Top 12 Things to Do in Jacksonville, Florida

Last Updated on February 19, 2024 by Emily Johnson

From NFL football and sandy beaches to historic sites, Jacksonville offers a range of attractions for every interest.

ActivityDescription
Cummer Museum of Art & GardensFine arts and stunning gardens in Riverside.
Jacksonville Zoo and GardensRare and endangered animals, and botanical gardens.
Riverside Arts MarketOver 200 vendors under the Fuller Warren Bridge.
Timucuan Ecological and Historic PreserveCoastal wetlands and historical sites.
Museum of Science & HistoryInteractive displays on science and local history.
TIAA Bank FieldHome of the Jacksonville Jaguars and event venue.
Jacksonville Beaches22 miles of Atlantic shores for various beach activities.
St. Johns River CruisesDolphin sightseeing and nature tours.
Jacksonville Arboretum & GardensA community green space with vibrant plantings.
King StreetTapas scene, nightlife, and cultural attractions.
Jacksonville Jumbo ShrimpMinor league baseball games and family fun.

As Florida’s most populous city, vibrant Jacksonville celebrates its history while continually reinventing its extensive cultural scene with new restaurants, museums, and public art installations. When exploring this riverfront destination, make time for these top experiences.

Tour the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens

Name and Location: The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens is located on the St. Johns River in the Riverside-Avondale Historic District of Jacksonville, Florida.

History and Significance: Founded in 1961 to house the private collection of philanthropists Ninah Cummer and Ada Small, it has expanded with over 5,000 works spanning over 8,000 years, set amidst English and Italian-style gardens along the riverfront.

What to Expect: Visitors explore European and American paintings, fabrics, antiquities and the historic gardens while enjoying special exhibitions, events, youth programs and dining over scenic river views.

Visitor Information: Open Tuesday–Friday 10am–4pm, Saturday 10am–5pm, Sunday noon–5pm. Closed Mondays and major holidays. Admission is $12 for adults, discounted for students, youth, military.

With an extensive fine arts collection spanning 4000 BC to the 21st century, this landmark museum located in the city’s exclusive Riverside neighborhood also impresses visitors with stunning formal English and Italianate gardens lush with flowers and fountains. The Cummer’s galleries showcase iconic European Old Master works, American portraits, and rotating exhibits covering major styles and artists ranging from the French Impressionists to pop culture icon Andy Warhol. Interactive programs, videos and visual descriptions provide engaging ways to further examine the globally-renowned collection.

Go Wild at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

Name and Location: Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is located along the Trout River in the Mandarin neighborhood of Jacksonville, Florida.

History and Significance: Opened in 1914, today the zoo sits on 117 wooded acres and is home to over 2,000 rare, exotic animals with award-winning botanical gardens drawing visitors from all over.

What to Expect: Visitors explore habitats like the African Veldt seeing giraffes and rhinos up close while also enjoying interactive experiences like Stingray Bay, daily keeper chats and shows, endangered species, and play spaces tailored for kids.

Visitor Information: Open daily 9am-5pm. Admission is $24.95 for adults, $18.95 for ages 3-12 with annual passes available. Discounts for military/seniors. Special events and summer camps offered.

Across 117 lush acres in the center of Jacksonville, the city’s family-friendly zoo lets visitors get up close to 2,000 rare and endangered animals from around the world through immersive naturalistic habitats and exhibit spaces conveying geographical distinctions, wildlife adaptions plus important conservation science concepts. Special experiences like Stingray Bay touch tank encounters or Land of the Tiger feeding demos connect guests to featured species and ecosystems. Botanical gardens, daily animal shows and a splash park also round out a full day of wildlife adventures at this leading Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) facility.

Marvel at Riverside Arts Market

Name and Location: Riverside Arts Market (RAM) takes place under the Fuller Warren Bridge along Jacksonville’s Northbank Riverwalk by Downtown each Saturday from 10am-3pm.

History and Significance: Established in 2010, this producer-only open air market draws 200+ local vendors selling unique arts, crafts, produce and cuisine while street performers entertain shoppers who explore on foot or by water taxi.

What to Expect: Shoppers browse paintings, pottery, jewelry and photography while sipping coffees and enjoying food trucks, fresh seafood, barbecue, baked goods among lively crowds in a scenic locale overlooking the St. Johns River.

Visitor Information: Free entry. Parking available in area garages and surface lots. Pet and family-friendly. Vendor list at riversideartsmarket.com

Taking place weekly beneath the Fuller Warren Bridge along Jacksonville’s scenic Northbank riverfront, RAM boasts over 200 regular vendors selling creative art, crafts, goods and food created and curated locally. Shoppers find paintings, photographs, jewelry, textiles, body products, prints and garments plus beer, baked goods and savory snacks from neighboring restaurants and food trucks as they admire talented performing musicians and artisans at work. Dazzling views of downtown across the waterfront make RAM a beloved community event celebrating living with passion and purpose in Jacksonville.

Visit Ancient City Sites at Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve

Name and Location: The Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve contains over 46,000 acres of wetlands, waterways and uplands in Jacksonville and northeast Florida including Fort Caroline National Memorial along the St. Johns River.

History and Significance: Forming one of the last unspoiled coastal wetlands on the Atlantic Coast, these preserves and parks protect historic sites and endangered species while offering visitors a chance to experience Florida’s rich natural and cultural heritage as the Timucua Indians did.

What to Expect: Outdoor enthusiasts hike, bike, kayak, camp and observe wildlife along waterways, beaches and trails with access to historic forts, archeological sites, museums and guided tours that reveal over 6,000 years of inhabitation.

Visitor Information: Various preserve sites are open daily with free admission. Some campground fees may apply. Weather concerns may affect accessibility. Maps at www.nps.gov/timu

Protecting some of the last unspoiled coastal wetlands on the Northern Atlantic coast, this federal preserve made up of multiple sites welcomes kayakers, hikers and nature lovers seeking glimpses of 16th century Florida native life at locations like Fort Caroline National Memorial and Kingsley Plantation. Miles of beautiful beach, marsh trails and shaded grounds give visitors a chance to reflect on the interplay between human ambitions and nature’s power while admiring vistas seemingly unchanged for millenia since Timucuan inhabitants lived off the land’s abundance generations ago.

Browse Intriguing Exhibits at Museum of Science & History

Name and Location: Located downtown, the Museum of Science & History (MOSH) offers world-class exhibits spanning science, local history and arts and culture.

History and Significance: Initially founded in 1941, the museum has educated and inspired over 31 million people to date through immersive, entertaining experiences across 250,000 square feet of space.

What to Expect: Visitors of all ages marvel at dinosaur fossils, experience space travel, see perform planetarium shows, and interact with technology while also learning about Northeast Florida heritage through films, artifacts and permanent installations like the Bryan-Gooding Planetarium.

Visitor Information: Open daily 10am-5pm, closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Admission is $15 for adults, discounted for seniors, students and youth to as low as $10.

With a mission to inspire future generations through science and local history, this highly interactive riverside museum encompasses multiple floors of rotating hands-on displays exploring subjects like physics, medicine innovations and Jacksonville cultural heritage. Kids especially love aeronautic flight simulators while archaeology buffs appreciate Timucuan dugout canoes and other relics in MOSH permanent collections spanning natural history to regional stories. The Bryan-Gooding Planetarium transports visitors of all ages through immersive space odysseys playing out on its 360-degree screen in the round.

Experience Football at TIAA Bank Field

Name and Location: Located near downtown Jacksonville, TIAA Bank Field is an open-air stadium home to the National Football League’s Jacksonville Jaguars franchise.

History and Significance: Originally completed in 1995 during the team’s inception, iconic features include the world’s largest LED video displays, a top-rated sound system, swimming pools, luxury suites and a capacity for over 63,000 cheering fans.

What to Expect: Those with tickets enjoy hard-hitting professional NFL action from August through January in the adrenaline-pumping atmosphere of game days between the fervent fans and team that call TIAA Bank Field home during the regular season and playoffs.

Visitor Information: Season tickets or single game tickets range widely in price based on seating location. Tours are available on non-game days. Schedule, tickets at jaguars.com.

As home turf for the Jacksonville Jaguars professional team, “The Bank” stadium right along the St. Johns River in the Sports Complex area hosts football and Monster Jam events regularly drawing massive crowds cheering rabidly for the hometown team. Beyond game days, visitors can tour interactive exhibits at the US Assure Club showcasing Jags history, milestones and fan experiences. The lively Daily’s Place Amphitheater next door also attracts major concerts with past performers like Florida Georgia Line and Jimmy Buffet rocking out under downtown skyline views.

Relax at Jacksonville Beaches

Name and Location: Jacksonville’s Beaches encompass over 20 miles of coastline along the Atlantic Ocean, connected by scenic highway A1A with charming communities like Atlantic, Neptune and Jacksonville Beach.

History and Significance With their clean sand, rolling waves, beach cottages, surf shops, seafood eateries and lively entertainment drawing visitors since the early 1900s, these remnants of “Old Florida” retain their vintage resort charm.

What to Expect: Locals and visitors surf, swim, fish, sail, golf, shop, dine and stay in oceanside hotels along the bustling boardwalks and beaches with vibrant nightlife scenes appealing to all ages and interests year-round thanks to the temperate climate.

Visitor Information: Lifeguards are on duty from March-September. Public parking available in metered spaces and lots. JTA buses and water taxis connect the beaches. Info at visitjacksonville.com/beaches/.

From lively Atlantic Beach with bustling oceanfront restaurants and bars to peaceful Ponte Vedra’s oceanside golf courses further south, Jacksonville’s 22 miles of sandy Atlantic shores offer relaxing surf and sand for beachgoers to swim, surf, sail or simply soak in stellar coastal scenery any season. Site of the annual THE PLAYERS major golf championship plus frequent A-list concerts and local cultural festivals at Seawalk Pavilion band shell, Jacksonville Beach specifically remains a premier draw bursting with shops, lodging and eateries just steps from the rolling waves and golden dunes.

Admire Wild Dolphins on St. Johns River Cruises

Name and Location: Jacksonville’s St. Johns River, the largest flowing north, courses through the heart of the city for visitors to experience fully via river cruises and water taxis.

History and Significance: This 310-mile river has shaped Jacksonville throughout history—from Timucuan Indians and Spanish explorers to shipping fortunes and U.S. Navy influence—remaining the cultural and economic keystone as a biodiverse ecosystem, working waterway and scenic sanctuary today.

What to Expect: Cruises range from sightseeing to dining and multi-day trips as visitors witness bustling downtown, historic neighborhoods, wildlife like exotic birds, manatees, dolphins alongside quaint riverfront settings including Friendship Fountain’s nightly light show.

Visitor Information: Numerous public/private cruises available year-round, advance booking suggested. Downtown water taxi rides start at $5 for hop on, hop off access to riverside dining/shopping. Info at visitjacksonville.com.

Several local companies like River Cruises and Tours run dolphin sightseeing boats up the wide St. Johns River through downtown, around scenic islands, beneath towering bridges, and into marshes where wild dolphin pods surface beside riverboats to the delight of passengers capturing photos. Nature lovers appreciate expert captain commentary on the estuary ecosystem and area avian fauna like herons often spotted hunting alongside boats during sailings sometimes enhanced by onboard live music as well.

Marvel at Butterflies at Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens

Name and Location: Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens occupies a 12-acre site south of downtown at 1445 Millcoe Road offering scenic gardens, trails, and programming.

History and Significance: Initially a private estate, since 2007 this nonprofit arboretum has offered visitors a peaceful place to reconnect with nature through cultivation of diverse botanical collections among restored wetlands, uplands and historic buildings.

What to Expect: Gardens bloom in beauty across seasons with camellias, azaleas, crape myrtles, butterflies, along paved and unpaved walking paths perfect for relaxation, photography or special events from weddings to workshops within a pastoral pocket of Jacksonville.

Visitor Information: Open daily 8am-dusk year-round. Free general admission. Trails are navigable for visitors of all ages and abilities. More at jaxarboretum.org.

Spreading across 12 acres south of downtown at the historic Mount Tabor property, this community green space filled with winding paths makes an enchanting stop to admire ponds, gazebos, fountains and thousands of vibrant plantings attracting birds, butterflies and families looking to connect artfully with nature. Seasonal displays in the Johnny and June Cash Memorial Garden educate visitors on pollinator-friendly vegetation and water conservation in Florida. Rambles through fragrant rose gardens, bamboo tunnels, and under majestic oaks dripping with Spanish moss make for magical memories.

Sample the Tapas Scene Along King Street

Name and Location: Stretching from downtown toward Riverside along King Street, a walkable restaurant row tempts taste buds with al fresco dining morning to night.

History and Significance: With its artsy, urbane ambiance, this bustling yet cozy dining and bar district serves as both a historic neighborhood and cultural hub offering menus from upscale Spanish tapas to quaint sidewalk cafes to acclaimed fine dining destination restaurants.

What to Expect: Patrons stroll King Street sampling tapas plates small or large across tree-shaded patio seating perfect for an afternoon or evening out. Signature experiences span dancing flamenco to sangrias al fresco and prix fixe dining interiors alongside galleries.

Visitor Information: Over 30 walkable restaurant/bar options. Street parking. Area maps at visitjacksonville.com/restaurants/spanish-cuisine/. Hours vary per establishment.

Lined for blocks through hip Riverside with patio cafes, chic boutiques, craft cocktail bars and art galleries, this walkable avenue also claims one of Jacksonville’s highest densities of tapas restaurants and wine lounges ideal for Spanish-style small plates bar hopping from Taverna to Black Sheep to Grape and Grain Exchange. Whenever experiencing vibrant King Street as the sun sets, the area’s enthusiasm for nightlife comes alive almost like a slice of Europe in Northeast Florida but with better weather year-round!

Root for the minor league Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp

Name and Location: At 121 Financial Ballpark along the St. Johns River in downtown Jacksonville, the popular Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp minor league baseball team takes the field to the roar of their loyal fanbase.

History and Significance: Pro baseball has been played on this storied site since 1962 where Major League legends once competed during Spring Training. Affiliated with the Miami Marlins as former Southern League Champs, it’s fun for everyone and future stars are born here.

What to Expect: Fans enjoy exciting Double-A baseball, promotions and in-game entertainment April through September. The park features wide concourses, concessions, heritage displays spanning baseball in Jacksonville amid views of the city skyline over right field.

Visitor Information: Tickets start around $10. Season memberships, suites and group packages available. Free parking in adjacent lots. Weekly schedule and more at jaxshrimp.com.

Bringing families affordable fun since 1970 with mascot Scampi racing across dugouts nonstop, “The Coop” baseball stadium in San Marco makes summer nights a joy whether watching future Miami Marlins take the field or kids chasing fireflies that light up the outfield. With fantastic Intracoastal views beyond left field wall ads, a wraparound concourse hosting games for fans and fireworks extravaganzas after Friday home games, this classic ballpark delightfully unites all ages cheering on the minor league team proudly nicked the Jumbo Shrimp!

Conclusion

From estuary dolphin sightings to formal sculpture gardens, tapas crawls to Minor League ballgames, Jacksonville visitors enjoy口 Southern hospitality and charm alongside metropolitan museums and ecological exhibits conveying global connections. Tracing the area’s history from 16th century native tribes through football franchise fame today, the city continues growing its vibrant arts, culinary and cultural attractions for discerning travelers to appreciate Florida’s largest and most dynamic destination appealing to all interests.

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