Jacksonville, Florida, offers a nice mix of attractions that appeal to everyone who visits. A few of them, such as the beach and Friendship Fountain, are so a part of Jacksonville's culture and history that they'll be on the top of your to-do list. But there's much more to experience. Several activities, of course, revolve around the great St. John's River, the waterway that keeps life flowing through Jacksonville and others feature Jacksonville's rich history.
The Museum of Contemporary Art—known as MOCA—is one of the largest contemporary art galleries in the Southeast United States. It's across the street from the historic Hemming Plaza in downtown Jacksonville, the city's first park. MOCA is adjacent to the downtown Jacksonville library in the former Western Telegraph Co. building.
Any list of things to do in Jacksonville isn't complete without at least a passing reference to one of the city's most well-known attractions—the beach. Jacksonville's public beaches span approximately 20 miles across the Atlantic coast and are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Jacksonville Beach is well known for its 1,000-foot fishing pier.
There are so many reasons for visiting Jacksonville's historic Riverside-Avondale. For starters, it's one of the most well-preserved historic neighborhoods in the United States with over 5,000 historic buildings. Riverside-Avondale was named one of the top 10 neighborhoods in the U.S. by the American Planning Association. And, the Financial Times called it the closest thing you'll find to Greenwich Village in Florida.
Riverside has a number of attractions, including the weekly Riverside Arts Market and the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens. Five Points, a section of Riverside, is known for its eclectic shopping and vibrant art culture.
The Museum of Science and History (MOSH)—formerly known as the Jacksonville Children's Museum—has seven permanent exhibits, a new, state-of-the-art planetarium, and a specialty rotating exhibit. Past exhibits include Dinosaurs and Ice Age Mammals and Dinosaurs of the Deep, both of which featured elaborate animatronics. MOSH is a must visit in Jacksonville, particularly if you have children.
Many first dates and kisses have taken place over the years in front of Friendship Fountain. Some local residents believe the fountain has special powers. That's up for debate, but there's no denying the fountain's beauty. Friendship Fountain was constructed in 1941, and at the time, it was the world's largest fountain. A 2011 renovation brought a handful of improvements to the fountain and surrounding area, which should preserve it for decades to come.
What would Jacksonville be without the St. John's River? One could easily argue it's the lifeline of Jacksonville. The Jacksonville Landing is a great place to walk alongside its waters, catch a boat ride, have dinner, and even do some shopping. The Landing is also a popular hangout following Jaguars games, and it features around 300 special events each year.
Take an Art Walk Through Downtown
Jacksonville's downtown art walk takes place the first Wednesday of each month over a 15 block radius, between 5 and 9 p.m., rain or shine. Art Walk has quickly turned into one of Jacksonville's finest attractions and features 30 or so galleries, live music, food and drink, and works of art from local artists.
Fort Caroline National Memorial is part of the Timucuan Ecological and Historical Reserve, administered by the National Park Service. Fort Caroline was the first French colony in the United States, established in 1564. The memorial details nearly 6,000 years of human history, and it's a must-see for Jacksonville residents and visitors, particularly history buffs.
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens features over 2,000 animals over 110 lush acres. It's also home to seasonal and other special events. The city zoo's roots can be traced back to the early 1910s when it was originally located in Springfield.
Watch the Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field
TIAA Bank Field is the permanent home of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The team plays 10 home games in the stadium each NFL season. The stadium is home to the Jaguars headquarters, and it's also the site of the widely popular annual Florida-Georgia game and a few other annual events, such as concerts and outdoor sporting events. Unlike many other NFL stadiums, which are located outside of town, Jacksonville's is in the heart of downtown.
See Incredible Big Cats at Catty Shack Ranch
This unique ranch focuses on rescuing tigers and other large cats from inhumane activity. It's volunteer-run and allows you to see these incredible animals as they go about their daily lives. You can buy tickets in advance if you want to watch a night feeding.
Bike the Rail Trail
Jacksonville is home to the Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail, a 15-mile trail that runs through an oak forest. There are also trail offshoots that can be used for horseback riding, running or cycling.
Try Local Brews
Jacksonville is home to more than 14 different craft breweries, with more opening every day it seems. You can grab the Jax Ale Trail Passport to check off the different breweries you visit; among the best are Bold City Brewing, Veterans United, and Engine 15.
Enjoy Fresh Seafood at Safe Harbor Seafood Restaurant
Take your seat on the dock and watch the fishing boats or dine inside next to refrigerated cases of fresh seafood for sale. The decor may be casual, but Safe Harbor in Mayport has great seafood, dock views, and the sunset can be spectacular.
Enjoy fried scallops, chowder, and blackened grouper salad. And when you're ready to go home, shop for freshly caught lobster, shrimp, mussels, clams, tuna and more.
Go Back in Time at Kingsley Plantation
You can explore the buildings and grounds at Kingsley Plantation, a preserved estate from Florida's plantation period in the late 1700s through mid-1800s. You can see the slave quarters, barn, plantation house, kitchen house, and interpretive garden. Ranger-led tours of the house are available on selected weekends.
One of the plantation owners, Zephaniah Kingsley, lived there from 1814 to 1837 along with his family and enslaved workers. The old plantation is part of the Timucuan Preserve on Fort George Island.
Explore the African-American History of La Villa
In 1999, The Ritz Theatre and Museum was built where the 1929 Ritz Theater movie house once stood. The theater was an important gathering place in Jacksonville’s historic African American community of La Villa, once known as the “Harlem of the South.” The current Ritz Theatre is a 400-seat theatre featuring state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems and is a venue for shows and private events.
The LaVilla Museum, open Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m.–4 p.m. features the early days of the African-American La Villa neighborhood through photographs, collections of artifacts, and information.
Shop the Market
The Riverside Arts Market (RAM), next to the river on St. John's Avenue under the Fuller Warren Bridge is the place to go on Saturdays to buy crafts, local art, and farm-fresh fare. There's live music, food trucks, and a great view of the bridge and river.
Work on Your Golf Game
Topgolf Jax has climate-controlled booths where you can practice your swing. You can be joined by up to 12 friends or family and between swings, grab some food and drink. Topgolf Jax is open seven days a week and the fun continues late into the night. Stop by their classy cocktail lounge for local brews and upscale pub fare.
Hit the Trail at Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park
Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park has 4 miles of scenic hiking trails and 13 miles of off-road biking trails where you can meander through the Spanish moss-laden trees and experience coastal nature.
Also in the park is a beach, campgrounds, children's splash pad, nature boardwalk, and a lake for kayaking.
Adventure Kayak Florida has kayak and canoe rentals, instruction, and guided kayaking tours. While they rent kayaks at Hanna Park, they also offer guided kayak tours at scenic waterways around Jacksonville. You can choose from a short introductory tour to spend some time on the water, a bird-watching tour, photography tour, or an exciting overnight adventure.