Just around 140 miles from each other, Orlando and Jacksonville couldn’t be more different. Orlando—some might say it’s the happiest city in the world—is home to Disney World and a slew of other amusement parks, making it a dream destination for both children and adults, alike. Jacksonville's population is Florida’s youngest, and there’s plenty to do, including beaches (22 miles of them!), parks, street art, craft beer, new eateries, a fishing scene, swimming, surfing and historic, walkable neighborhoods. There’s even a part of town called Brooklyn; not unlike the hip Brooklyn (New York) we all know, this downtown Jax area is home to rooftop bars, Latin food, breweries, and distilleries.
How to Get From Orlando to Jacksonville
- Train: 4 hours, 5 minutes; from $33
- Flight: 3 hours, 51 minutes; from $128 (but no nonstop flights)
- Bus: 3 hours, 10 minutes; from $15 (budget-friendly)
- Car: 2 hours, 24 minutes; 140 miles (225 kilometers)
You can depart from the Orlando Amtrak station twice daily if headed toward Jacksonville. Hop on the Silver Star or the Silver Meteor train toward New York’s Penn Station, and stop at Winter Park, DeLand, and Palatka before arriving in Jax Beach. One of the most comfortable ways to travel, a trip via train allows you to get up and stretch your legs, order food or drinks, and take in the scenery from a window seat.
When traveling by bus from Orlando to Jacksonville, purchase your ticket for a trip with Greyhound, which includes free Wi-Fi, individual power outlets and extra leg room. This ride makes one stop on the route in Daytona Beach, but is overall quick, pleasant, and fairly easy.
The least convenient form of travel when you’re headed from Orlando to Jacksonville is flying. Because the two cities are just a few hours away by land, you might think a plane trip will be quick and hassle-free, but it’s quite the opposite. With no nonstop flights from MCO to JAX, the fastest route is via a connection in Miami and will take nearly four hours after landing, deplaning, boarding another plane, taking off, and landing again. If you have a trip to Miami planned already, maybe coordinate so that you can spend a few days there before flying to Jacksonville, at the very least.
Whether you rent a car or have one of your own, this is probably the easiest way to get from Orlando to Jacksonville if you don’t mind spending a few hours behind the wheel. You should be good on a round-trip with a full tank of gas, and if you’re traveling with friends, you can split the cost. This is one advantage to traveling by car instead of on public transportation.
What to See in Jacksonville
If we told you Jacksonville is the largest city by landmass in America, would you believe it? What if we said the city has the largest urban park system? Or the most shoreline of any Florida city? Well, it’s all true!
Take yourself on a self-guided museum tour. With more than 12 in the city, it’s not hard to spend all your time checking out the art. The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens is located along the St. Johns River and was originally the home of art collector Ninah Mae Holden Cummer. Now, the fine art museum focuses on unique art and nature and has a children’s exhibit, so it’s a perfect attraction for any age. There’s also the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Jacksonville, which has more than 1,000 pieces in its permanent collection, making it one of the Southeast’s largest collections of modern and contemporary art. Two other favorites are the Museum of Science & History (MOSH) and the Museum of Southern History. Make sure to check out the interactive exhibits at MOSH, as well as the Planetarium.
Whether it’s birding, camping, hiking, or lounging at the beach, there are plenty of ways to stay busy in Jacksonville’s great outdoors. Experience wildlife at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. You can also visit the Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens, a 120-acre urban woodland with trails, a two-acre lake, and benches for hanging out or resting with a picnic lunch. Or pay a visit to a tiger-focused conservation ranch, where big cats go when they’re rescued. At Catty Shack Ranch, tours are conducted by volunteers, and one really cool part of the experience are night feedings—buy tickets for this ahead of time so you can watch the kitties feast.
You can also visit Little Talbot Island, where you’ll find an abundance of native wildlife species. Pick seashells, look out for birds, and fish along this five mile shoreline. Big Talbot Island is another option with its guided kayak tours, hiking opportunities, and unique beaches, like Blackrock Beach and Boneyard Beach.
Get some shopping in at the Riverside Arts Market, where you’ll find live music, food trucks, and locally sourced crafts and produce for sale. At St. John’s Town Center, there are open-air shops (head there on a nice day) and restaurants, including some of your favorite luxury brands—there are even hotels at this mall. If you’re exhausted after a day full of shopping, you know what to do. Check in to a room, take a power nap and get back out there!