When people talk about vacationing in Florida they often talk about more popular and touristy places like Miami, Tampa, Naples, Destin, or the Keys.
Sure, these places are renowned for all the right reasons and they are definitely worth your dime, but how about exploring one of the most underrated and biggest beach cities in Florida, Jacksonville?
This amazing city in Northeast Florida is sure to mesmerize you with its fascinating history, pristine beaches, and a vibe that suits every kind of traveler.
So, is Jacksonville worth visiting?
Jacksonville Florida is definitely worth visiting if you are looking for an ideal destination with a perfect blend of city life and Florida charm to explore outdoors, enjoy active eco-adventures with 22 miles of pristine beaches, the largest urban park network in the US, and an eclectic art scene.
Is Jacksonville Worth Visiting? Here are the Reasons Why You Must!
The first and the most obvious thing why anybody would want to visit Jacksonville are of course its beaches.
Located in northeast Florida on the Atlantic Coast, the coastal city of Jacksonville boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
Stretching for 22 miles along the Atlantic Coast, Jacksonville is home to lively pristine white sand beaches with turquoise blue waters of the Atlantic, quiet secluded coves, bustling boardwalks lined with shops and restaurants, and amazing scenery in Florida.
There’s Jacksonville Beach for those looking for a lively vibe, a surfing spot, and a fishing Pier, there’s the small but tranquil Neptune Beach with spectacular sunrise and sunsets for couples, the historic Atlantic Beach with Native American history and then there’s Kathyrn Abbey Hanna Park which perfect for families with kids.
Whether you are looking for great swimming, sunbathing, or surfing experience, or if you are looking for a quiet spot under the sun to enjoy a good beach read, Jacksonville has got a beach for you.
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Located in the heart of downtown Jacksonville, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is one of the most popular attractions in Florida.
The zoo is home to more than 1000 animals from around the world including lions, giraffes, elephants, deer, and many endangered species.
Apart from being a home to animals, the Jacksonville Botanical Gardens features more than 2000 plant species.
The best way to explore this amazing zoo is to enroll or pay for educational programs or expert guide tours where biologists and zoo staff give a detailed and fun tour of many of the fascinating plant and animal species.
The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is definitely a place to visit for kids and adults alike to learn about the fascinating wildlife and its conservation.
Catty Shack Ranch
If you are a sucker for a good animal rescue story especially if that includes the big and majestic cats, then the Catty Shack Ranch definitely fits that bill.
As the name suggests, the ranch is home to more than 150 animals including bears, cougars, and alligators, and especially the main highlight is the big cats like lions, tigers, and leopards.
Most of these majestic creatures were directly rescued from zoos or circuses where they are mistreated for commercial gains.
The ranch is dedicated to providing a safe haven for these animals, and the friendly and dedicated staff at the ranch make sure to give them the best possible care along with educating the masses about these wonderful but sadly declining species.
If you well and truly want to escape into nature and get far away from the hustle and bustle of Jacksonville’s city life, then Talbot island provides a good respite to do so.
Part of the beautiful barrier islands that make up the gorgeous coastline of northeast Florida, Talbot Island is known for its spectacular natural settings and is a popular spot for swimming, sunbathing, fishing, and picnicking.
The island is also home to diverse wildlife and bird species making it one of the best places in Florida for spotting native wildlife and different bird species that flock to the island throughout the year.
Some of the amazing birds that you can easily spot include ospreys, pelicans, and egrets. If you are lucky you might even spot dolphins swimming close to the shores.
If you are looking for beautiful beaches, parks, amazing nature trails, and plenty of outdoor activities away from the hustle and bustle of city life make sure to add Talbot island to your bucket list. You won’t be disappointed.
Fort Caroline National Memorial
Jacksonville is full of fascinating history and monuments that had a great significance in shaping its history as an early-settled part of Florida to its transformation today as one of the thriving metropolitans of the 21st century.
Fort Caroline National Memorial is a great example of Jacksonville’s story. The Fort commemorates the failed French colony that was established in the 16th century which lasted for only a few years.
The Fort was an integral part of French history in the New World when they were looking to expand their territories further west into the mainland.
The architecture and guided tours of the Fort provide an important insight into the lives of early settlers and what life was like in early 16th-century Florida.
Kingsley Plantation is one of the most unique and historically significant parts of Jacksonville’s fascinating history.
The park was founded in 1784 by Zachary King from fortunes from a failed silver mine in South America, and it became one of the largest plantations of the time in Florida.
The plantation was operated by a self-sufficient community for nearly two hundred years, with its own farms, businesses, and schools until it was abandoned in the early 1900s until the beginning of the Civil War.
The Kingsley family lived on the plantation until 1836 when they sold it to a local businessman.
Today the plantation is run by the city of Jacksonville and is open to the public as a museum, where visitors can explore the well-preserved ruins of the plantation house, barn, and other buildings.
The barn is also home to a small herd of African-descended bison, which were brought to the plantation in 2001.
The Museum of Science and History will definitely light up your and your kid’s mood with wonder.
If you are looking to explore the history and fun science exhibits all in one place then the Museum of Science and History is one of its kind museum in Florida to do so.
The museum here is home to some of the widest artifacts from prehistoric times to the present day, including fossils, tools, and pottery which tell the story of Florida’s transformation with time.
The museum also offers interactive exhibits and tours, where adults and kids can both learn about the rich native history.
If you are not much into history then there’s a whole science park and a planetarium to explore for the budding scientist in your family.
The main highlight of the park that is most loved by kids and adults alike is the Bryan-Gooding Planetarium, one of the largest single-lens planetariums in the U.S where you can explore the deep space and the observable universe.
Now, isn’t that interesting?
St. Johns Town Center
After you’ve had your share of sun, sand, and seaside bliss on Jacksonville’s beaches head straight to St. Johns Town Center for some retail therapy.
St. Johns Town Center is a renowned shopping destination in Jacksonville featuring more than 150 stores, restaurants, cafes, bars, and antique stores.
You can start your day at the Town Center with a coffee at Starbucks or local cafes and then shop for some souvenirs at one of many shops along the main drag.
So, whether you are looking to shop till you drop or simply spend fun time enjoying delicious food and window shopping, St. Johns Town Center is just the right place for you.
Riverside Arts Market
The Riverside Arts Market is held every Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm in the evening along the St. Johns River.
The art market features amazing art and crafts on display for sale made by local artisans and craftsmen. The market features a wide variety of items from paintings and sculptures to jewelry and pottery.
You will always find something unique worth taking home as a souvenir.
As you enjoy admiring the fantastic pieces of art on display the sweet sound of live music played by local musicians which range from folk to rock and jazz adds a tranquil vibe to the place.
The Florida Theatre
The Florida Theatre is one of the most iconic theatres in the USA that first opened its doors in 1927. The theatre signifies the legacy of performing arts from the early 1930s to the present day.
The theatre survived a significant period of decline in the 1970s and was later added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 and underwent a major renovation in 2002.
Today, after restoring its past glory, the theatre is again a thriving cultural hub, hosting over 300 events each year, including concerts, dance performances, and comedic acts.
The architecture of theatres is a work of art itself with ornately decorated interiors with lavish chandeliers and detailed plasterwork.
The theatre is designed to deliver the best acoustics to deliver an immersive audio experience whether you are watching a symphony orchestra or a rock band.