“Jax” as the locals call the city is the place where the South meets the North. Jacksonville is rich in historical and cultural heritage. It is a river city around the St. Johns River which runs through the city. As surprising as it might seem Jacksonville was the original Hollywood in the early 1900s. It was the motion picture capital of the world before Los Angeles, California took over and everything and everyone concerned with the film industry moved west.
The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens was the dream creation of local philanthropist Ninah May Holden Cummer. Unfortunately, she did not live to see its opening in 1961. The museum has a collection of over 5,000 works of art from artists like Winslow Homer, Thomas Moran, and Norman Rockwell and includes the Wark Collection of Early Meissen Porcelain.
There are four different gardens among them an English and an Italian Garden. Guided tours are available.
The Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville/MOCA is located at the University of North Florida. Here you can see a collection of contemporary artworks from local, national, and international artists.
The Museum of Science and History/MOSH is housed in an old Victorian home. It has a collection of both permanent and traveling exhibits. The exhibits range from a look at historic Northeast Florida to a look into future technology and communications as well as energy and ecosystems. There is a lovely courtyard with native plants and an interactive play area for children.
The Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary is run by a non-profit organization to educate people on the dangers of owning big cats as pets. They also educate on threats to the cats from changing weather, pollution, the diminishing of habitats, and hunters. You can see exotic cats brought here by owners who could not care for them. Animals include lions, tigers, pumas, cougars, leopards, bobcats, foxes, and coatimundis (which are not big cats, but members of the raccoon family, with very long snouts). Guided tours are available.
Kingsley Plantation is located on Fort George Island east of the city. It includes a Southern mansion dating to pre-Civil War days. Besides the plantation house, there is a kitchen house, a barn, and the remains of about 25 slave cabins. Before the Kingsley family Native Americans lived here for over a thousand years. Visitors say the plantation is haunted. Guided tours are available.
You’ll enjoy visiting both Little Talbot Island State Park and Big Talbot Island State Park. The scenic A1A highway passes through both parks and a bridge that crosses over Nassau Sound will take you to Amelia Island.
Amelia Island is located about 20 miles north of Jacksonville. In its early days, the inhabitants of the island were pirates, gun-runners, Confederates, Union soldiers, escaped prisoners, and sailors who chose to jump ship.
Fernandina Beach is the island’s main town with brick sidewalks and red-brick Victorian buildings. You’ll find shops, galleries, and restaurants.
Little Talbot Island State Park is popular with hikers, wildlife spotters, and kayakers. There are sand dunes and beaches, salt marshes, and maritime forests as well as a large bird population. Among the activities here are fishing, swimming, sunbathing, and camping. There is a playground for children and picnic shelters, bike and canoe rentals, and a boat launch are available.
Big Talbot Island State Park includes a popular beach Boneyard Beach with its famous dead, bleached live oaks.
Blackrock Beach got its name from the black rocks along the shoreline.
Fort George Island Cultural State Park is a historic landmark and the site of Fort George. The fort was built in 1736 to defend the southern flank of the British Colony of Georgia. All around is natural beauty and you can see unusual wildlife.
The Ribault Club was a lively club for the rich and famous in the Roaring Twenties can also be found at this state park. Today it is a venue and event space. You can get a guided tour of the island on a cross-terrain Segway or enjoy fishing, boating, kayaking, geocaching, cycling, canoeing, picnicking, hiking, and birding.
St. Johns River Taxi will take you to three stops along the Southbank and three stops along the Northbank. Offering fantastic views of the skyline and the city these covered boats seat up to a hundred passengers.
Adventure Landing Jacksonville Beach is a theme park that opened in 1995. Attractions here include many wild ridges, miniature golf, and plenty of roller coasters for thrill seekers.
Riverwalk along the St. Johns River is a pedestrian walkway that connects with attractions and hotels. It is a nice way to relax and during dusk, it is nice to see the city lighting up. Here you can walk, run, or bike. There are many restaurants to enjoy. Keep watching for dolphins playing in the water.
Atlantic Beach is a short drive east of the city. It is a beautiful beach with many seabirds. You can access it via the St, Johns River Ferry. Visitors can also sign on with deep-sea fishing charter companies.
Tide Views Preserve is a lovely spot to enjoy natural beauty with a long pier that juts out into the marshes. The park has trails and boardwalks.
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens offers behind-the-scenes tours, close-up encounters with animals, and walks through the Butterfly Garden and Land of the Tiger exhibits. For children, there is a Play Park and Splash Ground. There is also an old-fashioned carousel to ride.
The Old Time Zoo Train takes visitors to all the exhibits.
You can also enjoy the River Quest Scenic River Cruise.