Jacksonville stretches across a whopping 840 square miles in northeastern Florida, making it the largest city by area in the contiguous United States. Naturally, there’s tons to do in this immense space, which encompasses white-sand beaches, a thriving downtown, and undeveloped nature preserves inhabited by local wildlife. If you’re looking to explore the greater area, Jax—as it’s known to locals—is a good jumping-off point for visits to St. Augustine (45 minutes south) and Savannah, GA (2 hours north).
The St. Johns River—one of the only rivers in North America that flows north—cuts right through the middle of Jax. Take to the slow-flowing waterway on a kayak or stand-up paddleboard to drift past some of the city’s top attractions.
- Jacksonville Landing: This riverfront entertainment complex has been attracting visitors for more than 20 years with international eateries, live music clubs, and more than 300 special events held annually.
- Museum of Science & History: Interactive exhibits at the MOSH include a planetarium, a larger-than-life model of the human body, and a nature center with Florida wildlife.
- Friendship Fountain features a dazzling light show each evening; it’s a great spot to watch summer fireworks displays, too.
- Historic neighborhoods: A few minutes from downtown, the highly walkable Five Points and San Marco areas boast historic homes and businesses, trendy restaurants, and one-of-a-kind boutiques.
Thanks to its location along the Atlantic Ocean, Jax has miles of white sand beaches and lush parkland. Winters are dry and mild, so you can enjoy the outdoors all year long.
- 22 miles of beaches are divided into three main areas—Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach, and Atlantic Beach—frequented by surfers, kayakers, and stand-up paddleboarders.
- Sprawling parkland: More than 80,000 acres of parkland lie within the city limits, including the oceanfront Little Talbot Island State Park and Fort Clinch State Park, where you can see Civil War reenactors.
- Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary: Lions, bobcats, and coatimundi are among the 40 residents at this non-profit sanctuary run completely by volunteers. Day and night tours are offered several times a week.
Not only is Jax home to numerous championship courses, but the PGA Tour National Headquarters is located in the oceanfront community of Ponte Vedra Beach. Two major PGA tournaments are held in the area each year.
- World Golf Hall of Fame: View hands-on exhibits and artifacts from the hall’s more than 140 members and practice your short game on an 18-hole natural grass putting course.
- 70 public and private courses are within a short drive of downtown. These include courses designed by Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Pete Dye, and other experts.
- The Players Championship: Each May, Ponte Vedra Beach hosts 50 of the world’s top-ranked players at the iconic TPC at Sawgrass Stadium Course—ranked the #1 course in Florida by GolfWeek.
Where to Stay
- Downtown: The Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront hotel is within walking distance of Jacksonville Landing and a short water-taxi ride from the MOSH and Friendship Fountain.
- Close to the beach: Set on the soft, white sands of Neptune Beach, Hampton Inn Jacksonville Beach/Oceanfront hotel features a 120-foot lagoon-style pool with four waterfalls, a whirlpool, and ocean views.
- For historic character: Housed in a turn-of-the-century home near the St. Johns River, the antique-filled Riverdale Inn offers an elegant afternoon tea service.
- For golf: Play on two 18-hole courses, including an oceanfront course, at the AAA Five Diamond Ponte Vedra Inn & Club.