New arrivals and expats in Jacksonville will find a wide-ranging mix of attractions that appeal to all kinds of tastes and interests. Exploring the city like a tourist is a wonderful way to get acquainted with one’s new home.
Many of the activities on offer in Jacksonville, lovingly referred to simply as "Jax" by locals, centre around the city’s famous beaches and the St John’s River. That said, there is also plenty to do when it comes to art, history and culture.
Newcomers moving to Jacksonville with children will be happy to learn that this is a family-friendly city and most attractions have elements that accommodate kids.
Here is a list of just some of the noteworthy attractions and activities in Jacksonville.
Attractions in Jacksonville
The city’s best known attraction – the beach – draws thousands of holidaymakers to Jacksonville each summer, while Jax residents are lucky enough to enjoy the Atlantic coast all year round. Fishing along Jacksonville Beach’s 1000-foot pier is a popular pastime, while Neptune- and Atlantic Beach are also beautiful spots for a day by the sea.
Museum of Science and History (MOSH)
Formerly known as the Jacksonville Children’s Museum, MOSH is home to the Bryan-Gooding Planetarium and seven permanent exhibits, which cover themes spanning various aspects of nature and science. Much of the museum has been curated with kids in mind, but there is no doubt that the grown-ups will find the displays fascinating too. A guaranteed fun day out for the whole family.
Located near the historic Hemming Plaza in downtown Jacksonville, the Museum of Contemporary Art – or MOCA – is home to an extensive collection of contemporary art from the 1960s to the present. The ArtExplorium Loft is a space for the kids to get artistic, while parents can enjoy lunch at the museum’s famous fusion restaurant, Nola Moca.
The Jax Ale Trail
Jacksonville is one of Florida’s premier beer destinations and home to a bevy of breweries including Engine 15, Veterans United and Bold City Brewing. Craft beer enthusiasts are in for a real treat as they head off on a self-guided tour with the Jax Ale Trail Passport. Get it stamped at each of the breweries and be in line to win one of the many beer-themed prizes.
Ritz Theatre and Museum
The Ritz Theatre was once an important meeting place for Jacksonville’s African American community. Based in the La Villa district of downtown Jax, the modern reconstruction is a 400-seater theatre which is now used for shows and private events. The attached La Villa Museum provides an insight into the African-American history of the city through collections of photographs and artefacts from the past.
Fort Caroline National Memorial
Established in 1564, Fort Caroline was the first French Colony in the USA. This replica fort transports visitors back to the past. Climb to the top level for breathtaking views of the St John’s River. Real history buffs will enjoy perusing the museum which documents 6,000 years of human history.
With over 2,000 exotic animal species and 1,000 varieties of plants, visitors to Jacksonville Zoo will have plenty to keep them entertained. Highlights include giraffe feeding at the African Overlook, and watching the otters at play in the Wild Florida exhibit. The zoo’s stunning riverfront location adds to its charm.
Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens
Head to the historic Jax neighbourhood of Arlington to discover one of the city’s best-kept secrets. Visitors can explore the hiking trails, spot local wildlife or get lost in thought at the peaceful lily pond. The gardens are pet-friendly too so this is the perfect place to enjoy a sunny day out with the whole family.
Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail
This 15-mile trail meanders along an old railroad corridor and through forests of imposing tall oaks. Whether it’s for horse riding, cycling or hiking this is a popular route among Jax residents and tourists alike.
Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park
Atlantic Beach’s stunning oceanfront city park is an adventurer's delight. Miles of scenic hiking trails and off-road biking routes provide plenty of scope for exploration. With dedicated camping areas, a lake for fishing and kayaking and miles of white sand beaches, there is something that caters for visitors of all fitness levels.