In the northeast corner of Florida sits Jacksonville, the largest city by land area in the contiguous United States. With so much land within its city limits, you can bet there is plenty to do in J-ville when the summer season rolls along.
Whether it’s checking out big cats at a wildlife sanctuary or relaxing on the sandy shores of the Atlantic Ocean, there are plenty of summer activities for you to entertain yourself around town.
Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary
A punny name isn’t the only thing this Jacksonville institution has going for it. The Catty Shack is the best place to get up close and personal with some of the biggest cats in the world. Tigers, lions, leopards, cougars, bobcats and something called coatimundis all call the Catty Shack home.
The best time to go is for a night feeding tour. Since the cats are all mostly nocturnal, you will get to see the sanctuary’s residents at their best during the evening tour. Be sure to visit and learn all about the facility’s ongoing conservation and care efforts.
Cummer Museum Gardens
Once you have gotten your adrenaline pumping from an up-close tiger encounter, head to the Cummer Museum Gardens for a nice cool-down. Stroll through the impeccably maintained grounds on the banks of the St. John River and take in the natural beauty of the area.
The gardens include three distinct types: English, Italian and Olmsted. In addition, a manicured, grassy lawn is the perfect venue for outdoor summer activities. Look like rain? Head inside the museum and peruse the many examples of European and American artistic masterpieces.
Riverside Arts Market
Every Saturday, from 10 am to 4 pm, the creative community of Jacksonville convenes at the Riverside Arts Market. Entry is free to the event that at times feels much like an outdoor festival. The weekly market is located just 100 yards away from the Cummer Museum and Gardens, giving you an opportunity to spend a whole day exploring the arts and culture of Jacksonville.
It just isn’t summer without a trip to the beach, and Jacksonville has plenty of those. The beach communities of Mayport, Neptune Beach, Jacksonville Beach, Atlantic Beach and Ponte Vedra are all located within the city limits.
Each community has its own unique character that attracts different kinds of beachgoers. Jacksonville Beach is home to much of the coastal nightlife scene while Neptune Beach is known for its more relaxed vibe. The waves at Atlantic Beach bring in the surfers while Ponte Vedra is likely to be the quietest seaside option, as it is relatively secluded.
Little Talbot Island State Park
This tiny island off the coast gives you the best opportunity to see some of Florida’s wildlife in its natural habitat. Everything from playful river otters to flocks of native and migratory birds can be seen on this undisturbed barrier island.
The diverse habitats include everything from salt marshes to maritime forest and dunes, meaning there is a lot for you to discover. Whether it is shelling or swimming, beachcombing or kayaking, it is easy to lose track of the hours during a day trip to Little Talbot Island State Park.
[Image Sources: Rent.com – The Strand, Jacksonville, FL; Flickr – VISIT FLORIDA Editor, Erin Murphy, redbuildinggroup, Mark Kortum]