Whether you are in search of a bustling downtown area, quiet river-lined streets, intimate cafes, shopping malls, quaint boutiques, children’s activities or fine dining, Jacksonville has exactly what you are looking for. Spanning 885 square miles and about 566,000 acres, it is the largest city (area-wise) in the continental U.S., and the largest city (population-wise) in Florida.
Known as the “River City” and “The Bold New City of the South,” Jacksonville ensures that families and friends, couples and singles, young and old will find something they enjoy in this beautiful city by the water. Here are nine cheap or free things to check out the next time you are in “J-ville:”
Museums and the arts
MOCA: Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville: Featuring international, national and regional artists, MOCA has a permanent collection of almost 1,000 works of art such as paintings, sculpture, photography and printmaking. New exhibits are shown regularly. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for military, seniors and students, and free for children under 2. MOCA also puts on an Artwalk for free on Wednesdays from 5–9 p.m. Family admission is free on Sundays, and Bank of America cardholders get free admission the first Saturday and Sunday of the month.
MOSH: Museum of Science and History: Spend a day at this massive museum that has something for everyone. Take a stroll in a larger-than-life exhibit of the human body, “The Body Within”; explore underwater worlds in MOSH’s permanent aquarium; visit “Currents of Time,” and go back in time over thousands of years; discover the new dinosaur exhibit (where you can take control of the dinosaur’s actions); or check out the nature center and Planetarium. MOSH is open daily; admission is $10 for adults, and just $8 for seniors, active military, and children ages 3–12.
Cummer Museum of Arts & Gardens: Nationally recognized and listed on the Historic Places National Register, Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens is a must-see when visiting Jacksonville. The museum houses a permanent collection of over 5,000 pieces of art, and the majestic historic gardens are an added plus. A 200-year-old Cummer Oak (one of the oldest living trees in Jacksonville) stands amid reflecting pools, fountains and manicured grounds. With a canopy of 150 feet, it is the perfect place to stop and take a rest in the shade after a long day touring the museum. Open every day except Monday, the museum is free on Tuesday nights from 4–9 p.m. and also free on the first Saturday of the month. Students with ID can get in free from Tuesday–Friday. Admission is $10 for adults; $6 for seniors, military and students; and free for children under 5.
Tree Hill Nature Center: Since the center is just minutes from downtown, let your kids spend a day in nature at Tree Hill. Spanning 50 acres and comprised of three ecosystems, Tree Hill Nature Center contains butterfly and hummingbird gardens, trails (three that are 1/3 mile each), a hands-on children’s museum, native animals and the Florida Natural History Museum. Admission is $4 for adults; $3 for seniors, students and military; and $2 for children ages 3–17.
Jacksonville Beach Fishing Pier: Enjoy breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean while strolling this gorgeous pier that stretches a quarter of a mile out onto the water. For families who love to fish, this pier offers access to many deep-water species. The pier opens daily at 6 a.m. and provides the convenience of a bait and concession shop, restrooms, and wheelchair accessibility. Fishing is $4, spectating $1, and children under 6 are free.
Kingsley Plantation: Enjoy an educational outing and teach your kids a history lesson for the low, low price of free! The Kingsley Plantation, nestled away in the Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve, is Florida’s oldest plantation house that is still standing. Visitors can explore 20 slave cabins, a barn, waterfront, the kitchen house, the plantation house and gardens. Open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Outdoors and more…
Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve: Do you love to hike? Get ready, as this preserve offers an incredible 46,000-acre area to explore. In addition to undisturbed natural areas and forests, there are plenty of water-based activities, such as fishing, kayaking and boating to entertain you. Ranger-led programs are also available. This pet-friendly park is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Entrance fee to the park is free, and tours and guides are individually priced.
Talbot Island State Park: The Talbot Island State Park is located just north of the St. Johns River and is made up of four islands. These islands offer visitors over five miles of breathtaking beaches, nature trails, picnic areas, and a campground. The park is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., and admission to the park varies, up to $5 per car.
The Jacksonville Landing: This incredible year-round entertainment, shopping, and dining mecca has been around for more than 20 years and is one of the most popular attractions to both visitors and residents. Tucked along the St. Johns River, right in downtown Jacksonville, it’s the place to stop by for a variety of dining options along the water, an inside shopping mall, clubs and more. The Jacksonville Landing also hosts more than 300 events each year (such as walking tours, musicians, markets and more). Open daily, the Jacksonville Landing is the perfect place to spend the day with friends, family or that special someone.
When you hear the phrase, “Location, Location, Location,” think of Jacksonville. You have everything you need in this city, and it all comes with incredible water views and amazing weather. You can learn about additional museums, events, activities, restaurants, hotels and more at the city’s official website, VisitJacksonville.com.