Jacksonville – the largest city in Florida! (Based on pure square area). Jacksonville takes up a huge portion of the northeastern corner of the state- It takes almost an hour to drive from end to end! There are tons of Jacksonville free things to do, read on to hear about them!
There are multiple suburbs in the surrounding areas of Jacksonville, but the main ones that people visit are Downtown, Riverside/Avondale, and San Marco Areas – these are are fairly close together. The other place frequented by visitors is about a 20-30 min drive from downtown, the cities of Jacksonville Beach, Neptune, and Atlantic Beach. Please view the map at the bottom to get an idea of where all these places are.
Below you’ll see some of our favorite places to visit – I lived in Jacksonville for many years and it has something for everyone!!
1. North Bank of Downtown Jacksonville
There are a number of interesting places to stop for free in the downtown area. On the North bank, there is the main location of the Jacksonville Public Library – a huge and impressive 3 story library with art and map displays inside. Take a walk among the big skyscrapers and take in great views of the river.
If you happen to be in town the first week of the month, you won’t want to miss the art walk from 5-9pm in downtown. You can visit the MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) for free during the art walk. If you are visiting on a Tuesday or Thursday, don’t miss a free robotics tour at the maker of many dark ride, Sally Dark Rides! Go to their website and book a reservation online (for kids 7 and up).
You can head west toward the cute section of 5 points, near Riverside and Avondale. Stop at Memorial Park and take a walk along the river, a favorite spot among walkers and runners. Visit the Cummer Museum – which is free Tuesdays and Fridays 4-9pm
2. South Bank of Downtown Jacksonville
On the south bank you will find the area of San Marco. You can visit friendship fountain and take a walk along the river there. You can also check and see if there are any specials at the MOSH (Museum of History and Science). Currently they are running 1/2 priced admission on Mondays, but it often changes. At one point they had a $5 Friday- I hope they bring that back!
You can also ride the Skyway Express – a automated and completely free train that crosses the river. A favorite among the kids! While you are near San Marco you can walk San Marco Square (pictured above) near Balis Park – This is another cute spot with coffee shops and historic buildings.
3. Kathryn Abby Hannah Park – $5 per car
If you enjoy hiking, mountain biking, or camping, stop at this park! The park boasts a ton of mountain biking and walking trails. It also has a lake where you can take out a kayak or rent one of their paddle boats. For the kids, there is a playground and a splash pad that is open seasonally.
The park has an enormous campground big enough for any RV, and they offer tent camping as well. The park is right off the beach! Just a short walk from your campsite and you can be out on the sand taking a walk or watching the sunrise.
4. Jacksonville Beach – FREE
Jacksonville Beach has one of the largest and longest beaches in Florida. It is also so flat! The beach has a surface like pavement at low tide, meaning you can ride your bike on the beach! There are several places in the area where you can rent bikes. Also, while you are down there, take a walk or fish from the Jacksonville Beach Pier – fishing is $3 and walking is $1! Please check their Facebook Page as the pier has been under repair the last few years and has temporary closings.
This local neighborhood park has always been my children’s favorite playground in the Jacksonville area. It’s a classic castle style wooden playground! Who wouldn’t love that? In addition this park has a seasonal splash-pad, tennis courts, a small walking/jogging path, and check out that view of the skate park! Something to do for everyone!
6. Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens – Donation Based
Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens is open to the public 8am-5pm, seven days a week. This area has a large path around the lake as well as several smaller trails. It is shaded for the most park and a nice place to take a walk. or a run. It is located in the central part of the southside and is one of the few locations for trails in teat particular area. See map below for location!
7. Ft. Caroline National Memorial – FREE
At the Ft. Caroline National Memorial, you will find a visitors center with facilities and a map to all the trails in the areas and various historic sites. Across from the visitors enter is the parking for Spanish Pond trail – a popular one for hikers.
There is also a trail entrance that is down the road from the visitors center – called Timucan Preserve Parking for trail heads (see map.) people often walk here with their children and their dogs. it is a nice, scenic wide trail. There a many trails in the Ft. Caroline area if you want to take a long hike.
7. Ed Austin Regional park – FREE
As a runner myself, I have to include this park in a list of places to visit in Jacksonville. The park has a big 1.75 mile loop trail around the park, paved, so it’s great for runners and people with strollers or scooters. There is also a nice shaded playground and an ultimate Frisbee course. The park has a dog park and a skate park too!
8. Jacksonville Baldwin Rail Trail- FREE
If you are a running or cycling enthusiast, this is the place in town you want to do your distance run for the week. It’s a little off the beaten path, but this long stretch of 20 miles is sceinic and usually on the weekend has plaety of ly on the weekends has a thin crowd out there running and biking.
**Note: There are several beautiful natural places just outside of Jacksonville to the Northeast. I have included these on a separate page titled Amelia Island locations. If you are looking to get out into nature and are willing to drive about 30-45 minutes from the center of Jacksonville, please visit my page on Amelia Island- you’ll find the Kingsley Plantation, Hugenot Park, Little & Big Talbot Island, and more!
*If you are looking for the southern area of Jacksonville, there is a separate page for Mandarin & St. John’s.