson.
Because of the large area, Jacksonville was slated to be a bustling city, with billboards proclaiming Jacksonville the “Bold New City of the South,” which is how the city got its nickname, “Bold City.” It also has a few other nicknames, such as “First Coast,” “River City,” and “Duval.”
You might be surprised to learn that Jacksonville is home to many famous musicians, such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers Band, Yellowcard, Shinedown, Limp Bizkit and Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. Next time you listen to one of their songs, listen to the words for a mention of Jax easter eggs.
I moved to Jacksonville to attend college over eight years ago, and I continuously search out the city’s classic attractions and new spots that have popped up over the years. The city is truly an exciting place to explore the many personalities and call home. So here are the top 20 things to do in Jacksonville.
- Jacksonville, Florida
- Top Tours
- 20 Things To Do In Jacksonville
- 1- Learn To Surf At A Jacksonville Beach
- 2- Explore History At MOSH
- 3- Catch An NFL Game At TIAA Bank Field
- 4- Enjoy Fine Art At The Cummer Museum
- 5- See Wildlife At Jacksonville Zoo And Gardens
- 6- Support Big Cat Conservation At The Catty Shack Ranch
- 7- Shop ’til You Drop At St. Johns Town Center
- 8- Check Out Local Vendors At The Riverside Arts Market
- 9- Drive Your Car Onto The Sand At Huguenot Memorial Park
- 10- Find Peace at Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens
- 11- Walk Around Downtown Fernandina Beach
- 12- See A Show At The Florida Theater
- 13- Dive Into Southern History At Kingsley Plantation
- 14- Bike and Hike At Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park
- 15- Wander Through The Maritime Forest At Little Talbot Island
- 16- See a Broadway Production
- 17- Grab a Drink at One of the Local Watering Holes in Riverside
- 18- Eat Like A Local At AB Corner
- 19- Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth At Sweet Pete’s Candy
- 20- Make Your Own Personal Scent at Wick Candle Bar
- Best of the Beaches E-bike Tour – Explore Jacksonville’s beaches on a cycling tour.
- Half-day City Tour of Jacksonville – Enjoy the city’s sights and the main landmarks.
- Private Solo Surfing Lesson Package – Learn to surf or polish your skills with a professional coach.
- Psychic and Tarot Workshop – Looking for something different? Learn to tap into your psychic energy.
20 Things To Do In Jacksonville
1- Learn To Surf At A Jacksonville Beach
Jacksonville is known as the First Coast and there is no shortage of beaches in the area where you can soak in the sun and feel the ocean breeze on your face.
The best way to experience the ocean breeze is to get out on a surfboard and let the waves captivate you. And Jacksonville’s Beaches are known for their killer swells.
You can learn to surf at pretty much any beach in the area, such as St. Augustine Beach, Mickler’s Beach or Vilano Beach, but we recommend Jacksonville Beach, Atlantic Beach or Neptune Beach if you want to surf with the true locals of the area.
There’s no problem if you don’t know how as getting some surfing lessons will have you up and riding the waves in no time.
Jacksonville Beach is at 503 1st St N, Jacksonville Beach. Atlantic Beach is at 800 Beach Ave, Atlantic Beach. Neptune Beach is at Strand Street, Neptune Beach.
2- Explore History At MOSH
MOSH, or the Museum of Science and History in Jacksonville, is well known for its highly immersive planetarium.
Fun Fact: The Bryan-Gooding Planetarium is one of the largest single-lens planetariums in the U.S. This means you get a crystal-clear viewing of the planets and constellations of our galaxy.
MOSH is Jacksonville’s most visited museum, with good reason.
Beyond the planetarium, you can explore local history and science exhibits, including core exhibits, signature exhibits, travelling exhibits, and outreach exhibits.
Tickets range from $14.75 to $17.75. MOSH is at 1025 Museum Cir, Jacksonville, FL 32207.
3- Catch An NFL Game At TIAA Bank Field
The Jacksonville Jaguars have been Jacksonville’s pride and joy for over 25 years.
Locals crowd the field each Sunday during football season to support their NFL team.
Single games, premium seating, and group tickets are available.
If you’re looking for extracurriculars besides the football game, you’ll be delighted to know that the TIAA Bank Field has a swimming pool and a dog park.
If you can’t make it for a game on Sunday, try participating in a guided tour on Saturday to view this state-of-the-art complex.
TIAA Bank Field is at 1 TIAA Bank Field Dr, Jacksonville, FL 32202.
4- Enjoy Fine Art At The Cummer Museum
The Cummer Museum is Jacksonville’s ode to art lovers and was originally home to art collector Ninah Mae Holden Cummer, who bequeathed the collection to the museum in 1961.
The museum allows visitors to take in the dynamic beauty of different art mediums, including watercolours and sculptures, through permanent and rotating collections.
Outside, immerse yourself in European-inspired gardens that overlook the banks of the St. Johns River.
When you’ve worked up an appetite after appreciating the art, you can grab a bite at the Cummer Cafe.
On Friday nights, bring a blanket and plan to picnic in the gardens.
The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens is at 829 Riverside Ave, Jacksonville, FL 32207. To explore more art around the city, you may also like these tours:
5- See Wildlife At Jacksonville Zoo And Gardens
The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is one of the most family-friendly options on this list.
Visitors of all ages will enjoy viewing and interacting with the zoo’s 2,000 exotic animals.
Watch otters float along, colourful birds fly above and even feed a giraffe, but the exhibits are not just for show.
The zoo is dedicated to supporting the conservation of these wildlife species.
The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is one of seven zoos in the country equipped with an animal wellness team focused on providing the best care and rehabilitation for the animals.
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is at 829 Riverside Ave, Jacksonville, FL 32207.
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6- Support Big Cat Conservation At The Catty Shack Ranch
People travel far and wide to see the big cats at Catty Shack Ranch.
This non-profit sanctuary is ranked the #1 Thing to Do in Jacksonville on Trip Advisor.
Here, you can view some of the world’s most exotic cats, such as tigers, pumas and lions.
The sanctuary is so special because it is dedicated to rehabbing, providing a “forever home” to these endangered animals, and educating its visitors on the importance of conservation.
The owner, Curt LoGiudice, continuously attends conferences with veterinarians and the exotic animal industry to learn how to care for the animals at Catty Shack.
You will feel the big cat love as soon as you walk in.
Tickets range from $7 to $15 and tours are every day from 1 pm to 3 pm.
Catty Shack Ranch is at 1860 Starratt Rd, Jacksonville, FL 32226.
7- Shop ’til You Drop At St. Johns Town Center
The St. Johns Towncenter feels like the heart of Jacksonville.
During the weekends, you can find this place bustling with locals and tourists browsing the shops of this outdoor mall.
Shops range from your everyday Target, Old Navy and Gap to luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co. and Tory Burch.
After working up an appetite from shopping, tuck into a tasty meal. I recommend M Shack (a local favourite for burgers) or J. Alexander’s for a glass of wine at the bar.
St. Johns Town Center is at 4663 River City Dr, Jacksonville, FL 32246.
8- Check Out Local Vendors At The Riverside Arts Market
The Riverside Arts Market is a weekly arts and local farmers market hosted on Saturdays, rain or shine, from 10 am to 3 pm.
The Riverside Avondale Preservation manages the market, which is dedicated to promoting and celebrating the local vendors of Jacksonville.
If you’re looking to tap into what it means to be a local of Jax, this is the perfect place to start.
You can browse rows and rows of local artists, bakers, makers, food trucks and fresh produce from Florida farms.
These vendors rotate each week, so your experience can change again and again.
Riverside Arts Market is at 715 Riverside Ave, Jacksonville, FL 32204.
9- Drive Your Car Onto The Sand At Huguenot Memorial Park
Roll your car right onto this oceanfront park and beach to enjoy wildlife and outdoor activities.
It’s one of the few beaches where you can drive your car and is a cool spot to go four-wheel driving.
As the park is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, it’s a great spot to view rare species.
You can also bike, hike, fish and soak up some rays on the sand.
If you want to spend the night, 70 local camping sites are available for reservation for either tent or RV.
Huguenot Memorial Park is at 10980 Heckscher Dr, Jacksonville, FL 32226.
10- Find Peace at Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens
This 120-acre (48.5 ha) property allows you to connect with nature by providing and protecting biological diversity in Jacksonville.
The Jacksonville Arboretum and Botanical Gardens benefit the community with their efforts to eliminate invasive species, conserve water, and promote the responsible use of chemicals.
In the park, there are several trails to wander and appreciate.
Check the website for the latest schedule for special events and programs.
In December, they create a winter wonderland with plenty of magic for the whole family.
Regular Admission is just $3 per person, so this is an excellent thing to do in Jacksonville on a budget.
Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens is at 1445 Millcoe Rd, Jacksonville, FL 32225.
11- Walk Around Downtown Fernandina Beach
Downtown Fernandina Beach is just under an hour’s drive north of Jacksonville, or 38.5 miles (61.95 km).
This quaint little main street has tons of charm and it’s worth joining this downtown historical walking tour to get your bearings.
You’ll find local shops and boutiques, adorable bed and breakfasts, and unique bars and restaurants that highlight the First Coast’s heritage.
Some of my Downtown Fernandina favourites include Olive Amelia, Pearl, Decantery, and Fernandina’s Fantastic Fudge.
Check the calendar of events for seasonal live music, parades and art walks. And if you have a little more time, you make also want to visit Amelia Island, go kayaking or go on a boat tour. Check out these tours:
- Amelia Island Guided Kayak Tour of Lofoten Creek
- Historic Amelia Island Electric Skateboard or E-Scooter Tour
- Craigcat Boat Tour from Fernandina
Downtown Fernandina Beach is at 309 1/2 Centre St, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034.
12- See A Show At The Florida Theater
Stepping foot into the Florida Theater is an experience in itself.
This historic theatre has been hosting some of the most famous acts since it opened its doors in 1927.
In fact, on its opening date, the Florida Theater was the largest theatre in Florida. Today, it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The grand atmosphere and stunning stage area will leave you speechless no matter what talent you’re enjoying.
This gem is something you won’t want to miss during your time in Jacksonville.
Events at the Florida Theater are a diverse mix of music, comedy, and other entertainment arts. And the theatre also hosts special events such as fundraisers and holiday auctions.
The Florida Theater is at 128 E Forsyth St #300, Jacksonville, FL 32202.
13- Dive Into Southern History At Kingsley Plantation
If you want to really get into the history of Florida, visiting Kingsley Plantation is one of the best things to do in Jacksonville.
The enslaved people on the property built and maintained the plantation during the 18th and 19th centuries.
The plantation was named after its owner, Zephaniah Kingsley, who spent over 25 years there.
Discover stories from the past and engage in an immersive audio tour of the plantation and grounds to learn about Florida’s complicated history.
This is the perfect destination for the history buff in your family.
Kingsley Plantation is at 11676 Palmetto Ave, Jacksonville, FL 32226.
14- Bike and Hike At Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park
You won’t get bored in this 1.5-mile (2.4 km) public beach and city park in Mayport in the Jacksonville Beaches area.
It consists of 447 acres (180 ha) of mature coastal hammock with tons of outdoor activities to participate in at the park.
The beach area provides some of the best surf on the coast, 20 miles (32 km) of hiking and biking trails, campgrounds, a 60-acre (24 ha) lake for fishing and kayaking, a kid’s splash park, and plenty of areas for picnics and family functions.
The park is open daily, with hours varying depending on the season.
There is an entry fee depending on the activity you intend to participate in, or you can purchase an annual pass if you plan to visit frequently.
Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park is at 500 Wonderwood Dr, Jacksonville, FL 32233.
15- Wander Through The Maritime Forest At Little Talbot Island
Exploring Little Talbot Island State Park is one of the unique things to do in Jacksonville.
The park is a 5-mile (8 km) stretch of shoreline home to numerous wildlife species and maritime forests.
Visitors love to take pictures of the large trees that inhabit the shore.
The park is 17 miles (27.35 km) northeast of Jacksonville on State Road A1A.
Little Talbot Island State Park is at 12157 Heckscher Dr, Jacksonville, FL 32226
16- See a Broadway Production
The Jacksonville Center for Performing Arts, also known as the Times-Union Center is a place to enjoy community artistry in downtown Jacksonville.
The facility features three theatres focused on providing the community access to top entertainment through the First Coast.
The centre is home to the Jacksonville Symphony and hosts classical, opera, gospel, ballet, Broadway, and Off-Broadway productions.
Jacksonville Center for Performing Arts is at 300 Water St, Jacksonville, FL 32202.
17- Grab a Drink at One of the Local Watering Holes in Riverside
Riverside is home to some of the best party spots in Jacksonville and is the place to let your hair down.
You won’t find many chains in this area, especially not when it comes to places to grab a cocktail.
Most of the bars are on King Street. So, check out the rooftops at Black Sheep, sit in the bathtub at Rogue or go to the speak easy-ish second floor at Hoptinger. Then, dance the night away at Park Place.
A fun way to discover the best watering holes is to join this two-hour Pub Walk or the Jax Cocktail and Wine Tour. If visiting breweries is more your beat, you may also like the Jax Urban Brewery Tour.
Riverside Bars are at King St, Jacksonville, FL 32204
18- Eat Like A Local At AB Corner
The Beaches Town Center is a local favourite on the corner of Atlantic and Neptune Beaches.
There are a few local shops and boutiques to browse, but some of the best local restaurants are the reason to make the drive here.
No matter what cuisine you’re in the mood for, you’ll find it at “A.B. Corner”, as the locals call it.
My recommendations include Poe’s for burgers, Flying Iguana for tacos, Mezzaluna for Italian, Hawkers for Asian and North Beach Fish Camp for seafood.
Before dinner, enjoy cocktails on the balcony at Coop 303 or the patio at The Local. Try the Corks and Forks 5 Points Culinary Tour along the Jacksonville riverside for a taste of everything.
Beaches Town Center is at 0 Atlantic Blvd, Neptune Beach, FL 32266.
19- Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth At Sweet Pete’s Candy
Sweet Pete’s Candy Shop is the closest thing to Willy Wonka’s Factory you’ll ever experience.
The two-story staple is decorated from head to toe in all things silly and sweet.
You’ll be overwhelmed with the available gourmet chocolate, novelty candy and ice cream options.
Sweet Pete’s Candy is at 400 N Hogan St, Jacksonville, FL 32202.
20- Make Your Own Personal Scent at Wick Candle Bar
Personalize your very own scent at Wick Candle Bar.
You’ll start your experience by choosing from hundreds of scents and creating a completely unique combination.
From there, you can create natural soy wax candles, sprays, oils, reed diffusers and body care products.
Wick: A Candle Bar is at 1641 Hendricks Ave, Jacksonville, FL 32207.
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