The 20 Best Things to do in Jacksonville for First Timers

Jacksonville Beach

You already know that Florida is a wonderful state to visit. After all, it is known as the sunshine state. This is a place that you can visit any time of the year and feel just as welcome. There is also much to see and do here, with each city being unique and offering their own fair share of attractions to enjoy. That is the case with Jacksonville. If you are fortunate enough to be planning a visit here, you should know that you are in for a special treat. There are beaches, wonderful restaurants, hospitable people, great weather, and so much more to look forward to. In order to get yourself ready for your trip, we have put together the following list of the 20 best things to do in Jacksonville on your first visit.

The first time you visit any city, it is important to know what there is to do. You do not want to just spend your days inside the hotel, nor do you want to plan your schedule so full that you fail to act on spontaneity. That is why this list can be so helpful to you. Plan an activity or two that interest you for each day of your stay. Then, feel free to enjoy the rest of your time in leisure pursuits that allow you to really experience the city of Jacksonville as it was meant to be.

20. Catty Shack Ranch

The name might not give this place away, but if you read it close enough you will figure out that this one is focused on tigers. This is a group that is designed to rescue tigers and give them an escape from the inhumane conditions they had been forced to live in. You will be able to see the tigers in their natural environment while learning how they are cared for and what is being done to help them. It is quite something to watch them eat at night, so consider taking a tour then to watch them in action.

19. The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens

No visit to Jacksonville should be considered complete without a visit to this museum. It is a place where you find great pieces of art from Europe combined with beautiful gardens to stroll through. It truly is the best ob both worlds. In essence, this is a museum that aims to educate the public about the wonder of art and the dynamics of nature. You will also find a children’s exhibit here that is interactive, so the entire family can enjoy a visit to the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens.

18. Little Talbot Island

If you have never seen a maritime forest, now is your chance to fix that. This is a five mile area along the shoreline that will really amaze you. This area is home to quite a diverse array of wildlife species that are native to this area of Florida. You will also enjoy fishing here, as quite the variety of fish is located in the water around Little Talbot Island. You will also want to bring your binoculars when you come here as there is always the chance to spot some rather colorful and rare birds.

17. Big Talbot Island

If you enjoy Little Talbot Island, then you will really enjoy this attraction on your first visit to Jacksonville. Big Talbot Island is a series of wetlands and marshes that have been developed over the years. You can now ride your bike along one of the many paths and enjoy relaxing on the pristine beaches that dot the area. There are several of them to enjoy. You can also go kayaking or on a hike while you are on the island.

16. Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

Most people enjoy going to the zoo, and the one in Jacksonville is rather impressive. It has been opened since 1914 has worked tirelessly that entire time to promote the conservation of wildlife. The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is located along the river. The gardens are beautiful to stroll there. You will also find numerous exhibits housing exotic animals from around the world. People of all ages will find more than a few things that they really enjoy about this place.

15. The Florida Theatre

While it is hard to take a break from enjoying the brilliant outdoor environment that will greet you in Jacksonville, you really need to pay a visit to the Florida Theatre. This is not just any theater house. It actually has a listing on the Historic Places Nation Register. This is because it is one of only four movie palaces still standing that was built in Florida back in the 1920s. More than 200 annual events are now hosted here, from rock concerts to ballet recitals. Chances are good that there is someone good performing here while you are in town.

14. Riverside in Avondale

This is a district in Jacksonville that is quite eclectic. It has actually been voted one of the Top 10 Great Neighborhoods in the country. There is a diverse range of culture, history, and contemporary design to be found here. There are excellent outdoor cafes to enjoy, shopping, nightclubs, and a host of other entertainment options to enjoy during your visit to the Riverside in Avondale.

13. Kingsley Plantation

The state of Florida actually has a complicated history, and the Kingsley Plantation is right there at the center of it. This is a plantation house that was built back in 1814. Since then, the National Park Serve has preserved the home and surrounding area. You will be able to see what the tabby houses were like. There are self-guided audio tours available or you can pre-arrange to have a park ranger give you a more personalized tour.

12. Beaches Town Center

There are times when you just need to do a bit of shopping and Beaches Town Center is the place you want to go. It is actually situated perfectly at the intersection of Atlantic and Neptune Beaches. This is a relaxing style of shopping where you can just enjoy some casual dining, outdoor shopping, beach themed stores, and much. more. You will also benefit from having the ocean right outside the town center to keep the mood going for all day and night.

11. St. Johns Town Center

If you need an even bigger shopping fix, St. Johns Town Center awaits you. This is a large open air shopping center that has more than 175 retail shops and more than 20 different dining venues. You will find major department stores and locally owned small businesses here. You will also find some luxury shops here that offer products at a discount. If you really love shopping, you can stay at one of the three hotels that are located directly inside St. Johns Town Center.

10. Riverside Arts Market

The Riverside Arts Market is a place that everyone in the family will enjoy. It is a place that is open every Saturday and is where local artists gather to showcase their work. It is also a farmer’s market, so you will find numerous fruits and vegetables that are in season. You will also find live music, food trucks, special events, and much more taking place at the Riverside Arts Market at various times throughout the year.

9. Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park

Here is a city park that is located right on Atlantic Beach. You do not get much more scenic than this place. It is also a place where the entire family can get outside and enjoy some physical activity. The Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park has in excess of 20 miles of trails that you can hike or bike. These range in terms of difficulty, so everyone will find something that they are comfortable with. You will also enjoy camping areas, fishing, kayaking, and so much more during your visit here.

8. TIAA Bank Field

Jacksonville is home to a professional American football team, and this is where they play. However, TIAA Bank Field is much more than just a place to play football. There are a number of swimming pools in the area, cabanas, and so much more. You will find local dining venues throughout the area and a lot of artwork on display. There are guided tours on Saturdays if you are not in town during the football season.

7. Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail

You must visit the Jacksonville-Baldwin Rai Trail when it is time to fit some hiking or bicycling into your day. This is a park that used to an old corridor for a railroad. You will find the trail goes for more than 15 miles, taking you through a number of historical oak trees. You will find archways have been formed to allow you through, and the resulting shade will keep you relatively cool even on the hottest of summer days. You can also go horseback riding through the trail.

6. Topgolf Jax

It should come as no surprise that, given its great weather, Jacksonville is home to some pretty spectacular golf courses. If you are not up to going out for an official round of 18, you can head over to Topgolf Jax. This is an interactive golfing environment where you can play some practice rounds in a climate-controlled booth. You can take as many as 12 people with you into a booth. There are also food and drinks to go around as you need.

5. Fort Caroline National Memorial

As mentioned before, this part of Florida has its fair share of history to tell. The Fort Caroline National Memorial is where you will learn a great deal about that. This is actually a fort that has been rebuilt to be a replica of the area that was settled by in 1564 by French colonists. The Spanish would eventually raid and destroy the fort, but this is a replica of what it would have looked like. You will enjoy walking along the trail and taking in the sites, learning about the history all the while

4. Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens

You will be amazed at the beauty that you will see at the Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens. It has some excellent hiking trails that you will enjoy. All the while, you will see a variety of ecosystems and wildlife. The streams give the place a nice ambiance as well.

3. The Jax Ale Trail

You might not be aware of this, but Jacksonville is one of the most well known destinations in Florida for beer lovers. This is a city that has at least 19 craft breweries operating at any one time. You will enjoy sampling these beers and taking your own self-guided tour as you go through the different options.

2. Museum of Science and History

Science is the way to the future, and history is a way of understanding how we got there. That is why you combine the two and you get the Museum of Science and History. This is a great place to visit with the entire family. You will find the planetarium to be one of the highlights of your stay in Jacksonville.

1. The Ritz Theatre and Museum

The best thing to do while in Jacksonville for the first time is to go to the Ritz Theatre and Museum. This is a historic movie house that was created just for black families. It is now a way to learn about African American History, particularly how it relates to the city of Jacksonville.

Now that you have a good idea about what there is to do in Jacksonville, you will want to get out there and decide what you want to do. Talk it over with the other people you will be traveling with. Make a plan and then set out to enjoy your time in one of the biggest and most popular destinations in the state of Florida. You are certain to enjoy your time there.

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