48 Hours in Jacksonville: The Ideal Family Itinerary

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Visit Jacksonville. All opinions are 100% mine.

Jacksonville hasn’t always been thought of as a destination unto itself, but as the location of an airport you might use on your way to another destination like Amelia Island or St. Augustine. Well, I’m here to tell you that’s simply not the case anymore. Jacksonville is a city on the rise. It’s becoming a popular business hub, with many large financial services companies like Deutsche Bank now calling the city home. (In fact, when I told my friend at a large investment bank that I’d soon be vacationing in Jacksonville, she told me that many of her New York colleagues have been receiving offers to relocate there!) Luckily for visitors and residents alike, this new influx of professional talent brings fabulous new restaurants and attractions. Between the newcomers and the classic establishments, there’s no shortage of things to do with kids in Jacksonville, FL. From the ease of traveling in and out of the airport, to finding a spot on the beaches, to getting a same-day reservation at an award-winning restaurant; everything just feels easier in Jacksonville. Many thanks to Visit Jacksonville for hosting us on this trip. Jax: It’s Easier Here.

Here’s our travel vlog from the trip: During my family’s recent long weekend trip to Jacksonville, we were really impressed with the spirit of partnership and community we saw throughout the city. From small businesses partnering to cross-promote their brands, to stores leveraging their customer base to help fundraise for the city’s less fortunate, the spirit of camaraderie was evident. While it’s actually the largest city in the state, Jacksonville has a small town feel; everyone seems to know each other by name! Overall, the city provides a great mix of urban energy, laid-back beach vibes, and a welcoming sense of southern hospitality. There’s no shortage of Jacksonville FL attractions that families will love. The city is easy to visit both by car and by plane. Jacksonville sits at the intersection of I-95 and I-10, and their airport has been voted Best in Customer Service two years in a row by Airports Council International! The city is also remarkably affordable. Jacksonville was ranked by Lonely Planet as one of the Top 10 Value Places in the World for 2018 and one of the 15 Best Budget Travel Vacations by the Beach by TripAdvisor. Wondering what to do in Jacksonville, FL? Here’s how I’d suggest setting up your family’s 48-hour itinerary:

Day 1: Half Day

Grab lunch at Candy Apple Café

400 N. Hogan Street, Jacksonville, FL 32202 Website A visit to this restaurant is one of the quintessential things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL. This nostalgic and whimsical café is great for families because you’ll get an upscale meal while inside a giant candy shop (Sweet Pete’s, a staple Jacksonville attraction in its own right)!

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
The whimsical decor at Candy Apple Cafe in Jacksonville FL Photo: Wini Lao

It’s got fun artwork, bright colors, and big, beautiful windows, so the ambiance is fabulous. They serve up an imaginative menu of French-inspired Southern fare.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
The House Chips at Candy Apple Cafe come with an addictive smoked bacon dip! Photo: Wini Lao

Order the House Chips as an appetizer. These hand-cut potato chips are served with a smoked bacon dip that is so addictive!

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Delicious comfort food at Candy Apple Cafe in Jacksonville. Photo: Wini Lao

From there, move onto the Short Rib Meatloaf, the Country Fried Chicken, and Cornmeal Dusted Salmon (served with brown butter whipped potatoes- yum!).

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
The kids menu at Candy Apple Cafe serves classic dishes children love. Photo: Wini Lao

The café also serves creative cocktails, if you’re up for some day drinking. Once you’ve got some food in your system, explore the rest of Sweet Pete’s.

Take a candy making class at Sweet Pete’s

400 N. Hogan Street, Jacksonville, FL 32202 Website Even if you don’t have lunch at the restaurant, browsing Sweet Pete’s should top your list of things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Enjoying our visit at Sweet Pete’s in Jacksonville, Florida Photo: Wini Lao

If you aren’t familiar with it, Sweet Pete’s is a gorgeous candy emporium with floor after floor and room after room of different specialties (think chocolates, caramels, vintage candies, and even an ice cream parlor).

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Exploring the candy paradise that is Sweet Pete’s in Jacksonville. Photo: Wini Lao

During our visit, we took a lollipop making class, where the instructor made the candy from scratch, pulling it the old-fashioned way on a big metal hook, and then twisting together two colors of candy, which we then took to twist onto lollipop sticks.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
A lollipop-making class at Sweet Pete’s. Photo: Wini Lao

After appearing on the CNBC hit reality series The Profit (which Serge and I are huge fans of), Sweet Pete’s opened this new location in the historic Seminole Club building in an effort to help revitalize the downtown area.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Meeting Sweet Pete’s founder Pete Behringer and marketing director Brenden Stanley. Photo: Wini Lao

We were thrilled the meet Pete in person during our visit. He even gave us a personal tour of the entire candy factory! I especially loved hearing that Sweet Pete’s employs formerly homeless individuals as part of a partnership with a local non-profit.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Trying to decide which flavor of ice cream to choose. Photo: Wini Lao

Sweet Pete’s has also partnered with Farrell’s ice cream parlor, another business featured on The Profit, so that both businesses thrive and guests have the most fun, too!

Take a walk on Southbank Riverwalk

After the kids are full of sugar, you’ll want to take them somewhere they can run around.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
A walk on Southbank Riverwalk. Photo: Wini Lao

One of many things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL is to stroll the Southbank Riverwalk, a beautiful spot to take in the skyline and river at sunset. Our hotel was conveniently located steps from the Riverwalk.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Photo: Wini Lao

The path is just over a mile and is home to shops, restaurants, a marina, and the Museum of Science and History (known as MOSH, a venue you can read more about at the end of this article).

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Photo: Wini Lao

Often you’ll hear live music near Friendship Fountain, which is pretty cool in and of itself. The fountain is huge and is illuminated at night.

Catch a Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp baseball game

Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville 301 A Philip Randolph Blvd, Jacksonville, FL 32202 Website This minor league team plays at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, where there’s tons of affordable family fun, even for people who aren’t the biggest baseball fans!

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Taking in a Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp baseball game. Photo: Wini Lao

We fall into this category, but we left the experience feeling like it was one of the most enjoyable things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Photo: Wini Lao

Locals remember the team as the Jacksonville Suns, but a new owner made changes meant to re-energize the business, and has actually been wildly successful.

jacksonville
Photo: Wini Lao

The mascot is now a fighting jumbo shrimp, which is pretty funny, but it certainly fits with the city’s ties to seafood.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Photo: Wini Lao

Tickets to the games are now just $5, and the food is inexpensive as well. A lot of the beers on tap are locally brewed (like Intuition and Aardwolf), and kids can now hang out in a play zone.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Photo: Wini Lao

This is no small operation, however, and is actually set up like Major League park. There’s a wide variety of concession food, a team store, a huge video board, and really fun activities between each inning. Our girls especially like the silly, inflatable characters that danced in between innings.

Day 2: Full Day

Have breakfast at Maple Street Biscuit Company

2004 San Marco Blvd, Jacksonville, FL 32207 Website Don’t plan on avoiding carbs while visiting this trendy Jacksonville attraction because everything is made out of biscuits! It’s more than just another breakfast joint, though.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
The San Marco location of the Maple Street Biscuit Company. Photo: Wini Lao

Instead of asking for your name when you place your order, for example, the friendly staff will ask something like, “What scent would you love turned into a candle?” or “What was your favorite cartoon as a kid?”

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Photo: Wini Lao

There are a few locations around Jacksonville, but we went to the one on San Marco.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
The Five & Dime at Maple Street Biscuit Company in Jacksonville.  Photo: Wini Lao

We ordered the Five & Dime (fried chicken served on a biscuit with a fried egg, smoked bacon, cheddar cheese and sausage gravy), the Sticky Maple (a fried chicken sandwich covered with real maple syrup) and The Farmer (topped with homemade apple butter).

Take surfing lessons from Jax Surf and Paddle

222 1st St. Neptune Beach, FL. 32233 Website This was one of my favorite things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Our instructor Elle from Jax Surf & Paddle was awesome. Photo: Wini Lao

Jax Surf and Paddle will work with anyone, at any experience level, but the instructors are especially passionate about working with kids. They run kids classes and a surfing summer camp, where kids get to hang at the beach all summer long!

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Photo: Wini Lao

Our instructor, Elle, was very patient and great at explaining the basic mechanics of surfing.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Photo: Wini Lao

The conditions at Atlantic Beach really are perfect for a beginner surfer, too. The waves are substantial enough to surf, but the conditions are mild enough that you don’t have to deal with any choppiness.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Photo: Wini Lao

Also, the water is pretty shallow, but surfers don’t have to worry about hitting any reefs.

Afterward, soak up rays on Neptune Beach

When planning things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL, make sure you plan a trip to Neptune Beach. It’s an entire city unto itself, situated between Atlantic Beach and Jacksonville Beach.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Sean and Ella having a blast at Neptune Beach. Photo: Wini Lao

The actual beach is great because the water is so calm and safe to play in.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Photo: Wini Lao

The hard-packed sand is great for cycling, too.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Sean practicing her karate kicks on the beach in Jacksonville. Photo: Wini Lao

It’s very pedestrian friendly, with boutiques, fitness centers, restaurants, and two oceanfront hotels nearby.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Photo: Wini Lao

While Neptune Beach is super laid-back, it’s also got plenty to do, like paddle-boarding, fishing, kayaking, and there’s even award-winning golfing, if you’re into that.

Have lunch at North Beach Fish Camp

100 1st Street Neptune Beach, FL 32266 Website While hanging at the beach, you’re bound to want some seafood, and this restaurant’s got some of the best, just steps from the shore.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Great seafood at North Beach Fish Camp. Photo: Wini Lao

Order the fried gator tail because it’s one of those things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL they’ll love to tell their friends about! And it’s really good: It’s light, crispy, and not at all greasy.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
The delicious fried gator tail at North Beach Fish Camp in Jacksonville. Photo: Wini Lao

From there, try the seared yellow fin with toasted sesame salad, the shrimp roll, and the fish tacos.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Photo: Wini Lao

North Beach Fish Camp has an industrial, beach house-chic aesthetic.  The dark hardwood flooring and exposed ceiling beams are complemented by light-colored painted wooden booths.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Ella loved her lunch at North Beach Fish Camp in Jacksonville FL. Photo: Wini Lao

It’s got large windows and tons of natural light. Head upstairs for a more lounge-like atmosphere.

Grab an afternoon snack at The Mini Bar

1300 Beach Blvd. Jacksonville Beach Fl. 32250 Website This newly opened (and super cute) donut shop is as delicious as it is unique. It makes the list of memorable things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL for sure!

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
The delicious mini donuts at The Mini Bar in Jacksonville, Florida. Photo: Wini Lao

The donuts are about a third of the size of traditional donuts, so you can sample more than one flavor, and with options like Samoa, Fruity Pebbles, and Pop Tart, you won’t want to pick just one! They’re always made fresh and served hot, too.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Photo: Wini Lao

The Mini Bar is another one of many Jacksonville establishments that partners with other local businesses to help each other thrive.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Photo: Wini Lao

For example, they use Sweet Pete’s caramel recipe on their caramel donuts; all the coffee they serve is from Bold Bean Coffee Roasters, a Jacksonville-based company; and they sell beer from local breweries Southern Swells Brewing Co. and Intuition Ale Works.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Sean and Ella loved their donuts at The Mini Bar! Photo: Wini Lao

The Mini Bar has already partnered with Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry (BEAM) to help feed low-income families in the community, too, so it’s proven to be a good neighbor to the community.

Have dinner at The Bearded Pig

1224 Kings Avenue, Jacksonville, FL 32207 Website Be sure to add this restaurant to your list of things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Outdoor seating at The Bearded Pig in Jacksonville, FL. Photo: Wini Lao

This family-friendly barbecue joint has a great outdoor area for kids, which includes a chalkboard painted on the fence, so kids can draw on it, run around, and play.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Photo: Wini Lao

Expect Austin-style barbecue fare and friendly service.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Photo: Wini Lao

The side dishes were our favorite things on the menu, and we especially liked the baked beans.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Photo: Wini Lao

Bonus: the side dishes are all exclusively vegetarian, which is rare when it comes to Southern food.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Photo: Wini Lao

If you’re a family of four, order The San Marco combo, which includes four meats and two sides for $22.

Grab a beer at Intuition Ale Works

929 E Bay St, Jacksonville, FL 32202 Website You might not normally add “going to a bar” to a list of things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL, but I promise you, breweries there are very family-friendly!

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
The family-friendly Jacksonville brewery Intuition Ale Works. Photo: Wini Lao

Not only will you find plenty of other families hanging out at Intuition Ale Works, but you’ll often find local events happening in the huge space next door to the tap room.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Photo: Wini Lao

During our visit, there were tons of local artisans selling their wares. The girls had fun looking through the unique items for sale, which ranged from scented candles packed in beer cans to massive, Viking-style, iron hammers!

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Local artisans selling their wares at Intuition Ale Works. Photo: Wini Lao

At the bar, Serge and I ordered a flight so we could sample different beers. I especially liked that they write the names of the beers on a chalkboard on the flight so you can easily distinguish which is which.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Photo: Wini Lao

If you’re a big fan of breweries, make time to explore the Jacksonville Ale Trail. Be on the lookout for Aardwolf and Engine 15 Downtown specifically, since they’re especially family-friendly.

Day 3: Half Day

Have breakfast at the famous Metro Diner

3302 Hendricks Avenue Jacksonville, FL 32207 Website We loved this place, but so does everyone else, so expect to wait, even if you get there at 9:30 a.m. on a Sunday!

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
The original location of Metro Diner, one of Jacksonville’s most popular breakfast joints. Photo: Wini Lao

There are 50 locations across 11 states, primarily because Metro Diner was featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, but it was a local favorite long before then.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Photo: Wini Lao

The comfort food served in a classic diner-style atmosphere is exactly what you would expect, but with one twist: the menu items are served in massive portions. The good news is that almost everything can be ordered in half-sizes.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
The famous fried chicken and waffles at Metro Diner in Jacksonville FL. Photo: Wini Lao

Try the chicken and waffles (served with a signature sweet and spicy sauce that’s mixed right there at your table); the biscuits and sausage gravy; or the Yo Hala on the Square (made up of two thick slices of challah French toast stuffed with bananas, brown sugar, cream cheese, and hazelnut syrup, topped with berry compote and powdered sugar).

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
The delicious Yo Hala on the Square at Metro Diner in Jacksonville FL. Photo: Wini Lao

The meals are excellent and the service is, too, making Metro Diner one of the best foodie things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL!

Spend the morning at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

370 Zoo Parkway Jacksonville, FL 32218 Website The zoo director, Tony Veccio, gave us a personal tour of the zoo, making it a really special experience for us. We were able to experience two animal encounters, and to go behind the scenes and meet the animal keepers.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Giraffe encounter at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. Photo: Wini Lao

First, we fed and learned about the giraffes. Did you know that giraffes are one of the only animals that have a prehensile tongue, meaning that it can curl up and twist around like a monkey’s tail? The tongue actually wraps around each individual leaf and pulls it off the branch, which was really cool to see up-close.

things to do in jacksonville
Sean and Ella loved watching how the animal keeper trained the elephant. Photo: Wini Lao

Then, we got a little closer than usual to one of the elephants. The keeper demonstrated how he trains the elephant to obey his directions . This is not for entertainment, but for medical procedures and health checks, without having to sedate or restrain the animal.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Family-friendly fun at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. Photo: Wini Lao

Even if you don’t get these personalized experiences, a visit to this zoo is absolutely one of the best things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL. Pack a bathing suit and towel so kids can cool off at the Play Park and Splash Ground after checking out the animals.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Ride tigers and gorillas at the Wildlife Carousel. Photo: Wini Lao

The Wildlife Carousel is also a lot of fun because kids get to “ride” gorillas and tigers instead of typical carousel horses. There’s also a Discovery Building full of hands-on activities, a 4-D theater, the Butterfly Hollow, and a train that spans the entire park. The zoo even takes nursing mothers into consideration with special comfort stations just for this purpose.

Have lunch at Palm Plaza Café inside the zoo

There are five different restaurants at the zoo, but you’ll definitely want to dine here. Palm Plaza Café is part of the Range of the Jaguar exhibit, and the window at the back overlooks the jaguar exhibit. This means you can dine right next to a jaguar!

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Lunch at Palm Plaza Café at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. Photo: Wini Lao

(You have to wonder, are you getting dinner and a show or is he? Who is really watching whom?!) Our girls were totally thrilled by this experience.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
The girls looking at the jaguar right outside the restaurant’s window. Photo: Wini Lao

As for the food, expect salads, sandwiches, burritos, tacos, and nachos. Since you’ll work up an appetite at the zoo anyway, add this to your list of things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL.

Where to Stay

1201 Riverplace Blvd, Jacksonville, FL 32207 Website While you’re checking out all the great things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL, you’ll need a place to lay your head each night. I’d recommend DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Jacksonville Riverfront for that.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Great view from our balcony at the Doubletree in Jacksonville. Photo: Wini Lao

Conveniently located at the foot of the Main Street Bridge, it’s got Instagram-worthy views of the waterfront and a nice outdoor pool to lounge at.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
Junior suite at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Jacksonville Riverfront. Photo: Wini Lao

We stayed in a junior suite with a king bed for us, and pull-out couch for the girls. It was extremely spacious, making it a great option for vacationing families.

things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL
The outdoor pool at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Jacksonville Riverfront. Photo: Wini Lao

We especially loved the view from the balcony, and the great service we received from the friendly and attentive staff.

Other Recommendations

There were even more fabulous things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL, but our time was limited. We weren’t able to squeeze these Jacksonville attractions in, but if you have the time, definitely check them out.

Museum of Science and History (MOSH)

Spend the day exploring MOSH, which has an area for children 5 and under that features a tree house and other hands-on, science-themed activities.

Burrito Gallery in Brooklyn

Head to this funky eatery for fresh, handmade, all natural tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and salads. Upstairs you’ll find skyline views, live entertainment, and local art, as well as a full liquor and wine bar.

Adventure Landing Shipwreck Waterpark

This park near the beach has something for everyone, from a lazy river, to rollercoasters, to mini golf. While there’s plenty of waterpark fun to be had, there’s also laser tag, go-carts, batting cages, and an arcade.

Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens

Here you’ll find world-class art and stunning historic gardens (with the showpiece being a 200-year-old oak). Be sure to visit the Gallery Under Five, which allows little ones to interact with famous works of art in a really fun way.

Florida Theater

As one of the most historic in the area, the Florida Theater hosts over 200 cultural and entertainment events yearly, and it’s surrounded by tons of spectacular dining options.

Sunset cruise with St. Johns River Taxi

This boat taxi provides half hour sunset tours around the downtown area to the sounds of live, local music.

Engine 15 Brewing Company Tap Room & Biergarten

On the weekends, check out this downtown taproom for craft brews (and order meals from a variety of food trucks onsite). The kids will love the life-sized, pirate ship playground in the beer garden, the grassy area for picnics, and family board games.

There’s no shortage of things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL

From amazing dining establishments that have even caught the national media’s attention, to minor league baseball fun that rivals the major leagues, to thoughtful animal conservation there are so many great Jacksonville attractions. The amount of revitalization and community partnership happening downtown is really impressive. The big city with a small town feel has turned itself into a great destination for vacationing families. Whether you want live music, outdoor excursions, or just downtime at the beach, you’ll be surprised by the variety of fun things to do in Jacksonville, FL. Jacksonville is the getaway that leaves you feeling refreshed yet accomplished. There’s plenty to do, but there’s never any rush to get it done. We received compensation, as well as complimentary travel, accommodations, meals and activities from Visit Jacksonville for the purposes of this article. All opinions are our own.

Receive Your Free Guide:
THE 10 BEST VACATIONS FOR KIDS
IN THE U.S.

Enter your email below to receive The 10 Best Vacations for Kids in the U.S. You'll also be subscribed to our weekly newsletter, filled with luxury travel inspiration for you and your family!



About Carmen Sognonvi

Carmen Sognonvi is a luxury family travel and lifestyle digital influencer at Top Flight Family. Her insights on travel have been featured in Wanderlust Travel Magazine, TravelPulse, HOTELS Magazine, Seatrade Cruise News and more. Carmen firmly believes that you can (and should) travel with your kids from a young age. She offers families practical solutions for travel, as well as tips on how to travel in luxury for less. She lives in New York City with her multiracial and multicultural family of four. Follow her on Instagram, FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Click here to read Carmen's articles

Looking for things to do with kids in Jacksonville FL? Check out our family travel guide, with the perfect 48-hour itinerary for kids and families.
Some posts on this site may contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, Top Flight Family may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. Read the site's full disclosure and privacy policy here.

Visit Sponsors Site

No Comments Yet

Comments are closed