Jacksonville or Jax as the natives call it, on the Atlantic Coast of Florida, is the largest city by landmass in America. Its southern charm, friendly neighborhoods, and local cuisines make this Florida city worth a visit. There are plenty of things to do in Jacksonville, FL. The city is so rich in culture and heritage that it is dotted with numerous sights and experiences to enjoy. The city sits alongside St. John’s River, the Atlantic Ocean, and spectacular beaches. Since there’s so much to explore, here we have rounded up a few experiences for you.
Best Time to Visit Jacksonville
Jacksonville has a humid subtropical climate. Summers here are hot and humid and warm to mild and dry winters. It is best to book a flight to Jacksonville during winter when the weather is ideal for sightseeing. However, spring and fall in Jax also see a huge number of tourists. If you are looking for a beach vacation in the city, summer should be avoided.
Best Things to Do in Jacksonville
Jax has a lot to offer for history buffs. Not only the museums but several historic buildings and plantations are known for their historical significance. Additionally, nature lovers can visit the nearby islands, beaches, and wildlife sanctuaries to reconnect with nature and art aficionados can spend their evenings catching a performance at the Florida Theater.
Here are a few places you should visit when you book a flight to Florida.
A trip to the plantation takes you back to the 19th century, where you will find a grand southern mansion from the pre-Civil War days. Kingsley Plantation is located in Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve on Fort George Island. It was named after its owner Zephaniah Kingsley, who moved to the island in the 1800s with his family. His wife Anna, whom he bought as a slave and freed and married, purchased 60 enslaved people, whom they employed to produce cotton, citrus fruit, sugarcane, and corn.
Today, the plantation houses and the nearby structures are preserved by the National Park Service. Here you can learn about how slaves were exploited during that period. Apart from the history, it also features a few trails, where you can go for long walks.
The Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary
This wildlife sanctuary is a non-profit organization that educates people on the dangers of owning big cats as pets and the threat to the cats due to environmental change. The sanctuary shelters home to endangered big cats and rescues them from danger. It is home to lions, tigers, leopards, lynx, and pumas. The sanctuary offers visitors the opportunity to get a close look at these majestic creatures.
It also offers day and night guided tours of 40 minutes, within which, visitors can learn about the sanctuary’s permanent residents, their natural habitats, and anecdotes about interacting with the cats. Visiting the sanctuary with your kids is one of the fun things to do in Jacksonville, FL.
The Cummer Museums of Art & Gardens
This museum was a dream of a local philanthropist Ninah May Holden Cummer. She wanted to create a center of beauty and culture. Unfortunately, she didn’t live long to see her dream project. Today, this museum houses more than 5,000 pieces of artwork, some of which dates back to more than 3,000 years ago. Apart from the huge exhibits on display, it also organizes seminars and lectures. The most recent artworks are from famous artists like Norman Rockwell, Winslow Homer, Thomas Moran, and Mildred Thompson.
The garden is spread across an area of 2.5 acres and features four different zones. The English and Italian Gardens are more than a hundred years old. Take a stroll around the garden and find the fountains, reflecting pools, and canopy. Whenever you visit the garden, it always decks up with different flora.
Once it was the most desired island in America. It was even captured, lost, and recaptured by Spanish, English, French, and Scottish rulers at various points in time. In fact, a total of eight flags were flown over the island- more flags than anywhere in the US. It was once home to pirates, gun runners, union soldiers, sailors, Confederates, and escaped prisoners. Sp expects to dig a lot of history here. In 1930, the island was a popular vacation destination among the black residents of Jacksonville.
Today, this historic island, located 30 miles northeast of downtown draws locals, families, and tourists, who come here on the weekend to visit the 13 miles of beaches, and historic sights, and to enjoy its laid-back vibe. Visiting Amelia Island Museum of History to learn about its pirate stories is one of the must things to do in Jacksonville, FL. Adventure enthusiasts can hike through the park, and look for the alligators, and wild horses.
Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens
This family-friendly tourist attraction in Jacksonville is home to a large number of wildlife creatures. The zoo is located at the edge of River Trout about seven miles from Downtown Jacksonville, and is spread over an area of 115 acres of land. Visiting the zoo is a great opportunity to get close to animals like giraffes, elephants, big cats, and great apes. A total of 2000 animals, and 1000 plants are living in the zoo and the garden. Visitors to the zoo are impressed by the large number of these wide species of animals and plants.
It remains open throughout the week and hence you can plan a trip here any time of the week. It gets crowded on the weekends. There’s a play park and splash ground for the kids. Visit Stingray Bay, where you can pat a few friendly inhabitants. Visitors can hop on the Old-Time Zoo train to get around the facility. Other highlights include a River Quest Scenic River cruise and a 4D theater.
Whether you are an art aficionado or not, an evening spent in Florida Theater is never a dull moment. It was first established in 1927 as a cultural venue and to promote local artists. Today, it hosts more than 200 cultural and entertainment programs annually. Interestingly several world-famous artists and performers have made their appearances here and played music from rock to Rachmaninoff. Did you know that Elvis Presley had his first solo show here?
IC – Craig ONeal
Talking about the architecture, it was built in the Mediterranean Revival style with terrazzo and tile floors, decorative columns, terracotta exterior, chandeliers, and amber glass light fixtures. A trip to the theater to catch a live performance is a must thing to do in Jacksonville.
Jax or Jacksonville has a few beaches nearby too. Among them, Atlantic Beach, 16 miles east along Route 10 is another must-visit attraction. Tourists find various accommodations, vacation rentals, laid-back eateries, golf courses, and miles-long sandy shores. If you have enough time, ensure to visit the nearby islands as well.