If you’re living in Jacksonville, FL, you’re no stranger to the beautiful beaches, parks, and exciting cultural attractions it’s known for. However, if you’re new to the city, exploring can quickly become expensive, especially if you’re on a budget. Fortunately, Jacksonville has plenty of free things to do, from museums and galleries to outdoor adventures and events. So whether you’re saving up for a home in Jacksonville or an apartment to rent, read on for free things to do in Jacksonville, FL.
1. Check out Castaway Island Preserve
“Tucked within a residential area, Castaway Island Preserve is a beautiful hidden gem in Jacksonville,” says local photographer Kim Bomberger. “It is located along the Intracoastal waterway. It’s a peaceful, scenic spot to enjoy marsh wildlife, with a boardwalk and observation platform. There is even an area to launch Kayaks. It is open from sunrise to sunset, and access is free to the public.”
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2. History buffs will love the Norman Studios Silent Film Museum
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The five-building complex is Northeast Florida’s remaining silent film production studio and the site of some of the nation’s earliest all-African American-cast films. For a short but shining time in the early 1900s, Jacksonville was the epicenter of the burgeoning industry and known as the Winter Film Capital of the World before filmmakers fled westward to Hollywood en masse. A guided tour of Norman Studios tells the “fiery” story of what drew pioneering filmmakers to Florida and the heated controversy that sent them away.
3. Explore Talbot Island
The Welch Team, a local real estate company shares, “Little Talbot Island is a state park with a four-mile hiking trail that goes through five different ecosystems. It’s packed full of local greenery and exotic wildlife, making it an excellent way to spend a summer day. If you’re an adventurous type, you should check it out. And for those who are less adventurous but still want to go for a beautiful hike, there’s also a quarter-mile trail on the island that is much less intense.”
4. Wonder through the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve
“Jacksonville residents have the unique opportunity to explore some of the last remaining unspoiled coastal wetlands on the Atlantic coast right in their backyard,” says Alisha, a family lifestyle blogger of Adventure Seeking Mom. “The Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, part of the U.S. National Parks Service, makes up over 46,000 acres in Jacksonville. About 75% of the preserve comprises salt marsh, and kayaking is a perfect way to explore this remarkable coastal ecosystem.”
5. See the wild horses at Cumberland Island State Park
Jacksonville Black Car Limo Service encourages a trip to Cumberland Island State Park. “Many customers travel to Cumberland Island State Park to see dozens of beautiful wild horses. Only a 45-minute drive just north of the Florida Georgia Line, you board a ferry to the island. There you can see the amazing wild horses. A truly unique, unforgettable, and little-known day trip from Jacksonville, Florida.”
6. Explore Theodore Roosevelt Area
Rebecca from St. Johns RIVERKEEPER, a dedicated voice for the St. Johns river says, “If you want to get outdoors and experience the real Florida without leaving Jacksonville, you must explore the Theodore Roosevelt Area. Just 25 minutes from Downtown and 15 minutes from the beach in the Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve. There are multiple parks and historical sites along unspoiled coastal wetlands near the mouth of the St. Johns River. Trek along hiking trails that lead you through dirt paths surrounded by hardwood forest, which suddenly turn into sandy wetlands on the riverbank.”
7. Check out various State forests in Jacksonville, FL
Jennings State Forest, Cary State Forest, Four Creeks State Forest, and Ralph E Simmons State Forest are must-visit forests in the Jacksonville area. Enjoy a hike on the 12-mile Pioneer Trail in Jennings State Forest. The trail offers picturesque views overlooking the North Fork of Black Creek with continuous elevation changes. Cary State Forest is an excellent option if you’re looking for somewhere to camp where you’ll also be able to enjoy hiking and wildlife viewing. You can study nature, kayak, and cycle in the Four Creeks State Forest. And in the Ralph E Simmons State Forest, enjoy miles of creek and river paddling opportunities. Jacksonville state parks truly have something for everyone to appreciate.
8. Experience art like no other at Downtown Jacksonville Art Walk
“My most recommended event to attend in the city is Downtown Jacksonville Art Walk,” says Toni from Cre8Jax, a company that highlights cultural events. “It takes place the first Wednesday of the month and centers around three main hubs; James Weldon Johnson Park, the Jessie Ball duPont Center, and the Vystar Breezeway. The streets are filled with thousands of residents, who can be seen exploring boutiques such as Wolf & Cub, grooving to live music on every block, and attending fashion shows and art exhibits at venues like the Lark and MOCA. Additionally, visitors can indulge in an array of culinary delights, from the finest food trucks in the city to restaurants like Bellwether, and cap off the evening with a silent disco at Estrella Cocina.”