Jacksonville Travel Guide

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

If you have extra time, Ponte Vedra Beach is worthwhile.
  • #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
    Beaches, Free, Neighborhood/Area
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    Beaches, Free, Neighborhood/Area
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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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    #3 in Jacksonville
    Beaches, Free, Neighborhood/Area
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    The southernmost of the Jacksonville Beaches, Ponte Vedra Beach draws leisure travelers in search of sprawling sands and, of course, golf. This fairly small community on the Atlantic coast (about 22 miles southeast of downtown Jacksonville) is best known as the home to the PGA Tour and The Players Championship, which are played at the famous TPC Sawgrass — and that's just one of many courses and country clubs in the area. But if you would prefer to skip the fairways, Ponte Vedra Beach also features several museums, a variety of shops and an array of eateries.

    Ponte Vedra Beach is also home to some of the area's more upscale hotels, including the Lodge & Club at Ponte Vedra Beach. However, be aware that accommodations here fill up quickly during the golf tournaments in May and during the summer, so make your reservations well in advance if you plan to stay here.

  • #4
    Riverside Arts Market
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    #4 in Jacksonville
    Shopping, Free
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    Every Saturday in downtown Jacksonville (about a block from The Cummer Museum), hundreds of craftspeople and vendors gather at the Riverside Arts Market. Adorning the different booths, you'll notice everything from handmade pottery and silk screens to T-shirts and fresh produce. While you're browsing, you'll be kept entertained by numerous street performers, and when you begin to feel peckish, you can grab something to eat from one of the many street food sellers who set up shop here. "I had fish and chips for lunch while sitting on bench overlooking the river and watching the musicians play. Kettle Corn for dessert....does it get any better than that?" one TripAdvisor user asked.

    The Riverside Arts Market takes place on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and admission is free. You'll also find plenty of free parking spots in the streets surrounding the market. To learn more about the artists and food options, visit the Riverside Arts Market website.

  • #9
    Kingsley Plantation
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    #9 in Jacksonville
    Museums, Tours, Free
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    Museums, Tours, Free
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    Set in Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve — one of the last bits of unspoiled wetlands along the Atlantic Coast — Kingsley Plantation is the former home of Zephaniah Kingsley. His story is slightly different than those of other plantation owners: He moved to the area in 1814 with his wife and three children, only his wife, Anna, was a former slave hailing from Senegal. Anna helped manage a workforce of roughly 60 slaves, who helped the Kingsleys produce cotton, citrus fruit, sugar cane and corn. Over the course of his lifetime, Zephaniah Kingsley managed to expand his plantation empire to include more than 32,000 acres (across four plantation complexes) and more than 200 slave workers. However, Anna worked hard as an advocate for the end of slavery, even on her own property.

    Today, you are invited to explore the plantation home, the slave quarters, the barn and the rest of the property. According to one TripAdvisor user, "This is a great place to take your kids to learn about Northeast Florida history and see plantations, something few people even know existed back in the 18th and 19th centuries."

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