Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary#9 in Best Things To Do in Jacksonville
Lions and tigers and … well, there are no bears, but you'll certainly find lions and tigers at the Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary, as well as leopards, pumas and lynx. This nonprofit organization specializes in rescuing big cats and providing them with a safe place to live. For visitors to the Jacksonville area, Catty Shack offers the opportunity to get up close and personal with these amazing animals. The sanctuary offers guided tours of the facility – both during the day and at night – that introduce visitors to the more than 40 animals. During the 45-minute guided tour, Catty Shack staff will tell you all about the sanctuary's residents, their natural habitats and personal anecdotes about interacting with the cats. Visit after dark for a nighttime tour and you can see the animals during feeding time.
Catty Shack Ranch is a bit of a drive from downtown Jacksonville – about 16 miles north along Interstate 95, to be exact. But those who have made the trip say it's well worth it. Reviewers highly recommended attending a night feeding as that's when the animals, most of which are nocturnal, are most active.
Daytime tours of Catty Shack Ranch, which take place daily, are offered from 1 to 3 p.m., while nighttime feeding tours take place between 6 and 8 p.m.; nighttime tours are not offered every day, so you'll need to check the website for the most recent schedule. Tickets for tours can be purchased online; day tours cost $12 for adults and $5 for children ages 3 to 11. Night tours cost $17 per adult and $10 for children ages 3 to 11. Hours and prices may be impacted due to COVID-19, so check the official website before you go for more details.
More Best Things To Do in Jacksonville
#1 Amelia Island
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 laid-back atmosphere. In the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, Amelia Island also provided a safe vacation haven for Jacksonville's Black residents. Florida's first Black millionaire, Abraham Lincoln Lewis, purchased 200 acres of beachfront on Amelia Island and called it American Beach. Here, Black vacationers could enjoy the island without the threat of racial discrimination or violence. In 2002, the beach was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. To learn more about the beach's culture, stories and heritage, consider a visit to the American Beach Museum.
While on the island, you can also 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 visitors particularly recommended laying your towel along the shores of Fernandina Beach, a small community that stretches along the northern part of the barrier island.
Explore More of Jacksonville
If you make a purchase from our site, we may earn a commission. This does not affect the quality or independence of our editorial content.