Though long overshadowed by its more well-known neighbors, under-the-radar Jacksonville, or “Jax” as the locals calls it, is fast becoming known for its exciting array of tourist-friendly activities. Laze on spacious beaches, spot wildlife in its waterways, admire striking 20th-century architecture and explore fascinating museums that reveal little-known facts about local history.
The first outsiders to settle in this part of Florida were the French Huguenots, who established a village here in 1564. The French settlement was later destroyed by the Spanish. Visit Fort Caroline National Memorial to see a reconstruction of the original French fort.
For most visitors, Jacksonville’s biggest appeal is its sandy coastline, which stretches for 22 miles (35 kilometers). To the north is the casual, surfer hot spot Atlantic Beach. Bordering it to the south is family-friendly Neptune Beach. Head even further south to Jacksonville Beach for lively bars, restaurants and nightlife, or go further south again to the dune-bordered Ponte Vedra Beach for up-scale beachside resorts and golf clubs including the famous TPC Sawgrass.
The city is crisscrossed by waterways, with more than 1,100 miles (1,770 kilometers) of navigable routes to explore. Rent a kayak and paddle through Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve or take a water taxi across St. Johns River, between Downtown and the neighborhood of San Marco. Admire the Henry John Klutho-designed Bisbee Building, a 10-story high rise dating back to 1909 in Downtown, then stroll around the boutique, gallery and restaurant-filled historical district of San Marco.
For a culture fix, tour the galleries of the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, which features both indoor galleries stocked with paintings, decorative art and antiques, as well as gardens planted in English and Italian styles. The Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville spotlights contemporary works, including installations, photographs and film.
To reach Jacksonville, fly into Jacksonville International Airport, located around 20 minutes from the city’s downtown area. Buses, trolleys and a river-spanning monorail can be used to get around. As the city is large and sprawling, renting a car is advisable.
Beaches, Live Music and Sports
Browse through art that dates back thousands of years and explore scenic gardens housing one of the oldest trees in the region at this museum in Jacksonville.
Look through almost 1,000 pieces of contemporary art across six floors of this innovative museum at the center of Jacksonville’s cultural movement.
Capable of seating over 80,000 fans, this modern football stadium is the exciting home of the Jacksonville Jaguars, international soccer games and music events.
Discover boutiques, restaurants, nightclubs and a historic museum in this vast shopping complex beside the picturesque St. Johns River.
After visiting Jacksonville Naval Air Station, make a plan to see the other sights and activities in Westside. Stroll along the riverfront or attend a sporting event in this family-friendly area.
Admire thousands of animals and plants across entertaining exhibits in this family-friendly zoo that also has a children’s play area and a 4-D experience.
Prepare yourself for an amazing day of Amelia inland fishing in the backwaters of the Amelia River. Join an expert guide on a hunt for the perfect spot to capture abundant redfish and tarpon, cast out your line, and begin the waiting game in the most perfect, beautiful natural atmosphere.
Using your smartphone, you'll be given nearly 150 objects to find during your scavenger hunt. You'll then wander throughout the downtown area searching for the items. Once you've found the object, you'll send a photo in to score points.
Can you survive the zombie apocalypse… Zombie Scavengers leads you into the city to collect supplies to survive during this interactive scavenger game. With the whole world in chaos and zombies outnumbering the living 10 to 1, small colonies of the living are doing all they can to survive.
Motor out onto the Intracoastal Waterway for some true outdoor fishing just off the shores of Jacksonville. This outing surrounds you with the peaceful, secluded scenery of creeks and fishing holes that you can explore with some expert guidance from your captain.
Testing your skills to escape within 60 minutes! Family fun! Great for a date night or corporate event! Bring your friends to put your minds together to escape! Unique and challenging escape rooms! Fun for corporate team building experience! Your mission for this escape room: Your mob boss has a job for you… rob a bank.
Visit: St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum, 12 S Castillo Dr, St. Augustine, FL 32084-3650 The St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum offers an exciting and educational museum experience that transports you and your family back in time over 300 years to Port Royal, Jamaica, at the height of the Golden Age of Piracy.