Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens#7 in Best Things To Do in Jacksonville
Sitting on the edge of the Trout River, about 7 miles north of downtown Jacksonville, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is a must if you're visiting the city with kids. This facility is the only walking safari in northeast Florida; you are invited to wander the grounds, where you'll find opportunities to get up close and personal with animals like giraffes, great apes, big cats and elephants. The sprawling grounds also house Stingray Bay (where you can try your hand at feeding stingrays) and the ever-popular Play Park and Splash Ground (where you can cool off after a day in the Florida heat).
While you're here, take a spin on the Zoo Train — recent visitors say that kids are bound to love it. "The train gives a great behind the scenes view of some of the facilities and the new Asian Bamboo Garden is breathtaking," according to one TripAdvisor user.
The Jacksonville Zoo is open every day (except for Christmas day) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. General admission costs $16 for adults and $11 for children, although children ages 2 and younger can enter for free. If you'd like to take advantage of all the zoo's facilities, you can purchase a value ticket ($24 for adults and $17 for children) that covers the cost of Stingray Bay, unlimited train rides, movies at the 4-D theater and more. To learn more about the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, check out the official website.
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 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.
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