Fans in a full stadium for a football game
Photograph: Ryan KettermanJacksonville Jaguars Game

The 11 best things to do in Jacksonville

From catching a football game to relaxing on the beach, make sure you experience the best things to do in Jacksonville

Megan duBois
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Even though Jacksonville is the largest city by land area in the contiguous United States, it has the feel of a small Southern town where everybody knows everybody. Still, there’s no hiding the fact that this city is huge with plenty to see and do – as this list of the best things to do in Jacksonville shows. It’s home to world-class restaurants (including one of the best restaurants in Florida), a booming craft brewery scene, stunning beaches, and outdoor activities galore.

What gets this city riled up the most is their NFL team, the Jacksonville Jaguars, which plays downtown at TIAA Bank Field. During football season, you’re bound to hear locals shouting “DUUUVAL” (Jacksonville sits in Duval County) to get the crowd amped up for the game.

But no matter if you’re a local or just a visitor traveling through, there are so many reasons to be a fan of this massive city. Here, we've rounded up the best things to do in Jacksonville, Florida.

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Best things to do in Jacksonville

Kick off your Jacksonville itinerary with a Jacksonville Jaguars game. The NFL team plays in the heart of downtown at TIAA Bank Field, where fans don teal and black gear as they cheer on the players. With a new quarterback (Trevor Lawrence, the first overall draft pick this year) and head coach (Urban Meyer, a former coach of the Florida Gators) for the 2021 season, there’s more on the line than ever before. Get to the game early and walk around the concourse—drop by the Bud Zone for a cold beer, and check out the Fan Entertainment Zone for games, autograph sessions, and more.

The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is a great spot to take kids or just explore on your own. The zoo has a range of animal exhibits that includes the African Loop (cheetahs, zebras, elephants, and more), Wild Florida (native animals like alligators, blackbears, and bobcats), the Asian Loop (Komodo Dragons and Sumatran tigers), and more. To get around with ease, consider getting a ticket for the train, which has two stops on opposite sides of the zoo. For something seasonal, the zoo hosts Spooktacular every October, allowing guests to dress up in their Halloween costume from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. for trick-or-treating, scare zones, and the ability to see animals when they are most active in the evening. Online tickets are required to enter the zoo and must be purchased in advance.

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Looking for something free to do in Jacksonville? Consider the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens. The museum offers free admission from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday and Friday, plus free admission to various groups (like college students with an ID). With over 5,000 works of art, the museum’s grounds aren’t bad either — you’ll find spacious gardens set against the sparkling waters of the St. Johns River. Every Friday night at dinner time, the museum opens up the gardens so visitors can either bring a picnic basket, or purchase one that’s already made from the museum.

The Jacksonville Museum of Science and History (or MOSH, as locals call it) is an interactive museum that explores how everything in the universe works together. Core exhibits include a section on coastal animals with an interactive touch tank, a planetarium, and a history of Jacksonville (starting with early Native Americans who first called the land home). Throughout the year, new exhibits come and go, which means there’s always something new to see and do at MOSH.

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The beaches in Jacksonville are plentiful, but for an experience you won’t find along any other nearby shoreline, head to the Boneyard Beach at Big Talbot Island State Park. The beach stretches for three miles and is littered with driftwood. The massive hunks of wood turn the landscape into a stunning backdrop for photos, not to mention a makeshift jungle gym for your family. Consider grabbing lunch from a nearby restaurant and taking it down to the beach to enjoy while you soak in the sights and sounds of this otherworldly beach.

Daily’s Place, one of the newest concert and entertainment venues in Jacksonville, is an outdoor, covered amphitheater inside the gates of TIAA Bank Field. Here, the venue hosts concerts that feature an array of musical acts — past artists include names like Brad Paisley, NeedToBreathe, and Lady A. Daily’s Place also acts as secondary seating for the Jacksonville Jaguars home games; in the covered amphitheater, people can take a break from the blazing Florida sun without missing the action thanks to giant screens hanging in the venue.

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People who want to shop til they drop should head to the St. Johns Town Center where the selection ranges from name brand basics like Target to bold-faced brands like Tiffany & Co. The outdoor mall is part of a larger area that includes ample restaurants like DOMU, a local favorite, as well as established chains like Chuy’s Tex-Mex. If you plan on going to the St. Johns Town Center, plan to arrive early — parking often comes at a premium, and the walkways get busy as the afternoon and evening go on.

Jacksonville's booming craft beer scene is so popular that it inspired the Jax Ale Trail. Get a brewery passport (they’re available at any of the participating locations) and follow the trail to each craft brewery. As you visit breweries along the trail, make sure to get your passport stamped — as you get more stamps, you can redeem your passport for prizes like t-shirts, doozies, and more. There are currently 22 participating breweries scattered across town, so no matter where you are there’s likely a place to stop, get a stamp, and grab a pint.

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The Times Union Center for the Performing Arts is a fun date night spot for couples keen to get dressed up for a show. This is where the Jacksonville symphony puts on concerts, but also where the orchestra performs the scores of popular movies (like Harry Potter and Star Wars) while guests watch the movie in the theater. Fans of the Broadway show Hamilton are also in for a treat: starting on September 29, the show will take the stage for two and a half weeks at the Moran Theater.

From April through September, baseball fans can head downtown and catch a minor league baseball game starring the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, Jacksonville’s home team. Every Friday night game ends with fireworks, while on Sunday nights kids are welcomed onto the field to run the bases. The best part? Games are cheap: tickets start as low as $5 for bleacher seats and go up to $25 for regular seats with advanced purchase. Be sure to grab a hot dog and a pretzel before sitting down to enjoy a minor league game with major heart.

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If you’ve ever wanted to play golf where the pros do, head to The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. This is home to both The Players Championship and the iconic 17th Island Green. The course is certainly challenging at over 6,000 yards from the white and blue tees. You can book your tee time for The Players Stadium Course or Dye’s Valley up to two weeks in advance. Prices vary based on season, but they’re cheapest from June through August. Be sure to book an early tee time — it’s not only when you’ll see the most wildlife on the course, but you’ll also enjoy cooler temperatures.

 

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