Kingsley Plantation#9 in Best Things To Do in Jacksonville
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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."
You can visit Kingsley Plantation any day of the year (except on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; however, you may only tour the house on weekends from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, visit the National Park Services' Kingsley Plantation website.
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#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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