Family Vacation Guides:
Where to Stay
What to Do
Where to Eat
Money $aving Tips
Boating, fishing, world championship golf, magnificent dining, and shopping are just a few of the many activities awaiting you in Jacksonville, Florida. Jacksonville is known to locals as the "River City". The St. Johns River winds itself between the many areas of Jacksonville. On the other corner of this city, you will find the Atlantic Ocean. Water is what entices many families to viisit the River City. With temperatures averaging from 68 degrees in February to 85 degrees in August, it's easy to see why outdoor activities are abundant here. Jacksonville's climate allows for many types of nature. With a large variety of parks, nature trails, beach frontage, and riverfront boardwalks; you are sure to see all of the beauty Jacksonville and it's beaches have to offer. The most wonderful advantage to making Jacksonville your vacation spot is the size of the city. It is the largest in the nation, square footage wise, but getting from one end of Jacksonville to the other a quick 20 to 30 minute drive.
Jacksonville prides itself with it's family friendly environment. Spend a day at the Jacksonville Zoo and it's many wild animals. Spy some seagulls at Jacksonville, Neptune, Atlantic or Ponte Vedra Beach. Spend the day shopping and dining at the Landing, a riverfront Mecca for people of all ages. The Sumner Museum will peak your senses with its fine collection of painting and sculpture. For you golfers, don't forget the TPC course at Sawgrass. With so many things to choose from, its a good idea to plan your vacation before hand.
Finding information to help you plan your trip is essential. The following are some online resources and books that you may find helpful in designing that perfect vacation:
MapQuest! Interactive Atlas All you have to do is sign up once and you can be given a free map to Jacksonville and it's beaches, with NO obligation. It will give you guided details to major roadways and cross streets. Jacksonville is fairly easy to navigate but MapQuest will assist you even more.
JACKSONVILLE This is the most complete Jacksonville web site available. Colorful graphics will lead you to many hotel, resort and bed and breakfast choices. General information, helpful hints, and children's activities are part of this web site too. Please be aware that the children's hotel link is not for Jacksonville, it is an Orlando sight.
GOLF IN JACKSONVILLE Click here to get information on private and semi private courses in the Jacksonville and beaches area. It comes complete with prices and information regarding the courses. It's a wealth of information for any golfer.
METROSCOPE: Jacksonville More information on Jacksonville and it's beaches.
Travel Guides and Helpful Numbers:
Fun Family Vacations in the Southeast- (Kent and Sharron Hannon)
Affordable Florida, Exploring Florida, Florida on a Budget- (Fodors Travel Guides)
Jacksonville Visitor's Center (904) 366-6600 www.jaxcvb.com
Jacksonville Beaches Visitor Information (904) 249-3868
What to Do
Amelia Island State Recreation Area, Fernandina Beach
Just 30 minutes north of Jacksonville lies the beautiful beaches and unspoiled sanctuary of Fernandina Beach. Over 200 acres of undeveloped land awaits you for a variety of recreational activities. Seashore Stables offers guided horseback rides along the pristine beaches. Bring the kids and go hiking, fishing or just play in the sunshine. For more information, call (904) 251-2320.
Fort Clinch State Park, Fernandina Beach
Over 1,110 acres of rolling sand dunes and tidal marsh await you at Fort Clinch. This old fort was once occupied by troops in the Civil War. History, camping, swimming, fishing and tours are just a few activities awaiting for you. For more information, call (904) 277-7274.
Hannah Park, Jacksonville/Mayport Beach
Located near the Mayport Naval Base is the park in which Gilligan's Island was filmed. You can see the "pond" that Gilligan tried, many times, to be rescued from. Along with movie history, the park is filled with lakes to swim in, picnic areas, playsets, and nature trails galore. For more information, call (904) 249-4700.
Jacksonville Zoological Gardens
Michael Jackson just donated a one year old elephant , named Eli, to the Jacksonville Zoo. This lending proof to the fact that the zoo is ever improving. Recent renovations have created a menagerie of animal exhibits, nature trails, animal nursery, bird reserve, and a train. Kids are sure to love the elephant and bald eagle exhibits. Plan on spending the day, and pack a picnic lunch. Food is available, but is your standard hot dog and hamburger variety. For more information, call (904) 757-4462.
With a uphill water slide, shipwrecked boat, 28 hold miniature golf course, batting cages and go carts, this place is a sure thing to make the kids happy. If you plan to go during summer vacation, plan on arriving early or after 4pm,. to avoid long lines. Snacks and drinks are available. For more information, call (904) 246-4386.
Museum of Science and History/Alexander Brest Planetarium
Located on the St. Johns River you will find a hands-on children's museum, as well as, an educational planetarium. The MOSH, known locally, is a multi level hands-on museum for all ages. There is an enclosed play area for babies and toddlers, complete with rolling balls, blocks, and ramps to play on. Children can venture out and try their hands in such experiments as: sound waves, electricity, water power, strength, and much more. Every month the MOSH has a new theme. The whale and oceanlife exhibit has been so popular that is has run for 8 months straight. Sharing the same building is the Alexander Brest Planetarium. The planetarium plays hosts to educational programs on stars and planets. Several daily shows are available, with your own reclining seat. The kids will enjoy looking up into their own tiny universe. For more information, call (904) 396-7601.
Cumner Museum of Art and Gardens
With a variety of sculptures, fine painting, abstract art and special exhibits, it is a must see for art enthusiasts. The Cumner is a museum built around the loving support of the community. Funding has kept the museum to the fine stature that it is today. Offering a variety of art classes and hosting such celebrities as Eric Carle` (of the Hungry Caterpillar fame), you may want to call and check their upcoming events. A children's area is under works and should be finished in late 1997. For more information, call (904) 356-6857.
Over 69 shops, casual and sit down dining, boat rides, riverfront boardwalks and a game arcade all await you at Jacksonville's "The Landing". This horseshoe shaped establishment is directly on the St. Johns River. Stroll through such shops as Laura Ashley, Victoria's Secret, and Sharper Image. Eat at Hooters, famous for it's chicken wings, or enjoy a fresh catch of the day at Legal Seafood. Children will be mesmerized by the Toy Shop. Weekend and holidays bring live entertainment and music. For more information, call (904) 353-1188.
Visit one of the largest breweries in the country. Tours are available to show you how beer is brewed. Free samples available to those of age and admission is free. For more information, call (904) 751-8117.
Riverwalk Cruise Lines
Paddleboat cruises are available for tours, lunch, weekend dinners, and private parties. Cruise along the St. Johns River, while you are whisked into an era gone by. The boats are designed from genuine southern paddleboats used back during civil war times. For more information, call (904) 398-0797.
Golfing is a way of life in Jacksonville. With some of the finest public and private courses, it's pride lies within being the home of the Tournament Players Championship. Playing golf at a tip course does have its price. A round of 18 holes runs anywhere from $80.00 to over $150.00 per person. If you have a chance to play some golf, check out these courses: Stadium Course at TPC, Ocean Course at Ponte Vedra Inn, Queen's Harbour, Sawgrass Course at the Marriott, and Windsor Parke.
If you come during football season, be sure to catch a game of the newest NFL team, the Jacksonville Jaguars. The multi-million dollar stadium is sure to catch your eye with it's teal seating and cheering fans. It's a thrill to be part of such excitement.
Being that Jacksonville has such delightful climate, other outdoor options available to you. You can rent roller blades, bikes or surfboards at the beach. The river brings you opportunity to rent jet skis, boats, fishing charters, or even go parasailing.
Some other history can be found close by in St. Augustine. Just 30 minutes from Jacksonville, the oldest town in the country, boasts cobble streets, quaint shops, casual dining and beaches. If you travel north, you will come to Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach. Shops cascade down small streets. Bikes are the vehicle of choice in this area. It's rare that you see a car, unless on the main roads.
Don't forget that the River City is within 2 hours of Disneyworld, Seaworld, Daytona Beach, Tallahassee, and many other family spots.
Where to Stay
*Notation on location of Jacksonville hotels and resorts:
Most of Jacksonville's accommodations are located at the beach or in downtown. Hotels located in areas such as, Southpoint or Orange Park, are close to business and highways. Keep in mind that if staying in town, driving to the beach will take you about 30 minutes.
Radisson Riverwalk Hotel
1515 Prudential Drive
Jacksonville, Florida 32207
The recently renovated Radisson is located on the scenic St. Johns River, and at the center of many activities. There are over 322 rooms, 13 suites, fitness center, fine and casual dining, pool, tennis courts, golf nearby, and incredible riverfront views. Rooms are average size but with exquisite detail. Children under 12 do stay free with a paying adult. Moderate to Expensive.
Amelia Island Plantation
1501 Lewis Street
Amelia Island, Florida 32034
Located on the Atlantic Ocean, this property plays hosts to many celebrity and company events a year. Accommodations range from hotel rooms to 4 bedroom villas. The resort is self contained with dining, pools, horseback riding, tennis, world class golf, bike rentals, paddleboat rentals, shopping and much more. Voted one of the best family resorts by Conde Naste Traveler, Amelia Island has something to offer everyone. Amelia Kid's is a program for children that are potty trained and above. A day filled with arts and crafts, swimming, treasure hunts and meeting new friends will be your childs. Your child can even stay for dinner while you and your spouse enjoy a relaxing candlelight dinner. Expensive to Very Expensive.
Ponte Vedra Inn and Club
200 Ponte Vedra Blvd
Ponte Vedra, Florida 32082
This deluxe resort and club is filled with activities for all beach dwellers. Tennis, golf, expansive fitness center, beauty and health spa, and even a wonderful children's programs can all be yours here. Located on the beach, the accommodations range from rooms at the inn to private oceanside condos. All rooms are tastefully appointed and include microwaves, coffee makers and refrigerators. Although this property is a little older, it maintains its charm. A must for the golf or beach enthusiast in your family. Moderate to Expensive.
Marriott at Sawgrass
1000 TPC Boulevard
Ponte Vedra, Florida 32082
This secluded property is surrounded only by lush palms and world class tennis and golf. The Marriott has over 400 rooms which have a southern feel to them, complete with bright colors and palm trees out of your window. Located close to the beach, this property is filled with lots of activities including: swimming, golf, tennis, gourmet dining, dancing, sailing and a children's activity program. Plan to stay Sunday for their buffet because the strawberry waffles are simply scrumptious. Expensive.
Holiday Inn Sunspree
1617 North 1st Street
Jacksonville Beach, Florida 32250
This affordable oceanfront resort offers fun for the whole family. Rooms are large with bright tropical patterns, most contain microwaves and refrigerators. There is a year round children's program and baby-sitting is available for a fee. Rentals include kayaks, bikes, boogie boards and chaise lounges. Kids eat free with a paying adult at their oceanside restaurant. Moderate.
Quality Inn Southpoint
4660 Salisbury Road
Jacksonville, Florida 32256
This property is located near I-95 and the soul Jacksonville's Southpoint business area. Rooms are standard size with pastels. Coffee makers and cable television are included in your room price. There is an outdoor pool, onsite Italian eatery, and lounge at this hotel. With it's central location, it is great for those passing through town or staying here on business. Inexpensive to Moderate.
Where to Eat
1712 Beach Blvd. -Jacksonville Beach
This family-style restaurant is located just over the inter-coastal bridge in an old farmhouse. Decorated with old farm equipment, this eatery has become a favorite of locals. Seating is a tad close, but worth it for the homestyle food. You can dine of homemade southern fried chicken, chicken and dumplings, veal, hamburger, and homestyle fixings. Children will love the kid's chicken and hand cut fries. Inexpensive.
Sneakers Sports Grill
10750-8 Atlantic Blvd. -Jacksonville
Owned by Jacksonville Jaguar's Tony Bosseli, this place is the hot spot for sports fans and families. Sports screens, sports memorabilia, clowns that make balloon sculptures for the kids, and funny waiters are just part of the atmosphere. The food is creative and portions are large. The Wrigley Pasta and Bosseli Burger will tempt your taste buds. The menu consists of hamburgers, fish, chicken, pasta, healthy specials, fresh salads and wonderful deserts. Kid's are a priority here and get their own menu and crayons. Inexpensive.
The Loop Pizza Grill
Several Locations (10 in all)
2014 San Marco Blvd. -Jacksonville
This Chicago-style pizza grill started in Jacksonville years ago, and has grown into a favorite of families. All locations are in convenient locations and are close to malls, beaches, water parks, and other amusements. Such specialties as Cajun Grilled Chicken Salad, Pizza with goat cheese, portabello mushrooms, and caramelized onions, and Chicago Style Hot Dog (complete with some awesome chili). The Loop will please the eclectic eater, as well as, the all American one. The children's menu has a wonderful selection with drinks included. Inexpensive.
Clark's Fish Camp Seafood
12903 Hood Landing Road-Mandarin
Located on the river, this restaurant is filled with a fisherman's charm. There is nothing fancy here, but the fresh seafood is to die for. All the seafood is caught locally, and is the specialty of the house. Dining entrees include seafood of all kind, hamburgers, steaks, and chicken. Casual is the word, children running around is a common sight for folks eating at Clark's Fish Camp. Inexpensive.
River City Brewing Company
835 Museum Circle-Jacksonville
This establishment is one of Jacksonville's many restaurant/micro breweries. Inside, you can choose from a table overlooking the St. John's River, or a cozy corner with tropical fish as your dining mates. The food is wonderful, fresh, and well prepared. Try a different twist to your food with this establishment. Pasta with goat cheese and basil, Oysters with spinach and cream, Steak with peppercorn bernaise, and free range chicken are just a few of the many fine choices. Moderate to Expensive.
The Ragtime Cavern
207 Atlantic Boulevard-Atlantic Beach
Ragtime is a jazz restaurant, that also has it's own microbrewery. Enjoy the New Orlean's style food while you listen to some great jazz artists. Try the Cajun Crawfish, Coconut Shrimp, or Jalapeno Mahi. For you land lumbers, chicken, hamburgers and pasta are available. The kiddy's get to choose from boboli pizza, shrimp, chicken fingers or pasta. Don't leave without trying a glass of Raspberry Wheat Ale or a slice of praline cheesecake. Moderate.
Semolina Italian Eatery
1011 San Jose Boulevard-Jacksonville
Pasta any way you like it at Semolina's. Try the Curry Chicken Pasta, Three Cheese Macaroni Pie, Shrimp Scampi Pasta, or Vegetarian Primavera. All dishes are prepared in the open air kitchen. It's really a fresh change to actually see how your food is being prepared. Children can order from their own special menu or get a portion of any dish on the adult menu. With ceramic twisting pasta, pepperoni slices, and black olives hanging from the rafters, you are sure to enjoy this family friendly eatery. Moderate.
4446 Hendricks Avenue-Jacksonville
Decorated all in black and white, this romantic restaurant is the only 5 star restaurant in the area. Continental cuisine is on the menu for those who enjoy fine dining. A choice of about 7 dishes are available, including, young duckling, rack of lamb, fanciful pasta, and tender veal. Reservations are strongly suggested, as the restaurant only seats 75 people. Very Expensive..but worth it.
Money $aving Tips
*With the warmer climate of Florida, it is a top vacation spot. Traveling during the late fall, winter and early spring will increase your hotel stay costs by up to 125 percent. Try to avoid these times and all major holidays. Plan your stay in the late spring through early fall, yes, hurricane season, to get the lowest rates. Special packages that include some activities and meals can be a great deal.
*If planning on teeing it up on your vacation, plan to play your game on a weekday. Certain golf courses will offer 2 for 1 specials or half price green fees after 4pm. Call the courses to check what specials may be running during your stay.
*Many dining establishments offer kids eat free on weeknights. Chain restaurants such as Ryan's Steakhouse, Bono's Barbecue, and Olive Garden offer children's specials almost nightly. Your hotel or resort may offer a kids eat free special at their restaurants too. It's a great way to save some money for a family outing.
*If you need suncare supplies, rafts, or swimwear, it is best not to shop at hotel stores. Check the prices at Target, K-Mart, Wal-Mart and Publix. You will find that you are paying a premium at a resort. Venus Swimwear has a factory outlet in Jacksonville that is filled with swimwear for all ages and sizes. If you are looking for discounted swimwear or tourist items, check out Waves at the beach. They run specials such as 3 T-shirts for $10.00 or buy 1 get 1 free.
$ = $50 to 75 dollars per night;
$$ = $75 to 125 dollars per night;
$$$ = $125 to $175 per night and
$$$$ is over $175 per night