Jacksonville Florida will always have a special place in my heart. I went to school there, met my husband there, bought my first home there. There have been so many wonderful memories made in Jax. Its been about 11 years since I have lived there so I was excited to partner with Visit Jacksonville to tour the city with my family. It was our first time showing our kids around and we learned that this city has not only changed so much, but there are so many wonderful things to do for families. Here are some of the best tips when traveling to Jacksonville with your family and I hope this will help you when planning your next trip to this cool city very soon.
Where to Stay
We love the beach and got so excited to visit Jax Beach again after so many years. We stayed at the Four Points by Marriott, Jacksonville Beach. We have nothing but good things to stay. We had a large room with a balcony and view of the ocean. It was centrally located, walking distance to restaurants and shops, and did I mention right on the beach? What a view from our room. I just couldn’t get over how pretty it was. The hotel had really nice amenities; a bar with happy hour and local brews on tap, a restaurant, and a fire pit outside with plenty of outdoor seating. It was a little chilly for the pool when we were there but the girls loved the beach access and we spent a lot of time on the soft sand playing and staring at the water.
Things to do in Jacksonville with Kids
One of the things that surprised me the most about our trip to Jax was, not only that there was so much to do with kids, but there were so many cool things I HAD NEVER DONE BEFORE! Here are some of our favorite things to do with kids in Jacksonville:
Catty Shack is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to providing a safe, loving, forever home to rescued exotic big cats and to educate about their plight in the wild and captivity. We saw some really beautiful tigers, lions, cougars, and leopards. This organization is doing some great things and you can get up close and personal while teaching your kids about these exotic animals. Try the night feedings where you can get a special experience.
Day tours Thurs & Sat – 1-4 pm: Adults $12, Kids $5, 2 and under free
We visited Jacksonville during the holidays so we were able to partake in all the Christmas magic.
Deck the Chairs (DTC) is an annual lighted sculptural exhibit using the iconic red lifeguard chairs of The American Red Cross.
This is free to the public and is a really fun thing to take the family to!
The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens is located in the historic Riverside section of Jacksonville and is home to more than 5,000 works of art, spanning from 2100 B.C. through the 21st century and historic riverfront gardens.
What surprised me about this museum is that there was so much for children to do. Not only do they have a section of the museum with interactive art pieces and children’s activities, but we also found crafts as we walked through other exhibits as well. The girls loved visiting the gardens, it was so pretty right on the St. Johns River.
There is so much to do here I would definitely suggest blocking a large part of your day to explore all there is. You can then grab a bite at five points afterward.
I had heard of Sweet Pete’s Candy Shop from a few friends, but no one really prepared me for how spectacular it really was. I felt like Charlie walking into Willy Wonka’s real-life factory. The one word I use to describe it is MAGICAL! We were there during the holidays too which made it even more special. There is a candy shop and a restaurant, toy store, and classrooms. It is 3 stories of pure joy and I felt like a literal kid in a candy store.
We had the opportunity to learn how to make candy canes with Mr. Pete himself. The girls had so much fun and learned so much. We walked out with 3 full bags of candy canes and even more memories!
Watch our video for an inside look into this really beautiful place.
For over 30 years, the Jacksonville Light Boat Parade has been a holiday tradition. Each boat has its own unique decorations and lights that are spectacular to watch and that can only be seen in Jacksonville. Find a spot along the north and south riverbanks in downtown Jacksonville and watch the boats go by. This event happens once a year so be sure to check the calendar if you are visiting in December.
What to eat in Jacksonville
Jacksonville has so many amazing cuisine options and so many places that are kid-friendly. Here are a few we visited on our weekend there.
If you are looking for good food and a chill family spot, this is the place for you. My family LOVED ABBQ. I am not sure if it was the giant outdoor area with games or the drool-worthy BBQ that had everyone begging for more. This place is a gem in Atlantic Beach. Make sure you get the sausage, it was a fav for all of us. The kids had the turkey and I guarantee that even the pickiest of eaters will love it. ABBQ was a highlight of our trip. Here are some more of our favs that you should definitely try:
- Frito Pie
- Pimento Cheese
- Mac & Cheese
- Fountain of youth
- rub is a battlefield
On our last morning in town, we decided to drive over from Jacksonville Beach to Neptune beach, about a 10 min drive north. It was worth it because Neptune Beach is the cutest little beach town. There are restaurants and shops and we fell in love with its charm. I highly suggest grabbing breakfast at Southern Grounds. I had the avocado toast and it was pretty incredible. We sat there, on this cool Florida morning, enjoying our coffee and delicious breakfast.
Anywhere in Five Points
I loved Five points when I lived in Jax and I love it even more today. There are shops and restaurants and a lot of family-friendly options like Safe Harbour, Hawkers, Corner Taco, Taqueria Cinco, Hovan & Hoptinger, just to name a few.
Weather in Jacksonville Florida
In December, when we visited, the weather couldn’t have been more perfect. It was cool but not too cold. As a Floridian, it was a pleasant treat. If you are planning to spend more time at the beach than I would suggest visiting in Spring and Summer. Just keep in mind it does get quite hot so make sure to pack accordingly.
Now if you plan on visiting in December as we did, packing might be a challenge. Florida can have colder days but it can also have some really hot days (hello Christmas in flip flops). My advice would be to pack your typical beach gear and some sweaters/jackets for those cool nights. Since even on colder days, the Florida sun is very hot and you could probably get by with shorts.
Our Jacksonville Florida Vlog
Want even more details of our trip? Watch our vlog and get an inside look into all the fun!
I hope this travel guide was helpful for you and can save you some time when planning your next trip to Jacksonville, Florida.
Want to read more of our travel guides? Be sure to visit our Travel Page.
Thank you to Visit Jacksonville for hosting us on this trip!
Have you been to Jacksonville Florida? Let us know your favorite part in the comments below.