From Travel Pulse
People often associate Florida with theme parks and spring break. By doing so, they fail to notice unique and under-the-radar cities like Jacksonville.
The largest city by area in the continental United States has plenty to offer visitors, especially families looking for an affordable vacation.
Jacksonville is a treasure trove of outdoor fun, history and culture, with activities for every age group and every type of traveler. Here are 5 reasons to choose this Atlantic Coast city for your next vacation:
Families don’t have to choose between the great outdoors, a relaxing beach vacation and a cultural city experience. This coastal metropolis offers all of the above.
Step off the white sand beaches and you’ll find the chill atmosphere of a small beach town. The downtown area, on the other hand, is pulsing with culture and energy. Jacksonville is rife with opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors, too!
Each neighborhood in Jacksonville has its own feel, from elegant and historic San Marco to eclectic and artsy Riverside. A visit to each district would feel like its own separate vacation.
Northern Florida doesn’t get quite as hot as Miami or the Florida Keys, with temperatures averaging in the upper 80s or low 90s during summer. Residents and visitors alike head to the beach to enjoy the sun, sand and waves.
Jacksonville enjoys temperatures in the 60s and 70s during winter, which is perfect for hiking and biking or simply a nice stroll through the downtown area.
Families have plenty of options to keep the little ones entertained. The Jacksonville Zoo is not only educational and engaging but also beautiful, with themed gardens scattered among the exhibits. Kids can ride the train, play on the playground, navigate a maze or cool off in a splash pad.
Young children will also love a day at the beach to build sandcastles or ride the waves on their very own boogie board. When the family needs a break from the sun and sand, pack a picnic lunch and enjoy it next to Friendship Fountain overlooking the Saint Johns River.
What’s a vacation without a sugary treat? Try Good Dough Doughnuts for their artisanal selections, or Sweet Pete’s for their world famous ice cream. For more structured activities, check out Shipwreck Island Water Park or the Museum of Science and History, which has plenty of kid-friendly exhibits.
There are options for older kids and adults, too. Spend an afternoon at Jacksonville Landing—a riverfront shopping and dining center—tour EverBank Field, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars or browse the Riverside Arts Market where local artisans, farmers and small businesses vend their latest creations.
One perk of vacationing in Jacksonville is that it has its very own international airport. Families can find direct flights without having to arrange multiple modes of transportation to get there.
In addition, Jacksonville doesn’t have the theme parks of Orlando or the international glamour of Miami, so accommodations tend to be more reasonable. It even made the list of Ten Best Value Destinations for 2018! Consider visiting in the spring or fall for even lower prices.
In addition to the 22 miles of coastline, Jacksonville is home to the largest urban park system in the United States. Green spaces are everywhere, so residents and visitors alike can jog, bike, go for a stroll or spread out with a picnic.
For adventurous families, a guided kayak or paddleboard tour will offer great views of the city and a workout at the same time. Camping, fishing and biking are also popular among the outdoorsy types.
Head to Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve for views of coastal wetlands, salt marshes, hiking trails and coastal dunes. The natural beauty of Northeast Florida shines through in this natural preserve.
Whether you’re traveling to relax or explore, Jacksonville’s got a little something for everyone and is worth another look for your next family vacation.
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Copyright 2018 Southern Arizona News-Examiner