Jacksonville, Florida is known for its beautiful beaches and exciting sporting events, but did you know there’s so much more to do? My husband lived in Jacksonville for a time when he was younger, but my kids and I had never been. We found that we didn’t have enough time in our day to do even half of the things to do in Jacksonville with kids. Find out why we love the Jacksonville, Florida beaches and what else you can do with your family when you visit.
This post is sponsored by Visit Florida.
Things to do in Jacksonville with Kids
Families visiting Jacksonville, Florida probably have one thing on their mind: hitting the beach. While it’s true that Jacksonville has some of the best beaches in Florida, there is so many more things to do with kids while you’re there. Downtown scenes, indoor fun, and educational opportunities abound. Don’t miss out on all the fun things to do in Jacksonville by getting stuck on the beach!
Explore Downtown Jacksonville with Go Tuk’n
First of all, head to downtown Jacksonville and take a city tour with Go Tuk’n. Never heard of it? We hadn’t either! A “tuk tuk” is the nickname for auto rickshaws that are popular transports in other countries.
The Go Tuk’n vehicles are modeled after authentic European tuk tuks, and they are an eco-friendly way to get around.
Toni, our amazing guide, combined a few tours into one just for us. We started off with the outdoor art in the downtown area.
Who knew there was such amazing art in a parking garage? Toni shared with us that it was installed to uplift and encourage the employees who parked there.
We also drove past sports arenas and saw a monument to fallen police officers created by a Boy Scout looking to earn his Eagle Scout badge! It took him almost three years to see it to completion. Talk about perseverance.
Finally, my favorite stops were in the historic neighborhoods such as Avondale and Riverside. Some of the homes there were over 150 years old!
Travel Along the St. John’s River
Did you know the St. John’s river is one of the only rivers in the United States that flows north? Pretty cool, right? Jacksonville hosts one of the biggest stretches of this famous river too!
Take a stroll on the Riverwalk alongside of The Jacksonville Landing and visit the Riverside Arts Market. Live music can often be heard at the market during the week. Strolling by the river and market is free, and it’s a great way for kids to stretch their legs after a long day of travel!
If you’re feeling fancy, take a water taxi or the St. John’s River ferry. It is a car AND passenger ferry that will take you to Mayport Village and Fort George Island.
Learn How to Surf with Jax Surf and Paddle
Next, drive a short 25-30 minute drive and you’ll end up in Jacksonville Beach. Large stretches of beaches are perfect for social distancing, and smaller waves make surf lessons much less intimidating.
Jax Surf and Paddle is located in Neptune Beach, Florida (a neighboring beach of Jacksonville Beach). It’s claims to be north Florida’s premier Surf and Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) school, Surf Camp, and Beach Rental provider.
Our surf instructor, Stephen, was very knowledgeable and patient with us. We spent about 30 minutes learning the logistics of surfing before we even got on a board. Unfortunately I never actually made it to standing on my board, but that’s another story for another time!
Education is Fun at Florida’s State Parks
Other beaches in Jacksonville are found in Little Talbot Island State Park and Big Talbot Island State Park. These state parks have picturesque nature trails, and palmetto trees.
Big Talbot Island State Park is home to the Boneyard, a collection of “bones” of bleached live oaks on the shore that have been worn down from that salt and sand.
Unfortunately, not all state park activities have opened back up yet. Timucuan Ecological Preserve, which contains the Fort Caroline National Memorial and Kingsley Plantation, is open to the public. However, neither the fort nor the plantation are open for visitors.
Fort Caroline educates visitors on the short-lived French presence in Florida in the sixteenth century. Kingsley Plantation educates visitors on the history of slavery in the United States, specifically in Florida in regards to Zephaniah Kingsley who founded the plantation in eighteenth century.
Visit the Museum Of Science and History (MOSH)
The Museum of Science and History, also known as MOSH, is located on the south bank of Jacksonville’s famous Riverwalk area. In addition to permanent exhibits such as “Health in Motion” and “Florida Naturalist’s Center,” there are also traveling exhibits. “Dinosaurs Around the World” highlights the different types of dinosaurs and their history on our planet. This traveling exhibit runs through October 4, 2020.
Currently, reservations must be made in advance to visit the museum. Masks are also required to be worn at all times during your visit. While these new protocols highlight the odd times we are living it, it ensures visitors and staff alike are as safe as possible while enjoying everything the museum has to offer.
While some of the high touch, small capacity experiences are closed at this time, you can expect these activities when visiting MOSH:
- An Outdoor Science Experience on the side lawn toward Friendship Fountain is offered (weather permitting).
- One 15-minute Animal Encounter in the Florida Naturalist’s Center is offered.
- Stylus pens are provided during your Museum visit for use on touchscreens and buttons around the Museum (pens are to be returned at the end of your visit).
- Capacity in exhibit spaces, Florida Naturalist’s Center, and Museum Store will be limited to encourage social distancing.
Make a Day of it at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
Another place where social distancing is easy is at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. Not only is it an expansive zoo, they’ve done a great job with signage for one-way foot traffic and reminders for hand washing and mask wearing when social distancing cannot be maintained.
Stingray Bay, where guests can get up close and personal with a stingray, was a fun experience. Both of my girls feed a giraffe in the Giraffe Overlook as well. Other notable animal encounters included hearing a true Florida “gator growl” as well as learning about the zoo’s efforts to rehabilitate and release manatees back into the wild.
In addition to the animal exhibits, the Play Park and Splash Ground area was open. The carousel and zoo train were also open, and employees had social distancing protocols in place to ensure a safe ride for everyone.
Plan a Beach Day on Jacksonville Beaches
Finally, a visit to Jacksonville would not be complete without a relaxing day spent on Jacksonville Beaches. Within the Jacksonville Beaches there is Neptune Beach and Atlantic Beach. They’re all interconnected, so just pick one and park it!
Unlike other beaches we have visited, our family did not find any of Jacksonville’s beaches to be overcrowded.
It was very easy to maintain distance from others while enjoying the sun and sand. Beach chairs, umbrellas, and other equipment is easy to rent from Jax Surf and Paddle. Less clutter to bring and take home sounds like a perfect beach day to me!