Top 12 Free Things To Do in Jacksonville

As the largest city by area in the contiguous United States, Jacksonville serves up endless things to see and experience for visitors on any budget. Luckily, some of the city’s top attractions won’t cost you a cent. From riverside rambles to cultural events and even professional sports, you can enjoy Jacksonville without emptying your wallet.

Metro ParkPicnics, play areas, river views
Jacksonville Zoo on Free DaysWildlife habitats, animal enclosures
Local Art GalleriesArt appreciation, artist events
Friendship Fountain ParkIconic fountain, city skyline views
Local Shops and DiningWindow shopping, affordable meals
Springfield Historic DistrictHistoric homes, indie galleries
Community FestsCultural festivals, arts market
NFL Game with Bold City BrigadeFree Jaguars tickets, tailgate vibes

This guide covers the most popular free things to do in Jacksonville beyond just beaches. It provides budget-friendly ideas for families, couples and solo travelers looking to explore the city’s vibrant public parks, museums, markets and more at no cost. Read on for insider tips on keeping your cash while still making incredible vacation memories.

Take in Fresh Air and Views at Metro Park

Name and Location: Metropolitan Park is a large urban park located along the St. Johns River in downtown Jacksonville.

History and Significance: Opened in 1976, the park has become a popular gathering place and venue for major events like festivals, concerts, celebrations and sporting events with its amphitheater and riverfront views.

What to Expect: Visitors take relaxing strolls along the riverwalk, take in skyline views, bring a picnic to the green spaces, launch kayaks and partake in the many special events hosted in the park throughout the year.

Visitor Information: Free and open daily 6am to 10pm. Parking available around perimeter. Public restrooms, seating and lighting available.

Pack a picnic or pick up takeout to enjoy at Jacksonville’s scenic Metro Park running along the St. Johns River directly across from downtown. The large city park provides plenty of manicured green space, blooming gardens, fountains and even a small lake to discover on leisurely walks.

Families particularly love the awesome play areas like the nautical themed Metro Playpark with climbing marine structures for kids. The park also connects right into the Northbank Riverwalk, a 3-mile pedestrian and bike path following the waterfront past museums, shops and dining patios. Metro Park offers both skyline views and a chance to immerse in nature without leaving downtown.

Tour the Jacksonville Zoo on Free Days

Name and Location: The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is situated 20 miles south of downtown Jacksonville at 370 Zoo Parkway in the Mandarin neighborhood, overlooking the scenic Trout River.

History and Significance: Open since 1914, today it is considered one of the top 10 zoos in the U.S. with over 2,000 rare and exotic animals and 1,000 plant species displayed across 110 acres of sanctuary.

What to Expect: Visitors explore immersive animal habitats and gardens mimicking natural environments from Asia, Africa and Florida, petting zoo areas, special events, shows, tram rides and dining overlooking scenic water views throughout the park.

Visitor Information: Open daily 9am-5pm, closing times vary seasonally. Discounted tickets certain weekdays. Parking $5-10 depending on lot location.

While the Jacksonville Zoo typically charges admission, it opens its gates free of charge to the public multiple times per year. Mark your calendar for Visit Jacksonville’s annual Free Day in June when the award-winning zoo waives ticket fees. Explore wildlife habitats including the Forest to Forest trail crossing exotic flora to the Range of the Jaguar rainforest exhibit full of majestic big cats like jaguars and ocelots.

Other free days may apply for military families or during special holiday weeks, so check the zoo’s event schedule for upcoming dates to visit on a budget. Strolling the beautifully designed animal enclosures and landscaped gardens costs nothing but provides fun for the whole family all day long.

Appreciate Local Art Galleries

Name and Location: Jacksonville has a thriving arts scene showcased at numerous galleries located downtown and surrounding neighborhoods.

History and Significance: Local non-profit and privately owned galleries have driven growth displaying Florida talent in the region spanning paintings, sculpture, glasswork, multimedia pieces and more. Monthly Art Walk events draw crowds.

What to Expect: Visitors tour standout galleries like CoRK Arts District, The Art Center, Tiger Fiber and Southern Grounds displaying affordable fine arts by emerging and mid-career artists working in varied mediums and styles.

Visitor Information: Hours and exhibits vary by gallery. Maps at Most cluster downtown and surrounding districts. Free self-guided tours.

Jacksonville’s downtown Southbank area features numerous small galleries open to the public highlighting regional artists across styles and media. Every first Wednesday during downtown’s monthly Art Walk celebration, the neighborhood stays open extended hours while offering wine, light bites and special meet-the-artist events absolutely free.

Some standout riverside galleries to pop into include CoRK Arts District housing DIY art spaces built with recycled materials, The Temple art venue inside a 100-year old church and Chameleon Consort showcasing contemporary fine art photography. Travel just across the bridge to Jacksonville’s hip San Marco neighborhood to discover even more independent galleries welcoming visitors to inspire their inner creative side through art appreciation.

Stroll through Friendship Fountain Park

Name and Location: Friendship Fountain is located along Jacksonville’s Southbank Riverwalk in downtown at 1015 Museum Cir.

History and Significance: One of the world’s largest and tallest water fountains, Friendship Fountain opened in 1965 as a symbol of Jacksonville’s proud seafaring heritage highlighted through choreographed water shows with lights and music.

What to Expect: Visitors enjoy mesmerizing displays with water shooting 120 feet into the air, floating on the adjacent reflecting pool and taking in stunning views of downtown Jacksonville and the St. John’s River from picturesque landscaped grounds.

Visitor Information: Free fountain light shows occur Fridays and Saturdays at 7pm, 9:30pm between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Surrounding park open daily dawn to dusk.

The iconic Friendship Fountain has graced Jacksonville’s downtown riverfront since 1965 as the world’s largest and tallest fountain. Today, the landmark sits at the heart of beautiful Friendship Fountain Park right along the St. Johns River. Visitors frolic under dancing streams from the massive 121-foot-tall fountain daily from 10am until dusk in the warmer months.

The dazzling water show illuminated at night by rainbow LED lights makes for stunning photo backdrops. Surrounding the marble monument, the park also features plenty of benches, manicured lawns and tranquil walking paths to take in views of both the fountain show and sweeping city skyline. For iconic Jacksonville scenery, Friends Fountain Park always delights.

Peruse Local Shops and Dining

Name and Location: Five Points and San Marco are vibrant historic shopping and dining districts located near downtown Jacksonville offering locally owned boutiques and eateries.

History and Significance: Five Points formed in the 1920s as one of Florida’s first suburban commercial centers. Historic San Marco dates to 1920s Spanish revival architecture and remains beloved for its sidewalk cafes and indie retailers.

What to Expect: Visitors stroll pedestrian-friendly blocks popping in and out of specialty shops and dining spots befitting Jacksonville’s creative culture, from books, craft brews and wines to specialty foods, gifts, apparel and decor.

Visitor Information: Free street parking. Five Points more alternative and hipster styled. San Marco more upscale boutique. Area maps at

Just across the bridge from downtown in Jacksonville’s Riverside and San Marco neighborhoods, visitors uncover vibrant local business districts perfect for window shopping and budget-friendly meals. Stroll down trendy roads like King Street in Riverside to discover quirky art galleries, colorful boutiques and ethnic eateries while admiring the artsy district’s street art murals all free to enjoy. Just down the road in San Marco, wander brick lined San Marco Square and side streets to peek at indie clothing studios, home decor stores and cafes inside charming historic buildings for more unique finds.

No money required to explore either district’s abundance of boutique retail therapy stops and casual counter service restaurants ideal for splitting tasty, affordable tapas plates or sandwiches. By supporting small businesses, you often save money while getting the inside scoop from passionate proprietors on what makes their Jacksonville community special.

Explore the Artsy Springfield Historic District

Name and Location: Springfield is a historic residential neighborhood located just northwest of downtown Jacksonville, Florida spanning over 1,700 acres.

History and Significance: Springfield originated in 1869 and boasts the largest collection of restored Victorian homes in Florida, with over 5,000 buildings showcasing Queen Anne, Colonial Revival and other iconic architectural styles on the National Register of Historic Places.

What to Expect: Visitors take self-guided walking tours admiring gorgeous preserved homes, stroll beneath oak canopies spotting camellias and azaleas, visit unique shops, cafes and community cultural attractions throughout the sprawling lakeside neighborhood.

Visitor Information: Free printed tour maps at Home tours offered seasonally. On-street parking and rideshares recommended.

Just north of downtown, Jacksonville’s Springfield neighborhood enchants visitors with its vibrant arts scene and preserved historic homes. The residential area contains over 550 buildings listed on the National Historic Registry dating back to the late 19th century. Architecture lovers adore scoping out the diverse array of styles from pastel colored Queen Anne cottages to stately Colonials and Prairie styles along Oak-shaded brick roads.

In between beautiful residential wanderings, pop into the neighborhood’s cultural hub centered around 2nd and Main Streets to discover colorful street art murals, indie galleries like Jacksonville Artists Guild and Klutho Museum devoted to local historic preservation in a landmark 1901 mansion. Don’t miss seeing the glowing Springfield ball atop the neighborhood’s Sulzbacher Center shining as a beacon to creativity day or night.

Celebrate Local Culture at Community Fests

Name and Location: Jacksonville hosts various cultural festivals downtown along the St. Johns River at Metropolitan Park and other area locations.

History and Significance: Major events include the Florida-Georgia Game tailgate, Jazz Festival showcasing regional talent, Art Walks with local galleries, food truck events and seasonal celebrations drawing enthusiastic local crowds.

What to Expect: Visitors immerse in lively crowds celebrating Jacksonville’s diversity through music, food, arts and culture with vibrant energy along the scenic downtown riverfront setting during featured events.

Visitor Information: Events year-round. Check for schedules. Location varies. Free to ticket entry fees depending on event.

Throughout the year, Jacksonville communities host incredible cultural festivals where visitors immerse in heritage, art, music and cuisine absolutely free. Downtown’s weekly Riverside Arts Market brings over 100 curated artisans and producers together every Saturday to sell locally made goods while regional bands play.

In June, Jacksonville honors its vibrant Caribbean roots with the Caribbean Heritage Festival spotlighting island music, carnival costumes and even West Indian cricket matches across a jam-packed multiday extravaganza. Around the winter holidays, head inland to discover to small town charm at Middleburg’s popular Christmas Festival on Main with hometown parade floats, live nativities and pictures with Santa himself.

See an NFL Game with the Bold City Brigade

Name and Location: The Bold City Brigade is the passionate fanbase cheersquad that supports the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL team during home games at TIAA Bank Field in downtown Jacksonville.

History and Significance: Founded in 2012, the boisterous Bold City Brigade occupies the south endzone SECTION 149-151 igniting team spirit through creative cheers, costumes, tailgates and community engagement, embodying Jacksonville’s daring, gritty culture.

What to Expect: Visitors immerse in the Brigade’s non-stop high-fives, raucous cheering, pump-up music, face paint and blaze orange attire passionately rooting for the Jaguars with true fan camaraderie from kickoff to final whistle all game long.

Visitor Information: Home games September-January at TIAA Bank Field. Season tickets or single game seats in the supporter SECTION 149-151 recommended to join the revelry.

Though Jacksonville Jaguars tickets normally come with a hefty price tag, the team’s official fan club called Bold City Brigade offers free memberships plus opportunities to score tickets in their sections. Fans that are new members can register online to unlock invites to contests for free upper level tickets on the Bold City Brigade side of TIAA Bank Field.

Donning their spirited black and teal gear, the hype squad roots for breakout stars like quarterback Trevor Lawrence from their exclusive sections while meeting fellow diehard fans. Even without tickets, anyone can stop by the Bold City Brigade Pregame Tailgate to soak up the electric game day vibes with Jags face painting, pumping music, contests and swag giveaways outside the stadium early on home match Sundays.

Conclusion on Free Things to Do

While Jacksonville overflows with entertainment for every taste and budget, visitors can still fill their itinerary with incredible sightseeing without spending a dime. From vibrant cultural events to gorgeous public parks and even professional football, Jacksonville surprises with the abundance of high-quality attractions open free for everyone to enjoy. Use this local’s guide to experience the city’s diversity when traveling on a budget.

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