8 Amazing Things to Do in Jacksonville, FL

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Even though I’m an Orlando native, I’m always looking for new things to do in Jacksonville. This city has always been one of my favorite places because it has the beach as well as a nice downtown area for bars and restaurants. 

Jacksonville also has farmers’ markets, art festivals, and plenty of green space. Despite being a pretty large city, I think it still has a nice homey and small-town feel because the locals are always so helpful and welcoming. 

Whether you’re taking a Florida road trip or just visiting Jacksonville as a quick trip, it’s always a good idea to plan an itinerary before starting your journey. 

That’s why I made this guide to show you all the best fun and unique things to do in Jacksonville, FL! 

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St. John’s Town Center 

If you want to do some shopping while in the area, St. John’s Town Center has almost 200 shops and 20 restaurants to choose from. It’s an open-air shopping center, so you can still enjoy the Florida sunshine while you browse. 

They have luxury shops as well as more recognizable shops like Target. I recommend spending half a day here where you can check out all the shops and maybe have some lunch before heading on to your next activity. 

St. John’s Town Center is located at 4663 River City Dr, Jacksonville, FL 32246, United States. It’s open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

Fort Caroline National Memorial 

Definitely check out Fort Caroline if you’re interested in Jacksonville’s history as both a French and Spanish colony. Since the original fort was destroyed, this is a replica. It looks exactly like the original complete with cannons at the top. 

You can take a self-guided tour of all the levels of the fort. My favorite spot is the top floor as it provides really nice views of the St. John’s River. Fort Caroline is located inside a park where you can go hiking and see wildlife. The main trail is a 1.3-mile loop trail. Most of it’s flat, so it’s perfect for all skill levels. 

Fort Caroline and the surrounding park is one of the best things to do in Jacksonville with kids. They can learn about history both at the fort and the small museum at the entrance of the park. They will also enjoy being out in nature. 

Fort Caroline National Memorial is located at 12713 Fort Caroline Rd, Jacksonville, FL 32225, United States. They’re closed on Monday and Tuesday but open every other day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The park and fort are free to enter. 

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Riverside Arts Market

There are several places in Jacksonville to support local art, but the Riverside Arts Market is by far the most popular. It’s only open every Saturday morning, so you’ll only have a chance to visit if you’re in Jacksonville for the weekend. 

The market has vendor stalls from local artists, craft makers, and farmers. They also have tons of food trucks and small areas to sit and relax. It’s located right on the St. Johns River, so you can go for a walk when the weather is nice out, or you can grab a seat at the market and enjoy the live music. 

On certain Saturdays, they also have free yoga classes that you can join as long as you have your own mat. 

The Riverside Arts Market is located at 715 Riverside Ave, Jacksonville, FL 32204, United States. It’s open every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

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Jacksonville Center for the Performing Arts 

If you want to catch a show while in Jacksonville, the performing arts center has everything from classical music events to ballet to opera. They also host off-broadways shows from time to time if you like musicals. 

The Jacksonville Symphony also performs here. The center is also the official host of the Ritz Chamber Players which is the United States’ first African American chamber music ensemble. Check out their event page to see the events going on when you’re in Jacksonville, as well as ticket prices. 

Jacksonville Center for the Performing Arts is located at 300 Water St, Jacksonville, FL 32202, United States. Each event will have a different show time, so make sure to check the calendar. 

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The Jax Ale Trail 

Most people don’t know that Jacksonville is one of the best places to enjoy craft Florida beer. I would even argue that their breweries are better than those located in Orlando and Miami. 

Jacksonville also has the Jax Ale Trail Passport, where you can get a stamp from every brewery you visit and win prizes once you’ve visited them all. 

You also get a stamp for every different beer you order. So the more you drink, the more likely you are to get a prize! You can ask for the passport booklet from any local brewery. Most of the prizes are cool pint glasses you can take home with the brewery’s logo. 

Some of the most popular local breweries I recommend checking out include

  • Intuition Ale Works: They specialize in ales only found in north and central Florida. All the ales are brewed in small batches for maximum quality and flavor. 
  • Bold City Brewing: They have two locations in Jacksonville. One is in the Riverside suburb, and the other is downtown. All the beers are locally brewed and some even have names based on Jacksonville historical events. 
  • Engine 15: This brewery has local craft beers as well as other domestic and international choices. They’re located right on the beach and also serve traditional bar foods like wings and fries. 

Check out the Jax Ale Passport website to see all the breweries that participate as well as their addresses and hours. 

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Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park 

Head to this park if you want to get outdoors while in Jacksonville. It’s one of the best places to camp near the city. It also borders the beach where you will see locals and tourists trying their hand at surfing the waves. 

If you don’t want to be on the beach, you can choose to visit the lake inside the park instead, where they have places to rent kayaks and canoes. 

Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park is located at 500 Wonderwood Dr, Jacksonville, FL 32233, United States. They’re open every day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. It costs $5 per car to enter. 

Big and Little Talbot Island 

While you might not have time to visit both of these places, you should make time to see at least one. They’re barrier islands that are still underdeveloped, so the main attractions are the secluded beaches and wildlife. 

Little Talbot Island is the place to go if you enjoy seeing wildlife. Although it’s only 5 miles of shoreline, the island has some of the best Florida wildlife species. 

Make sure you bring your binoculars, so you get a better chance of seeing the birds in the trees. You can also fish here if you have a license and catch things like flounder and sheepshead. 

Big Talbot Island is better for those who want to go biking or lay on the beach. There are several bike trails and two beaches to choose from. Blackrock Beach is my favorite because of the opportunities for guided kayaking tours. 

I recommend Jacksonville Kayaking Company. You don’t have to be an experienced kayaker and they tell you about the history of the island as you paddle along. 

Little Talbot Island is located at 12157 Heckscher Dr, Jacksonville, FL 32226, United States. They’re open every day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Entrance is $5 per vehicle. 

Big Talbot Island is located at A1A North, Jacksonville, FL 32226, United States. They’re open every day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Entrance is $3 per vehicle. 

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The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens 

Jacksonville has many museums, but this one is my favorite. While the inside is filled with beautiful paintings and sculptures, the gardens are the best part, in my opinion. The garden is European-inspired and reminds me of the gardens at the Palace of Versailles in France. 

Since the museum borders the St. John’s River, you get beautiful views of the river when you walk along the back edge of the garden. 

Inside, there is a whole space dedicated to a special interactive exhibit for children, so you can be sure they won’t be bored while you are exploring the art collections. 

The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens is located at 829 Riverside Ave, Jacksonville, FL 32207, United States. They’re closed on Mondays. They’re open Tuesday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sundays from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. 

How to Get to Jacksonville, FL 

Jacksonville has an international airport (JAX). There are many different international and domestic carriers that fly into JAX daily. Flights into Jacksonville are always much more expensive than flights into larger cities like Orlando. 

Orlando tends to have cheaper flights and also more flight times to choose from if you find that flying into Jacksonville is out of your budget. You can then rent a car and drive to Jacksonville in about 2 hours. 

Jacksonville is well connected by roads including I-4 and I-95. If you are coming from elsewhere in Florida, renting a car is your best option as Florida’s public transportation is lacking. 

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How to Get Around Jacksonville

The best way to get around Jacksonville is by car. The city has a small bus system, but they don’t go at every pace, and some buses only come once an hour. 

If you’re downtown, you can walk and bike in most places. The streets and roads are very pedestrian friendly, and you’ll see many locals out on their bikes. 

When to Visit Jacksonville, FL 

The great thing about Florida is it hardly ever gets too cold to go to the beach. Jacksonville is in the northern part of the state, so December through early March is a little chilly. 

June through September sees a lot of rain and is very humid. For great weather, visit in March through May or late September through November. 

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Best Places to Stay in Jacksonville

Budget—Marriott Jacksonville Downtown: This hotel is right in the middle of downtown, just a 6-minute walk from the Jacksonville Landing Shopping Center. Some of the rooms have river views, so make sure to book one! All the rooms have free Wi-Fi, and there is a bar and cafe on-site.  

Mid-range— One Ocean Resort & Spa: This resort is located in Atlantic Beach. It’s my top recommendation if you plan to spend more time on the beach than you do in the city. All the rooms have ocean views. Your room price also includes Wi-Fi, unlimited snacks, and butler service. 

Luxury—Ponte Vedra Inn & Club: This hotel is right on the beach and just a short drive from downtown Jacksonville. The rooms have private balconies where you can enjoy the ocean views. You can also book a suite if you’re traveling with a large party so that you can have a kitchen and separate living space. 

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Best Restaurants in Jacksonville 

Black Sheep Restaurant: This is one of the top-rated restaurants, but I haven’t had a chance to eat here myself. They have classic southern American food, including shrimp & grits and fried green tomatoes. My local friends recommend the roasted oysters with one of their signature cocktails, like the brass monkey. 

River & Post: This is the place to go if you want fresh seafood. They also have a nice steak selection for those who don’t love seafood. Sometimes there’s a long wait for a table, but you can grab a few drinks at the rooftop bar and enjoy the view while you wait. 

Hawkers Asian Street Food: This place isn’t exclusive to Jacksonville, as we also have one in Orlando. It’s my favorite place for Asian food. The Thai iced tea and the pork belly are the best. All the food is authentic including some unique dishes like kimchi fried rice. 

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The Best Things to do in Jacksonville, FL are Waiting For You! 

Ready to plan your trip? Doing a few (or all) of the things on this list will ensure you cover all the best things to do in Jacksonville. 

Jacksonville is one of the best cities in Florida. I’ve visited as a solo traveler and with friends and family. It’s also one of the best cities for a girls’ trip. My relatives with young kids also enjoy taking their little ones to the beach and the many museums! 

Have you visited Jacksonville? What should be added to this list? 

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