8 Fun & Unique Things to Do in Jacksonville, According to Locals 

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Jacksonville, Florida is a city full of beautiful beaches, friendly people, and warm sunshine. (It averages 270 days per year).  

It’s also a city full of interesting facts. For example, it’s known as the “city of bridges” because it has over 250 bridges within the city limits spanning the St. Johns River and its tributaries; that’s more bridges than any other city in the world!  

Thanks to Naval Air Stations Jacksonville and Mayport, Jacksonville has a strong naval presence. Its ecosystems range from wetlands to marshes to forests, not to mention its beautiful beaches bordering the Atlantic Ocean. It’s considered the birthplace of southern rock and the oldest city in Florida, with a history dating all the way back to the 16th century. It’s also the largest city by land area within the contiguous US and the biggest city in Florida, with a population of 990,931 

With all those people comes a diverse array of fantastic options for things to do that suit every taste. Enjoy outdoor adventure? Jacksonville has it. History buff? The city is rich in fascinating history. And whether you’re a foodie looking for a culinary adventure or just looking to grab some lunch between destinations, there’s something here for you.  

All those choices might seem overwhelming to visitors, so we asked a few of the locals to give us tips on where to begin your to-do list, and we think you’ll like their recommendations. Here are some fun things to do in Jacksonville, Florida, according to the locals! 

things to do in jacksonville

1. Explore the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens 

Kim Martin, Jackson-based photographer and owner of Kim Hearts Fine Art Photography, suggested we spend a day enjoying art, beauty, and nature, all in one place! 

 “One place that I love taking photos at is the Cummer Museum garden. So, I think that is something very unique to do here in Jacksonville,” Martin shared.  

“This cultural gem boasts an extensive collection of over 5,000 works of art ranging from ancient artifacts to contemporary pieces, including renowned European and American paintings!” 

“What sets the Cummer Museum apart is its picturesque riverside location, offering visitors a serene setting to explore not only the indoor galleries but also the beautifully landscaped gardens. Stroll through lush greenery, admire sculptures, and take in stunning views of the St. Johns River. The museum’s gardens feature historic designs dating back to the early 20th century, making it a tranquil oasis in the heart of the city.” 

“Additionally, the museum frequently hosts events, workshops, and educational programs, providing visitors with enriching experiences beyond traditional art appreciation! 

“Whether you’re an art enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply seeking a peaceful escape, a visit to the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens offers a unique and memorable experience in Jacksonville.” 

Good to know: The museum is open Tuesday through Friday from 11 am to 4 pm, Saturday from 10 to 4, and Sunday from noon to four.  

2. Explore Jacksonville’s historic neighborhoods on two wheels 

Riverside, Avondale, and San Marco are just a few of the historic neighborhoods in the city filled with charming homes, boutiques, and restaurants, perfect for a leisurely stroll or a day of shopping. However, we have it on good authority that browsing the neighborhoods by bike is way more fun! Kathrine Harwick of Downtown Vision, a not-for-profit organization promoting business and cultural growth in downtown Jacksonville, gave us the 411 on how to do it.  

“I highly recommend an Art Bikes Tour through Jacksonville’s Downtown and historic neighborhoods,” she says. “True to their name, each electric bike is beautifully designed and decorated by a local Jacksonville artist.  

“Sign up for an expertly guided tour of art, architecture, and history. (Did you know we have more buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places than any other city in Florida?) This flagship tour is approximately 10 easy miles thanks to the electric assist.”  

jacksonville riverside

“Or rent a bike for some free-style exploration and download the app for self-guided adventures with routes covering architectural gems, local bookstores, and the riverwalk and parks. No matter how you bike it, you’ll experience Jacksonville’s extraordinary public art and stunning St. Johns River views and discover many great photo ops along the way. It’s a totally unique way to get out and explore the heart of the city!” 

3. Enjoy a panoramic view of both the city and the St. John’s in style 

“I’ve always thought that it was interesting that Jacksonville had so many bridges,” says Rekita Brown, Certified Home Organizer and a senior and specialty move manager at local organizing business Genuinely Organized. 

“I love that the bridges seamlessly connect the city’s neighborhoods, inviting visitors to into the city’s vibrant culture. When you cross these iconic structures, whether on foot, by bicycle, or by car, you get a thoughtful and captivating experience that leaves a lasting impression. The bridges work as visual centerpieces, adding to the city’s architectural elegance.” 

4. Take the kids exploring on the UNF nature trails  

“I love the trails at the University of North Florida and have been there with my wife and son quite a bit,” said Alex Evans of Southeast Travel Guide. “They wind around a lake, where you can always see turtles basking on the logs or swimming around. Obviously, the kids love that; you may even see an alligator if you’re lucky!” 

nature trail at university of north florida jacksonville

“A lot of the trails are paved, and they are generally stroller-friendly, so it’s great for parents with small kids wanting to get out in nature. If you take the Goldenrod Trail, there is a Gopher Tortoise that’s built a home right on where the trail is closest to the highway.” 

“If you like kayaking, you can rent kayaks there too and take them out on the lake. There are also picnic tables and restrooms at the trailhead.”  

Evans had one more piece of practical (and helpful!) info to share: “One important thing to note is that parking is paid. There’s not an obvious sign about that, but you can buy a parking pass next to the restrooms by the lot.” 

5. Visit the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens 

This popular attraction is home to beautifully landscaped gardens and over 2,000 animal species from across the globe. The zoo offers a wide variety of exhibits, including the famous award-winning Range of the Jaguar, where visitors can have a face-to-face encounter with these beautiful animals up close. Not only does the zoo dazzle visitors with its gardens and animal exhibits, but it also features nature-inspired sculptures, a bee hotel, and glass ponder stone sculptures to help you find your Zen while you wander. 

lights at jacksonville zoo

Finally, the zoo offers a variety of exciting activities curated for members and non-members alike. For example, the IllumiNights Summer Spectacle begins after dark, and features light installations integrated around the park and live entertainment for anyone who’d like to come. Members can come to the zoo and relax with some yoga among the giraffes or hang out and enjoy wine and cheese with the most adorable goats ever! 

Good to know: The zoo is open from 9 am to 5 pm daily. For information on special events at the zoo, visit www.jacksonvillezoo.org 

6. Relax on the beaches 

Jacksonville is known for its beautiful white sand beaches, including Neptune Beach, Atlantic Beach, and Jacksonville Beach. There are a variety of fun surf shops that offer surfing and windsurfing lessons for novices, as well as kayaking and paddleboarding. Jacksonville is also home to an incredible diving scene where adventurers can explore more than 30 offshore reefs!  

white sand beach in jacksonville

When you’ve worked up an appetite, there are restaurants dotting the coast serving the freshest seafood ever. If you’re looking for a night out, enjoy the ocean breeze at any number of nightlife hotspots located along the coast.  

Or you can just sit back with a good book and take in the sunshine. Regardless, you’ll fall in love with the laid-back vibes the beaches of Jacksonville have to offer. 

7. Stroll the Riverwalks 

The St. Johns River has a massive presence in the city, with all kinds of attractions located along its banks, boasting beautiful views, exciting nightlife, and world-class restaurants. The Downtown Southbank was the first to open in 1985, followed by the Northbank. Both areas feature a wide variety of things to do like walking, biking, or jogging, shopping, and dining, but you can also stroll over and take in a show at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts or get lost among the eclectic offerings of the Riverside Arts Market. 

south bank view jacksonville

8. Take a cruise on the St. Johns 

One of the best ways to see Jacksonville is from the river, and there are plenty of river cruises that allow you to see the city and learn about its history and landmarks from a different perspective. You and 14 of your closest friends can bring food and beverages, and pedal your way down the river on a 32-foot human-powered cycle boat. If you’re into sailing, you can charter a 42-foot catamaran for overnight, weekend, or weekday cruises.  

cruise on st john river in jacksonville

If you just want to get out on the water and see the sights on your way to a Jags game at EverBank Stadium or a show at Daily’s Place, one of the many river taxis cruising down St. John’s can get you there in style.  

Get to know Jacksonville! 

If you’ve never been to Jacksonville, you’re in for a treat! Its rich culture, diverse attractions, and vibrant atmosphere make it a hit with all ages, and its warm and welcoming people may tempt you to stay. We hope our list of locally recommended things to do in Jacksonville has given you some inspiration to make your own memories in this beautiful city on the beach. 

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Mihaela Buzec is a senior writer and online content developer for RentCafe. She covers topics about everything related to the renting lifestyle, from decorating and interior design to finding the right apartment, frugal living, money saving advice, and more. She dives deep into topics of interest, writing well-researched comprehensive guides on subjects such as renting with pets, saving on utilities, or avoiding rental scams to help renters stay informed and live smart.

Mihaela holds a BA in English and German Language and Literature, an MA in Current Linguistics, and she is currently pursuing a PhD in neurolinguistics.

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