As a native of Jacksonville, Florida I love exploring my hometown with my kids. Taking them to the places I loved when I was their age is such a thrill.
Whether you’re a foodie, a lover of the outdoors, shopping or fine arts – Northeast Florida is a great place to spend time together as a family. Here are some of my favorite places for family fun in Jacksonville.
Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park – While this oceanfront park is known for great surfing, it’s also perfect for little ones. The park is home to 1.5 miles of beach, 20 miles of hiking trails and a 60-acre lake for fishing and kayaking. If you’re interested in camping, reserve a spot for your RV, tent or scoop up one of the park’s cozy cabins. Pro Tip: Check out the park’s Splash Pad open from Memorial Day to Labor Day for little ones under four feet tall.
Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve – Jacksonville is home to the largest urban parks system in the country with over 80,000 acres of city, state and national parks. The Timucuan Preserve is home to Kingsley Plantation, the state’s oldest plantation house and also to Fort Caroline National Memorial – the first French colony in the present-day United States. Pro Tip: make the visitors center your first stop and pick up a complimentary National Parks Junior Ranger activity kit.
Sweet Pete’s – From salted caramels, to chocolate covered popcorn to key lime lollipops, purchase pre-packaged treats family-owned candy shop. They specialize in all-natural ingredients, including vegan and gluten free candies. The shop’s second floor has a great ice cream bar too. Pro Tip: If you’re looking for a unique experience, sign up for a candy making class taught be the candy man himself – Pete!
Museum of Science & History, Jacksonville – Learn about animals native to Florida, take a walk through the human body and be sure to say hello to Tonka the giant snapping turtle in the museum’s lagoon area. Located on Downtown’s Southbank, bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the view at the adjacent Friendship Fountain. Pro Tip: See a show at the museum’s planetarium – it’s the only one in Northeast Florida.
Soak Up the Art Scene
The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens The museum’s children’s center, Art Connections, lets children explore and create their own art. Don’t miss the ‘Gallery Under 5’ featuring miniature replicas of the museum’s artwork for children to touch and feel on their own. Everything is just at a kid’s heights – even the door! Pro Tip: Be sure to plan ahead, as the first Saturday of each month is family free day.
Jacksonville ArtWalk – On the first Wednesday of each month, more than 40 galleries, museums, restaurants and musical venues open their doors welcoming visitors to stroll throughout the 15 blocks of artists and live music. It’s the place to be each month and a great way to expose children to the local art and music scene. Pro Tip: Check out their web site before you go for featured artists and musical acts.
Riverside Arts Market – Pick up fresh produce, shop and enjoy live music every Saturday from March through mid-December. You’ll find arts/crafts, photographers, clothes and more from local Northeast Florida vendors. Pro Tip: Ride your bike to the market and take advantage of their Bike Valet service – safe and free!
Have an Adventure
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens – With over 2,000 animals and over 1,000 types of plants, the zoo is a great way to spend the day. In addition to all of the great animals, be sure to take a ride on the animal-themed carousel and the zoo train that loops through the park. Pro Tip: For the ultimate experience, stop by the Giraffe Lookout to feed the giraffes.
Adventure Landing Jacksonville Beach – Rev up your go-kart engines at and be sure to bring your swimsuit to hit the waves at the Shipwreck Island Water Park. One of my favorite spots is the Little St. Johns Lazy River. Pro Tip: Plan ahead and purchase tickets online, the savings can add up quickly!
Jacksonville Suns – The boys of summer take to the diamond each year from April through September at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. Don’t miss Friday Family Fireworks nights and on Sundays, all kids are invited to run the bases after the game. Pro Tip: Just beyond the center field fence, you’ll find a great playground and bounce houses. And it’s a great place to catch home run balls too.
Jacksonville Armada FC – Don’t miss the hottest team in town, as soccer matches are quickly becoming ‘the’ place to be this year. New to Northeast Florida, the team is part of the North American Soccer League and attracting quite the crowds. Pro Tip: Get there early for the pre-game Match Experience outside of the stadium with activities, food vendors and live entertainment.