Jacksonville, Florida - an often-overlooked destination that brims with Florida’s signature sun-soaked charm, enthralling history, and an assortment of enriching experiences.
Situated where the St. John’s River meets the Atlantic Ocean, Jacksonville is a sprawling urban oasis waiting to be discovered.
Here are some must-see attractions, activities, and delectable dining spots to explore when you’re in town.
Top 8 Things To Do In Jacksonville, Florida
1. Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve
Spanning nearly 46,000 acres, this preserve is larger than some cities! It's named after the Timucua, an indigenous people who lived in the region when European explorers arrived.
Here you'll find the Fort Caroline National Memorial, which commemorates the short-lived French presence in sixteenth-century Florida.
An interesting fact is that the exact location of the original fort is unknown, the current memorial is only a representation, not a historical site.
2. The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens
This museum is not just about art - it's also home to some of the most beautiful gardens in Florida.
The oldest piece in their collection dates back to 2100 B.C. It holds an impressive collection of Meissen porcelain, along with works by artists like Winslow Homer and Norman Rockwell.
It’s worth noting that their gardens, replete with reflecting pools, fountains, and ornate sculptures, are a living exhibit on their own.
3. Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
The Zoo and Gardens are home to a multitude of wildlife from all over the globe. Its standout exhibit, the "Range of the Jaguar", has won national awards for its design.
Interestingly, the Land of the Tiger features a unique trail system that allows animals more freedom to roam around the zoo, enhancing the viewing experience.
4. Amelia Island
With its 13 miles of gorgeous beaches, golf courses, and historical sites like Fort Clinch, Amelia Island is a paradise for both relaxation and adventure seekers.
Fun fact: The island was once a cherished refuge for pirates! Today, it's known for its charming, Victorian-era architecture and the annual Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival.
5. Little Talbot Island State Park
This untouched island park offers five distinct ecosystems: salt marshes, coastal dunes, maritime forests, coastal scrub, and tidal creeks.
The Island houses more than 200 species of birds, making it a bird watcher's haven.
Its sandy beaches are among the few remaining undeveloped barrier islands in Northeast Florida.
6. The Riverside/Avondale Historic District
This National Register Historic District gives a peek into Jacksonville's past with its houses dating back to the early 1900s.
Here, you'll find the Riverside Arts Market, which happens every Saturday under the Fuller Warren Bridge.
The market is a community gathering with artists, food vendors, a fresh produce market, and live entertainment.
7. The Museum of Science and History (MOSH)
MOSH is the biggest science and history museum in Jacksonville. An interesting fact is that it had its origins in the Jacksonville Children's Museum, which was founded in 1941.
The Bryan-Gooding Planetarium, a part of MOSH, is one of the largest single-lens digital dome planetariums in the U.S.
8. Jacksonville Beach
With its lively beachfront and wide sandy stretches, Jacksonville Beach is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.
Did you know? Jacksonville Beach was initially named 'Ruby', and was a retreat for wealthy, northern tourists in the late 1800s.
Food Spots in Jacksonville You Should Try!
Orsay is a gem in Jacksonville's culinary scene. It's a mix of Parisian style and Southern charm.
They take pride in their farm-to-table approach, using local ingredients whenever possible. Their Foie Gras Torchon and Truffle Frites are fan favorites.
2. Matthew's Restaurant
A leader in Jacksonville's dining scene for over two decades, Matthew's offers a unique Chef's Adventure Tasting Menu that changes daily based on local, seasonal ingredients.
Their dishes are as much a visual treat as they are a gastronomic delight.
3. Safe Harbor Seafood Market and Restaurant
Safe Harbor, in Mayport, offers a genuine Florida seafood experience with waterfront views.
Not just a restaurant, it's also a bustling seafood market. One fun fact is that the restaurant's building was originally a ferry terminal in the 1940s!
4. Maple Street Biscuit Company
What started as a single, humble biscuit shop in Jacksonville has expanded to several locations. Yet, the heart of their menu remains the classic buttermilk biscuit.
Try "The Squawking Goat", a flaky biscuit, all-natural fried chicken breast, fried goat cheese medallion, and house-made pepper jelly. Delicious!
5. Hawkers Asian Street Food
Hawkers offers an Asian street-food experience inspired by the bustling street vendors found in night markets across Asia.
Their dishes, such as the Roti Canai and Pad Thai, are meant to be shared, promoting a sense of community.
They serve food in 'hawker-style' - as it's ready, mimicking the street food experience.
For more listings, read here: 7 Best Restaurants in Jacksonville, FL: Top Picks for Foodies
Ready to Visit Jacksonville, FL?
This is just a taste of what Jacksonville, Florida has to offer.
From its rich history and culture to its stunning beaches and mouth-watering dining options, there’s no shortage of things to do, see, and taste in this vibrant city.
Keep this list handy when you're headed to Jacksonville and let us know in the comments about your experience!
For more places to see in Jacksonville, read here: Florida’s Iconic Volkswagen Graveyard: Rolling Through History
A boarding pass salute to OpenAI's ChatGPT for charting the course of this article.