Jacksonville Travel Guide

USA  #9 in Best Places to Visit in Florida
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Best Things To Do in Jacksonville

Jacksonville often acts as a springboard for Atlantic coast exploration; the popular shoreside towns of Atlantic Beach, Ponte Vedra Beach and Amelia Island are all within an hour's drive from the downtown area. But stick around Jacksonville and you'll find that this sprawling city has a few tricks up its sleeve when it comes to entertaining leisure travelers — especially families. The Jacksonville Zoo houses expansive habitats for giraffes, elephants and cheetahs. (For more big cats, take a safari through Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary.) And for the love of the arts, spend an afternoon in The Cummer or the MOCA or a Saturday at the Riverside Arts Market.

How we rank Things to Do

Updated August 22, 2016

  • #1
    Things to do in Jacksonville
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    #1 in Jacksonville
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    About 30 miles northeast of downtown Jacksonville, the relaxed community of Amelia Island draws families in droves with its 13 miles of beaches, historic attractions and relaxed atmosphere. While here, you can learn about pirate lore at the Amelia Island Museum of History, look for alligators and wild horses while on a waterway cruise, hike through Fort George Island Cultural State Park or simply lounge on the sand. Recent guests particularly recommend laying your towel along the shores of Fernandina Beach, a small community that stretches along the northern part of the barrier island. "The beaches are second to none. The water is clean and warm. Downtown is charming and filled with good shops and restaurants," said one TripAdvisor user.

    Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach are a bit of a hike from downtown Jacksonville, and traffic can be treacherous. If you'd like to make the most out of a visit to these beachside communities, consider setting up camp there — the island is home to some of the area's more opulent accommodations, including The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island. You'll also find numerous vacation rentals and condos that can accommodate larger groups. Just be sure to make your reservations well in advance if you're planning to visit in the summer.

  • #2
    Atlantic Beach
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    #2 in Jacksonville
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    Jacksonville isn't located right on the beach, but it won't take you long to get to the coast. Head 16 miles due east along Route 10 and you'll find yourself in the charming town of Atlantic Beach. Once the first year-round Native American settlement in North America, Atlantic Beach now features vacation rentals, laid-back eateries, golf courses and, of course, a long stretch of soft sand. However, travelers warn that the summer months bring heavy crowds to the shoreline. Travelers say that spring and fall offer excellent weather and plenty of space to sprawl. Plus, there's plenty to do here even when the temperatures aren't conducive to a beach visit. "Of course, it is much nicer during the good weather months, but even in winter […], most of the area attractions are open," one TripAdvisor user attested.

    You can visit Atlantic Beach at any time, day or night, and access to the sands is free. However, other attractions around town may operate on different schedules. To learn more about what there is to see and do in Atlantic Beach, visit the Florida Tourism Board's website.

  • #3
    Ponte Vedra Beach
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