Parks & Zoos
With almost 84,000 acres or 131 square miles of city, state and national parks, Jacksonville’s park system is even larger than the city of San Francisco.
The first segment of the 2.31-mile, $1 million Timucuan Preserve multi-use trail (walking/biking/horseback riding) opened in 2005. The 10-foot-wide path is the first phase of a plan to ultimately connect Hanna Park to Amelia Island State Park. When completed, the paved trail will span about 15 miles and cross Ft. George Inlet between Hugenot Park and Talbot Island on A1A.
Also underway is a new boat ramp at Cedar Point and new facilities including a visitor contact station, a concessionaire to rent kayaks and bikes, primitive camping and bathrooms. Other park projects include a north-south bike trail that will link Jennings State Park to Cary State Park and cross the east-west Jacksonville/Baldwin Rail Trail, and a river taxi run by the National Park Service that crosses the St. Johns River into the Timucuan Preserve, one of the largest parks in the nation.
Castaway Island, another new park initiative, opened recently in south Jacksonville between Beach and Atlantic Boulevards on San Pablo Road. As the city’s premiere preservation park, it offers access to the Intracoastal Waterway for boating, picnic tables, grills, an open-air education center, walking trails and observation deck that overlooks the marsh and Intracoastal Waterway. Another preservation park, Camp Milton Historical Preserve, is in the works. It borders the Jacksonville/Baldwin Rail Trail on the Jacksonville side.
The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens , with more than 1,000 exotic animals, is fun for the whole family. The zoo includes the Range of the Jaguar exhibit; the Australian Adventure featuring koalas, wallabies and kangaroos; the Seronera exhibit featuring an elephant pool, a herp house (cobras and pythons) and a fruit bat exhibit; and a new giraffe exhibit.
Last year two female jaguars, Xena and Jaws, were added to the award-winning Range of the Jaguar exhibit, bringing the Zoo’s jaguar collection to six — the largest in the United States.
The Zoo also developed three major garden zones in its Botanical Garden Concept Plan including The Primary Gardens, a 12-acre site that will showcase beautiful native water-edge plants and spectacular panoramic views.
Officially opened in its new location in 2003 in Downtown Hemming Plaza with a new focus, the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville (MOCAJ) also has the distinction of being designed by an award-winning design collaborative (a one-of-a-kind volunteer initiative not seen before or since the project) who converted the Art Deco, 1930s building into a city cultural landmark.
The museum offers a very active schedule of modern and contemporary art exhibitions that rotate every four months, and a hands-on, interactive center Art Emporium loft for families. Strictly focusing on exhibiting and collecting modern artwork since 1945, the museum’s permanent collection of about 800 works rotates every six months. Visit www.mocajacksonville.org for more information about the museum.
The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens is located on the St. Johns River in the Riverside/Avondale historic district and is just minutes from downtown. As the largest museum in Northeast Florida and the second largest art museum in the state, it’s noted for its collection of more than 6,000 masterworks of American and European paintings; two acres of beautiful, historic gardens in the European style; and an outstanding collection of Meissen porcelain. Art Connections is the museum’s nationally renowned interactive learning center and the museum recently unveiled the Thomas H. Jacobsen Gallery of American Art, the first new gallery to open since 1992. Visit www.cummer.org to see what’s coming up at the museum.
The Museum of Science & History (MOSH) offers fun for the whole family with the area’s only planetarium, an award-winning Northeast Florida history exhibit, a live animal area, daily interactive programs and much more. Learn more at www.themosh.org .
The Alexander Brest Museum and Gallery on the stately campus of Jacksonville University (JU) presents a feast for your eyes. The museum houses an outstanding Steuben Glass collection that spans two eras, and extensive Pre-Columbian, Chinese Porcelain Cloisonné and Ivory collections. The art gallery showcases changing exhibitions of students and faculty, as well as regional, national and international artists. JU also is home to one of only two glass blowing studios on a college campus in the South.
Looking for a little fun the whole family can enjoy? Look no further than Jacksonville for the perfect place to strengthen the family bond through a wonderful vacation. Walk the same streets as men, women and children did centuries ago; mimic the calls of the exotic and native animal species at attractions throughout the region; or play in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, national parks or water parks. There is a lot to see and do for visitors of all ages, and coupled with Northeast Florida’s fantastic climate and budget-friendly attraction fees and accommodations, there’s no better time to bring the family to experience all that our slice of Florida has to offer!
Northeast Florida has the attractions for kids of all ages to make any family or multigenerational vacation complete. Enjoy time together while looking for an adventure or discovering something new with the kids.
Get out and soak up the sunshine at Adventure Landing Jacksonville Beach . Challenge the family to a round of adventure miniature golf, indoor laser tag and a race on the go-kart tracks. During the summer, bring your bathing suit and check out the Shipwreck Island Water Park featuring the Little St. Johns Lazy River, Typhoon Lagoon – the giant wave pool and three extreme slides: the Rage, the Hydro Half-Pipe and the Eye of the Storm.
Get a unique perspective of Northeast Florida on a guided Segway eco-history tour with EcoMotion Tours . Experience wildlife and history in a setting like no other, traveling through off-road paths in the heart of Fort George Island. All tours are guided, with riders equipped with a wireless headset to learn from guides of native plants, animals and history of the trails. Be on the lookout for tortoises, rabbits and, for the lucky travelers, the occasional alligator off in the distance. Riders must be at least 13 years old, so this is a great way to explore Jacksonville’s natural surroundings with the older kids.
The beach is always a great spot for a little fun in the sand and Jacksonville’s over 20 miles of wide beaches make for the vacation with the family. Search for seashells; jump in the surf or simply build a sandcastle with the kids. In need of chairs, umbrellas, volleyball nets and bikes to enjoy the warm Florida weather? Let Rent Beach Stuff brings the gear to you! The business is the headquarters for all things beach related. Or if history is of interest, the beaches have a colorful past from its historic buildings, residents and events that have shaped its present. The Beaches Museum & History Center in Jacksonville Beach celebrates the coastal heritage with interactive exhibits, photographs and stories of a simpler time.
Spend a day at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens exploring 2,000 rare and exotic animals and over 1,000 unique plant species. The newest addition to the zoo, The Gardens at Trout River Plaza, opened to the public in 2007. The plaza is located along the banks of the Trout River and features a formal garden with walls, columns, a fountain and unique plants. While there, check out the “Range of the Jaguar” exhibit, home to animals, birds and reptiles from South America.
Downtown Jacksonville’s Kids Kampus , located in Metropolitan Park just off the city’s Sports Complex, allows children to indulge their natural curiosity while enjoying its engaging playscapes and miniature Jacksonville landscapes. The 10-acre playground area features a mini-water park with “Three Friends,” a large boat play structure accompanied by and surrounded by water cannons. A non-skid, rubberized surface called “Bayou, Bogs & Frogs” depicting Florida’s wetlands includes benches and water jets for wet and wild fun! Admission is free and open to the public.
Check out the latest exhibition at The Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville , located at Hemming Plaza in the heart of Downtown Jacksonville. Kids will love the ArtExplorium Loft, the museum’s family interactive center, featuring 16 hands-on stations in addition to three floors of galleries.
With over 1,220 holes of golf, and home to over 70 public and private courses, Northeast Florida is the ideal spot to play a round. The World Golf Hall of Fame celebrates the history and sport with interactive displays, memorabilia and trophies on display. Check out an IMAX movie while your there, with family-friendly movies showing daily.