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What To Do In Jacksonville Florida

Updated on August 21, 2013
Downtown Jacksonville.
Downtown Jacksonville. | Source

Jacksonville Florida is the first major city you will hit as you drive down the coastal interstate of I-95 and cross the Florida border.

Also known as “The River City” and “Where Florida Begins,” Jacksonville has a surprising amount of fun activities and events.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Here are four ideas for spending a day or more in Jacksonville Florida.

All of these activities are low cost or free.

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

The Jacksonville Zoo has been around for almost one hundred years. In that time it has grown and expanded to become a world-class attraction. The areas of the zoo are divided into sections which include Wild Florida, Asia, The Outback, Land of the Jaguar, Africa, Great Apes as well as a Kids’ Park and award-winning gardens throughout.

  • Wild Florida—See alligators up close. Watch a wolf pacing in a natural habitat or a black bear lounging in the sun. The Florida section of the zoo also has a snake house with common Florida snakes and other reptiles.
  • Asia---This is one of the newer areas of the park featuring a gorgeous Asian-inspired garden, footbridge and bamboo forest. You can also see a Komodo Dragon up close or visit the butterfly garden during the spring through early fall. This section is located next to the St. Johns River and guests can also walk out on the peer (and sometimes see a wild alligator or manatee.
  • The Outback---Here is where you can feed the lorikeets. There are also kangaroo and wallabies and a frog house with conservation information for some of the world’s most endangered frogs.
  • Land of the Jaguar—This includes, you guessed it, jaguars in a beautiful ruined-temple habitat complete with waterfalls and fish-filled swimming holes. Inside the ruined temple are animals from South American including pythons, bats and anteaters. Just down from this area is the giraffes’ observation deck where you can also purchase leafed branches to hand feed them.

Jacksonville Florida has a world class zoo and gardens.
Jacksonville Florida has a world class zoo and gardens. | Source
  • Africa—This is an older section of the park with a wooden, above-ground walking deck. It includes elephants, rhinos, zebras and ostriches and even a cheetah and some warthogs. There is also a snake house with some of the world’s most poisonous snakes on display. You can also often hear the lion’s roar from all over the park.
  • Great Apes—This area includes all kinds of primates including silverback gorillas and Siamang and ring-tailed lemurs that can start making a lot of noise sometimes. It’s easy to spend a long time in this section just watching the animals in their daily routines.
  • The Kids’ Park---This area includes a splash park for kids (included with your admission) open from March-October, a playground, rock climbing wall and hands-on discovery area. You can see penguins, brush goats or hang out with squirrel monkeys. Warning: once your kids discover this area you’ll have a hard time getting them to leave.

The admission to the zoo is well-worth the price. You can easily spend a day there learning about animals and conservation while enjoying time with your loved ones.

Jacksonville Zoo Admission and Extras

Admission
Hours
Extras
Animal Interactions
$14.95 for Ages 13-64
9:00-5:00
Stingray Bay $2.00 a person (well worth it--you can pet and feed them!)
Feed a giraffe $2.00
$12.95 for Ages 65 and older
Open everyday except Christmas Day.
Train rides around the zoo perimeter $4.00 for adults and $2.00 for children (you can ride the train as much as you want during your visit that day.)
Feed a lorikeet $1.00
$9.95 for Ages 3-12
 
Carousel $2.00
Brush pygmy goats (free)
Children 2 and Under are free
Special events and exhibits may be priced differently
Butterfly Hollow $2.00 (Spring-Fall)
 
You can easily spend a day or more at the Jacksonville Zoo.

Fort Caroline National Memorial

This is a state park that combines history with the natural beauty of Florida forests and swamps.

Naturally hilly as compared to the rest of the state which is flat, this area has picnic tables, trails, river access, a replica of the French fort “La Carolina” and history of the regional Native Americans that used to occupy this area.

There’s a replica of a Timucuan home and a self-guided trail that’s one mile in length.

Be sure to stop by the Visitor’s Center to browse in the gift shop, pick up maps and view the artifacts on display in the museum. There are bathrooms and a water fountain near the gift shop.

Fort Caroline National Park is a great, free way to spend the day exploring Florida history and wildlife.
Fort Caroline National Park is a great, free way to spend the day exploring Florida history and wildlife. | Source

A short trail leads you down to the replica of the fort. Inside are historical signs telling you the history of the fort, the area’s brief occupation by the French and about the battle between the French and Spanish.

Spoiler: The Spanish won!

Then cross the street for some more outdoorsy entertainment. You can see alligators in the wild in the Spanish pond. Take a trail out to ruins of an old Florida cracker cabin.

Climb up an observatory tower that overlooks a natural swamp fed by the St. Johns river and watch the birds and other wildlife. There’s even an old Civil War soldier’s grave along the trail.

The Spanish Pond trails range over several miles with mile markers and guide signs along the way. During the summer be sure to wear bug spray.

Since it’s Florida, the mosquitoes enjoy the area about as much as you will.

This is one of the best places to see native North Florida wildlife and plants as well as begin to understand the history of the area.

Fort Caroline National Park Information

Admission and Hours
Fort Caroline Side
Spanish Pond Side
Entry is free for all parks and trails.
Fort
Spanish Pond Trail
9:00 AM to 5:00 PM Daily
Nature Trail
Willie Browne Trail
 
Visitor's Center
Hammock Trail
 
Timucuan History
Timucuan History

Kingsley Plantation

Part of the Timucuan preserve (which also includes Fort Caroline), this old cotton plantation is worth the trip. You may not think of Florida as having a history of plantations and slaves, but Kingsley Plantation proves that even Florida was a part of this Southern problem.

The house has a termite problem and, though it has been repaired, it is not always open to tours. Call the park at (904) 251-3537 for times available for the limited tours (usually just on the weekend).

The plantation overlooks the river, where barges used to come up to gather the bales of cotton that were grown.

Out from the plantation house is an old barn, still standing because of its concrete and shell construction. Park rangers often give talks here in the cool shade.

There are also gardens showing traditional plants grown on the plantation.

Kingsley Plantation is another great way to spend the day and learn about the rich history of the North Florida region.
Kingsley Plantation is another great way to spend the day and learn about the rich history of the North Florida region. | Source

One of the most fascinating aspects of the plantation is the tabby slave cabins, still standing and showing how the slaves, who kept the plantation running, lived.

Tabby is made of oyster shells from the river mixed with sand and mud and possibly other materials. Then water is added to make a thick concoction that is molded into walls.

That the slave cabins are still standing is a testament to its strength.

Walking where these people lived and worked gives you sense of being a part of living history.

The gift shop on the grounds has various books written about the Kingsley plantation and its history. Bathrooms are available. There are no picnic tables but there are benches down by the river.

Experience a unique part of Florida history and experience life from both owner’s and slave’s perspectives.

Kingsley Plantation Information

Admission and Times
What To Do
Free admission
Schedule a Tour of the House
Park open from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Visit the Slave Quarters
 
View the Seasonal Gardens
 
Catch a Ranger Talk in the Barn

Jacksonville Suns Minor League Baseball Team

Many realize that Jacksonville has an NFL football team, the Jacksonville Jaguars, but less know about their outstanding minor league baseball team, the Jacksonville Suns. With games running 4-5 days a week during the spring and summer, it's the perfect way to spend an afternoon or evening.

The new baseball stadium is located next to the Jaguar's stadium. As long as there are no other events downtown, parking is usually cheap, easy and close.

There are often promotions and giveaways so plan to get their early. Great tickets start at just $10.50 apiece.

All the great baseball traditions are at the park. As you sit back and watch the team with your beer and hotdog, you can also enjoy the entertainment between innings and after-show fireworks on select weekends.

Games run through the playoffs in September. The 2013 schedule is available here: http://www.milb.com/documents/2013/02/05/41402012/1/2013_Schedule.pdf

Going to a Suns game is a relaxing and enjoyable experience offering the best of the Great American Pastime.

The food is good. The crowd is friendly, and the team draws some amazing talent.

Why not attend a minor leaque baseball game?
Why not attend a minor leaque baseball game? | Source
Admission and Days
Don't Miss
Starting at $7.50-$22.50
Weekend Fireworks
Games run from April-September
Sunday games where kids run the bases
Discounts available for group ticket purchases.
Weekly promotions and fundraisers

These four places are just the beginning of all you can do and see in Jacksonville. There really is more to Florida and certainly more to Jacksonville than ocean and beaches. Explore the history, the beauty and the culture of this unique Florida city.

show route and directions
A markerJacksonville Zoo and Gardens -
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Jacksonville Zoo Train, Jacksonville, FL 33218, USA
get directions

(904) 757-4463

B markerFort Caroline National Memorial -
Fort Caroline National Memorial, 12713 Fort caroline road, Jacksonville, FL 32225, USA
get directions

(904) 641-7155

C markerKingsley Plantation Jacksonville -
Kingsley Plantation, 11676 Palmetto Avenue, Jacksonville, FL 32226, USA
get directions

(904) 251-3537

D markerBaseball Grounds Jacksonville -
301 A Philip Randolph Boulevard, Jacksonville, FL 32202, USA
get directions

(904) 358-2846

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    • LCDWriter profile image
      Author

      L C David 4 years ago from Florida

      Thanks so much ThelmaC. I understand that the zoo used to be small with concrete enclosures. It's so nice now with natural looking places for the animals to live.

    • ThelmaC profile image

      Thelma Raker Coffone 4 years ago from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA

      I enjoyed your hub about Jacksonville, especially since I am a Jacksonville native that no longer lives there. I can remember going to the zoo back in the 50s as a child. It was much, much smaller than it is now and I believe it was free to get in. Thanks for a trip down memory lane!