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Jacksonville, Family Vacation Ideas – Rhinos, Dinos, and Amazing Art.JacksonvilleSegwayTours Northeast Florida offers families remarkable possibilities for fun without ticket lines.  The city is both family-friendly and bike friendly making it ideal for an affordable active family holiday.
Jacksonville has the largest urban park system in the country (who knew?) with more than 111,000 acres of parks within in the city and miles of biking paths and hiking trails, waterways and gardens, playgrounds and picnic areas plus many annual music and living history events. And to experience a sense of "real Jacksonville energy" complete with sunshine, water views, plus shopping and good eats Jacksonville Landing is spot on. We have highlighted our short list of our favorite vacation worthy spots to provide a starting point for vacation planning.

Ride into the sunset. According to EcoMotion Tours, the road to adventure is seldom paved, and they invite families to explore Fort George Island on one of their fun and educational tours. Fort George Island is mostly uninhabited, and retains its natural maritime forest and original structures from its days as a working island plantation. Tours are offered all year long, Wednesday through Saturday. Tours go “off-road” on sandy trails, allowing the beautiful ecosystem of the island to surround tours, increasing the chance of sighting the local wildlife and enhancing the experience of getting a real Florida experience. The path winds along the banks of the coastal wetlands of the Timucuan Preserve, with beautiful view of nearby islands, as well as the marshes, sand bars and tidal rivers of the preserve. Bonus points: Trips of varying lengths are available in the morning and afternoon, and trips can be customized to fit your family, allowing you to tailor your best family Segway experience. Need to know: Riders must be at least 13 years of age and under 260 lbs. (11241 Fort George Road, Jacksonville, FL 32226. (904) 251-9477 or

Take a walking safari. Jacksonville Zoological Gardens is family friendly and easy to share with children of all ages. Jacksonville Zoo Gorilla EncounterShowcasing the wonders of Africa and the world, the 73-acre zoo and botanical gardens provides habitat for rhinoceros, Cape buffalo, leopards, elephants, giraffe and zebra. In addition to a train within the park and gardens, they also have boat excursions along the adjacent waterways. From the baby animal nursery to the programs featuring up-close and hands-on encounters, it is and enchanting place for a day adventure. The zoo has a train that can take you all around the zoo as well as a unique carousel with wild jungle animals. Bonus points: It is possible to arrange a Behind-the-Scenes Tour. The personal walking tours are conducted by expert zookeepers and offer a closer look at the animals from a different angle. Visit their night dens; learn about their care and feeding, animal habits and more. Current tours feature animals in the African Plains, including elephants, rhinos, giraffes, zebras, warthogs, cheetah, jaguars and Cape buffalo.  Not to be missed. The zoo offers exceptional Full Moon and After Dark Programs to allow families to experience the zoo in a different light. Check websites for special times and events.  (Jacksonville Zoological Gardens. 8605 Zoo Parkway, Jacksonville, 32218.  (904) 757-4463 or
See dinosaurs in space. Museum of Science & History is the perfect destination for the little historian or scientist in your family. Featuring a museum full interactive exhibits plus a planetarium it is a day’s worth of fun and learning. In the Florida Naturalist area see staff attending to American alligators, gopher tortoises, various native snakes, and birds. Time travel through 12,000 years before Jacksonville became a city you see today. Learn about the ancient Timucua Indians; discover the hazards of the great fire; fly through a World War 2 Navy hangar and visit a '50s house. Bonus points: On the second Saturday of each month the Jacksonville Herpetological Society invites families to get up close and personal with exotic reptiles. Get more information at Not to be missed. For families with preteens or teens music is the answer and throughout the Alexander Brest Planetarium conducts Cosmic Concerts. Enjoy a laser light and music experience under the 60-foot dome. The energizing evenings combine a full-color laser projection system and hundreds of special effects with an 18,000 watt sound system creating a total visual and auditory music experience. Need to know. Check the website for daily show times for things like Animal Feeding or the Extreme Science Show. (Museum of Science & History 1025 Museum Circle Jacksonville, FL 32207. (904) 396-7062 or

Get Hands On with tykes. Housed in a brightly colored building designed to resemble a children’s castle, the Hands On Children’s Museum lives up to its name, with wonderful interactive hands-on exhibits specially designed for children up to the age of 10. The exhibits explore a number of real world scenarios. One great exhibit is the veterinarian’s office, where kids are encouraged to nurse a stuffed animal back to health with the help with the help of stethoscopes, microscopes and more.  Other fun exhibits include a sheriff’s office, a Winn Dixie grocery store, a mini-theater, a kid’s bank, a train depot and station, a fire engine station, an air traffic control tower, a dino dig and a post office. Not to be missed: One truly unique interactive exhibit is the Wheelchair Basketball Court, where kids can learn about wheelchairs and how they work, and introduce kids to what life might be like for kids in wheelchairs. Bonus points: The museum offers family membership which includes parents, children, grandparents and caregivers. (8580 Beach Blvd., Jacksonville, FL 32216. (904) 642-2688 or

Explore the wide world of art. Located on the fifth floor of the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Art Explorium is a place where children of all ages are encouraged to explore their creative side in a hands-on art studio. The studio houses several interactive art stations, which explore the different ways to create art. One station explores the use of recycled materials to create art out of household items. Free Art Sundays JacksonvilleOther stations explore the roles of texture, shape and body movement in the world of art. Additionally there is a children’s reading tent. The Explorium helps kids to look at everyday objects with a new and creative eye, and encourages them to create art out of the world that surrounds them. Discovery: In addition to the Explorium, the Museum of Contemporary Art runs several art camps for children during the summer months, and a series of free ArtFusion family workshops on most Sundays which encourage family to explore their creativity together. Bonus points: Every Sunday admission to the Museum of Contemporary Art is free for families. (Art Explorium Loft - Museum of Contemporary Art. 333 N Laura St, Jacksonville, FL 32202. (904) 366-6911 or

Content researched and posted by Nancy Nelson_Duac, Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files. Images provided by EcoMotion Tours,  Museum of Science & History, and Jacksonville Zoological Gardens, and Museum of Contemporary Art. Copyright updated 2017.

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