Jacksonville with vibrant downtown on the St. Johns River
Jacksonville, with beautiful Atlantic beaches and up-and-coming neighborhoods with great shopping and dining, is a worthwhile place to visit. It is the largest city in Florida by population and the largest city in the country by land mass. There is plenty to see and do, and Jacksonville’s diverse neighborhoods each have their own unique features.
St. Johns city center
Most business travelers will stay downtown or on the riverside. In addition to numerous hotel options, the city’s premier convention center offers more than 275,000 square feet of event space that attracts major events to the city. Then there is the downtown Riverwalk where you can jog or stroll along the waterfront. On game days, downtown is the main attraction with TIAA Bank Field, where the NFL Jacksonville Jaguars play.
TIAA bank field
Whenever you decide to visit, getting around the city is easy if you have a car or use rideshare services. There’s also a modern monorail system, the 2.5-mile-long Skyway, that takes guests through downtown and across the river. River taxis are another way to get around the city and see the city from a different perspective.
Whatever the weather, Jacksonville has activities for everyone. Outdoor fans will find the largest urban park system in the country here: More than 400 city parks, seven state parks and two national parks are located in the Jacksonville area. The beaches are fantastic too, with more shoreline than any other Florida city. While Jacksonville may not be quite as popular when it comes to beaches, it has plenty of them.
If you don’t have time for a lazy day at the beach, at least hike the A1A Islands Trail, a 40-mile scenic route that stretches from Fernandina Beach in the north through Amelia Island down to South Jacksonville Beach. The view is beautiful and takes you through Talbot Islands State Park and near Kingsley Plantation, one of the last remaining plantation houses in Florida.
Whether you’re here for work and with a few extra hours, or planning a road trip to or through Jacksonville, these fun ideas should have plenty to offer you for an afternoon. Combine your favorite activities depending on how much time you have or delve into one and save the rest for your next visit.
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
Families will love exploring this double attraction with more than 2,000 exotic animals and 1,000 plant species. Partly animal habitat, part botanical garden, you can easily spend a whole afternoon here (if not longer). The “Land of the Tiger” exhibition is known for its numerous viewing areas, including from an underwater vantage point. Other exhibits show animals in their natural habitats such as the “plains of East Africa” with elephants, cheetahs and lions or “wild Florida” with black bears and alligators.
The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens
Art and Soul in Jacksonville
If you like art museums, the city offers two great options: the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens in the Riverside / Avondale neighborhood and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in downtown Jacksonville. The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens is the largest art museum in this part of the state. With more than 5,000 works of art, there’s plenty to see both indoors and outdoors. Paintings, sculptures and modern design pieces make up the extensive collection. In the MOCHA, the trend are all modern and avant-garde pieces. In between there is something for everyone, not to mention the vibrant street art and colorful murals in the city center. A self-guided tour of 55 murals downtown is available in the Visit Jax app.
Jacksonville: What You Can Learn
The Jacksonville Museum seen goes beyond fascinating art. The city’s visitor centers offer a museum pass that is worth picking up. Participating museums stamp the pass with every visit; four stamps receive a free prize.
The Museum of Science & History brings together entertaining exhibits that showcase the region. There are live animal exhibits, planetarium programs, and interactive displays. Learn about the region’s African American heritage and history at the Ritz Theater and Museum. The Beaches Museum describes the history and culture of the many beach communities that surround the city. It’s more than just sand and waves. Exhibitions cover the indigenous cultures that occupied the area centuries ago, as well as cultural themes such as the women’s suffrage movement, showcased through the work of local artists.
Detour to San Marco
Across the river from downtown, this historic neighborhood offers mansions, eclectic boutiques, art galleries, breweries and a wide variety of restaurants. Seeing the Lion Fountain reminds you of the neighborhood’s sister partnership with Venice, Italy. Be sure to download the Beach Buggy app to request free rides in electric carts or larger vans. Just a tip and a smile will get you where you need to explore the beaches and the San Marco neighborhood.
Intuition ale works
JAX Ale Trail
The JAX Ale Trail highlights the large number of breweries in the area, describes them all, and offers a pass that you can stamp each time you visit. The easiest way to experience it is with the Jax Brew Bus Tour, which takes you to multiple stops over a 4.5 hour period, where you can sample up to 15 local craft beers.