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Jacksonville Essentials with Kids

by Susan Finch

Sep 20, 2018

© Peter Lakomy | Dreamstime.com

Age Specific / Kids

Jacksonville isn’t just a growing city in northern Florida with booming business. It’s also the most-populous city in Florida and largest city by area in the contiguous United States. What that really means is Jacksonville teems with attractions, kid-friendly fun and surprising beaches that rival its southern sister cities. But, if you’re not sure where to start, here are five Jacksonville essentials with kids.


Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary

Families who love all things wildlife head to the Catty Shack Ranch to see a safe, loving, forever home for endangered big cats. The wildlife sanctuary rescues exotic animals from “serious situations” and gives them a place to call home. In addition to housing majestic lions, tigers and other big cats on display, the Catty Shack Ranch also boasts a night feeding. Guests gather to watch more than 600 pounds of meat distributed throughout the sanctuary.


Florida catty shack wildlife sanctuary volunteer with visitors

Florida catty shack wildlife sanctuary volunteer with visitors © Igokapil | Dreamstime.com

Little Talbot Island State Park

Florida’s white sandy beaches are often overcrowded with tourists, but Little Talbot Island State Park is one of the few remaining undeveloped barrier islands in Northeast Florida. Take the kids to see what old-world Florida really looked like, from maritime forest to desert-like dunes and undisturbed salt marshes. You can also pack up the fishing gear to catch bluefish, redfish and sheepshead in surrounding surf and tidal streams. For something more adventurous, surf along the coastline or head out for an afternoon of kayaking before combing the beach for dazzling shells.


Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens

As the only walking safari in Northeast Florida, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens features jaguar, giraffe, friendly goats you can pet and brush, and a Savanna Blooms garden. Come during a seasonal event during Halloween or the popular Brew at the Zoo. And when you and your kids need to cool off, take a spin on the carousel and grab a slushie from the snack bar before making your way to the gift shop.


Atlantic Beach

For the quintessential visit to one of Florida’s oversized, white sandy beaches, Atlantic Beach delivers. Plan to spend the day splashing in the waves, exploring the nearby boardwalk and eating at one of the waterside hotel restaurants. To get a break from the sand, take a walk down to the quarter-of-a-mile-long fishing pier and get close-up views of the Atlantic Ocean. Keep an eye out for ocean anglers who come out to catch deep-water fish.


Riverside Arts Market

There are plenty of nature-inspired and animal-loving activities in Jacksonville, but the arts scene also draws visitors to its popular local market. The Riverside Arts Market runs every Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., rain or shine. Explore local produce picked fresh by area farmers, sample fresh-baked treats and pick up some one-of-a-kind art. Live music, kids entertainment and crafts are on hand to delight kids while mom and dad browse.


One of the best parts about Jacksonville is its beauty, range of attractions and affordability. There are plenty of low-cost and free things to do, from the beach to the arts market, that keep kids entertained without spending a bundle.


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