When the Jacksonville Zoo first opened in 1914, it had only one attraction––a red fawn. Today, nearly a century later, it’s home to more than 2,000 rare and exotic animals and 1,000 plant species, and welcomes an ever-changing lineup of visiting exhibits. Guests stroll along the boardwalk in a large, open environment called the Plains of East Africa, where cheetah, antelope, and warthogs roam in environs that simulate their native habitat. The African loop also includes Elephant Plaza, where elephants stir up tidal waves playing marco polo in a 275,000-gallon pool. Visitors can also pet and feed stingrays, stand eye-to-eye with a giraffe, and head to the award-winning Range of the Jaguar exhibit to roam a replica of an abandoned Mayan temple. During summer months, kids get wet at the Play Park and Splash Ground, where they can climb into a treehouse or peer through an underwater window to see penguins swimming overhead.
After guests explore the wildlife, rest and relaxation await within botanical gardens such as the Asian Bamboo garden, where patrons cross a traditional moon gate to see a tranquil waterfall, komodo dragons, and an interactive bamboo mist forest. The zoo also features a carousel, train rides, and several restaurants where humans can tap into their own wild instincts by hunting their natural prey—the sandwich.
The Amelia Island Museum of History is the fortuitous result of circumstance. In 1975, a committee from the Duncan Lamont Clinch Historical Society gathered to found a history museum for Fernandina Beach and Amelia Island. Meanwhile, local collector William Decker was studiously acquiring historical documents and artifacts from the area—a lot whose pieces numbered in the thousands. When Decker died, the collection passed on to his son, a noted altruist, and just like that the Amelia Island Museum had its bones.
Today, the museum's exhibits examine local culture of the Timucua Native American tribe, Spanish and French explorers, pirates, and Victorian-era residents. Curators have assembled the Women of the Port photography display to highlight women working in the local maritime industry.
Museum guides are not restricted to the grounds, and often helm tours of the island's haunted locales, historic Centre Street, and Fernandina Beach's north end—with a focus on history from the mid-18th to 19th centuries.
In addition to a 10-acre hiking trail and one-arce swimming lake, Dog Wood Park offers a 25-acre enclosed field that lets pooches free to shirk their leashes and gambol with other dogs. Here, a sand pit invites unchecked digging, trees offer ample shade, and two swimming ponds help canines cool off. Though the atmosphere is playful, the park does have a few rules to maintain a safe space for dogs, owners, and mailmen. Male dogs must be neutered, for instance, and all owners must show proof of their pooch’s rabies vaccination. To ensure clean coats and picturesque scenery, bag stations, trash cans, and bathing stations abound.
A not-for-profit initiative of the World Golf Foundation, The World Golf Hall of Fame pays homage to golf's most prolific players with a vast collection of historic artifacts and interactive exhibits. Audio tours narrate the intricacies of more than 175 points of interest, including a life-size replica of the Swilcan Bridge that highlights an exhibit honoring the sport's origins as an ancient Scottish frisbee game. A trip through golf's evolving history culminates in a Trophy Room at the pinnacle of a 110-foot tower, which provides rare glimpses at championship crowns and cups from tournaments such as the Ryder Cup. Outdoors, an 18-hole, natural-grass putting green invites visitors to test their swing in the shadow of golf's finest, complete with a challenge hole that mimics the famous 17th hole at the Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass and awards shots that land on the green with a special limited edition Induction Ceremony print. In its ongoing quest to treat guests to an immersive, larger-than-life experience, The World Golf Hall of Fame is also home to a six-story-tall IMAX screen that inundates the senses with digital surround sound and 3-D displays of full-length and documentary-style films.
The spectrum of silliness is contained within three Adventure Landing attractions: race on go-karts in front of NASCAR-scout audiences, make a mark on frenemies in laser tag, or saunter and swing on the mini-golf course. (Laser tag is not available at the St. Augustine location.) Attempt each feat before going back for one last round of your two favorites, or use them all on a five-act go-kart play. The freedom of choice applies to how you use your five attractions; however, you must expunge the fun out of this factory's frenetic free-for-all in a single visit, making it a convenient way to happily exhaust over-energized tweens and tots.
The Oldest Wooden School House transports museum-goers to the early 18th century and allows them to meander through one of the oldest schoolhouses in the United States. Built more than 200 years ago out of red cedar, wooden pegs, handmade nails, and painstakingly carved Legos, the structure acted as a homestead before becoming one of the first co-ed schools in 1788. Animatronic children and schoolmaster describe a typical classroom day, and guest students examine copies of textbooks, artifacts, and cooking utensils used in the schoolhouse. After the tour, visitors stroll through the lush gardens that wind past the kitchen, privy, and well, and blossom with tropical plants and a 250-year-old pecan tree. Groupon holders can then head to the gift shop to receive 30% off any one item.
A piece of Spain separated from Europe and landed in Florida. Nestled in Saint Augustine’s historic district and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the majestic Villa Zorayda contains architectural features that mirror those found in the Alhambra palace in Granada, Spain. Audio tours lead visitors through this restored Spanish villa’s halls and airy inner courtyard, pointing out hundreds of antiquities such as Arabic arches, glazed ceramics, bronze statues, and ancient charcoal burners. When not welcoming tours, the historic building and grounds also host weddings and private parties.