Jacksonville provides the perfect backdrop for romantic getaways, family vacations, and relaxation with twenty-two miles of beaches, world-class fishing, a thriving craft beer scene, historic districts, and a vast park system. If you’re looking for an affordable vacation destination, there are plenty of reasons to consider Sunshine State’s largest city.
Read on to learn about some of the exciting things to do in Jacksonville, Florida.
Fun Things for the Kids to Do in Jacksonville, Florida
1. The Museum of Science and History (MOSH)
Families visiting Jacksonville should plan a trip to the Museum of Science & History — more commonly referred to as MOSH. This premier museum is situated on the city’s Southbank Riverwalk and specializes in exhibiting topics related to local history and science. It’s simply one of the best things to do in Jacksonville, Florida!
The facility boasts a variety of hands-on, interactive exhibits that are great for the kids. Learn about the importance of movement and health, electricity, coastal animals, native plants, and so much more!
2. Hands-On Children’s Museum
One of the best things to do in Jacksonville, Florida, for families with young kids is the Hands-On Children’s Museum. This facility is well worth the trip with kid-friendly play areas and exhibits — including a grocery store.
The Hands-On Children’s Museum promotes discovery through its interactive exhibits, which encourage problem-solving, observation, role-playing, free play, and inquiry. It’s a great way to foster your child’s social, physical, and cognitive skills in an imaginative space!
3. Sweet Pete’s Candy Shop
Families won’t want to miss Sweet Pete’s Candy Shop, the largest candy store in the Southeast and one of the unique things to do in Jacksonville, Florida. Located in downtown Jacksonville in a historic mansion, Sweet Pete’s is an unforgettable experience for kids — and anyone who’s a kid at heart!
The shop boasts an endless selection of candies, including retro candy, sea salt caramels, cherry cordials, and gluten-free options. There’s even an in-house restaurant and bar serving everything from Chicago-style hot dogs to wedge salad.
4. Adventure Landing Shipwreck Island Waterpark
Visiting Adventure Landing Shipwreck Island Waterpark is one of the best things to do in Jacksonville, Florida, during the summer. The facility features multiple slides, waterfalls, water cannons, a wave pool, and a lazy river.
To make the most of your visit, rent a cabana, feed the alligators in Gator Alley, and snag a souvenir at the gift shop. Adventure Landing also offers miniature golf, laser tag, go-karts, batting cages, and an arcade, so you can enjoy various activities without getting wet!
Museums to Visit in Jacksonville, Florida
5. Beaches Museum
When considering things to do in Jacksonville, Florida, visiting a museum should be high on your list. Beaches Museum affords an ideal opportunity to learn more about the area’s history and culture.
Exhibits at Beaches Museum bridge the past and present, giving visitors a greater appreciation of Jacksonville and its surrounding communities. Learn about Florida’s first African American beach resort, the Florida East Coast Railway, the state’s first modern highway, and more!
6. The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens
A must-see facility for the entire family, the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens boasts more than 5,000 works of art in its permanent collection. Works date from 2100 BCE to the twenty-first century, and the museum’s gardens date back to 1903.
Taking a docent-led tour to learn about the site’s history is one of the best things to do in Jacksonville, Florida, but you can also go at your own pace with a self-guided tour. And don’t forget to stop by the museum’s cafe for lunch or refreshments.
7. The James E. Merrill House Museum
History buffs often consider the James E. Merrill House Museum one of the best things to do in Jacksonville, Florida. The fully furnished Queen Anne home transports guests to 1903, offering a glimpse into what life in Jacksonville would have been like at the turn of the twentieth century.
James E. Merrill was a local businessman who established the Merrill-Stevens Engineering Company around 1875. He built the home in 1879 and added to it in 1886. The house was abandoned for decades before the Jacksonville Historical Society relocated it not once but twice, renovating it into the museum we can appreciate today.
8. Mandarin Museum & Historical Society
If you’re looking for more historical things to do in Jacksonville, Florida, look no further than the Mandarin Museum & Historical Society. This quaint museum is situated on a riverside in Walter Jones Historic Park. Its mission is to explore and preserve the area’s history and showcase regional artists, making it a must-see museum for visitors to Jacksonville.
Notable author Harriet Beecher Stowe, who penned Uncle Tom’s Cabin, lived in Mandarin after the Civil War. Many of her artifacts ended up in the museum’s permanent collection. The site also maintains a restored 1898 one-room schoolhouse.
The Best Natural Sites in Jacksonville, Florida
9. Little Talbot Island State Park
Hiking, beachcombing, and birding are among the most popular things to do in Jacksonville, Florida, and Little Talbot Island State Park is an ideal spot for it all. Outdoor lovers can also indulge in surfing, kayaking, cycling, swimming, and camping around the undeveloped barrier island.
Visiting hours are 8 a.m. to sunset every day of the year. Unfortunately, the south end beach is closed due to erosion, but you can enjoy most of the north beach areas for an affordable $5 per-vehicle fee.
10. Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens
Home to more than 1,000 plant varieties and 2,000 animal species, Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens is one of the most popular things to do in Jacksonville, Florida, for all ages. In addition to animal habitats and gardens, the zoo also features a 4D theater, a wildlife carousel, and a train that runs daily.
Once you’ve explored the zoo, be sure to visit the Mombasa Gift Shop, Village Sweet Shop, coffee shop, or one of the casual restaurants. You can even cool off at one of the Kona-shaved ice trucks!
11. Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve
Those with a conservationist’s heart won’t want to miss Jacksonville’s Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve. One of the East Coast’s last remaining untouched wetlands, the preserve consists of coastal dunes, hardwood hammocks, and salt marshes spanning 46,000 acres.
While here, stop by Fort Caroline and the Kingsley Plantation. Both sites on the preserve offer a fascinating glimpse into the area’s history.
12. Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens
Nature lovers will want to plan a visit to Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens while in town. Enjoy award-winning hiking trails, exquisite gardens, a picnic area, and various programs and events. Unlike most of Jacksonville, the terrain here isn’t flat, and some of the Arboretum’s hiking trails are sloped and wind around the landscape’s 800-foot-long ravine.
The Arboretum is open daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and regular admission is just $3 per person, making this one of the more affordable things to do in Jacksonville, Florida.
The Best Places to Shop’ Til You Drop in Jacksonville, Florida
13. The Avenues
With so many stores occupying the state’s largest city, it’s no secret that shopping is one of the best things to do in Jacksonville, Florida.
The Avenues is a bustling multi-level mall that houses shops geared toward fashionistas, families, and military service members. Popular stores include Belk, Dillard’s, Foot Locker, H&M, JCPenney, and Sephora — to name a few.
14. St. Johns Town Center
For a more upscale shopping experience, head to St. Johns Town Center.
The open-air shopping mall boasts American Eagle, Ann Taylor, Swarovski, Coach, Hollister, and other high-end shops and midrange stores and restaurants. When looking for things to do in Jacksonville, Florida, St. Johns Town Center has something for everyone.
15. River City Marketplace
Located near the UF Health Medical Complex, River City Marketplace is northern Jacksonville’s largest shopping complex. The more than 80 retailers include leading brands like Lowe’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, Duluth Trading, PetSmart, Walmart, Old Navy, and Michael’s.
River City Marketplace is also home to numerous chain restaurants, such as Olive Garden, Red Lobster, and Texas Roadhouse.
16. Jane Doe Boutique Jacksonville
If you prefer a unique shopping experience, stop by Jane Doe Boutique Jacksonville.
More than a women’s clothing store, Jane Doe Boutique has personal shoppers who can help curate your outfits and accessories. There’s simply no greater level of personal service in town!
The Best Restaurants in Jacksonville, Florida
17. Terra Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse
Naturally, tasting the local cuisine should be at the top of your list of things to do in Jacksonville, Florida. If you’ve worked up an appetite from exploring Jacksonville, treat yourself to a feast at Terra Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse.
This authentic Churrascaria-style steakhouse serves patrons a variety of beef, pork, lamb, fish, and chicken. Indulge in the “Full Rodizio Experience,” which includes unlimited table-side meat service, a gourmet salad bar, and authentic side dishes. Although you’ll probably fill up on endless meat options, the decadent dessert menu is worth a peek.
18. Restaurant Orsay
Dining at Restaurant Orsay is one of the classiest things to do in Jacksonville, Florida. The award-winning French bistro serves everything from Parisian classics to French-inspired Southern cuisine.
Menu options include lobster pot pie, bouillabaisse, steak fries, and escargots. You can also enjoy a raw bar, brunch menu, vegan options, and delicious cocktails. And don’t forget to save room for dessert! The Madagascar vanilla crème brulee alone is worth the dinner reservation.
19. Black Sheep Restaurant
Our next restaurant is often at the top of every “things to do in Jacksonville, Florida” list. Situated in historic Five Points at the corner of Margaret and Oak Streets, Black Sheep Restaurant prides itself on using fresh, local ingredients.
The farm-to-table restaurant serves modern Southern fare, craft beer, signature cocktails, and award-winning wines. Featuring a rooftop bar and lounge with views of downtown and the St. Johns River. Notable menu items include a poutine appetizer, shrimp and grits, Korean beef short ribs, and the Black Sheep Caesar salad with focaccia croutons.
20. River & Post
Offering a rooftop lounge, weekend brunch, and a thoughtful lunch and dinner menu, River & Post is a culinary-driven experience you’ll never forget. The restaurant captivates guests with its warm, contemporary setting, flawless service, and quality ingredients.
If you’re lucky enough to land a brunch reservation, considered one of the best things to do in Jacksonville, Florida, choose from delicious entrees like brioche bread pudding, French toast, Croque Madame, and chicken and waffles.
21. Los Loros Mexican Restaurant
It wouldn’t be a trip to Jacksonville without savoring some authentic Mexican food. Los Loros Mexican Restaurant is one of the best in town, offering a casual setting, delicious food, and friendly service.
The menus at Los Loros are extensive, consisting of combination dinners, tacos, enchiladas, fajitas, and specialties. Order a pitcher of margaritas for the table, enjoy a Mexican beer, or sample the tequilas if you’re in the mood for a drink. There’s something here for everyone!
Time to Visit Jacksonville!
With so many things to do in Jacksonville, Florida, it’s time to start planning your itinerary! Start listing your must-see restaurants, shopping centers, and attractions so you can make the most of your vacation.
When you’re finished exploring Jacksonville, consider planning a trip to Tampa, Florida. It’s just a three-hour drive from Jacksonville and offers several attractions for all ages!