55 Best Things to Do in Jacksonville (Florida)

Written by Bethany Storms
Updated on
Our travel recommendations are based on our personal experiences and research, written by locals and travel experts with deep familiarity with the destination. When you book a hotel or tour that we link to, we may earn a commission.

I had the opportunity to visit Jax, or Jacksonville as it’s formally known, a vibrant city located in Northeast Florida. The sheer size of this city is remarkable, occupying the largest area of any city in the contiguous United States.

During my time there, I was able to fully immerse myself in the energy of downtown. It was a thrilling experience, surrounded by the hustle and bustle of a big city. I particularly enjoyed watching the Jaguars play at the renowned TIAA Bank Field. The atmosphere was electrifying, and being part of the cheering crowd was truly exhilarating.

Another highlight of my visit was strolling along the riverfront. The picturesque views were simply breathtaking. To my delight, I discovered the Jacksonville Water Taxi, a convenient mode of transportation that allowed me to easily cross the river and explore more of the city.

But Jacksonville has more to offer than just its downtown allure. Just a short distance away, I discovered 22 miles of pristine white sands at the Beaches. This chain of coastal settlements, situated on a barrier island to the east, was a paradise. The tranquil beaches provided a perfect escape from the city’s vibrant pace.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Jacksonville was the Timucuan Preserve, where I encountered some of the oldest artifacts in the country. This vast protected area, equivalent to a national park, captivated me with its diverse landscapes. From sprawling wetlands to forgotten plantations, and even eerie beaches where the maritime woodland had succumbed to the mighty Atlantic, the Timucuan Preserve was a treasure trove of natural wonders.

Allow me to join you as we explore the best things to do in Jacksonville that will guarantee a memorable and enjoyable stay for you and your company.

1. Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens

Cummer Museum of Art & GardensSource: Red Lemon / shutterstock
Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens

It was in the 1940s and 50s that Ninah Cummer, the wife of the heir Arthur Cummer, dedicated her efforts to amassing an impressive art collection, which eventually led to the establishment of the Cummer Museum of Art.

In 1961, the museum was constructed on the Cummer estate, replacing two family homes. Surrounded by three beautifully preserved gardens, the museum stands as a testament to the original layout during the Cummers’ residency.

Over the years, the museum’s collection has flourished and now boasts an impressive inventory of over 5,000 works of art. These pieces span various eras and regions across the globe. Notable masterpieces include paintings by renowned artists like Rockwell, Rubens, and Winslow Homer. Additionally, the museum showcases an exquisite collection of Japanese prints, rare books, and intriguing Ancient Egyptian artifacts, such as the Stele of Iku and Mer-imat, dating back to 2100.

One of the museum’s main highlights that frequently captures attention is the Constance I. and Ralph H. Wark Collection of Early Meissen Porcelain. This remarkable collection comprises over 700 porcelain pieces from the first half of the 18th century, offering a glimpse into the intricate craftsmanship of that era.

Beyond the museum walls, the Cummer estate boasts three enchanting gardens: the English Garden, the Italian Garden, and the Olmsted Garden, designed by the renowned firm. These meticulously curated gardens are located at the base of the majestic Cummer Oak, a tree believed to have stood tall for as long as 200 years.

2. Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

Jacksonville Zoo and GardensSource: Sharon Minish / shutterstock
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

I had the pleasure of exploring the renowned Jacksonville Zoo, which is often hailed as one of the finest zoos in the United States. I was amazed to discover that this zoo surpassed my expectations of what a zoo could offer.

What sets the Jacksonville Zoo apart is its unwavering commitment to conservation. Engaged in numerous conservation programs worldwide, this attraction goes above and beyond to protect and preserve endangered species. It was inspiring to witness their dedication firsthand.

The zoo’s enclosures were not only designed with the animals’ well-being in mind but also aimed to provide an immersive and thrilling experience for visitors. One such remarkable exhibit was the Land of the Tiger. Here, I had the opportunity to observe Sumatran and Malayan tigers roaming above me on a raised trail system. It was a truly awe-inspiring sight.

Another award-winning exhibit, the Range of the Jaguar, transported me to a lush rainforest environment. Complete with Mayan ruins, this exhibit housed a diverse array of species, including anacondas, pygmy marmosets, Amazon tree boa constrictors, and poison dart frogs. What struck me the most was how different species coexisted harmoniously in a shared enclosure. Capybaras, giant anteaters, and howler monkeys peacefully inhabited the same space, while sunbitterns, red-capped cardinals, and macaws adorned the canopy above the trails.

Throughout the zoo, I had the opportunity to get up close to a variety of captivating animals. From bonobos and gorillas to manatees, komodo dragons, elephants, and giraffes, there was no shortage of remarkable creatures to observe. An unforgettable experience was the chance to touch and feed gentle rays at Stingray Bay. It was a unique and interactive encounter that allowed me to connect with these magnificent marine animals on a personal level.

3. Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve

Timucuan Ecological and Historic PreserveSource: William Silver / shutterstock
Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve

I also had the incredible opportunity to explore the expansive Timucuan Preserve. Spanning over 46,000 acres, this U.S. National Preserve is predominantly located north of the winding St. Johns River as it gracefully makes its way toward the Atlantic Ocean. The preserve boasts a diverse array of natural habitats, with wetlands and waterways taking center stage.

Immersing myself in the rich history of the region, I learned that the preserve draws its name from the Timucua Indians, who once inhabited the majority of northern Florida and southern Georgia during the arrival of the Spanish settlers. It was fascinating to delve into the heritage of this indigenous culture and gain a deeper understanding of the land they once called home.

Within the vast expanse of the Timucuan Preserve, I discovered several remarkable destinations that left a lasting impression. Noteworthy among them were the Kingsley Plantation, Talbot Islands State Parks, and the Fort Caroline National Memorial. Each of these sites provided a unique glimpse into the area’s history and offered captivating insights into its natural beauty.

For those seeking an exhilarating hike, I highly recommend venturing into the Theodore Roosevelt Area. Nestled on the south bank of the St. Johns River, this remarkable locale allowed me to traverse five distinct Florida ecosystems within a matter of minutes. It was a mesmerizing experience to witness the seamless transition between such diverse natural landscapes.

One captivating feature that caught my attention during my exploration of the preserve was the presence of abandoned oyster shells. These remnants served as thrilling vestiges of the lost Timucua culture, stirring my imagination and prompting reflections on the ancient past.

Crossing the river, I found myself at the Fort George Island Visitor Center. Housed within a repurposed country club building dating back to the 1920s, this charming center offered a wealth of exhibits documenting the island’s rich natural heritage and captivating human history. After immersing myself in the informative displays, I took a moment to relax amidst the blooming malva flowers and majestic oaks, settling into a comfortable rocking chair. It was a serene and tranquil setting, perfect for reflection and appreciation of the surrounding beauty.

4. Little Talbot Island State Park

Little Talbot Island State ParkSource: Sean Board / shutterstock
Little Talbot Island State Park

On my scenic journey out of downtown Jacksonville, I embarked on the picturesque A1A road. As I crossed the St. Johns and Fort George Rivers, I found myself entering a pristine, undeveloped barrier island spanning 2,500 acres.

Leaving behind Jacksonville’s flat terrain, I was immediately captivated by the hilly woodland of Little Talbot Island. Towering pines, majestic southern live oaks, and lush ferns thrived upon ancient dunes, creating a breathtaking natural landscape.

I eagerly set off on the four-mile Dune Ridge Trail, meandering beneath the outstretched branches of live oaks adorned with graceful Spanish moss. The trail was accompanied by a fragrant fringe of bay, cedar, palmetto, and holly, further immersing me in the sensory delights of the surroundings.

As I ventured further, the landscape transformed, leading me to open dunes and eventually to the expansive beach. Here, the shoreline was adorned with the bleached skeletons of trees, creating a hauntingly beautiful sight.

For those seeking an extended stay, Little Talbot Island offered a full-facility campground. Additionally, bicycles and canoes were available for rent, providing an excellent means to explore the salt marshes to the west of the island. These marshes served as a sanctuary for nesting and migrating birds, offering a glimpse into the vibrant avian life that graced the island.

My time at Little Talbot Island was a mesmerizing encounter with untouched natural beauty. From the enchanting woodland trails to the captivating shoreline, the island provided a sanctuary for both nature enthusiasts and those seeking tranquility amidst the untouched wilderness. It was a haven where ancient dunes, lush foliage, and diverse wildlife converged, leaving an indelible mark on my heart.

5. Big Talbot Island State Park

Big Talbot Island State ParkSource: PETER LAKOMY / shutterstock
Big Talbot Island State Park

Continuing my journey along the A1A, I arrived at the pristine and untouched Big Talbot Island. This undeveloped island seamlessly blended a variety of coastal ecosystems, including coastal hammock, coastal scrub, tidal marsh, and beach habitats.

As a visitor, the main attraction was undoubtedly Boneyard Beach, located at the end of the Blackrock Trail. It offered a captivating display of the rapid coastal erosion that had taken place. Here, a forest of majestic live oaks and cedars had become enveloped by the beach and exposed to the relentless salty ocean. The twisted white trunks and branches of these trees possessed an eerie and ethereal beauty. Capturing the haunting essence of this scene required no expertise in photography, as even amateur photographers could easily obtain mesmerizing shots.

Equally mesmerizing was Blackrock Beach, with its dark sedimentary rock formations that bore a striking resemblance to flowing lava. These unique geological features added to the otherworldly charm of the island. Within the crevices and depressions of the rocks, I discovered thriving rock pools teeming with vibrant marine life, providing a glimpse into the diverse ecosystem that called this place home.

My time spent on Big Talbot Island was a true encounter with untouched natural wonders. From the captivating Boneyard Beach, where the forces of nature were laid bare, to the surreal Blackrock Beach with its unique rock formations, the island offered a surreal and awe-inspiring experience.

6. Amelia Island

Amelia IslandSource: Lynne Neuman / shutterstock
Amelia Island

Situated comfortably within Jacksonville’s realm, Amelia Island presented itself as the quintessential holiday paradise, embodying the picturesque image that most people hold in their minds.

As I set foot on the island, I was greeted by the sight of a tranquil, seemingly endless expanse of white sandy beaches. It was a dreamlike destination where one could bask in the sun’s warm embrace and lose themselves in the rhythmic sound of crashing waves. For avid golfers, the island offered a remarkable selection of golf courses, ensuring there was a new fairway to conquer for each weekday. The allure continued as I discovered the unique opportunity to embark on horseback rides along the pristine shoreline, creating an unforgettable memory.

Amelia Island’s charm extended beyond its natural beauty and recreational activities. It was a place steeped in history, featuring remnants of a failed Huguenot colony. Exploring the island’s historical landmarks provided a fascinating glimpse into the past, allowing me to unravel the stories and struggles of those who had come before.

To truly capture the island’s enchantment, I made sure to rise early and witness the breathtaking sunrise. As the first rays of light painted the sky, I was treated to magnificent sights. On lucky occasions, I had the privilege of spotting pods of playful bottlenose dolphins or even witnessing the majestic breach of a right whale, particularly between the months of November and April.

Amelia Island had a distinct aura of charm and intimacy. Accommodation options reflected this, offering a range of delightful bed and breakfasts and luxurious hotels. Whether indulging in a cozy and personalized experience or pampering oneself like a star in a lavish resort, the island catered to every taste and desire, ensuring a truly memorable stay.

7. Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park

Kathryn Abbey Hanna ParkSource: Norm Lane / shutterstock
Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park

Nestled between the bustling Beaches area and the charming village of Mayport, I discovered a hidden gem—a rare and enchanting pocket of mature maritime hammock woodland flanked by a long stretch of pristine beach.

Hanna Park, spanning 450 acres, was a true paradise for those seeking an escape from the cares of everyday life. Whether I desired a blissful day on the beach or a thrilling adventure, this park had it all.

For the adrenaline enthusiasts, the park offered an exhilarating experience on its 15 miles of mountain biking trails. As an avid rider, I eagerly tackled the trails, some of which featured challenging drops and turns that tested the skills of even the most experienced bikers.

The park also boasted a picturesque 60-acre lake, once a sand quarry, perfect for canoeing and kayaking. Gliding along the tranquil waters, I immersed myself in the serenity of the surroundings. Shaded patches near the lakeshore provided a welcome respite from the sun, allowing me to observe the banks for glimpses of alligators and the vibrant array of birdlife that graced the area.

On the north side of the park, a delightful playground and splashpad awaited the little ones, offering them a world of fun and excitement.

As I set foot on the park’s white sandy beach, I felt as though I had stepped into a postcard-perfect scene. The rolling waves crashing against the shore were a surfer’s dream. For those well-versed in the art of surfing, the Poles, located at the top end of the beach, proved to be the ultimate surf spot on the First Coast. Surfers from near and far journeyed to experience the thrill of riding these magnificent waves.

8. Fort Clinch State Park

Fort Clinch State ParkSource: iofoto / shutterstock
Fort Clinch State Park

I ventured to its northern tip, where it stood as a guardian at the entrance to Cumberland Sound, marking the border between Florida and Georgia. This historic site had been fortified since the 1730s when the region fell under Spanish control.

Fort Clinch, as it stands today, originated from the Third System, a network of seacoast defenses established in the mid-19th century. However, with the introduction of rifled cannons during the Civil War, Fort Clinch became obsolete as a defensive stronghold. As the 20th century arrived, the fort was left abandoned, a relic of a bygone era.

In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps undertook the restoration of this significant site as part of their efforts during the Great Depression. Walking through the fort’s grounds today, I had the unique opportunity to witness costumed re-enactors who brought the garrison life of the 1800s to vivid reality. Their guided tours provided valuable insights into the daily routines and experiences of those who once served within these historic walls.

If you plan your visit strategically, try to be there on the first weekend of the month. This is when the air comes alive with the sound of cannon fire and thrilling demonstrations of 19th-century battle skills unfold before your eyes, transporting you back in time.

Within the expansive 1,400-acre state park surrounding Fort Clinch, nature trails meandered through sinuous and majestic oak trees. Along these trails, I delighted in the opportunity to spot gopher tortoises and embrace the serene beauty of the surroundings. As I strolled along Cumberland Sound, a notable sight occasionally graced the horizon—a nuclear submarine making its way to or from Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, located just a few miles down the sound.

9. Atlantic Beach

Atlantic Beach, JacksonvilleSource: lunamarina / shutterstock
Atlantic Beach, Jacksonville

To enjoy a hassle-free day at the beach, my journey began by following Atlantic Boulevard, where I simply kept driving until the vast ocean came into view.

Within the stretch of captivating coastal communities known as Jacksonville Beaches, Atlantic Beach stood as a testament to the charm of yesteryear. Developed in the 1920s and 1930s, this area exuded a nostalgic ambiance and offered simple yet delightful pleasures.

Unlike its counterparts, Atlantic Beach didn’t boast towering hotels or sprawling malls. Instead, it presented a serene beachfront complemented by residential neighborhoods. As I stepped onto the soft, white sand, I was delighted to find an abundance of space to claim as my own. The waves, breaking at a considerable distance from the shore, left behind vast stretches of shallow water, perfect for leisurely strolls and refreshing dips.

Heading north from Atlantic Beach, I encountered a rare gem: a preserved patch of maritime hammock nestled within Hanna Park. The lush greenery and tranquil atmosphere provided a stark contrast to the bustling beachfront, allowing me to immerse myself in the beauty of nature.

On the other hand, venturing south led me to the vibrant hub known as Beaches Town Center. Here, I discovered a delightful array of mom and pop stores, independent restaurants, and chic bars. The local establishments exuded a sense of authenticity, welcoming visitors with warm hospitality and an enticing blend of flavors and entertainment.

10. Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary

Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife SanctuarySource: Michael Gordon / shutterstock
Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary

Having had the privilege of visiting the Catty Shack, I can confidently say that this sanctuary is not just a temporary residence for rescued big cats—it’s their forever home. It’s heartwarming to know that they do not engage in any trading, selling, or breeding of these magnificent creatures.

Established in 2004, the facility, which includes its own animal hospital, opened its doors to the public for the first time. One of its primary objectives is to educate visitors about the inherent dangers of keeping exotic animals as pets. It’s a crucial message that resonates with the public, as they witness firsthand the care and commitment required to provide a safe and nurturing environment for these animals.

As I walked through the grounds, I couldn’t help but appreciate the clean and spacious enclosures that housed bobcats, leopards, cougars, tigers, lions, as well as coatis and Arctic foxes. The sanctuary’s dedication to their well-being was evident in every detail.

Being a non-profit organization, the Catty Shack Ranch operates with the utmost transparency and integrity. All the proceeds generated from public tours and events are reinvested into the welfare of the animals in their care. It’s a testament to their unwavering commitment to these incredible creatures.

During my visit, I had the opportunity to join one of the weekly public tours. Depending on the time of day, visitors can observe the cats in different states—either peacefully asleep or leisurely enjoying their surroundings. However, for a truly immersive experience, I highly recommend attending the night tour. It’s during this time that the cats exhibit their more active and instinctual behaviors, especially during feeding time. Witnessing their majesty under the moonlit sky is an unforgettable experience.

In addition to the regular tours, the sanctuary hosts seasonal events that bring together the spirit of Halloween with the incredible presence of the big cats. For the entire month of October, the Haunted Forest event offers a unique blend of classic Halloween scares and the spine-chilling growls of these majestic felines.

11. Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum

Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, JacksonvilleSource: Ebyabe / Wikimedia
Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, Jacksonville

The Karpeles’ passion for preserving human history led them to amass the largest collection of historic manuscripts, documents, and books in the world. Stepping into the library, I was immediately struck by the magnitude of their achievement. Founded in the 1980s by real estate magnates Davis and Marsha Karpeles, this library has expanded to include 11 branches across the United States.

Within the walls of this invaluable library, I had the privilege of laying eyes on priceless treasures. The collection included notable works such as Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro,” Darwin’s groundbreaking “Theory of Evolution,” Einstein’s revolutionary “Theory of Relativity,” the historic Bill of Rights, a first print of the Ten Commandments from the Gutenberg Bible, George Washington’s heartfelt Thanksgiving Proclamation, and countless other remarkable pieces.

What makes the Karpeles Manuscript Library truly unique is its commitment to sharing and rotating these remarkable artifacts among its ten branches. Each branch is housed in a monumental building, showcasing the importance and significance of the collection it holds.

In Jacksonville, the library is situated within the magnificent First Church of Christ, an architectural marvel constructed in 1921. This stately building serves as a fitting backdrop for the exquisite exhibitions that take place throughout the year. With up to four exhibitions from the Karpeles collection annually, visitors have the opportunity to delve into the profound depth of human history. Additionally, the library also hosts shows from other major collections, further enriching the cultural experience.

12. Riverside and Avondale

Riverside, JacksonvilleSource: Lynne Neuman / shutterstock
Riverside, Jacksonville

As I strolled through Riverside, I couldn’t help but appreciate its genteel ambiance. This neighborhood had taken shape in the late 19th century, transforming former plantation lands into a picturesque community. The streets were lined with bungalow plantation-style houses, each exuding its unique charm and character.

Moving forward in time, I ventured into Avondale, a planned neighborhood that emerged in the early 20th century. The homes in Avondale predominantly boasted the exquisite Mediterranean Revival architectural style, which was in vogue during the 1920s and 1930s. The neighborhood had been thoughtfully designed, incorporating 15 pocket parks that provided ample green spaces for residents to enjoy. As I walked the streets, I found myself surrounded by a lush tapestry of foliage and vibrant blooms, including magnificent live oaks, dogwood trees, magnolias, azaleas, and swaying palms.

Within this delightful neighborhood, I discovered two significant landmarks. The Cummer Museum, a cultural gem, stood proudly in this part of town, showcasing an impressive collection of art. Its galleries offered a glimpse into various artistic movements, captivating visitors with their diverse displays. Nearby, I stumbled upon Five Points, a vibrant and trendy enclave bursting with personality. This lively district boasted an array of charming shops, inviting café terraces, lively nightclubs, and craft breweries. Among the notable establishments was the historic Sun-Ray Cinema, a two-screen theater that had been in operation since 1927. Its enduring presence was a testament to its timeless appeal.

It was fascinating to learn that Riverside and Avondale had earned the distinction of being one of the largest districts on the National Register of Historic Places in the United States. The rich history and architectural significance of this area were evident at every turn, preserving a tangible connection to Jacksonville’s past.

13. Kingsley Plantation

Kingsley PlantationSource: Nick Fox / shutterstock
Kingsley Plantation

As I delved into the history of this place, I learned about the intriguing and complex life of Zephaniah Kingsley. Over a span of 25 years, Kingsley and his family resided in this very plantation. It was during this time that he entered into unconventional marriages with four enslaved African women, practicing polygamy, and together, they bore him nine children of mixed-race heritage.

The captivating narrative of this plantation’s past was brought to life at the former estate, where the owner’s house still stood as a testament to its history. This remarkable structure, dating back to approximately 1797, held the distinction of being the oldest plantation-era building in the state of Florida. As I wandered through its rooms, I couldn’t help but imagine the stories and secrets that its walls held. Further south, remnants of 23 out of the original 32 slave houses remained, providing a somber reminder of the lives that were lived and endured within their walls.

To gain a deeper understanding of the plantation’s complex history, I had the opportunity to explore the restored slave house. Stepping inside, I was transported back in time, gaining insight into the daily lives and struggles faced by those who were enslaved on the plantation. Additionally, I came across several other slave houses, each bearing the scars of time in varying states of ruin.

Weekends offered the chance to embark on guided tours of the owner’s house, where knowledgeable guides shared captivating stories and anecdotes. Within the premises, the kitchen house served as a repository of informative exhibits, shedding light on the historical significance of the site. Additionally, I had the privilege of stepping inside a 220-year-old barn, marveling at the enduring presence of this age-old structure.

14. Museum of Science and History (MOSH)

Museum Of Science And History, JacksonvilleSource: Gene Crain / shutterstock
Museum Of Science And History, Jacksonville

I had the pleasure of immersing myself in a world where children could explore regional history and delve into the wonders of science. This remarkable institution has been captivating young minds in various forms since 1941, and in its present state, it stands as a modern attraction brimming with interactive experiences designed for experiential learning.

One of the highlights of the museum was the Health in Motion exhibit, where children could discover the importance of healthy lifestyles and movement in a fun and engaging way. Another fascinating area was Atlantic Tails, where young visitors had the opportunity to touch and interact with intertidal species, fostering a sense of connection with the natural world. Additionally, the museum offered an immersive journey through 12,000 years of history in Northeast Florida at the Currents of Time exhibit, providing a valuable perspective on the region’s rich historical heritage.

For the little ones under the age of five, a special treat awaited them at Kidspace. This unique indoor playground seamlessly blended scientific concepts and historical themes, creating a captivating environment for young learners to explore and discover.

In addition to these captivating exhibits, the Museum of Science and History housed an extensive collection of artifacts and scientific objects. Among them were thousands of zoological specimens, offering a glimpse into the incredible diversity of the natural world. The museum also showcased a captivating array of ephemera from 19th and 20th-century Jacksonville, providing a fascinating window into the city’s past. Furthermore, visitors had the opportunity to explore the Timucuan Indian finds, which added a layer of historical depth to the museum’s offerings.

MOSH also curated thought-provoking short-term exhibitions that shed light on important social issues. One such exhibition was the impactful “Legacy of Lynching: Confronting Racial Terror in America,” which took place from 2019 to 2020. These exhibitions aimed to spark meaningful conversations and foster a deeper understanding of our shared history.

15. Jacksonville Riverwalks

Jacksonville RiverwalkSource: L Barnwell / shutterstock
Jacksonville Riverwalk

During my visit to Jacksonville, I had the pleasure of strolling along the picturesque riverside promenades that grace the north and south banks of the magnificent St. Johns River. These delightful pathways were developed over several stages, starting from the mid-1980s and continuing through the 2000s, offering locals and visitors alike the perfect setting for leisurely walks and breathtaking views.

On the Southbank, a charming 1.25-mile stretch of pathway unfolded before me. It began near the iconic Friendship Fountain in the west and meandered eastward, extending just past the Lexington Hotel. The Southbank Riverwalk proved to be a lively and vibrant area, with its collection of restaurants including renowned establishments like Chart House and Ruth’s Chris. As I strolled along, I couldn’t help but be captivated by the panoramic vistas of downtown Jacksonville and the frequent sightings of playful dolphins and graceful manatees frolicking in the glistening waters of the river. Moreover, the Southbank boasted attractions such as the Museum of Science and History (MOSH), adding an educational touch to the scenic experience.

The Northbank Riverwalk, on the other hand, offered a slightly longer pathway that connected various downtown landmarks. As I traversed this picturesque route, I found myself passing by notable sites such as the elegant Hyatt Regency, the former Jacksonville Landing, and the iconic CSX Transportation Building. Each step I took allowed me to immerse myself in the city’s vibrant atmosphere while enjoying the serene beauty of the St. Johns River.

While both riverwalks were truly delightful, it was on the Southbank where a livelier ambiance permeated the air. Following the closure of the Jacksonville Landing Marketplace, the Southbank became a bustling hub of activity. It boasted a diverse array of dining options, with restaurants like Chart House and Ruth’s Chris offering delectable culinary experiences. Additionally, the Southbank Riverwalk provided sweeping views of the downtown skyline, creating a stunning backdrop for my leisurely stroll. To my delight, I was also treated to frequent sightings of dolphins gracefully gliding through the river’s crystal-clear waters, accompanied by the occasional appearance of gentle manatees. It was an enchanting experience that added a touch of magic to my riverside adventure.

16. Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail

CyclingSource: AStolnik / Shutterstock

I had the opportunity to witness the transformation of an old east-west Atlantic Coast Line Railroad corridor into a remarkable multi-use trail. The City of Jacksonville had the foresight to acquire the railbed, paving the way for the creation of a picturesque pathway that would cater to walkers, cyclists, and even equestrians. This pioneering project was among the first of its kind in the state, breathing new life into the abandoned railroad and providing a gentle, paved route spanning from Jacksonville to Baldwin.

Known as the Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail, this impressive trail stretched across 14.5 miles, offering ample space with its generous width of 3.7 meters. As I embarked on this scenic journey, I found myself immersed in the natural wonders that surrounded me. The trail meandered through a diverse landscape, cutting through enchanting hardwood uplands, captivating wetlands, and serene flatwoods. With every step, I marveled at the beauty of my surroundings, grateful for the opportunity to explore this unique corridor of nature.

One of the greatest joys of traversing the Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail was the abundance of wildlife that called this area home. If I took my time and observed my surroundings patiently, I was rewarded with delightful encounters with a wide array of creatures. Majestic wild turkeys gracefully roamed the trail, while hawks and buzzards soared overhead, painting the sky with their elegant flight. The presence of alligators added a touch of excitement, reminding me of the untamed nature that thrived in these lands. As I continued my journey, I had the pleasure of spotting playful rabbits, curious armadillos, and even the elusive gopher tortoises. While encountering a few snake species added a touch of thrill to my adventure, I admired them from a respectful distance, appreciating their place in this intricate ecosystem.

17. TIAA Bank Field

TIAA Bank FieldSource: Felix Mizioznikov / shutterstock
TIAA Bank Field

As I crossed into downtown Jacksonville on the Hart or Mathews bridges, my eyes were immediately drawn to the imposing grandstands and towering light structures of TIAA Bank Field. It was impossible to miss this iconic stadium that dominated the city’s skyline.

TIAA Bank Field was not only a venue for unforgettable concerts featuring megastars like the Rolling Stones, U2, and Green Day during their national tours, but it also held a special place in the hearts of football enthusiasts. Every year, the stadium hosted the highly anticipated Florida-Georgia college football game, a thrilling event that took place in October or November.

However, TIAA Bank Field gained its greatest fame as the hunting ground for the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars. This 67,800-seater stadium was constructed in 1995 when the franchise was established. The most recent renovation took place in 2016, providing the stadium with a fresh look. Although the Jaguars had achieved three Division Championships, with the last one in 2017, they were yet to secure a Super Bowl victory.

During the 2013 revamp, TIAA Bank Field received a remarkable addition in the form of colossal end zone scoreboards. These impressive high-definition LED displays stretched a staggering 110 meters, making them the largest of their kind in the world. The stadium also boasted two wading pools, offering a luxurious experience for Jaguars fans willing to indulge. Additionally, the stadium’s dining options were a true reflection of the city’s culinary diversity, featuring concessions from renowned downtown restaurants.

18. The Florida Theatre

The Florida Theatre, JacksonvilleSource: Caitlinator / Flickr | CC BY
The Florida Theatre, Jacksonville

I had the pleasure of visiting the Florida Theatre in Jacksonville, a magnificent venue adorned with opulent Medieval Revival decor. Originally built as a movie palace in 1927, it stood as a testament to the grandeur of its time. Among the handful of movie palaces from that era in Florida, the Florida Theatre was truly exceptional. Its significance was recognized in 1982 when it was added to the National Register of Historic Places, following an extensive restoration effort.

As I stepped inside the theatre, I was immediately captivated by the exquisite interiors. Every detail, from the lavish coffered proscenium arch to the intricate designs adorning the walls, showcased the craftsmanship and artistic vision of the past. It was a visual feast for the senses, transporting me to a bygone era of elegance and glamour.

Beyond its stunning aesthetics, the Florida Theatre also boasted impeccable acoustics. The moment I took my seat, I could feel the anticipation in the air, knowing that I was about to witness an exceptional performance. This esteemed venue served as the stage for the Florida Ballet and the locally based Theatreworks company, showcasing their talents to the delight of audiences.

The programming at the Florida Theatre was nothing short of impressive. From A-list comedians to renowned recording artists on tour, the theatre attracted top-tier talent from various fields. I had the opportunity to experience captivating Broadway musicals that came to life on this hallowed stage. The theatre also catered to young audiences, offering enchanting children’s shows that brought smiles to their faces.

One particular event that stood out was the Community Nutcracker performance, a cherished tradition held annually in December. This holiday treat brought together talented dancers and musicians to create a magical rendition of the beloved Nutcracker ballet. It was a true celebration of community and artistic expression, spreading joy and wonder to all who attended.

19. Friendship Fountain

Friendship Fountain, JacksonvilleSource: ESB Professional / shutterstock
Friendship Fountain, Jacksonville

The immensity of the Friendship Fountain was truly awe-inspiring. Its basin spanned over 60 meters in diameter, and it featured three impressive rings of sprays, with the central ring shooting water a remarkable 30 meters high into the sky. The sheer power and beauty of the cascading water left me in a state of wonder.

What amazed me even more was the staggering amount of water the Friendship Fountain could discharge. With a maximum flow rate of 16,750 gallons (76,147 liters) per minute, the fountain was a mesmerizing display of aquatic splendor.

However, as time passed, the fountain’s pipes began to corrode, dimming its brilliance. Fortunately, in 2011, a remarkable restoration project breathed new life into this beloved monument. A substantial investment of $3.2 million was dedicated to returning the Friendship Fountain to its former glory. The restoration not only repaired the damages but also enhanced the fountain’s overall appeal.

Throughout the day, the Friendship Fountain offered a program of captivating performances, delighting visitors with its rhythmic water displays. However, it was after sunset that the fountain truly came alive. As darkness blanketed the park, the fountain transformed into a magical spectacle of light and water. A total of 265 computer-controlled lights beautifully illuminated the jets, creating a mesmerizing visual symphony.

I found myself captivated by the enchanting dance of water and light, losing track of time as I immersed myself in the fountain’s radiant beauty. The nighttime ambiance added an extra layer of charm and mystique, making it a truly unforgettable experience.

The Friendship Fountain was not just a magnificent display of engineering and artistry; it was also a symbol of unity and harmony. Its presence in the park provided a gathering place for friends, families, and strangers to come together and create lasting memories.

20. Jacksonville Water Taxi

Jacksonville Water TaxiSource: L Barnwell / shutterstock
Jacksonville Water Taxi

The Jacksonville Water Taxi served as a link between the Northbank and Southbank Riverwalks, providing a delightful transportation experience. The city had introduced this service back in 1987, and by 2019, it boasted a fleet of four boats, ensuring efficient and reliable service for visitors and locals alike.

The water taxis docked at several key locations along the river, including Jacksonville Landing on the Northbank, Friendship Fountain, Doubletree Hotel, and Lexington Hotel on the Southbank. From there, they seamlessly crossed the water, taking passengers to Metropolitan Park Marina, located near TIAA Bank Field.

What impressed me the most about the Jacksonville Water Taxi was its affordability. For a mere $10, I could purchase an all-day pass, allowing me unlimited access to the water taxis. The convenience didn’t end there—I could easily buy the tickets once I boarded the boat, eliminating the hassle of pre-purchasing or making advanced reservations.

As I embarked on the water taxi, I was greeted by friendly staff who were eager to assist and answer any questions I had. The boats themselves were comfortable and well-maintained, providing a pleasant journey along the picturesque St. Johns River. The soothing rhythm of the water, coupled with breathtaking views of the city’s skyline, created a serene and memorable experience.

Whether I wanted to explore the vibrant shops and restaurants at Jacksonville Landing, marvel at the majestic Friendship Fountain, or attend an event near TIAA Bank Field, the Jacksonville Water Taxi offered a convenient and scenic mode of transportation.

21. Memorial Park

Memorial Park, JacksonvilleSource: Lynne Neuman / shutterstock
Memorial Park, Jacksonville

Memorial Park, a historic and picturesque oasis nestled in the elegant Riverside neighborhood. Established after the First World War, it is the third-oldest park in the city and holds a significant place in Jacksonville’s history.

The park was carefully chosen by the Rotary Club as a tribute to the 1,200 Floridians who made the ultimate sacrifice during the war. Its design was entrusted to the Olmsted Brothers, sons of the renowned Frederick Law Olmsted, and in 1924, Memorial Park was dedicated to honor the fallen heroes. Stepping into the park, I was immediately captivated by its serene ambiance and timeless beauty.

The centerpiece of Memorial Park is the remarkable bronze sculpture titled “Life,” created by C. Adrian Pillars (1870-1937). This magnificent artwork depicts a youthful, winged figure, symbolizing the spirit of vitality and resilience. Its presence evokes a sense of reverence and pays homage to those who gave their lives in service to their country.

One of the park’s most enchanting features is the balustrade that lines the riverbank, offering a breathtaking view of the expansive St. Johns River. Standing there, I couldn’t help but be mesmerized by the sheer beauty and tranquility of the surroundings. It was a perfect spot to pause, reflect, and immerse myself in the majestic expanse of the river.

Memorial Park also proved to be an ideal location for a delightful picnic. With its well-manicured lawns, shady trees, and inviting atmosphere, it provided a serene setting to enjoy a meal surrounded by nature’s beauty. As I savored my lunch, I couldn’t help but appreciate the park’s peaceful ambiance and the feeling of being in a truly special place.

One of the highlights of my visit was witnessing the captivating sunsets that graced Memorial Park. As the day drew to a close, the sky painted a breathtaking palette of vibrant hues, casting a golden glow over the park and its surroundings. It was a truly awe-inspiring sight that left a lasting impression on me.

22. Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens

Jacksonville Arboretum and GardensSource: Ken Schulze / shutterstock
Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens

On my visit to the Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens, I was fascinated by the incredible transformation that had taken place on this once-troubled industrial site. Throughout most of the 20th century, the area had a somber history to tell, having served as a strip mine for zircon in the 1940s to 1960s and later becoming an illegal dumping ground for unwanted cars and appliances.

However, in the 1970s, the city acquired the land with the intention of creating a buffer for a wastewater treatment plant. It was then that nature began to reclaim the area, and over time, thirteen distinct ecosystems emerged. Recognizing the potential of this unique landscape, a plan was approved in the 2000s to transform the site into a stunning botanical attraction.

As I embarked on my exploration, I discovered seven trails that led me through a diverse range of habitats within the arboretum and gardens. One such trail, the Jones Creek Trail, guided me through captivating wetlands adorned with swamp bay, bald cypress, swamp dogwood, and American hornbeam. The serenity of the surroundings and the rich biodiversity left me in awe of nature’s resilience.

Walking along the Live Oak Trail was an enchanting experience as I found myself immersed beneath the majestic branches of southern live oaks, some of which had graced the landscape for over a century. The tunnel-like canopy created by these ancient trees provided a sense of tranquility and reminded me of the enduring power of nature.

It was evident that the Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens not only served as a haven for plant life but also provided a sustainable habitat for a variety of wildlife. Throughout my journey, I encountered alligators, armadillos, foxes, and an array of snakes and turtles. One particularly fascinating resident was the gopher tortoise, whose presence highlighted the importance of preserving and protecting these precious ecosystems.

23. Fort Caroline National Memorial

Fort Caroline National Memorial, Artistic Side ViewSource: Josh Marcano / shutterstock
Fort Caroline National Memorial, Artistic Side View

As I visit the Fort Caroline National Memorial, I had the opportunity to delve into a fascinating chapter of history that unfolded along the banks of the St. Johns River. It was here, in 1564, that a short-lived French colony was established by the Huguenots during the tumultuous French Wars of Religion.

Known as Fort Caroline, the settlement quickly drew the attention of the Spanish, who had founded St. Augustine the following year. Intent on eradicating the Huguenot presence, the Spanish launched a relentless assault on Fort Caroline, driven by territorial ambitions and religious conflicts.

Fort Caroline, named in honor of King Charles IX, faced numerous challenges during its brief existence. It was plagued by illness, came under attack from the indigenous Timucuan Indians, and ultimately fell into the hands of the Spanish, who mercilessly executed several hundred Huguenots.

Today, the Fort Caroline National Memorial stands as a solemn reminder of those early years of European exploration, the complex interactions between Europeans and Native Americans, and the territorial struggles that shaped America during the Early Modern Age. As I wandered through the site, I couldn’t help but reflect on the profound historical significance that unfolded within these grounds.

The remnants of the fort, including its ditch and earthwork ravelins, have been remarkably preserved, allowing visitors to gain a sense of the fort’s original layout and defensive features. Additionally, the site serves as the visitor center for the expansive Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve, providing comprehensive insights into the region’s rich history.

Open seven days a week, the visitor center offers a wealth of information, exhibits, and resources that shed light on the encounters between different cultures and the struggles for control over this land. It is a place where one can contemplate the complexities and conflicts that marked this pivotal era in American history.

24. Maple Street Biscuit Company

Buttermilk BiscuitSource: val lawless / shutterstock
Buttermilk Biscuit

Originally a Jax-born chain, Maple Street Biscuit Company had garnered a well-deserved reputation throughout the South for its fluffy and irresistible biscuits. The menu boasted a variety of enticing options, from savory combinations of house-made sausage or shiitake gravy to tantalizing fillings such as fried chicken (offered in five flavorful variations), egg and collard greens, or goats’ cheese and spinach. Among the notable establishments in the city, Maple Street Biscuit Company stood out as a local favorite, known for its delectable and indulgent buttermilk biscuits.

To complement these mouthwatering creations, Maple Street Biscuit Company served rich and aromatic coffee, locally roasted to perfection. The combination of their sumptuous biscuits and expertly crafted coffee made for a truly satisfying dining experience.

However, what truly set Maple Street apart and earned it a special place in the hearts of locals and visitors alike was its commitment to fostering a sense of community. The seating arrangement, featuring inviting bench-style seating, encouraged neighbors to come together and get to know one another. It also provided an opportunity for out-of-towners to immerse themselves in the local culture, even if only for a meal. This emphasis on community created a warm and welcoming atmosphere that added an extra layer of enjoyment to the dining experience.

As I savored each delectable bite and engaged in conversations with fellow diners, I couldn’t help but appreciate the unique blend of exceptional comfort food and genuine community spirit that Maple Street Biscuit Company embodied. It was a dining experience that not only satisfied my taste buds but also left me with a sense of connection to the vibrant and welcoming community of Jacksonville.

25. Riverside Arts Market

Riverside Arts Market, JacksonvilleSource: Lynne Neuman / shutterstock
Riverside Arts Market, Jacksonville

Every Saturday from 10:00 to 15:00, the southern terminus of the Northbank Riverwalk at the Fuller Warren Bridge transformed into the bustling Riverside Arts Market.

The market was more than just a shopping event—it was a celebration of local talent and creativity. As I wandered through the market, I was treated to captivating yoga and dance performances, live music, and enlightening speakers at the 350-seater amphitheater known as the Artists’ Square. The lively atmosphere and the enthusiastic crowd added to the overall charm of the market.

One of the standout features of the Riverside Arts Market was its commitment to supporting local businesses and producers. Since 2016, the food stalls at the market had been exclusively reserved for producers, ensuring that every purchase supported the hardworking local vendors. It was truly a food lover’s paradise, with an impressive array of fresh produce, cheeses, baked goods, coffee, honey, soy candles, fabrics, spices, flowers, organic cosmetics, and delightful arts and crafts.

Navigating through the market’s numerous food trucks was a delightful challenge, as the options seemed almost endless. What impressed me the most was the abundance of vegan options available, catering to a wide range of dietary preferences and ensuring that everyone could indulge in delicious and satisfying meals.

As I meandered through the Riverside Arts Market, immersing myself in the vibrant atmosphere, discovering unique treasures, and savoring the delectable flavors, I couldn’t help but appreciate the sense of community that permeated the air. It was a gathering place where locals and visitors alike could come together, support local artisans and producers, and revel in the rich diversity of Jacksonville’s creative and culinary scene.

26. Jacksonville Beach Pier

Jacksonville Beach PierSource: margaret.wiktor / shutterstock
Jacksonville Beach Pier

The original pier, constructed in 1922, had witnessed its fair share of challenges. However, in 1999, the powerful Hurricane Floyd delivered a devastating blow, leaving the pier in ruins. It took several years, but a new pier was eventually rebuilt, offering hope and a gathering place for locals and visitors once again.

Unfortunately, nature had more tests in store for the Jacksonville Beach Pier. In October 2016, Hurricane Matthew unleashed its fury, causing further damage to the reconstructed pier. Just a year later, Hurricane Irma added to the woes, leaving its mark on the resilient structure.

Despite these setbacks, repairs were undertaken, and by November 2019, the pier was accessible to the public once again. As I ventured onto the pier, I was greeted by the invigorating ocean breeze and the rhythmic sound of crashing waves. Stepping out over the breaking waves, I was rewarded with a breathtaking view of the coastline stretching out for miles to the south.

The Jacksonville Beach Pier, measuring a little over 190 meters in length, was not only a picturesque sight but also a haven for anglers. It attracted fishing enthusiasts who cast their lines in hopes of catching the day’s bounty. It even boasted its own bait shop, ensuring that visitors had everything they needed for a successful fishing experience.

As I walked along the pier, observing the determined anglers and taking in the panoramic coastal vistas, I couldn’t help but admire the spirit of resilience that characterized the Jacksonville Beach Pier. Despite the challenges it had faced, it stood tall, providing a place of solace, recreation, and connection with the stunning natural surroundings.

27. Safe Harbor Seafood Market & Restaurant

Blackened ShrimpSource: Holly Rae Garcia / shutterstock
Blackened Shrimp

I also had the pleasure of visiting Safe Harbor Seafood Market, a renowned establishment that had undergone a remarkable transformation in its three-decade history. Originally operating primarily as a wholesale business, Safe Harbor Seafood Market ventured into the realm of boutique dining in 2013 when they opened their own restaurant.

As I entered the market, the enticing aroma of freshly prepared seafood filled the air. The restaurant offered a picturesque setting next to the St. Johns River, providing a perfect backdrop for a memorable dining experience. With a cold beer in hand, I settled in, ready to indulge in the culinary delights that awaited me.

The menu boasted an impressive array of seafood options, ranging from mahi-mahi, snapper, scallops, and triggerfish to mussels and crab. The versatility of preparation was equally remarkable, offering choices of steamed, fried, baked, or grilled dishes. Each bite promised a burst of flavor and freshness that celebrated the bountiful offerings of the sea.

I couldn’t resist sampling some of the restaurant’s signature dishes. From gumbo and conch fritters to clam chowder and freshly shucked oysters, the menu featured a delightful assortment of appetizers that tantalized my taste buds. I savored the rich flavors of the shrimp dip, relished the satisfying crunch of hush puppies, and indulged in the succulent seafood baskets.

The menu at Safe Harbor Seafood Market’s restaurant was carefully curated, taking into account the availability of fresh ingredients. The culinary team showcased their expertise in preparing each dish, ensuring a memorable dining experience for patrons. To immerse myself in the flavors of the South, I decided to order my shrimp, scallops, grouper, and snapper “blackened” – a cooking technique that involved pan-frying with a delectable herb, spice, and butter crust.

As I explored the market section of Safe Harbor Seafood, I was impressed by the abundance of fish and seafood available for purchase. It was a seafood lover’s paradise, offering a wide variety of options to take home and prepare in one’s own kitchen. The market’s commitment to quality and freshness was evident in the pristine displays of seafood, inviting customers to embark on their culinary adventures.

28. The Ritz Theatre & Museum

The Ritz Theatre & MuseumSource: PicoOrdinalo / Wikimedia | CC BY-SA 4.0
The Ritz Theatre & Museum

The Ritz Theatre & Museum, a cultural landmark dating back to 1929, became the focal point for African American heritage and artistic expression in Northeast Florida. Stepping into the Ritz, I was transported to a bygone era, immersing myself in the rich tapestry of African American culture that thrived in this community.

During my visit in 2019-20, an extraordinary exhibition titled “Through Our Eyes” captivated visitors by inviting renowned artists to interpret the theme of “Revolution” through various mediums. The gallery showcased a diverse range of thought-provoking artworks that challenged societal norms and sparked conversations about change and empowerment.

The Ritz Theatre & Museum was not just a visual feast; it was also a bustling hub of artistic performances. The event calendar was filled with an exciting array of talent shows, comedy acts, plays, family-oriented entertainment, and concerts. The stage came alive with captivating performances that celebrated the vibrant spirit of Lavilla and its enduring cultural heritage.

As I witnessed the creative energy that filled the Ritz, I couldn’t help but appreciate the significance of this venue in preserving and promoting African American arts and culture. It stood as a testament to the resilience and artistic prowess of the community, serving as a platform for emerging talents and established artists alike.

29. Huguenot Memorial Park

Huguenot Memorial ParkSource: Norm Lane / shutterstock
Huguenot Memorial Park

Nestled on a 295-acre horseshoe-shaped peninsula, the Huguenot Memorial Park felt almost secluded, with the vast expanse of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve stretching out behind it, and the St. John’s River merging with the Atlantic Ocean just to the south.

As I explored the park, I discovered its diverse natural wonders. According to the Audubon society, Huguenot Memorial Park is renowned as the best birding spot on the First Coast. I marveled at the array of avian species that graced the skies and trees, creating a harmonious symphony of chirps and calls.

The park’s pristine white sandy beach beckoned me, gently sloping into the refreshing waters of the Atlantic. A magnificent dune system stood proudly behind the beach, acting as a natural barrier between land and sea. What fascinated me was the opportunity to drive a 4WD vehicle onto the beach, allowing me to park near the dunes and immerse myself in the coastal ambiance.

Huguenot Memorial Park offered something for everyone. For adventure seekers, the waves were ideal for surfing, while the brisk ocean breeze provided the perfect conditions for kiting enthusiasts. Fishing enthusiasts were also in for a treat, with numerous spots along the coast offering ample opportunities to cast their lines and reel in a catch.

Aside from its natural splendors, the park boasted convenient facilities to enhance visitors’ experiences. A playground provided a delightful space for families to enjoy, while a well-equipped picnic area allowed for leisurely al fresco meals amidst the picturesque surroundings. For those seeking an overnight stay, the park featured a 70-site campground, an excellent option for camping enthusiasts who wished to wake up early and witness the breathtaking sunrise.

30. Jacksonville Center for the Performing Arts

Jacksonville Center for the Performing ArtsSource: L Barnwell / shutterstock
Jacksonville Center for the Performing Arts

The Jacksonville Center for the Performing Arts, which originally opened its doors in 1962, offered a vibrant and diverse array of performances across its three venues.

As I entered the glass-paneled Modernist building, I was immediately struck by its sleek and contemporary design. In the 1990s, the center underwent a facelift, rejuvenating its appearance and ensuring a captivating ambiance for all who stepped inside. The center served as the home of the esteemed Jacksonville Symphony and the Jacksonville Symphony Youth Orchestra, fostering a love for music and showcasing the incredible talent of these orchestras.

The Moran Theater, with its impressive seating capacity of 2,979, played host to a variety of captivating productions. From riveting plays to dazzling musicals, the stage came alive with performances that left audiences spellbound. The Jacoby Symphony Hall, accommodating 1,724 guests, provided an exquisite setting for symphonic concerts, where the harmonious melodies of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra resonated throughout the hall, captivating all in attendance. For a more intimate experience, the Terry Theater, with its cozy 609-seat capacity, offered a platform for smaller-scale productions, allowing for a deeper connection between performers and the audience.

One of the highlights of my visit was the Broadway in Jacksonville series presented by the Florida State College at Jacksonville’s Artist Series. This series brought professional productions of beloved musicals to the stage, treating audiences to unforgettable performances. In the 2019-20 season, I had the pleasure of witnessing captivating renditions of renowned shows such as “Wicked” and “Bandstand,” which left me in awe of the talent and artistry on display.

Additionally, the Jacksonville Symphony’s 2019-20 season showcased a diverse range of musical experiences. From the enchanting soundtrack of Disney’s “UP!” to Beethoven’s powerful “Creatures of Prometheus,” each performance was a testament to the symphony’s dedication to delivering captivating and immersive musical experiences. I was also fortunate enough to attend the annual Holiday Pops concert, which filled the air with festive melodies and spread joy throughout the audience. The season’s grand finale was an extraordinary performance of Handel’s masterpiece, “Messiah,” which left a lasting impression with its awe-inspiring choral and orchestral arrangements.

31. Sweet Pete’s

Sweet Pete's, JacksonvilleSource: Sweet Pete's / Facebook
Sweet Pete’s

As I approached the villa, I was captivated by its charming veranda and the allure of its rooftop garden. Interestingly, in 1907, an additional floor was added to accommodate wealthy bachelors. Rumors circulated that this floor may have served as a clandestine establishment. Despite its secretive past, the Seminole Club also had its fair share of distinguished visitors. Notably, three U.S. presidents—Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, and JFK—had graced the club with their presence.

However, like many buildings in downtown Jacksonville, the Seminole Club fell into a state of abandonment during the 1990s. With the exception of a brief revival in the early 2000s, it remained vacant and forgotten until 2014 when a delightful surprise arrived in the form of Sweet Pete’s.

Entering Sweet Pete’s felt like stepping into a whimsical oasis in the heart of the city. It was a candy lover’s paradise, with its vibrant displays showcasing an unimaginable assortment of sweets. From the moment I set foot inside, I was surrounded by the irresistible aroma of freshly made treats. Sweet Pete’s boasted its very own kitchen, where delectable candies were crafted with precision and care.

One of the highlights of my visit was embarking on the “Chocaholic Tour,” which provided an exclusive behind-the-scenes glimpse into the fascinating world of chocolate production. I witnessed the intricate process of making chocolate, sampled various types, and even had the opportunity to create my own personalized candy bar to take home—a truly delightful experience.

During my visit, I couldn’t resist indulging in Sweet Pete’s ice cream, which offered the perfect respite on a warm summer day. The creamy, cool treats were simply irresistible and provided a refreshing escape from the Florida heat.

As the holiday season approached, Sweet Pete’s transformed into a festive wonderland. I eagerly participated in the candy cane-making activities, allowing me to craft my very own candy canes—a delightful and immersive experience that filled me with a sense of childlike joy.

32. Beaches Town Center

Beaches Town CenterSource: Joel S Howell Jr / shutterstock
Beaches Town Center

During my time exploring the Jacksonville Beaches, I discovered a tranquil residential ambiance that permeated the area. However, there was one lively spot that stood out among the serene surroundings—the Beaches Town Center. Situated at the merging point of Atlantic Beach and Neptune Beach, at the end of Atlantic Boulevard, this compact yet bustling district offered a vibrant array of attractions.

As I strolled through the four-block area, I was greeted by a pedestrian-friendly environment adorned with palm trees that provided refreshing shade. The streets were lined with charming boutiques, inviting yoga studios, captivating art galleries, and shops dedicated to watersports. I couldn’t help but notice the tantalizing aroma wafting from the ice cream and frozen custard parlors, tempting me to indulge in a sweet treat.

Craft breweries added to the vibrant atmosphere, their presence signified by the clinking of glasses and lively conversations that spilled out onto the sidewalks. Additionally, two magnificent oceanfront hotels graced the district, adding a touch of grandeur to the already captivating scenery.

However, it was the abundance of restaurants and bars that truly captured my attention. The options seemed endless, and I found myself taking a deep breath to fully absorb the diverse culinary scene that surrounded me. With each step, I encountered establishments serving everything from delectable pizzas to fresh sushi, authentic Mexican cuisine to mouthwatering subs, and succulent seafood to an array of other tantalizing dishes.

What made the Beaches Town Center truly special was its proximity to the ocean. Within seconds, I could transition from the lively streets to the pristine beach, offering a perfect blend of urban exploration and coastal relaxation. The refreshing sea breeze added a delightful touch to my stroll, and I couldn’t resist pausing to admire the scenic beauty of the shoreline

33. Jax Ale Trail

BeerSource: VDB Photos / shutterstock

With over 20 establishments brewing their own unique concoctions, it would have been impossible to keep track if not for the Jax Ale Trail.

In 2019, this trail consisted of 15 distinct stops, although new breweries continue to emerge each year. As I embarked on this hoppy adventure, I made my way to the first brewery and eagerly requested a passport—a valuable document that would be stamped at each brewery I visited, offering the opportunity to win exciting prizes.

With every four stamps collected, I earned a coveted koozie—a practical accessory that would keep my favorite brews cool. After accumulating eight stamps, I proudly donned a t-shirt, showcasing my dedication to the Jax Ale Trail. And for those intrepid souls who ventured to visit every single brewery on the trail, a special secret prize awaited.

What made the Jax Ale Trail truly remarkable was the fact that every brewery along the route offered the option to fill growlers. This meant that I could savor my preferred beers in the comfort of my own home, extending the enjoyment beyond the walls of the establishments themselves.

While it was a difficult task to select just one brewery from the trail, I found myself irresistibly drawn to the multi award-winning Green Room Brewing, nestled in the heart of Beaches Town Center. This esteemed establishment boasted an impressive array of 16 taps, showcasing a diverse selection of beers. From a range of IPAs to a rich and robust stout, a refreshing red ale, a crisp blonde, and a classic pale ale, Green Room Brewing offered something to satisfy every beer enthusiast’s palate. Additionally, their seasonal brews added a touch of eccentricity to the lineup, including delights like the Key Lime Knee High session IPA and the enticingly spiced Punksin’ Kax pumpkin amber ale.

34. St. Johns Town Center

St. Johns Town CenterSource: Lynne Neuman / shutterstock
St. Johns Town Center

In 2005, a stylish open-air mall made its grand entrance, introducing numerous brands that were previously unheard of in Jacksonville’s shopping scene, St. John’s Town Center.

Situated near the University of North Florida campus, St. Johns Town Center became a hub for shopping, forming a vibrant enclave between the Beaches and downtown. In close proximity, you could find popular destinations like Ikea and the renowned TopGolf facility, which I’ll delve into shortly.

Navigating the leafy streets of St. Johns Town Center, one would encounter over 170 tenants. Among them were a plethora of luxury brands, including Louis Vuitton, Lacoste, Michael Kors, and Tiffany & Co. These high-end retailers were artfully interspersed with well-known mall staples such as Gap, GameStop, Old Navy, Lush, Sephora, Apple, a LEGO store, Microsoft, and an array of delectable food and drink options. Whether craving the indulgent treats from Cheesecake Factory, the sizzling flavors of Wasabi Japanese Steakhouse, a caffeine fix from Starbucks, or the delightful pizzas of California Pizza Kitchen, St. Johns Town Center had it all.

As I explored this vibrant shopping destination, I couldn’t help but be captivated by the variety of offerings and the upscale atmosphere. Strolling through the bustling mall, I was surrounded by a fusion of familiar brands and exciting new discoveries. The harmonious blend of luxury retailers and beloved favorites created a shopping experience that catered to every taste and desire.

St. Johns Town Center had undoubtedly established itself as a premier shopping destination in Jacksonville, drawing in visitors from near and far. Its strategic location, combined with the extensive selection of stores and dining options, made it a go-to spot for both locals and tourists alike. The mall became a dynamic and ever-evolving space, continuously evolving to meet the demands of a discerning clientele.

35. James Weldon Johnson Park

James Weldon Johnson ParkSource: Wirestock Creators / shutterstock
James Weldon Johnson Park

James Weldon Johnson Park was more than just a picturesque setting; it was a vibrant cultural hub, hosting a myriad of events throughout the year. In May, the park came alive as it transformed into the pulsating epicenter of the Jax Jazz Fest, filling the air with mesmerizing melodies that resonated with the spirit of the city. Additionally, on the First Wednesday of each month, the park burst with even more vitality as vendors and musicians flocked to the area, transforming it into a lively haven during the Jax Art Walk. is park, dating back to 1857, held the esteemed title of being the city’s oldest. Once a humble village green, it retained its significance as the administrative and judicial heart of Jacksonville. To the north loomed the grand Jacksonville City Hall, while the Bryan Simpson United States Courthouse stood proudly to the west.

Even on an ordinary week, James Weldon Johnson Park had an irresistible allure. Wednesdays and Fridays became a haven for music enthusiasts, as live performances graced the park, infusing the atmosphere with enchanting rhythms and captivating melodies. And, of course, the tantalizing aroma of food wafted through the air, courtesy of the constant presence of food trucks offering an array of culinary delights.

To plan my visit accordingly, I turned to the park’s Facebook page, where I found a schedule of upcoming events and food offerings. As of 2019, the choices were abundant, ranging from tempting pitas and mouthwatering tacos to delightful vegan options and contemporary Southern cooking. The park catered to every taste and craving, ensuring that visitors could indulge in a diverse culinary experience.

36. Museum of Contemporary Art

Art GallerySource: SeventyFour / shutterstock
Art Gallery

In 2003, a remarkable transformation took place within the building’s walls. The interiors underwent an extensive renovation, giving rise to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). This six-story architectural gem became a beacon of artistic expression, unparalleled in its scope and influence in the Southeastern United States.

Throughout the year, MOCA curated approximately 16 exhibitions, each showcasing a captivating blend of themes, artistic movements, collaborations, and solo artists. The museum’s dedication to providing a diverse range of experiences was evident in the carefully curated displays.

Over the past five years, Museum of Contemporary Art had the privilege of featuring the works of renowned artists such as Mary Ratcliff, Andy Warhol, Hans Hofmann, Fran Rampolla, and Lorrie Fredette. Their art breathed life into the museum’s walls, captivating visitors with their distinctive styles and thought-provoking creations.

One notable recurring series at MOCA was Project Atrium. This platform provided emerging and mid-career artists with an opportunity to leave an indelible mark through breathtaking installations within the expansive Atrium Gallery. The soaring heights of the gallery space served as a canvas for these artists, enabling them to captivate audiences with their immersive and awe-inspiring creations.

In addition to the vibrant exhibitions, Museum of Contemporary Art also drew from its extensive art reserves. Visitors had the privilege of viewing masterpieces by esteemed artists such as Hans Hofmann, Joan Mitchell, Ed Paschke, and James Rosenquist. These captivating works added depth and historical context to the museum’s collection, allowing art enthusiasts to immerse themselves in a world of creativity and artistic expression.

To ensure that I didn’t miss any exciting events or programs, I turned to MOCA’s online platform. There, I discovered a rich array of offerings, including “Movies on the House” screenings and the Studio Practice Workshop Series. These engaging events provided unique opportunities to delve deeper into the world of contemporary art and fostered a sense of community among art enthusiasts.

37. Castaway Island Preserve

Castaway Island PreserveSource: Josh Marcano / shutterstock
Castaway Island Preserve

As I get on with my visit to Jacksonville, I had the pleasure of discovering the natural beauty of Castaway Island Preserve. Situated just off the sprawling 3,000-mile Intracoastal Waterway and a short distance from the Beaches, this pristine oasis offered a captivating experience within a salt marsh ecosystem teeming with vibrant birdlife.

As I ventured along the mile-long trail, specifically designed to engage young families, I couldn’t help but marvel at the interactive elements that made the journey all the more enchanting. Embedded animal prints along the path led to informative interpretive boards, providing fascinating insights into the surrounding wildlife and ecosystem. It was a delight to witness the joy on children’s faces as they eagerly followed the trail, eager to learn and explore.

One of the highlights of Castaway Island Preserve was undoubtedly the boardwalk, which provided a commanding view of the expansive salt marsh. This elevated vantage point proved to be a birdwatcher’s paradise, allowing me to observe the diverse avian species that called this marshland their home. The tranquility of the surroundings, coupled with the melodic symphony of birdsong, created a serene and immersive experience.

From the observation platform, I had the opportunity to survey the Intracoastal Waterway, a captivating sight that stretched as far as the eye could see. The ever-changing currents and shimmering waters were a testament to the powerful forces of nature at play.

For those with a penchant for water exploration, Castaway Island Preserve offered a myriad of possibilities. Armed with a paddleboard or kayak, I embarked on a leisurely adventure through the meandering channels, uncovering hidden corners of natural beauty. The tranquil surroundings provided a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, allowing me to immerse myself in the wonders of nature.

The preserve also catered to fishing enthusiasts, boasting a well-maintained fishing pier that provided an ideal spot to cast a line and engage in the age-old tradition of angling. Additionally, the presence of grills and picnic areas offered the perfect setting for visitors to indulge in a delightful outdoor feast, making it an ideal destination for a full day of outdoor recreation and relaxation.

38. Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena

Vystar Veterans Memorial ArenaSource: April Visuals / shutterstock
Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena

I had the pleasure of attending various sporting events and live performances at the renowned VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. Situated next to TIAA Bank Field, this indoor arena was home to three resident sports franchises, offering a wide range of high-quality athletic competitions throughout the year. The Jacksonville Giants of the ABA showcased their basketball prowess, while the Jacksonville Sharks of the NAL enthralled fans with their indoor football skills. Additionally, the Jacksonville Icemen of the EHCL provided thrilling hockey matches that captivated the audience.

While the arena was undoubtedly a haven for sports enthusiasts, it gained widespread acclaim as a premier cultural venue. Known for hosting some of the biggest names in music and comedy, as well as spectacular events such as Disney on Ice and WWE, the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena was a hub of live entertainment. Its impressive roster of past performers read like a who’s who of the industry, including Ariana Grande, Eric Clapton, Elton John, Prince, Rihanna, Eagles, Pearl Jam, Britney Spears, Taylor Swift, and Kanye West. The arena’s state-of-the-art facilities and acoustics ensured that every seat in the house provided an exceptional viewing and auditory experience.

One of the many advantages of the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena was its convenient location near downtown Jacksonville. Within moments, attendees could explore the vibrant dining scene and indulge in local culinary delights before or after the events. Additionally, the provision of free Wi-Fi within the arena simplified the process of uploading photos and sharing memorable moments on social media platforms like Instagram.

39. Dog Wood Park

Dog ParkSource: Lauren Hamilton / shutterstock
Dog Park

Jacksonville was a haven for dog owners looking to provide their furry companions with a safe space to socialize and play. In total, there were ten such parks scattered throughout the city, each offering its unique features and amenities.

One dog park that stood out among the rest was Dog Wood Park, conveniently located off the I-95 near Southpoint. This park boasted an expansive 42 acres of grassy fields, wooded areas, and even a serene lake for dogs to frolic and explore to their heart’s content. What set Dog Wood Park apart was the additional features it offered. There was an exciting agility course where dogs could showcase their skills, a convenient dog washing station to keep our furry friends clean, and a variety of fun obstacles for them to conquer.

It’s worth noting that Dog Wood Park did require an entrance fee of $11 per dog. However, for Jacksonville residents, a membership option was available, which could lead to long-term cost savings. It was essential to come prepared with proof of our dogs’ rabies vaccination, and dogs over the age of eight months needed to be neutered to ensure a safe and harmonious environment for all.

40. Tree Hill Nature Center

Tree Hill Nature CenterSource: Alisia Luther / shutterstock
Tree Hill Nature Center

Situated on over 50 acres of land, just across the river from downtown Jax, this place was a true gem for nature enthusiasts.

One of the highlights of the Tree Hill Nature Center was its impressive collection of trails that meandered through various ecosystems. As I explored the park, I encountered six main trails, each offering a unique experience. From traversing the enchanting hardwood forest to strolling through the native Florida flood plain, and even crossing boardwalks that spanned stream and swamp habitats, there was always something new to discover.

The Tree Hill Nature Center also housed an informative museum that allowed visitors to delve deeper into the natural wonders of northeast Florida. Through interactive exhibits and hands-on displays, I had the opportunity to brush up on my knowledge of the region’s diverse flora and fauna.

One of the most enchanting experiences at the Tree Hill Nature Center was the Flight of Fancy Butterfly House. Stepping into this enclosed sanctuary, I found myself surrounded by the graceful fluttering of colorful butterflies. It was a mesmerizing sight that truly connected me with the delicate beauty of these fascinating creatures.

In addition to the museum and butterfly house, the Tree Hill Nature Center offered a chance to get up close and personal with various animals. From adorable pygmy goats to curious skunks and a wide range of snakes, amphibians, lizards, turtles, and tortoises, there was no shortage of fascinating wildlife to observe and learn about.

41. Beaches Museum

Beaches MuseumSource: Ebyabe / Wikimedia | CC BY-SA 4.0
Beaches Museum

Beaches Museum is located just a couple of blocks away from the ocean, this museum was a treasure trove of stories waiting to be uncovered.

The Beaches Museum itself was housed in an elegant clapboard building with a charming veranda. This picturesque setting often served as a venue for special events, and its non-denominational chapel provided a romantic backdrop for weddings.

Stepping inside, I was greeted by a variety of exhibits that showcased the coastal settlements of Jacksonville. One particularly impressive display was a recreated boardwalk and post office, which provided a glimpse into the past and the vibrant beach culture that thrived in the area. As I continued my exploration, I came across a massive 28-ton steam locomotive, a testament to the region’s industrial heritage.

In addition to the permanent exhibits, the Beaches Museum also featured temporary exhibitions that delved deeper into the art, culture, development, nature, and industry of the Beaches. During my visit in 2019-20, I had the opportunity to learn about the ups and downs of Neptune Beach over the span of a century. Through captivating archive photos, intriguing artifacts, and personal accounts, I gained a deeper understanding of the community’s rich history.

The Beaches Museum also had a vibrant events calendar, offering a range of cultural experiences throughout the year. One highlight was the Beaches Chamber Series, featuring performances by the renowned Jacksonville Symphony in a unique and intimate setting. Additionally, in November, the museum hosted an Art Fest, providing a platform for local artists to showcase their talent.

42. Metro Diner

Metro DinerSource: Metro Diner / Facebook
Metro Diner

The Metro Diner had become a regional sensation since its establishment in 1992, but it all began at the original location on 3302 Hendricks Avenue. Housed in a charming diner building dating back to 1938, this spot held a special place in the hearts of locals. With 30 locations throughout Florida alone, I knew I had to visit the place where it all started to experience a truly indulgent southern-style breakfast. It is a local chain that had been consistently awarded the title of “Best Breakfast in Jax” by the esteemed local newspaper, Folio Weekly.

As I stepped into the Metro Diner, my senses were immediately overwhelmed by the mouthwatering aromas wafting from the kitchen. The menu boasted a wide array of tempting options that would satisfy even the heartiest appetite. The cinnamon roll pancakes were a decadent treat, and the spicy honey chicken biscuit provided the perfect blend of flavors. For those craving a savory option, the salsa-topped western omelet and classic eggs Benedict were both excellent choices. And of course, no southern-style breakfast would be complete without the comforting combination of biscuits and sausage gravy or the irresistible combination of fried chicken and waffles. As I scanned the menu further, I discovered the Metro Diner’s signature creation—the “Breakfast Pie.” Layers of cheese, eggs, red skin potatoes, onions, mushrooms, and peppers harmoniously melded together in a delightful medley of flavors.

But the Metro Diner didn’t just cater to those seeking hearty indulgence. For those preferring a lighter option, the menu also offered delights such as avocado toast, wholesome oatmeal, and refreshing vanilla yogurt with granola. The Metro Diner truly had something for everyone, regardless of their breakfast preferences.

43. Main Street Bridge (John T. Alsop Jr. Bridge)

Main Street Bridge, JacksonvilleSource: usiris / shutterstock
Main Street Bridge

Main Street Bridge, a prominent symbol of the city that has graced its skyline since its completion in 1941.

This magnificent structure serves as a vital link between the South Bank and downtown Jacksonville, spanning the picturesque St. Johns River. The Main Street Bridge is a remarkable steel lift bridge, ingeniously designed with trusses to facilitate the smooth flow of traffic.

As I learned more about the city’s bridges, I discovered that while many of them had undergone reconstructions, the Main Street Bridge remained the sole movable bridge in Jacksonville. Not only did it cater to vehicular traffic, but it also provided an opportunity for pedestrians to traverse the river, granting them a unique perspective of the splendid Jacksonville cityscape.

The Main Street Bridge’s steel frame, boasting two majestic towers, was adorned in a striking sky blue hue, adding to its allure and distinctiveness. Typically, the bridge would open upon signal, allowing boats to pass underneath, with the exception of the morning and evening rush hours when it remained closed to ensure smooth traffic flow.

44. Mandarin Museum & Historical Society

Mandarin Museum & Historical SocietySource: Facebook
Mandarin Museum & Historical Society

Having a free Saturday on my hands, I decided to take a short drive along the St. Johns River to the enchanting Mandarin neighborhood, where I could experience a taste of old Florida.

As I entered Mandarin, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of nostalgia. The neighborhood perfectly embodied the Southern charm I had envisioned, with its majestic oak trees draped in Spanish moss and captivating views of the water from its eastern shoreline.

My first stop was the Mandarin Museum, located within the picturesque Walter Jones Historical Park, which offered a delightful waterfront setting. The park was adorned with a collection of fascinating historical buildings, each holding a story of its own. From the farmhouse and winery to the sawmill and schoolhouse for African-American children, these structures provided a glimpse into the rich heritage of the area.

I learned that the land on which Mandarin stood was originally purchased by Major William Webb in 1875. He dedicated himself to cultivating an array of crops, including beans, strawberries, oranges, potatoes, cucumbers, and tomatoes. These bountiful harvests were then shipped off on steamers that docked in Mandarin, contributing to its economic prosperity.

Inside the museum, I delved deeper into the roots of Mandarin, discovering its ancient connections to the Timucuan people. I also had the opportunity to learn about the renowned abolitionist, Harriet Beecher Stowe, who had chosen to spend her winters in Mandarin between 1876 and 1884. The museum’s long-term exhibits showcased the captivating story of a local soldier who served in World War I, as well as the intriguing tale of a Union steamship that was tragically sunk off Mandarin Point by a Confederate torpedo.

45. Mickler’s Landing

Mickler’s LandingSource: Ken Schulze / shutterstock
Mickler’s Landing

I discovered yet another breathtaking spot to unwind by the Atlantic Ocean on a sun-kissed day—Mickler’s Landing.

To access the beach, I followed a wooden walkover that gracefully traversed the dunes, leading me from the parking lot to the expansive shoreline. As I stepped onto the beach, I was greeted by a pristine stretch of sand, untouched by development, save for the magnificent beachfront houses peeking from behind the dunes.

Mickler’s Landing boasted all the necessary amenities for a perfect beach day. Restrooms, showers, and picnic tables were readily available, ensuring a comfortable and convenient experience. Additionally, this beach allowed cars to drive onto the sand for a fee, particularly from March to September, providing an alternative way to enjoy the coastal scenery.

One notable feature of Mickler’s Landing was the crystal-clear water, which appeared to be more pristine compared to beaches located nearer to the sediment-laden outflow of the St. Johns River. The gentle surf often left intriguing little treasures strewn across the sandy shore, such as fossilized shark’s teeth, inviting beachcombers to embark on an exciting treasure hunt.

46. Shipwreck Island Waterpark

PoolSource: MAD.vertise / shutterstock

Located just a mile or two inland from Jacksonville Beach on Beach Boulevard, Shipwreck Island Waterpark proved to be a delightful destination for a few hours of family fun.

Catering more towards younger children than adrenaline-seeking teenagers, the waterpark offered a variety of attractions that sparked joy and excitement. The expansive children’s activity center provided endless entertainment, while the lazy river gently carried us along its meandering course. The highlight was undoubtedly the 500,000-gallon wave pool, where laughter echoed as families splashed and frolicked in the gentle surges.

To add to the adventure, the Pirate Play Slide Complex beckoned with its cluster of thrilling slides, offering a safe yet exhilarating experience for kids of all ages.

For those seeking a break from the water, Shipwreck Island Waterpark had plenty to offer on dry land. An amusement arcade tempted visitors with an array of captivating games, while a karting track provided the opportunity for friendly competition. The batting cages allowed aspiring sluggers to practice their swing, and a mini-golf course offered a chance to test one’s putting skills. For those seeking an action-packed challenge, laser tag provided an exhilarating experience of strategic warfare.

47. Congaree and Penn

MayhawsSource: Tereza Koudelkova / shutterstock

I ventured a few miles into Jacksonville’s hinterland to explore a working farm that grew mayhaws (a tart fruit similar to crab apples), grapes, olives, rice, and blackberries.

Congaree and Penn had been established in 2014, transforming what was once solely a rice farm. Over the past few years, they diligently planted vines and cultivated what is now believed to be the largest mayhaw orchard in the world, boasting an impressive 5,000 trees. During the summer, visitors had the delightful opportunity to pick their own fruit and indulge in a scrumptious meal at the farm’s kitchen. I was treated to home-pressed cider and succulent smoked wings slathered in a barbecue sauce crafted from the farm’s very own blackberries.

As autumn arrived, Congaree and Penn showcased a vibrant pumpkin patch. Families flocked to the farm for a delightful tour, where they could hop on a tractor-pulled wagon and explore the sprawling expanse. Along the way, they were treated to breathtaking views of the flourishing vines, serene paddies, lush olive groves, and bountiful orchards. Furthermore, the tour provided an opportunity to interact with the farm’s charming residents, including chickens, goats, guinea fowl, and horses.

48. Topgolf Jax

TopgolfSource: ARTYOORAN / shutterstock

Let me share my firsthand experience with Topgolf, a captivating nightlife concept that seamlessly blends golf driving with an upscale bar atmosphere.

As a newcomer to Topgolf, I was fascinated by the unique fusion of sports and entertainment. The driving range bay, where I stood to tee off, transformed into a luxurious haven. Inside, I discovered a climate-controlled booth adorned with expansive screens and accompanied by full bar and restaurant service. It was an elevated experience that exceeded my expectations.

What sets Topgolf apart is its array of cutting-edge, high-tech games that cater to both accuracy and power. These games unleashed the inner competitor in everyone, igniting friendly rivalries and captivating the crowd. Whether you aimed for precision or aimed to showcase your strength, Topgolf offered a thrilling platform to showcase your skills.

Surprisingly, Topgolf also served as an excellent venue for children’s parties during the afternoon. It provided a vibrant and entertaining setting where kids could celebrate and enjoy themselves. Additionally, for those seeking to improve their golfing abilities, Topgolf offered individual and group lessons during the day. It presented a remarkable opportunity to surprise your friends with newfound skills and elevate your golfing prowess.

49. Alexander Brest Museum and Gallery

Art GallerySource: guruXOX / shutterstock
Art Gallery

During my time at Jacksonville University, I stumbled upon a hidden gem that often went unnoticed by those outside the campus grounds—the university’s art museum. Surprisingly, despite its lack of external promotion and absence of a dedicated website, this museum proved to be a formidable contender in the art world.

Situated within the esteemed Linda Berry Stein College of Fine Arts, the museum not only showcased student thesis and juried exhibitions but also hosted remarkable displays featuring renowned artists. I vividly recall being captivated by the works of multimedia artist Shikeith, as well as the exceptional dual exhibition by Leticia R. Bajuyo and Jason Brown during the 2019-20 season. The museum’s ability to attract established names was a testament to its significance and influence within the art community.

Furthermore, the museum boasted a diverse and remarkable permanent collection. I had the privilege of exploring the intricately crafted cloisonné enamel pieces, alongside exquisite examples of Boehm and Chinese porcelain. Additionally, the collection showcased pre-Columbian artifacts, offering a glimpse into ancient cultures and their artistic expressions. The crowning jewel of the museum’s permanent collection, however, was its magnificent assortment of Tiffany glassware. The vibrant colors and masterful craftsmanship of these glass creations left an indelible impression on me.

Although the art museum at Jacksonville University may have been overlooked by many, its curated exhibitions and exceptional permanent collection proved that size does not dictate artistic prowess. It served as a testament to the university’s commitment to fostering artistic expression and providing students and visitors with an enriching cultural experience.

50. Diamond D Ranch

Horseback RidingSource: Phovoir / shutterstock
Horseback Riding

I had the incredible opportunity to embark on a horseback adventure at the Diamond D Ranch, a historic ranch that has been lovingly maintained by six generations of a dedicated family. Located just a few miles south of Baldwin, it offered a memorable experience for riders of all ages and skill levels.

The Diamond D Ranch catered to diverse preferences, allowing guests to choose between exploring the ranch’s picturesque surroundings or venturing into the captivating hinterland of Jacksonville. No matter the choice, an unforgettable experience awaited.

For those seeking an authentic taste of the untamed wilderness, the ranch offered an array of ride options. Whether you opted for a two-hour jaunt, a half-day excursion, or an immersive two-day journey, each ride promised to take you deep into the heart of the 25,000-acre Jennings State Forest. This expansive forest encompassed a diverse landscape, ranging from serene woodlands to mysterious swamplands, with ravines meandering through the terrain.

As we ventured into the forested wonderland, nature revealed its splendor to us. It was not uncommon to catch glimpses of graceful deer gracefully navigating the underbrush, or to spot the occasional alligator lurking in the swampy waters. Majestic hawks soared through the sky, casting their watchful gaze upon us, while playful otters frolicked in the waterways. The ecosystem within Jennings State Forest truly came alive as we explored its hidden corners on horseback.

51. Veterans Memorial Wall

Veterans Memorial Wall, JacksonvilleSource: NAVSUP Business Systems Center / Flickr
Veterans Memorial Wall, Jacksonville

I discovered a profound and contemplative space just a few steps west of the stadium. Standing tall and commanding attention was a 20-meter black granite tribute, dedicated to the brave servicemen and women who had made the ultimate sacrifice for Jacksonville.

This remarkable monument was unveiled in 1995, and its significance lay in its inclusive nature. Unlike many memorials, which often focus on specific conflicts, this tribute held a distinct honor. It solemnly recognized veterans from every major conflict since World War I, representing all six branches of the country’s service: the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine. This unique feature captured the essence of the city’s dedication to honoring its heroes.

Each inscription etched into the granite wall carried immense weight and profound meaning. By the time of my visit in 2019, the wall had accumulated more than 1,700 names. Every name represented a life that had been given in service to their country, a reminder of the sacrifices made by the men and women who selflessly defended the nation’s freedom.

This sacred memorial also served as a poignant venue for the Memorial Day ceremony held each May. On this solemn day, the wall stood witness as new names were added to its hallowed surface. It was a moment of collective remembrance, honoring the fallen and expressing gratitude for their unwavering dedication and courage.

52. Jacksonville Jazz Festival

Jazz FestivalSource: 13_Phunkod / shutterstock
Jazz Festival

I had the incredible opportunity to experience the annual Jacksonville Jazz Festival, a four-day extravaganza that took over downtown every May. This renowned event held the distinction of being the second largest jazz festival in the country.

One of the most remarkable aspects of this festival was its accessibility. All performances throughout the four days were completely free, providing an inclusive and enriching experience for all attendees. Of course, for those seeking an elevated experience, VIP packages were available for purchase, offering enhanced amenities and privileges.

The festival boasted two main stages, where renowned jazz artists mesmerized the crowds with their incredible performances. However, the excitement didn’t end there. The event also featured a multitude of captivating side events that added to the festival’s allure. The Omni Jacksonville Hotel hosted a delightful jazz brunch, combining delectable cuisine with soulful melodies. The historic Florida Theatre held a thrilling piano competition, showcasing the immense talent within the jazz community. Additionally, the Ritz Theatre offered free tuition from jazz masters, providing a unique opportunity for aspiring musicians to learn from the best.

When it came to the lineup, the Jacksonville Jazz Festival’s history was truly star-studded. Since its inception in 1979, the festival had attracted an impressive array of legendary performers. The list read like a who’s who of jazz icons, including luminaries such as Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Buddy Guy, Tony Bennett, and George Benson, just to name a few. Their performances not only captivated the audience but also solidified the festival’s reputation as a premier destination for jazz enthusiasts.

53. Jacksonville Farmers’ Market

Farmers MarketSource: Arina P Habich / shutterstock
Farmers Market

I had the pleasure of visiting the historic Jacksonville Farmers’ Market, which has been a beloved institution since 1938. Nestled a mile west of downtown, specifically at 1810 W Beaver Street, this vibrant market provided a bustling hub for locals and visitors alike.

What struck me immediately was the market’s dedication to serving the community. From sunrise to sunset, it tirelessly operated, only closing its doors on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. This unwavering commitment ensured that customers had access to fresh and locally sourced goods throughout the year.

Walking through the market felt like stepping into a colossal grocery store. The abundance of seasonal produce was a feast for the eyes. Vibrant fruits and vegetables lined the stalls, showcasing the bountiful harvests of the region. The market’s offerings extended beyond produce, encompassing a diverse array of goods. Fresh fish and seafood glistened on ice, while artisan cheeses tempted the taste buds. Syrups, baked goods, and southern-style boiled peanuts added to the delightful tapestry of flavors. Additionally, the market boasted an impressive selection of herbs and plants, catering to those with a green thumb.

What made the Jacksonville Farmers’ Market truly special was the uniqueness of each fruit and vegetable stand. Each vendor had their own specialty, offering a distinct selection of products. Some specialized in vibrant stir-fry mixes, while others focused on providing a wide array of whole and cut greens. This diversity allowed shoppers to explore different stalls, discovering hidden gems and experiencing a range of flavors.

54. The Avenues

ShoppingSource: VGstockstudio / shutterstock

I had the chance to explore The Avenues, a beloved mid-market mall located at the intersection of US 1 and Southside Boulevard. Having been in operation since 1990 and undergoing updates in the 2000s, it had become a go-to destination for shoppers in the area.

Stepping inside The Avenues, I was greeted by a plethora of well-known retailers that have become synonymous with mall experiences. Claire’s, Dillard’s, Foot Locker, H&M, Hot Topic, JCPenney, Lush, MAC, Pandora, and Sephora were just a few of the popular stores that lined the mall’s corridors. It was a haven for fashion enthusiasts, offering a diverse range of options to suit every style.

The mall spanned two levels, and the central area was adorned with two main thoroughfares that converged beneath an impressive glass dome. This architectural feature added a touch of grandeur to the shopping experience, casting a soft glow on the bustling crowds below.

When it came to satisfying hunger and thirst, The Avenues had an enticing selection of dining options. Whether I was craving a coffee fix from Starbucks, indulging in the flavors of Buffalo Wild Wings or Sarku, enjoying the unique fusion of Sushi Burrito, savoring the iconic Chick Fil-A chicken delights, or treating myself to sweet delights from Cinnabon, Haagen-Dazs, or Marble Slab Creamery, the mall catered to a variety of tastes.

55. Jacksonville Fire Museum

Jacksonville Fire MuseumSource: jaxfiremuseum / Flickr | CC BY-SA
Jacksonville Fire Museum

Back in November 2019, as we compiled this list, I couldn’t help but reminisce about the beloved museum operated by the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department. Unfortunately, the museum had been closed for extensive renovations since 2017. However, when it was open, it proved to be an attraction of great significance, housed within the historic Catherine Street Fire Station, just across the Hart Bridge Expressway from TIAA Bank Field.

This relocated building stood as a testament to the city’s remarkable reconstruction efforts following the devastating Great Fire of 1901. Inside its brick walls, visitors had the opportunity to trace the evolution of Jacksonville’s fire service, spanning from its humble beginnings in the 1850s to the introduction of motorized vehicles in the 1920s. The museum showcased the advancements made throughout the years, including the establishment of the Rescue Division in the 1960s and the Hazardous Materials team in the 1970s.

As I wandered through the museum, I encountered a treasure trove of historical artifacts. Both horse-drawn and motorized firefighting equipment stood proudly on display, offering a glimpse into the past methods of combating blazes. Rows of helmets, medals, and axes provided insight into the bravery and dedication of the city’s firefighters. One particularly captivating exhibit was a photo collection chronicling the harrowing events of the 1901 fire, capturing the magnitude of the disaster and the heroic efforts of those who fought to save Jacksonville.

55 Best Things to Do in Jacksonville (Florida):

  • Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens
  • Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
  • Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve
  • Little Talbot Island State Park
  • Big Talbot Island State Park
  • Amelia Island
  • Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park
  • Fort Clinch State Park
  • Atlantic Beach
  • Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum
  • Riverside and Avondale
  • Kingsley Plantation
  • Museum of Science and History (MOSH)
  • Jacksonville Riverwalks
  • Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail
  • TIAA Bank Field
  • The Florida Theatre
  • Friendship Fountain
  • Jacksonville Water Taxi
  • Memorial Park
  • Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens
  • Fort Caroline National Memorial
  • Maple Street Biscuit Company
  • Riverside Arts Market
  • Jacksonville Beach Pier
  • Safe Harbor Seafood Market & Restaurant
  • The Ritz Theatre & Museum
  • Huguenot Memorial Park
  • Jacksonville Center for the Performing Arts
  • Sweet Pete's
  • Beaches Town Center
  • Jax Ale Trail
  • St. Johns Town Center
  • James Weldon Johnson Park
  • Museum of Contemporary Art
  • Castaway Island Preserve
  • Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena
  • Dog Wood Park
  • Tree Hill Nature Center
  • Beaches Museum
  • Metro Diner
  • Main Street Bridge (John T. Alsop Jr. Bridge)
  • Mandarin Museum & Historical Society
  • Mickler's Landing
  • Shipwreck Island Waterpark
  • Congaree and Penn
  • Topgolf Jax
  • Alexander Brest Museum and Gallery
  • Diamond D Ranch
  • Veterans Memorial Wall
  • Jacksonville Jazz Festival
  • Jacksonville Farmers' Market
  • The Avenues
  • Jacksonville Fire Museum