12 Things To Do With Family In Jacksonville, Florida

Last Updated on March 4, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Jacksonville is a vibrant city located in northeast Florida, known for its beautiful beaches, lush nature parks, and exciting attractions. With pleasant weather year round, it makes for the perfect family vacation destination.

There is no shortage of things to experience with children of all ages when visiting Jacksonville. From museums and zoos to water parks and boat tours, you will discover there are abundant family-friendly activities that allow you to bond and make wonderful memories together. This article highlights 12 of the top things to enjoy with your family during your Jacksonville travels.

Explore the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

Spread out over 117 lush acres, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens features more than 2,000 exotic animals from all over the world. Walk along the boardwalks and trails to visit elephants, giraffes, gorillas, komodo dragons, and so much more.

Check out fascinating wildlife shows and fascinating educational talks with zookeepers to learn about the animals’ behaviors and traits. Other highlights include an old style carousel, an exotic bird aviary where vibrant macaws fly overhead, splash pads and playgrounds for the kids, as well as a 4D movie experience about the ocean depths. With many interactive elements, the Jacksonville Zoo offers an unforgettable adventure for families.

Marvel at the Museum of Science and History

Combining science, history and technology all under one roof, the Museum of Science and History (MOSH) immerses you in creativity and wonder. Permanent exhibits feature an impressive collection of maps showcasing how cultures visualized geography and nature throughout history.

See a full-sized replica skeleton of a giant ground sloth and don’t miss the Bryan Gooding Planetarium where incredible 360o shows explore the mysteries of space. MOSH also hosts fun temporary exhibits on topics like the science of Pixar movies, the art of video games, and wild weather. With engaging hands-on activities including simulated space walks, engineer workshops and trivia challenges, MOSH delights and educates kids and parents alike.

Be Wowed at Adventure Landing

For fun indoor and outdoor attractions the whole family can enjoy, Adventure Landing is a must during your Jacksonville travels. With go karts, mini golf, laser tag, arcade games and more, thrill seeking kids will have endless options of adventurous activities.

The two-level laser tag arena with swirling fog, black lights, mazes and multi-level structures provides an epic experience. Beat the heat at their massive indoor arcade housing over 200 of the latest video and redemption games. When you need a break, grab a bite at one of their on-site restaurants dishing out crowd-pleasing American fare. With three locations around Jacksonville, Adventure Landing promises a jam-packed day full of family bonding.

Sunbathe on Jacksonville Area Beaches

Famed for having some of Florida’s most scenic beaches, you can’t miss visiting the shorelines around Jacksonville. Drive just 25 minutes to reach Atlantic Beach, boasting wide stretches of sand, gentle waves and a laidback atmosphere.

The nearby towns of Jacksonville Beach and Neptune Beach also offer stunning beaches with lifeguards on duty, concessions and clean facilities. Go for relaxing walks, build epic sand castles, swim in the temperate waters or try beach activities like standup paddleboarding and surf lessons. With convenient public parking and access points, hitting the beach makes for easy, affordable fun during your Jacksonville travels.

Explore the Beautiful Parks

In addition to beaches, Jacksonville has a wealth of gorgeous public parks that allow kids to roam free and enjoy nature. One top pick is Walter Jones Historical Park spanning a robust 303 acres along the St. Johns River. Kids will love climbing on old naval relics, checking out the onsite museum and walking along nature trails under a lush canopy of oak trees.

Just 15 minutes from downtown, Tree Hill Nature Center encompasses 50 acres of wetlands, forests and meadows with interactive exhibits teaching about native ecosystems. And for epic views of the city skyline and river, head to Friendship Fountain Park which also features dancing fountains and splash pads. Jacksonville’s parks deliver plenty of room for kids to frolic surrounded by scenic vistas.

See Butterflies at the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens

At the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens located on the banks of the St. Johns River, families can admire lovely works of art indoors as well as explore sprawling outdoor gardens. Their interactive center allows kids to experiment with art principles using unique light tables, activity walls and sculpture stations.

Don’t miss the beautiful sight of hundreds of butterflies fluttering all around you in the Cummer’s Butterfly Garden exhibit open seasonally. Complemented by reflecting pools, vine covered arbors and terraces overlooking the riverfront, a walk through the Cummer’s gardens proves an inspirational outing. They frequently offer engaging programs like yoga, music and hands-on art for families too.

Set Sail on the St. Johns River

See Jacksonville from unique vantage points along the St. Johns River and Atlantic Ocean when you book a boat tour. The Pirates of St. Augustine ship tour departs from Jacksonville for a delightfully family-friendly cruise. Kids can dress up like pirates, participate in scavenger hunts and even take a turn steering the ship.

For a peaceful ride spotting playful dolphins, majestic birds and beautiful homes, choose a daytime or sunset sailing cruise. Many boat tour companies offer complimentary drinks and snacks adding to the relaxing ambience. With ships of all sizes available for chartering, setting sail on Jacksonville’s waterways makes for smooth sailing family fun.

Pedal Through Nature on the Baldwin Rail Trail

Stretching 14 miles from Baldwin to Jacksonville, this peaceful paved trail along old railroad tracks offers bicycling fun for families seeking outdoor adventure. Pick up bike rentals in town before heading out to traverse scenic wetlands, woodlands and meadows filled with diverse vegetation and wildlife.

The Baldwin Rail Trail also features wayside exhibit panels describing the surrounding ecosystems and historical nature of the railway, making for an educational journey. With mostly flat terrain and plenty of places to take a break, families with kids of all ages and skill levels can enjoy a ride down this iconic rail trail together.

Feel the Need for Speed at Autobahn Speedway

At Autobahn Indoor Speedway, everyone in the family gets to satisfy their need for speed with European style go kart racing. Their state-of-the-art electric go karts allow both kids and adults to race safely with speeds up to 50 mph! With competitive and recreational league races available, they cater to all skill levels.

Their multi-level Grand Prix racetrack with hairpin curves, elevation changes and straightaways challenges both novice and experienced drivers. Even non-drivers can join in the fun competing in battle vests that allow them to bump cars Mario Kart style. With heart pumping action, Autobahn Speedway delivers thrilling family entertainment.

See Wild Horses on Cumberland Island

Located just over the Florida-Georgia state line, a day trip to Cumberland Island National Seashore from Jacksonville rewards with over 18 miles of pristine beaches and interactions with feral horses. After a short scenic ferry ride across the St. Mary’s River, explore the island on foot to discover windswept dunes, maritime forests and saltwater marshes.

With no cars allowed, the island maintains a serene ambience perfect for admiring diverse plants and wildlife. Along your travels, you’re likely to come across the 150 wild horses that roam freely around Cumberland Island. Viewing these majestic creatures in their natural habitat makes for an unforgettable experience. With campsites and tours available, magical memories await on Cumberland Island.

Glimpse the Past at Kingsley Plantation

Journey back in time with a visit to Kingsley Plantation on Fort George Island, a scenic nature and history preserve just 25 minutes from downtown Jacksonville. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the main house, kitchen and barn built by plantation owner Zephaniah Kingsley in 1798 still stand beautifully preserved and demonstrate 18th century life.

Interactive exhibits and living history demonstrations further showcase African-American arts, foodways and culture, telling the often untold stories of slavery. With lush vegetation, tranquil waterways and quiet beaches surrounding, Kingsley Plantation makes for an introspective adventure that both kids and parents greatly appreciate.

Get Up Close to Planes at NAS Jax

For an exciting behind-the-scenes look at modern naval aviation, don’t miss touring the National Aviation Museum located on the Naval Air Station Jacksonville base. Featuring over 150 beautifully restored aircrafts used throughout history, kids and adults alike marvel at these flying machines.

Enjoy wandering through the exhibit hangars getting up close views of legendary planes like the F-14 Tomcat, the Blue Angels’ C-130 Hercules Fat Albert cargo plane and aircraft models used in major wars. Watch skilled technicians restore vintage aircraft during weekdays in the restoration hangar. The Naval Aviation Museum offers incredible access for civilians to see naval aviation history come alive, which proves fascinating for all ages.

Conclusion


With an array of interactive museums, family entertainment centers, beautiful parks and beaches, historic sites and thrilling outdoor escapades, Jacksonville entices families of all types.

After enjoying these twelve exhilarating activities showcasing the diversity of experiences Florida’s First Coast offers, you will leave with precious memories bonding together through fun cultural, educational and nature adventures.

From swashbuckling trips to space voyages, race car rallies and horse sightings, Jacksonville delivers nonstop delight. With balmy weather providing idyllic conditions year-round to explore, Jacksonville makes for an exceptional family getaway.

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