Jacksonville Things to Do Tips by noidiotsplease Top 5 Page for this destination
Jacksonville Things to Do: 120 reviews and 298 photos
For decades fishermen flocked to the old Jacksonville Beach Pier. After the weathered wooden pier suffered extensive damage due to the effects of a hurricane out at sea, a longer, stronger pier was recently built to replace it. While this new pier is an obvious attraction for fishermen, it's also a must see for any pedestrian with an appreciation for unique views. Walk out to the end of the pier -- one quarter of a mile out to sea -- and behold the spectacular views of ambitious surfers, the sandy coastline and the colorful highrises that line Jacksonville Beach. While the pier does not have a restaurant of its own, it is but a short walk from the many diverse culinary offerings of the Seawalk area.
Jacksonville’s Riverwalks are among the finest and most scenic in the nation. Lining the north and south banks of the St. Johns River, the two are connected by either water taxi or by the pedestrian walkways of the Main Street and Acosta bridges. Both Riverwalks offer changing perspectives of the city’s downtown skyline, which is split in half by the river. The Northbank Riverwalk is the longest, better landscaped, and most interesting to navigate. It follows the curvature of the river southwest, all the way to the Fuller Warren Bridge (Interstate 95), from which point one can take in a complete view of the entire Jacksonville skyline, connected by bridges. The Southbank Riverwalk is shorter in length, but it also boasts Friendship Park and Friendship Fountain, one of the largest fountains of its kind in the world. Friendship Fountain boasts an array of ever-changing jets that soar high into the air and are illuminated in changing color patters at night. The Southbank Riverwalk also offers great views of Everbank Field and the Sports Complex, as well as the city’s most commonly photographed skyline view. Both Riverwalks are great places to bring children and allow them to run, walk, or bike ride without the fear of cross streets and motorized vehicular traffic. Bicycling, jogging, rollerblading, skateboarding, and walking are common pastimes here for both young and old. Along the Northbank Riverwalk, a steep incline challenges exercisers of all types as the Riverwalk itself overpasses railroad tracks. At the right time, visitors can find themselves just a few feet above a passing freight train, feeling the vibrations as it rumbles over through the heart of the city. On the other side of the tracks, the riverwalk becomes a spiraling ramp underneath the Acosta Bridge that kids love to run down. Both Riverwalks also pass under the Main Street Bridge on their respective sides of the river. The Northbank Riverwalk passes right by or within a block of the Hyatt Regency and Omni hotels, the restaurants and nightspots of the Jacksonville Landing, and the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts. The Southbank Riverwalk passes right by or within a block of the Wyndham and Crown Plaza hotels, Friendship Fountain, the Museum of Science & History, and a few fine dining establishments: River City Brewing Company, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, and the Charthouse. For parking, on the Northbank there are many metered spaces east of the Jacksonville Landing and lining the various streets of Downtown, there are various lots and garages within a couple of blocks of the Riverwalk, and there are free parking spaces off of Riverside Avenue along the Riverwalk’s southwestern stretch near both the YMCA and the Fuller Warren Bridge. As for the Southbank, there is free parking available if you go to the Wyndham Hotel & Charthouse lot and tell the attendant you are there for the Riverwalk.
Address: Lines the river through downtown
Directions: Accessible throughout the Downtown Riverfront
Ever wonder how they make theme park rides so elaborate, memorable, and, of course, fun? Come visit Jacksonville's Sally Corp. for the inside scoop. Sally Corp. is a major designer and developer of realistic animatronic humans, animals and fictional characters for use in amusement park rides around the world. In fact, they have designed and developed more interactive dark rides than anyone else in the industry. Their creative staff integrates all parts of the ride experience from design to installation including animatronics, special effects, sets & scenery, soundtracks, audio & lighting systems and interactive technologies.
Want to learn more and see robotics come to life for yourself? Tours of their headquarters and production facility in Downtown Jacksonville are offered hourly on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:00 - 1:00 during the school year. These tours are free but require reservations. All children must be at least 7 years of age.
Address: 745 West Forsyth Street
Directions: West end of the Downtown Northbank/Lavilla
St. Johns Town Center
St. Johns Town Center , an outdoor, pedestrian-friendly, “Main Street” style mall (dubbed a “lifestyle center” in the retail industry), is THE premier shopping and dining destination between tourist-happy Orlando and big-business Atlanta. You could even say it’s a “mall” for outdoors-loving people who hate to go to the mall! I don’t even like most of the high-end stores found here, yet I really enjoy walking its sidewalks and green.
Of course, if you are a shopaholic (brace yourself) St. Johns Town Center is home to the likes of Tiffany & Company, Louis Vuitton, Urban Outfitters, The Apple Store, Sephora, Lucky Brand Jeans, Tommy Bahama, Pottery Barn, Fossil, Hollister, Abercrombie & Fitch, Fossil, Anthropologie, Mayor’s, Banana Republic, Williams-Sonoma, and a whole slew of other ritzy and/or trendy chains that I do not have the money, fashion sense, or status envy to shop at. (That said, I do have three favorite hang-outs: a two-story Dick’s Sporting Goods, Lifeway Christian Store, and Barnes & Noble.)
Aside from shopping, another equally impressive drawing card is its selection of restaurants. Here, your stomach (and wallet) must decide among the likes of The Cheesecake Factory, California Pizza Kitchen, P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, Maggiano’s Little Italy, The Capital Grill, Mitchell’s Fish Market, Bahama Breeze, Ted’s Montana Grill, Cantina Laredo, J. Alexander’s, Black Finn, Seasons 52 (coming soon), and a host of other more common variety chains.
Opened in 2005, St. Johns Town Center is more than just Jacksonville’s premier shopping and dining destination – it’s also a rival hub to downtown. Situated at the busy super-interchange of J.T. Butler Boulevard (a freeway that links I-95 to the beaches) and SR 9A (the eastern half of the city’s beltway), the center is the heart of Jacksonville’s busy and ever-booming Southside, surrounded by a landscape dense with office, residential, and retail developments. The campus of the University of North Florida and the popular Cinemark Tinseltown megaplex are also within very close proximity – as are even more restaurants and big-box retailers!
Address: 4663 River City Drive
Directions: Deerwood/UNF area, near the Butler Blvd./SR 9A Beltway interchange
Jacksonville Beach Pier Cam
Click on the link for a cool live beach cam courtesy of Jacksonville Beach Pier Cam.
Address: The beach and the ocean!
Just across the Intracoastal Waterway from Jacksonville sits a long barrier island containing a string of funky, laid-back and cosmopolitan beach comunities known collectively as Jacksonville's Beaches. The most populous of these towns, Jacksonville Beach (also known as "Jax Beach") boasts a skyline of mid to highrise condos and hotels and a multitude of restaurants and retailers.
At the town's active center is the oceanfront Seawalk Pavillion, ampitheatre, and Latham Plaza, a manicured greenspace located across the street. Together they provide a recreational focal point surrounded by numerous restaurants, nightspots and hotels. Throughout the year both venues host popular festivals that celebrate foods, cultures and music including George's Music Springing in the Blues Festival, Florida's largest outdoor free blues concert.
In terms of its natural attraction, Jax Beach, like its neighboring communities, boasts a beautiful wide strand of soft sand fronted by sea oats and sand dunes. Several blocks inland, along Beach Blvd., Adventure Landing is a popular water park and amusement complex located near the Intracoastal.
Jax Beach has refined its image since the 1990s as numerous new boutiques, fine dining establishments, high-rise luxury condos and even the large J. Johnson Gallery now call the town home. New hotels have also been built in recent years and the ocean pier provides pedestrians with remarkable views of the coast and oceanfront skyline from as far as a quarter mile offshore! Before undergoing this rennaissance, Jax Beach had fallen into blight and become notorious for attracting a rowdy crowd. Thankfully, today's Jax Beach has reinvented itself, with the southern half and the north end boasting the town's quietest and most family-friendly stretches of sand. In contrast, the popular entertainment and special events area surrounding Latham Plaza and the Seawalk (basically bounded by Beach Blvd. to the south, the pier to the north, Second St. to the west, and the beach to the east), is where the "ready to party" people flock to the restaurants, bars, and live entertainment during the weekends and where those without the good fortune to have a place to call home assume residence when the crowds are away.
Three blocks west of the ocean, running the length of Jax Beach is Third Street, also known as A1A. This is the main artery that connects Atlantic, Neptune, Jax and Ponte Vedra beaches and is lined with a broad assortment of restaurants, retailers, fast food joints, and other businesses that serve the needs of residents and visitors alike.
While Jax Beach has certainly become more sophisticated over the years, it's still a laid back, swimsuit and flip flops kind of place. Even though some of those flip-flops may carry the Prada label, the town is just too laid back to be pretentious.
Address: East end of Beach Blvd.
Directions: Jacksonville Beach (take Beach or Butler Blvds.)
(MOSH) Museum of Science & History
The Museum of Science & History (MOSH) is a must-see destination in Downtown Jacksonville for both children and adults. Located right next to the enormous Friendship Fountain and adjacent to both the Southbank Riverwalk and a water taxi stop, touring the museum is a great way to spend a few hours during the heat of the day. The museum's feature exhibits are very well thought out and elaborately constructed.
"Atlantic Tails" uses skeletons, hands-on activities, and interactive life-size replicas to teach about the whales, dolphins, and manatees that inhabit the waters in and around Jacksonville. It even includes a life-size replica of a right whale sculpted into the wall!
The Bryan Gooding Planetarium showcasesthe nightime skies over Jacksonville and projects other special shows. Next to the planetarium, exhibits showcase astronaut suits and rocks from space.
Perhaps the most ingeniously designed entrance is the one leading to "The Body Within." Visitors walk through the open mouth of a very detailed giant human head. The exhibit itself is a bit disgusting but educational as it walks visitors through the human body.
"Currents of Time" is a fascinating walk through the amazingly rich history of Jacksonville and the First Coast. Using well-designed sets, facades and diaramas featuring models, films, photographs, and tons of artifacts, the exhibit takes visitors from the early days of the Timacuan Indians and European conquets; the establishment, burning, and rebuilding of Jacksonville; and the impacts of World Wars, segregation, popular culture and other influences on Jacksonville daily life.
Permanent animal exhibits include aquariums with large catfish and sunfish found in the St. Johns River, baby alligators, tortoises, frogs, snakes, and even owls. There is also an interactive exhibit on the role of water in the lives of humans and animals, a shell exhibit, and even a signature skeleton of an allosaurus.
Throughout the year, MOSH also features various nationally touring exhibits for weeks at a time. On my most recent visit, the museum had "Savage Ancient Seas" an impressive collection of "sea monster" skeletons, including some of the ones featured in these photos.
Address: 1025 Museum Circle
Directions: On the Southbank by the Riverwalk in downtown
Phone: (904) 396-MOSH (6674)
The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, Jacksonville
The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens
Located on the river in Jacksonville's historic and artsy Riverside neighborhood, The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens is one of the finest in the South. Famous for its collections of significant European and American oil paintings, The Cummer also boasts one of the world's largest collections of Meissen porcelain. Various touring exhibitions of some of the world's most treasured and renowned master artists also call The Cummer home for months at a time.
Behind The Cummer's impeccable galleries are two acres of traditional Italian and English style riverfront gardens . Stroll through the gardens to the river for a view of the downtown skyline straddling a sharp curve in the river.
Even if you only have a casual appreciation for fine art, you'll certainly enjoy The Cummer!
Address: 829 Riverside Avenue
Directions: Historic Riverside, near Five Points
Phone: (904) 356-6857
Main Street Bridge, Jacksonville
For years Jacksonville's Southbank has basked in the glow of Friendship Fountain's everchanging colors. Several years ago, the Main Street Bridge, a blue steel, vertical-lift draw bridge that arches next to Friendship Fountain, was enhanced in a most unusual and beautiful way. Rather than sporting just standard streetlights the bridge is now equipped with an illumination system that causes the entire structure to actually glow a brilliant shade of blue. I'm not talking about twinkle lights or neon streaks -- the bridge literally glows! Make sure to check out the fountain and bridge -- a dynamic duo of illumination wonders -- the next time you're in town.
Directions: Best viewed from the Southbank Riverwalk
Located on the Southbank Riverwalk next to the Museum of Science & History, Friendship Fountain is one of the world's largest self-contained fountains. At night, the fountain's magnificent, dancing jets are illuminated in an everchanging brilliance of rainbow colors that frame the city's Northbank skyscrapers, making it a favorite kissing spot for romantic couples enjoying a night in Downtown.
Address: One Museum Circle
Directions: Downtown Southbank
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