Jacksonville, Florida has a ton to offer visitors of all ages, including approximately 1,100 miles of gorgeous sandy beaches; 80,000 acres of public parks and hiking trails; and world-class museums. The city also boasts a huge variety of exquisite eateries, unique shops, and lively entertainment venues. As one of Florida’s top vacation cities, it’s not surprising that there are so many Jacksonville vacation rentals, most in close proximity to the area’s best attractions. Here are 15 awesome things to do while you’re in Jacksonville.

1. Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

Featuring over 2,000 exotic animals and 1,000 plant species, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is the perfect family-friendly attraction. It’s located right at the mouth of the gorgeous Trout River, and your whole family can enjoy a walking safari tour through the scenic zoo. Enjoy a stroll through a variety of incredible exhibits, including giraffes, tigers, apes, and countless others.

2. MOSH! The Museum of Science and History

With a focus on local history and science, MOSH! The Museum of Science and History is a great place to have some fun while learning. The museum has plenty of indoor and outdoor permanent core exhibits, as well as some of the world’s most exciting traveling exhibits. It’s also home to one of the country’s biggest single-lens digital dome planetariums.

3. The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens

One of Florida’s premier art museums, The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens is home to more than 6,000 works of art dating from as far back as 2100 B.C. all the way up to the present day. Located alongside the scenic St. John’s River, the museum grounds are absolutely beautiful. One of the most popular attractions is the stunning Cummer Oak, which is one of the city’s oldest trees with a massive canopy that spans over 150 feet.

4. Now & Zen Sailing Charters

Now & Zen Sailing Charters offers a variety of exquisite day sails and sunset cruises. Board the five-star 42-foot catamaran sailboats, and prepare to experience the breathtaking beauty that you’ll only find in Florida. The boats come fully stocked with everything you need to enjoy a relaxing day on the water, including an expert crew, food and drinks, and bathrooms.

5. Little Talbot Island State Park

If you want to experience Jacksonville’s natural beauty first-hand, Little Talbot Island State Park is a fantastic choice. The park boasts miles of gorgeous beaches, forests, dunes, and salt marshes. As you explore the area, you’ll probably see a diverse array of wildlife such as otters, rabbits, and a variety of birds. If you feel like getting active, the park offers excellent surfing, fishing, and beachcombing. There are plenty of designated picnic pavilions near the water, so be sure to pack a lunch.

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6. Southbank Riverwalk

If you want to explore the many fantastic shops and restaurants that Jacksonville has to offer, the Southbank Riverwalk makes it easy and fun. It’s a quarter-mile boardwalk that overlooks the beautiful St. John’s River. You can walk the boardwalk and stop at a variety of cafes, bars, and eateries, or just take a seat on one of the benches and take in the sights.

7. Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary

The Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary rescues big cats such as lions, tigers, leopards, and cougars. They offer guided tours of the facility where you can see over 40 exotic cats up close. During the 45-minute tour, the expert guides will teach you all about these fascinating creatures. If you go at night, you can take a feeding tour.

8. Jacksonville Beach

No Jacksonville vacation is complete without a trip to the beach. Jacksonville Beach has all of the features and amenities you’d want from a Florida beach, including a fantastic fishing pier, a variety of restaurants, and even a golf course. Jacksonville Beach is also known for having some of the area’s best waves, so it’s the perfect spot for surfing or swimming, or just relaxing on the sand and listening to the soothing sound of crashing waves.

9. Salt Life Food Shack

Just a few minutes away from Jacksonville Beach, Salt Life Food Shack is the perfect place to grab a bite to eat or a drink. It’s an open-air cafe that has a fantastic beach-inspired menu, featuring fresh sushi, shrimp, and other seafood, as well as tacos, burgers, and other classic dishes. Enjoy indoor or outdoor seating in a casual environment — sandals and shorts are just fine.

10. Friendship Fountain

Located just a quick walk from the Museum of Science and History, the Friendship Fountain is truly a sight to behold. It features over 60 nozzles that shoot water as high as 120 feet in the air. The park housing the fountain offers plenty of benches and picnic tables, so it’s the perfect place to relax for a picnic after a big day exploring Jacksonville. If you visit at night, you’ll be treated to a dazzling light show.

11. Timucuan Ecological Preserve

One of Jacksonville’s most beautiful walks, the Timucuan Ecological Preserve showcases the area’s stunning wildlife and plant life. There are endless nature trails to explore, many highlighting Florida’s signature coastal dunes and salt marshes. If you’re lucky, you may even see dolphins, manatees, and some rare, exotic birds.

12. Clark’s Fish Camp

Clark’s Fish Camp is a restaurant with fantastic seafood, but that’s not all. As you eat, you can view the restaurant’s live Alligator exhibit that also houses other marine life such as turtles and fish. The exotic decor also includes a variety of stuffed animals that died from natural causes, including lions, tigers, and bears — oh my! The menu is simply divine, offering a huge variety of fresh seafood, as well as steaks, frog legs, and plenty of other unique Florida-style dishes.

13. The Florida Theatre

The historic Florida Theatre is one out of only four surviving theaters that were built during the Art Deco era of the 1920s. It’s truly a majestic theater, featuring dazzling chandeliers, majestic marble and iron fixtures, and French, Spanish and Italian decorations. In addition to showing movies, the theater often hosts live concerts.

14. Adventure Landing

If you’re traveling with the kids, Adventure Landing is a must-visit. However, even the adults will have a blast. The kids will love the Shipwreck Island Play Village, which is a huge water park that features a variety of water slides and a wave pool. The park also offers laser tag, a miniature golf course, a go-kart track, and a batting cage, as well as over 100 arcade games. If you get hungry, there’s great pizza, or treat the whole family to some ice cream.

15. St Johns Town Center

St Johns Town Center is Jacksonville’s premier shopping destination. Far from an ordinary mall, this sprawling plaza features more than 100 stores. There are plenty of gorgeously landscaped outdoor areas where you can relax, including an enchanting area with a turtle and fish pond, wind chimes, and bubbling water.

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