I’ve had many, many requests to share a blog post with some of our Jacksonville Beach-area favorites and I’m going to begin this post by sharing that I feel unqualified to share any kind of “guide to Jacksonville Beach” in this space since we’re not locals. We are, however, frequent repeat visitors and have discovered some amazing places to bring our kids when we visit family!
Today’s post is simply a small peek into the activities we’ve found and loved in the Jacksonville Beach area over the past 7+ years with our kids. I’m sure there are a million more fun things to do with children in this area, so if you’re a local or someone who visits Jacksonville Beach often, please weigh in with your favorites in the comments section below.
Note: Our three boys range in age from one to seven and the recommended activities below are great for all of these ages. In general our kids gravitate toward outdoor activities, anything animal-related and places that allow them to run around, explore and just be kids!
Jacksonville Beach Kid Activities
I am not exaggerating when I say Sunshine Park is one of the best parks we’ve been to EVER. It recently underwent a renovation and is even better than it was before! It’s a turf-bottom park so it’s soft on the ground for kids and also beautiful. There are multiple playground spaces making it a fantastic spot to bring kids of varying age ranges. Our boys love climbing all over the playground equipment and also get a huge kick out of watching older children, teens and adults do impressive tricks at the skatepark right outside of the playground. Soccer fields and a splashpad are located within the park, too, and trail suitable for strollers and small children’s bikes and scooters lines the perimeter. It’s a favorite spot for us and we prioritized finding a rental house close to Sunshine Park this summer because we knew we’d want to visit multiple times a week!
Celestial Farms is a true gem in the Jacksonville Beach area. It’s a bit of a drive from the beach (35 minutes) but well worth the hike. If you have animal lovers in your crew, it’s a must-visit spot and one of our favorites. The farm is a not-for-profit animal rescue farm with everything from goats and cows to ducks, chickens, pigs and bunnies. The animals are adorable and many are often wandering free around the property and more than a few seem happy to be fed and pet by gentle, loving hands. (Note: The farm is sadly in the midst of some land ownership issues and has been closed during our visit this summer but will be open August 12. I recommend checking their Facebook page for updates.)
From the outside, this children’s museum isn’t much to look at but on the inside it’s a young child’s paradise. Our kids can truly spend HOURS in this place and have the best time exploring the various imagination areas of the children’s museum. There’s a pretend vet’s office, police and fire station, news room, performance stage, basketball court, baby/toddler play area, restaurant, grocery store and more. It’s definitely an older place and not sparkling new but the cost of admission is very low ($4 for kids ages 1-3 and $5.50 for 4+) and it’s a spot our kids ask to visit every time we’re in the area.
It goes without saying that one of the best things to do in Jacksonville Beach is visit the beach! It’s a fantastic beach for kids for a myriad of reasons. The beach is big with lots of hard-packed sand as well as soft sand. Tide pools emerge every day depending on the tides and our boys love catching and releasing crabs and small fish. The ocean is often calm enough for more timid swimmers (2 of our 3 boys can swim but we still outfit them in lifejackets in the ocean) and our family can easily spend a full day at the beach!
I’m not sure why it took us so long to visit MOSH but we took the boys and my nieces to the museum for the first time this summer and it was awesome! We easily spent 2+ hours at the museum and loved all of the interactive play areas, creation stations and interesting exhibits. The Florida Naturalist exhibit was a highlight for our animal-loving boys (they have amphibians, turtles, owls, snakes, and various other Florida creatures) and the treehouse play area and Dinosaur Explorer exhibit (a traveling exhibit leaving in September) were big-time favorites!
My sister put this one on our radar and it’s a fun spot to explore. Located about 25 minutes from the beach, it’s a small, non-profit educational center complete with a boardwalk, walking trails, a small museum and various animal exhibits. The boys love the goats and the reptile and amphibian room and it’s a spot we always have on our radar to visit when we’re in the area.
Catch-and-Release Lizard Walks
This one may not be as much of a novelty for local kids but for our out-of-town boys, it’s a borderline obsession. Chase, Ryder and Rhett cannot get enough of catching and releasing anole lizards during our time in Jacksonville Beach and they’re truly EVERYWHERE so it’s an activity that’s always an option and a thrill for them! We make sure to have an assortment of nets and creature cages on hand at all times and go on “lizard walks” every single day. (Mom tip: Jacksonville Beach is crazy convenient and coffee shops seem walkable from many areas so I’ll often morph our lizard walks into a coffee stop for Mom.)
This spot is located right behind the Ponte Vedra Library and is a fun little place to visit for outdoor-loving kids. There’s a small sea turtle maze made out of low-lying bushes and a boardwalk where you’re sure to see tons of turtles! The playground is very small but it’s shaded which made it a nice little place to visit on a hot Florida morning in the middle of the summer.
The Jacksonville Zoo is a fantastic zoo! It’s big and clean and our boys adore learning more about everything from elephants and lions to alligators and monkeys. The sting ray touch tank is a thrill for our boys and they love the reptile house and riding the train that runs throughout the zoo grounds. The adults in our group also love visiting this zoo and have left every time commenting on what a great spot it is for families to visit in the area.
The Caffeinated Cat was a recent discovery for our crew last spring and now it’s a spot Chase requests to visit quite often. It’s a café where you can order drinks but they also have a little room filled with rescued cats and kittens where adults and older children can sit and visit with the cats up for adoption. They call their cats “wonky” because many have medical issues but to our animal-loving boys, that makes them all the more endearing. (Note: When we initially visited in the spring, all of the boys were allowed in the cat room but apparently an incident occurred that caused them to change their rules and now the cat room is open to children ages 6 and up. Smaller children may still pet the cats in the café and every time we’ve been, there have been one or two cats out in the café for all kids to pet.)
This spot oozes touristy mayhem but, like most overly-stimulating places designed for kids, our boys love it. It’s a place geared toward kids slightly older than our boys so it is not a place we visit every time we come to Jacksonville but it has everything from go-karts and an arcade to a water park, mini golf and laser tag. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised to find it not too crowded almost every time we’ve gone!
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