Jacksonville with Kids: 45 Best Things To Do in Jacksonville, Florida
Spanning 875 square miles, Jacksonville is the largest city in Florida and is jam-packed with fun things to do for families, from historical sites and museums to animal encounters and pristine beaches. Known as Florida’s First Coast, Jacksonville boasts 1,100 miles of shoreline, more than any other city in Florida. It also makes a great day trip from Orlando. And with tropical summers and mild winters, there’s never a bad time to visit Jacksonville, Florida
Read on for our list of the 45 best things to do in Jacksonville, Florida with kids, including top attractions, Jacksonville beach activities, free fun, kid-friendly Jacksonville restaurants and hotels, and more. For more Florida family vacation ideas, visit our Florida Family Travel Guide.
Top Attractions in Jacksonville, Florida for Families
Explore over 100 acres of animal exhibits and gardens at Jacksonville Zoo. As one of only seven zoos in the US with an animal wellness team, Jacksonville Zoo is dedicated to providing the best care to its 2,000 resident rare and exotic animals. Visitors can feed giraffes, stingrays, and lorikeets, and kids are sure to love the wildlife carousel, train, and play park featuring a playground and splash pad.
Spend the whole day at Adventure Landing without hearing, "I'm bored!"
The highlight of Adventure Landing during the summer months is its Shipwreck Island Waterpark—Northeast Florida's largest water park—which features four extreme water slides, a lazy river, a wave pool, a Splash Cove area for tiny tots, and the Pirate's Play Village water playground for older kids. And with more activities such as laser tag, Gator Alley, miniature golf, arcade, go-karts, and more, there’s more than enough for a full day of family fun at Adventure Landing.
Visit big cats like Rocky the tiger at Catty Shack Ranch.
This non-profit sanctuary is home to several rescued animals including lions, leopards, tigers, cougars, bobcats, foxes, servals, and more. Its mission is to provide a forever home to endangered big cats and to educate the public about these animals’ plight in both the wild and captivity. The sanctuary offers public tours every afternoon, as well as night feedings on Fridays and Saturdays.
Challenge your family to a climate-controlled round of golf at Top Golf Jacksonville. This particular Top Golf location also boasts 14 holes of mini golf. Tip: visit during the day with kids for a more affordable outing.
Want the thrill of skydiving without actually having to jump out of a plane? Try this indoor skydiving venue, which uses vertical wind tunnels to provide the sensation of flying. This experience is sure to create lasting memories for big kids and adults during a Jacksonville, Florida vacation.
Best Jacksonville, Florida Museums for Kids
Get hands-on at MOSH - Museum of Science and History. Photo courtesy of Downtown Vision
Northeast Florida’s only science and history museum features interactive science, history, and innovation exhibits such as Health in Motion, Florida Naturalist, Space Science, and more. Kids under 5 can explore the super fun Kidspace play area.
Learn all about the history of Jacksonville, Florida and its beautiful beaches through interactive exhibits and displays. Visit a historic chapel and climb aboard an old steam train as well. Bonus: admission is free!
Golf lovers both little and big will appreciate a visit to the World Golf Hall of Fame. Learn more about the sport and its famous golfers through exhibits and memorabilia. World Golf Hall of Fame also features an IMAX Theater to catch the latest and greatest movies on the big screen.
The Cummer Museum gardens are simply breathtaking. Photo courtesy of the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art
Admire Cummer Museum’s collection of over 5,000 works of art, then explore its beautiful gardens complete with reflecting pools, fountains, arbors, and sculptures.
Learn about Florida’s African American heritage at the Ritz museum, where you can also take in a play or concert at the theater.
Jacksonville, Florida Beaches and Water Activities
Little Talbot spans 2,500 acres and more than five miles of beaches. It is perfect for beachcombing, surfing, camping, fishing, and hiking. Kids can explore the playground and participate in the Junior Ranger and Hike and Seek programs.
Right next to its sister park, Little Talbot Island, sits Big Talbot Island State Park. It is most famous for its Boneyard Beach, where kids of all ages love climbing the giant driftwood “bones” that have washed ashore. Big Talbot Island is a true nature’s playground!
This 450-acre beach park sits right on the Atlantic, and is a great spot for an affordable day of family fun. Aside from the beach, park activities include a kids' splash pad, biking and hiking trails, surfing, and kayaking.
Hunt for seashells and more on the beaches of Jacksonville. Photo courtesy of Visit Jacksonville
This public-access Jacksonville beach comes highly recommended by locals. It is one of the quieter Jacksonville, Florida beaches to visit and offers ample parking, as well as restrooms and showers right by the parking lot.
This quarter-mile-long pier is open daily for fishing or just strolling to enjoy the ocean views. There is a very small fee for spectators that goes slightly up for those wanting to fish. Visit on one of the license-free saltwater fishing days, perfect for introducing kids to fishing.
Travel along the St. Johns River on the Jacksonville Water Taxi. Ride all day for one low price, or enjoy specialty cruises such as a dolphin tour or a sunset cruise.
17. SUP Yoga
Channel your inner yogi with a session of yoga on a stand-up paddle board. SUP Yoga classes are offered for adults and teens ages 13 and older.
Fun Free Things to Do in Jacksonville, Florida with Kids
This 46,000-acre preserve is comprised of coastal wetlands and other important Florida ecosystems. It is also home to the Kingsley Plantation, Florida’s oldest plantation house, and Fort Caroline National Monument, a replica built by the first European settlers. Other activities include off-road biking and hiking trails, a beach area for swimming, kayaking, and canoeing.
Stroll, bike, or even skateboard along Southbank Riverwalk. Photo courtesy of Visit Jacksonville
This paved 1.25-mile path runs along the St. John’s River, one of the few rivers in the world that flows northward. This walk provides beautiful city views and is perfect for sunset photo ops! Keep an eye out for manatees in the river as well.
20. Bird Island Park
This innovative park features a trail with water features, a boardwalk, a hedged sea-turtle maze, a storytelling area, a small stage with a labyrinth center, and a kids' play area.
This historic preserve features scenic nature trails and an education center with interesting Civil War artifacts.
Enjoy a picnic lunch in an authentic Civil War troop encampment overlooking the St. Johns River. Afterwards, stroll the short nature trail and learn more about this encampment.
November is the perfect time to visit the Jacksonville Zoo with kids. Photo by Chad Baumer for the zoo
Throughout the month of November, kids age 12 and under get in free (with a paying adult) to Jacksonville, Florida attractions including the Jacksonville Zoo, Catty Shack Ranch, Cummer Museum, MOSH, and many more.
Looking for an active excursion? Bike or walk this 14.5-mile paved trail. Roughly halfway along the trail is the Camp Milton Historic Preserve rest area. An equestrian trail runs parallel to the paved trail.
The first Wednesday of every month, downtown Jacksonville, Florida offers a free art walk event complete with local art, music, food, kids' activities, and more.
Jacksonville’s oldest public park is home to an outdoor Kids Zone with a quirky entrance known as the MOSH mouth, a giant head sculpture that once belonged to MOSH’s body exhibit. Kids are sure to get a kick out of walking through it. The park also hosts several events including Jazz in the Park, seasonal festivals, and more.
27. Treaty Oak
Located inside Jessie Ball DuPont Park, Treaty Oak is a 250-year-old tree that predates the founding of the city.
Friendship Fountain is especially gorgeous at night. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Zander CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Friendship Fountain, located in downtown Jacksonville’s Friendship Park, is one of the city's most recognizable attractions. It spouts thousands of gallons of water at heights of over 100 feet. Visit at night to enjoy the fountain’s lights.
Ride this automated monorail train over the St. Johns River on a 2.5-mile track that extends from Northbank to Southbank. During peak hours, trains arrive every four minutes, with eight stops at popular destinations.
More Fun Things to Do in Jacksonville, Florida with Kids
For a dose of retail therapy, stroll this open-air mall with over 160 shops and dining venues. It is also home to The Escape Game Jacksonville, where players are immersed in interactive rooms and must follow clues and solve puzzles to try to “escape” in under 60 minutes.
31. TIAA Bank Field
At TIAA Bank Field, football fans can cheer on the Jacksonville Jaguars or visit the annual Florida-Georgia game in October (go Gators!) at what's known as the world’s largest outdoor cocktail party.
The Lightner Museum is a great stop in St Augustine.
32. St. Augustine
Just a 45-minute drive from Jacksonville, St. Augustine is the oldest city in the United States. Visit the famous Castillo de San Marcos or the Lightner Museum, spot hundreds of gators (including albino alligators) at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, take a kid-focused pirate tour, and so much more in this one-of-a-kind town.
This 120-acre forest features seven hiking trails to explore and connect with nature. The fee to enter is very small, and ages 3 and under are free.
Catch a show or concert at this 1,900-seat historic theater located in downtown Jacksonville. The Florida Theatre was built in the 1920s and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Meet pygmy goats and other animals at Tree Hill Nature Center.
This non-profit organization allows guests to visit resident animals such as pygmy goats and alligators and to explore the gardens and preserve. Kids will also enjoy the hands-on displays at the on-site nature museum.
If you're visiting Jacksonville in the fall, carve out time for a short drive to the Amazing Grace Crop Maze. The farm also offers a pumpkin patch, farm animals, and kids' activities such as a cow train, a jump pad, and a corn crib.
37. Jekyll Island
An hour north of Jacksonville in southeast Georgia lies Jekyll Island, a barrier island with very limited development. It's the perfect day trip from Jacksonville, Florida.
Visit Fort Clinch State Park for all sorts of outdoor fun.
Used during the Civil War, Fort Clinch is a fun and educational destination to experience on a visit to Jacksonville. The first weekend of each month, a cannon-firing and battlefield-skills demonstration take place. Other park activities include hiking, mountain biking, fishing, paddling, camping, and a beach area for swimming and shelling.
Jacksonville Restaurants and Treat Shops that Kids Love
Relax and enjoy beachfront dining with live music, while little ones explore the restaurant’s onsite playground and sandbox.
Some have compared Sweet Pete’s to a real-life Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory! Sweet Pete’s not only has a variety of amazing desserts, it also offers factory tours, chocolate tastings, and an ice cream parlor.
Monroe’s Smokehouse serves up mouthwatering BBQ and Southern hospitality.
Enjoy a BBQ dinner in a family-friendly atmosphere with Southern hospitality at Monroe’s Smokehouse.
42. The Mini Bar
With several locations around Jacksonville, The Mini Bar offers bite-size themed donuts in a variety of fun flavors including Pop-Tart, Fruity Pebbles, sea salt caramel popcorn, cosmic brownie, and more.
Family-Friendly Jacksonville Hotels
Omni Amelia Island Resort offers tons of activities for kids.
For luxury beachside accommodations near Jacksonville, our family loves Omni Amelia Island Resort. Featuring three golf courses, nine restaurants, water activities, a shopping village, a nature center, and a family activities program, it's ideal for an indulgent Florida beach getaway. The resort also boasts two large heated pools and a nautical-themed splash pad perfect for little ones. Kids will love the gamers lounge, mini golf, and the Camp Amelia kids' club for ages 4-10.
Four Points by Sheraton is a wonderful hotel option for families in the moderate price range. Situated beachfront near the Jacksonville Beach boardwalk, it's convenient to several of the fun destinations we've noted above, including Adventure Landing, Jacksonville Beach fishing pier, St. Johns Town Center, and more. The hotel features a large swimming pool, an on-site restaurant, and beach-inspired rooms.
For budget-friendly accommodations, look no further than Hyatt Place at the St. Johns Town Center. It is just 20 minutes from the beach and right across the road from St. Johns Town Center with ample shopping and dining options. Guests can also enjoy a complimentary breakfast buffet each morning.
All photos courtesy of the venues unless otherwise noted