Top Beach Destinations

Jacksonville boasts over 20 miles of Atlantic coastline, providing endless options for beachgoers. Here are some of the top beaches to check out on your first visit:

Jacksonville Beach

The most popular beach for visitors, Jacksonville Beach offers a lively oceanfront scene with shops, restaurants, hotels, and frequent community events. Spend the day splashing in the waves, build sandcastles, go fishing from the pier, or just relax and work on your tan. As the sun goes down, enjoy beach bars with live music and festive nightlife.

Atlantic Beach

Just north of Jacksonville Beach, Atlantic Beach has a more relaxed, retro vibe. Old-school motels and surf shops line the main drag, giving it a throwback beach town atmosphere. The wide, flat hard-packed sand makes it a great beach for bike riding. Pick up a bite at one of the casual eateries like Pete’s Bar or Ragtime Tavern.

Neptune Beach

The small, laidback town of Neptune Beach sits between Atlantic Beach and Jacksonville Beach. It’s known for its surf culture, hosting surf contests and festivals throughout the year. When you’re ready for a break from the waves, refuel at the many local restaurants, like the popular Beach Hut Cafe right on the oceanfront.

Big Talbot Island State Park

For a more remote beach experience away from the crowds, head to Big Talbot Island State Park just north of Jacksonville. Enjoy nature trails, fishing, kayaking, and secluded beach spots. One of the park’s most unique features is Boneyard Beach, famous for its otherworldly driftwood-covered shoreline. It’s not a swimming beach, but offers incredible scenery.

Top Family Attractions

In addition to beaches, Jacksonville offers many family-friendly attractions worth checking out on your first visit:

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

Spend a day getting up close with exotic animals from around the world at this renowned zoo. See big cats in the Range of the Jaguar exhibit and get a view of giraffes and zebras on the African Plains. With landscaped gardens, animal encounters, and a splash park, it’s a full day of fun for families.

Museum of Science and History

From dinosaur fossils to hands-on science experiments, this massive museum offers engaging exhibits for kids and adults alike. Be sure to catch one of the live science shows and see the giant animatronic dinosaurs. The onsite aquarium lets you get face-to-face with sharks and stingrays.

Adventure Landing

With locations in Jacksonville and Orange Park, this family fun center has it all: go-karts, mini golf, laser tag, arcade games, rides, and more. Refuel at the onsite restaurant before heading back for more activities. It’s the perfect place for families looking for nonstop entertainment

Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary

For animal lovers, this wildlife sanctuary lets you see rescued big cats like tigers, leopards, cougars, and more up close from a safe distance. Take a guided tour to learn about the stories of these magnificent rescued creatures and efforts to protect endangered species.

Top Arts and Culture Spots

Beyond beaches and family fun, Jacksonville also offers a thriving arts and culture scene. Some top spots to check out include:

Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens

This fine art museum houses an impressive collection of European and American paintings, plus ancient Greek, Roman, and Medeival artifacts. The sprawling English and Italian gardens on the grounds are beautifully maintained and perfect for a relaxing stroll.

Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts

Downtown’s main performance venue hosts concerts, touring Broadway shows, ballet, and more. Check out their calendar of events to see what’s on during your visit, from comedy shows to musicals like Wicked.

Riverside Arts Market

Every Saturday under the Fuller Warren Bridge, this lively open-air market showcases works by local artists and craft vendors alongside food trucks, produce stands, and live music. It’s a great spot to soak up Jacksonville’s creative spirit.

5 Points and Murray Hill Theaters

For indie and foreign films, check out these historic neighborhood movie houses. The 5 Points Theatre’s neon-lit marquee adds retro charm, while the Murray Hill Theatre has been operating since 1948.

Popular Annual Events

Throughout the year, Jacksonville hosts fun annual events like concerts, food festivals, and cultural celebrations. Here are some top events for first-timers to check out:

Jacksonville Jazz Festival

Every Memorial Day weekend, top names in jazz perform live along the downtown riverfront for this free festival. Pack a picnic and enjoy the tunes.

Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival

In early May, this seafood festival in Fernandina Beach serves up tons of shrimp, live music, and family fun. Get your fill of shrimp dishes and watch the spirited shrimp boat races.

Jacksonville Light Boat Parade

A longtime holiday tradition, this December event sees dozens of brightly lit and decorated boats sail along the St. Johns River. Free viewing areas line the downtown riverfront area.

World of Nations Celebration

Each February, Metropolitan Park transforms into a multicultural festival with food, music, dance, arts, and more from countries all around the world. It’s a great way to experience Jacksonville’s diversity.

Neighborhoods and Districts to Explore

In addition to major attractions, take time to wander Jacksonville’s eclectic neighborhoods and districts:

Riverside Historic District

This charming neighborhood features historic homes, unique boutiques, restaurants, and cultural attractions like the Cummer Museum and Saturday Arts Market under the bridge.

San Marco

Centered around San Marco Square, this upscale neighborhood offers boutique shopping and dining. Don’t miss the South’s largest collection of Tiffany stained glass at the San Marco church.

Five Points

Home to an iconic theater and unique shops and eateries, this hip area offers a lively urban vibe and fun nightlife scene.

Beaches Town Center

This outdoor shopping center near the beaches offers dining, entertainment, and stores like Anthropologie, Apple, and Sur La Table. Thursday night concerts draw crowds in summer.

Getting Around Jacksonville

With its sprawling layout, getting around Jacksonville without a car can be challenging. Here are some transportation options to consider for your visit:

JTA Public Transportation

Jacksonville’s public transit system includes buses, express shuttles, and the automated Skyway monorail. Fares are affordable, but be sure to check routes and schedules ahead of time.

Taxis and Rideshares

Taxis can be found around major attractions, hotels, and transportation centers. Ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft also operate throughout the city. These work well for quick trips but can get pricey.

Charter Buses

For convenience and affordability when traveling in a large group, rent a charter bus. Party Buses Jacksonville can transport any size group around the city and to destinations like beaches, museums, parks and more.

Ready for a Jacksonville Getaway?

With this insider’s guide, you can hit the highlights of Jacksonville like the beaches, zoos, museums, neighborhoods, outdoor activities and more during your first visit. Party Buses Jacksonville is ready to handle all your group transportation needs to make getting around this sprawling city simple and affordable. Contact us today at 904-203-1487 to reserve your charter bus and start planning your Jacksonville vacation!