Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Duval County, FL

  • Published 2023/06/03

With lovely beaches, nature spots, and urban comforts, Duval County is an exciting destination in northeast Florida.

The area’s earliest known inhabitants were the Timucuan Indians.

In the early 16th century, the first European settlers arrived in the region.

The county and Jacksonville were consolidated by the late 1960s, making the city its county seat.

Home to the state’s longest river and over 20 miles of beaches along the Atlantic Ocean, the county offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy watersports and summer activities.

It also has the country’s largest urban park network, covering over 80,000 acres.

The county has a thriving arts and culture scene, with many museums and heritage attractions to explore.

To help you out planning your visit, here are some of the best things to do in Duval County, Florida:

Spend a Day at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

Abigail Joyal /

Visit and meet the thriving residents of the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.

Tracing back its history to the early 1900s, this world-class zoo is known for its passion for the wellness of its resident animals.

It is home to over 2,000 birds, amphibians, fish, reptiles, and mammals.

I enjoyed a visit to the aviary, where colorful birds can be observed in the trees.

View of the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

LaggedOnUser, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There’s also a dedicated Florida exhibit, where I learned about the state’s wildlife.

Spanning over 100 acres, the site also has garden areas featuring savanna blooms, exotic tropical plants, Asian bamboo, and lush perennials.

If you’re looking for a more exciting zoo visit, check out its zoo after-hours tour!

The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is located along Zoo Parkway in Jacksonville.

Toy train at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

Rob Bixby from Jacksonville, FL, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Experience Art and Nature at The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens

Exterior view of the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens

Red Lemon /

Head to a peaceful day in nature and appreciate the art collection of The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens.

Established in the 1960s, the museum is home to over 5,000 art pieces from various time periods.

At the galleries, I explored the pieces on display from the permanent collection and checked out the special exhibitions.

There are paintings, photographs, drawings, and porcelain pieces to admire.

Art exhibition at The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens

Red Lemon /

This beautiful museum includes over 2 acres of gardens adorning the banks of the St. Johns Rivers.

Outside the museum building, I viewed the sculptures integrated into the lovely outdoor spaces, blending art into nature.

If you’re visiting with a group, you can book a guided tour for a more enriching experience.

The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens is located along Riverside Avenue in Jacksonville.

Fountain at The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens

Red Lemon /

Beat the Summer Heat at Adventure Landing Jacksonville Beach

Make new summer memories at Adventure Landing Jacksonville Beach.

This amusement center features an exciting water park, arcade, and other fun summer activities.

The shipwreck-themed waterpark has plenty of thrilling slides and water cannons to enjoy on a hot day.

I spent hours of video game fun at the mega-arcade and ended the day with some sweet treats from the candy shop.

For some fun competitions, there are also go-karts, miniature golf, and laser-tag games to try.

If you’re visiting with kids, don’t miss out on stopping by the teddy bear factory, where your young ones can create their own stuffed toy to take home!

You can find Adventure Landing Jacksonville Beach along Beach Boulevard in the city of Jacksonville Beach.

Visit the Museum of Science & History

Exterior view of the Museum of Science & History

Red Lemon /

Visit and let the Museum of Science & History pique your curious minds.

This award-winning museum is home to plenty of fascinating science and history exhibits, spanning from the area’s history to Florida’s wildlife to space science.

The science theater showcases awesome experiments and other science and tech activities.

I learned about space exploration and innovations in this field at the space science gallery and planetarium.

An international event at the Museum of Science & History

Gene Crain /

Don’t hesitate to take your kids along for a visit—the museum has an interactive space dedicated to young explorers under the age of 5.

It also hosts traveling exhibits, so there’s always an interesting one to add to the experience.

The Museum of Science & History is located along Museum Circle in Jacksonville.

Interior view of the Museum of Science & History

Gene Crain /

Take a Beach Trip to Neptune Beach

Signage of the Neptune Beach

CONBCityManager, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Pack your summer essentials and drive to the coast for a laidback weekend at Neptune Beach.

Small yet charming, this beachfront city has long been a summer destination, beginning in the 1930s.

It offers a relaxing venue for a quick summer getaway, with dining spots and shopping areas to explore nearby.

People relaxing at the Neptune Beach

dweisner19 /

I enjoyed the afternoon ocean breeze while strolling along the sandy beaches until sundown.

There are shops where you can rent gear if you want to go catch some waves.

After a day in the sun, spend the rest of the evening sampling Neptune Beach’s delicious seafood and drinks and enjoy the nightlife.

Visitors enjoying the sunny day the Neptune Beach

Michael Rivera, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Capture the Scenic Views at the Tide Views Preserve

Head to the county’s coastal area and admire the scenic views at the Tide Views Preserve.

This 8-acre park features trails, a boardwalk, and a scenic overlook.

I took a photo walk at the park and captured breathtaking scenes of the waterways and the lush greenery.

There are interpretive signs at the park, providing information about plants and wildlife.

If you have time to spend, the hours near sunset at the park are a spectacular scene!

Other park amenities include fishing access and a canoe launch.

You can bring along your pet dog to share the experience.

The Tide Views Preserve is located along Begonia St. in the city of Atlantic Beach.

Enjoy an Evening at the Alhambra Theatre and Dining

Outside view of the Alhambra Theatre and Dining

Mgreason, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Spend a wonderful evening of food and entertainment at the Alhambra Theatre and Dining.

This theater show and dinner concept goes back to the late 1960s and has since been an icon in Jacksonville’s entertainment scene.

There are several shows to choose from each season, including fun, family-friendly ones!

After indulging in the three-course dinner, I enjoyed the fantastic Broadway-quality production.

There’s also a lounge where you can get a drink before the show starts or for an after-show cocktail.

If you’re celebrating a milestone or a special occasion, check out their special packages to make your visit more memorable.

You can find the Alhambra Theatre and Dining along Beach Boulevard in Jacksonville.

Find Local Crafts at the Riverside Arts Market

Crowd shopping at the Riverside Arts Market

Red Lemon /

Get a glimpse into Jacksonville’s arts and crafts scene when you visit the Riverside Arts Market.

This vibrant weekend market is home to small businesses, local makers and artisans, and farmers.

I enjoyed the market’s sights and sounds as I spent hours browsing the stalls for local works of art.

The vendors offer handmade products, coffee, paintings, antiques, and fresh produce.

View of the Riverside Arts Market

Red Lemon /

Of course, food stalls are a market staple—it’s a good opportunity to sample some local eats!

What’s more, each week features a fun event where you can get to know the area a little bit more.

The Riverside Arts Market is located along Riverside Avenue in Jacksonville.

Explore the Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail

Take a hike for some fresh air at the Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail.

The trail, which runs through Jacksonville and ends in the town of Baldwin, used to be part of the CSX railroad.

It has over 14 miles of both paved and unpaved tracks that will take you through various natural habitats.

On the walk along the paved path, I also came across joggers and cyclists enjoying a ride under the beautiful canopy.

If you’re thinking of horseback riding, there’s a parallel equestrian trail that you can use.

You can also take your pet along as you explore the trails.

There are several trailheads that provide access to the Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail along Imee Road, Otis Road, and Camp Milton.

Go Biking at the Little Talbot Island State Park

Beach at the Little Talbot Island State Park

Joni Hanebutt /

Take your bike and explore the rugged beauty of the Little Talbot Island State Park.

Located on an undeveloped island northeast of the state, the park offers an opportunity to enjoy the island’s pristine beaches and rich ecosystems.

I took a bike out on the trails and enjoyed the park’s gorgeous scenery.

If you’re adventurous, you can also go on the off-road trails that will take you to the sandy beach.

Drift wood at the Little Talbot Island State Park

JohnHancockPhoto /

I came across campers basking in the fresh air and serene atmosphere of the lush forest.

The area is also great for bird watching, paddling, surfing, and fishing.

The park offers guided tours with park rangers if you’re looking for an educational trip.

You can find the Little Talbot Island State Park along Heckscher Drive in Jacksonville.

Learn about the Area’s History at Beaches Museum & History Park

View of the Beaches Museum & History Park

Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Get to know more about the county’s beach towns at the Beaches Museum & History Park.

Opened in 2006, it preserves and shares the heritage of the state’s first beach communities.

At the two-floor museum, I learned about the rich history of these oceanfront communities and how tourism supported their development.

The exhibits tell the interesting stories of the area’s pioneer settlers, fishermen, and river pilots.

You can also book a tour of the history park and see the area’s historic structures, including an early 20th-century steam locomotive.

The Beaches Museum & History Park is located along Beach Boulevard in the city of Jacksonville Beach.

Relax by the Lake at Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park

Enjoy lakeside recreation at Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park.

This 450-acre oceanfront park offers not only exciting beach adventures but also relaxing activities.

I spent a quiet picnic morning by the lake, watching canoers out on the waters and anglers trying to catch some fish.

If you want to explore the park, there are miles of trails leading to the shoreline or through the gorgeous oak trees.

You can hike along these trails or take your mountain bike for a ride.

The area is also home to wildlife, such as shorebirds and foxes.

Other park amenities include a summer splash area, campsites, and RV hookups.

You can find the Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park along Wonderwood Drive in Jacksonville.

Go Shopping at St. Johns Town Center

People strolling around the St. Johns Town Center

Michael Rivera, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Spend your day of retail therapy at St. Johns Town Center.

With beautiful palm-lined walkways, this outdoor mall features over 170 lifestyle brands.

I strolled around and found plenty of stores to shop for clothes, accessories, and home goods.

There are also luxury brand stores and exclusives if you’re looking to get something special.

Italian restaurant at the St. Johns Town Center

Michael Rivera, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Of course, a shopping day won’t be complete without getting some quick bites.

The center has a variety of dining options, from pizza, Mexican food, and sandwiches to Asian dishes.

You can find St. Johns Town Center along River City Drive in Jacksonville.

Shops at St. Johns Town Center

Michael Rivera, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Stroll along the Southbank Riverwalk

View of the Southbank Riverwalk

PicoOrdinalo, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Head to downtown Jacksonville and take a leisurely walk along the Southbank Riverwalk.

This mile-long boardwalk is a popular sightseeing area.

I took in the lovely views of the St. John River and watched the riverboats.

View of the Southbank Riverwalk

PicoOrdinalo, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The riverwalk is also a great spot to capture some great views, such as the downtown skyline, the shorebirds, and the spectacular night scene.

There’s also art along the walk, such as beautiful murals and installations by the riverfront.

You can find the Southbank Riverwalk along Museum Circle.

Sample Local Brews at Reve Brewing

If you’re up on the coast and looking to sample the area’s local brews, check out Reve Brewing.

Opened in 2018, this local favorite is a great stop after a day at the beach.

Its tap list features several styles, including lagers, IPAs, and stouts.

I enjoyed a pint at the lovely taproom with some slices of their wood-fired pizza.

Its menu also offers slushies and ice cream, perfect for a sunny day.

Don’t forget to grab some cans to enjoy back home.

Reve Brewing is located along Mayport Road in the city of Atlantic Beach.

Final Thoughts

Duval County is a wonderful destination for families, beach lovers, and outdoor enthusiasts.

With oceanfront cities, acres of nature parks, and plenty of arts, history, and cultural attractions, you’ll never run out of activities to explore in this county.

Start planning now and don’t miss out on some of the best things to do in Duval County, Florida.

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