Hidden Gems for Kids in Jacksonville

Off the Beaten Path:: 8 Family Friendly First Coast Gems

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When searching for family friendly First Coast activities for kids, who better than Fun 4 First Coast Kids to share the best spots in town? Fun 4 First Coast Kids is the # 1 family resource on the First Coast since 2013 and they know all the best hidden gems kids (and parents) love. They’ve rounded some of their favorite family friendly First Coast activities that kids of all ages will enjoy.

7 Creeks Recreation Area in North Jacksonville
Photo credit: Terri Mashour @territravelingmom

7 Creeks Recreation Area

Named for 7 creeks and 7 parks and preserves, the 7 Creeks Recreation Area is not far off I-295, on Jacksonville’s Northside. It’s truly a natural utopia that offers visitors 30+ miles of trails. You could occupy days of hiking, biking and exploring diverse ecosystems, making each mile a new adventure. This collection of parks and preserves is home to thousands of acres of unspoiled lands surrounded by expansive saltmarsh of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve. It offers an extensive network of tidal creeks for kayakers, boaters, paddleboarders and fishermen. A great family hike is to select a portion of the Hammock Trail at Betz-Tiger Point Preserve. Also make plans to visit the historic tabby ruins at Cedar Point, or check out the loop trail at Bogey Creek Preserve.

Boneyard Beach in Jacksonville
Photo credit: Terri Mashour @territravelingmom

Boneyard Beach

Located on Big Talbot Island State Park in Nassau County, Boneyard Beach, despite its spooky name, is one of the most photographed natural wonders on the First Coast and for good reason. Sculpted by nature, this unique shoreline is protected by 30 foot bluffs. The beach is peppered with massive driftwood trees that resemble salt-washed skeletons or an elephant graveyard if you use your imagination. Enjoy a picnic at one of the pavilions overlooking the water or launch a boat from the north end of the island.

Family friendly First Coast activity: Catty Shack Ranch in Jacksonville, FL

Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary

An animal lovers must see, Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary, located in northern Jacksonville, houses big cats including tigers, lions, leopards, cougars, bobcats as well as arctic foxes and coatimundis that have been rescued from dangerous situations. The ranch provides a safe, loving, forever home for endangered big cats. In addition, they educate visitors about their plight in the wild and captivity. Stop by to enjoy a leisurely, guided tour of the sanctuary or catch a thrilling night feeding. When we went, we loved seeing Freddy, a very special lion. His favorite person is Curt, the Executive Director. If you get to see Freddy interact with Curt, you can’t help but notice the deep bond of respect and affection they share. It’s truly something to see.

Chamblin's Uptown Book Store

Chamblin’s Uptown Local Bookstore

Located Downtown on Laura Street, you never know what treasures await at Chamblin’s Uptown. A locally-owned and operated bookstore, Chamblin’s Uptown boasts close to 800,000 books in inventory. These include many rare and second-hand books that you surely won’t find anyplace else. Let serendipity guide you to discovery, as the kids find titles that suit their fancy amidst the endless aisles. Then stop by their cafe for a coffee and snack. Be sure to check out the work of local artists and authors while you’re there. They also have free wi-fi (but we recommend unplugging with your latest printed edition).  

Congaree & Penn, Farms in Jacksonville is a great family friendly activity on the First Coast.

Congaree & Penn Farm

Located in northwest Jacksonville, Congaree & Penn has done an amazing job transforming a farm into a trendy, agritourist spot to gather for some outdoor fun. Head out for their u-pick seasons, Ouachita Blackberries in June and July, and Muscadine Grapes and Arbequina Olives in August. Explore the farm on your visit, and be sure to catch a tractor-led wagon ride. See if you can spot the odd (slightly out of place) sculpture along the way. Visit the goats and chickens at the petting zoo, and hang out on the patio enjoying their delicious food and drink menu while the kids play. It’s truly delightful especially when the weather is nice. Check their website for special events and pricing before you go, and bring your walking shoes.

Kinglsey Plantation - Family Friendly activities for the First Coast

Kingsley Plantation 

Explore the waterfront grounds and walk back into time at the Kingsley Plantation, which include the slave quarters, barn, plantation house, kitchen house, and interpretive garden. While there, learn the story of one of the most amazing residents, Anna Kingsley, a woman who experienced slavery from almost every perspective. Located on the Northside, admission is free to Kingsley Plantation, and kids can earn a Junior Ranger badge.

Family Friendly Tree Hill Nature Center in Jacksonville

Tree Hill Nature Center

Lovely Tree Hill Nature Center is just a few minutes east of downtown Jacksonville with more than 50 acres of preservation land. Venture down one of the seven walking trails that take you past streams and through hardwood and broad-leaved evergreen forests. Don’t miss a visit to the beautifully flamboyant butterfly and hummingbird garden on your walk. Then stop by the hands-on kids museum featuring Florida’s natural history. There you’ll see displays of live animals such as alligators, snakes, turtles, opossums, and pygmy goats. Check out their website in advance of your visit to see if one of many educational programs are happening.

SWING Playground in St. Augustine

SWING Playground in St. Augustine

Located in the heart of St. Augustine, SWING Playground is worth the drive! This 23,000 square foot playground name is an acronym for “St. Augustine’s Wish for Its Next Generation,” and it offers a unique wooden play space complete with tubes, towers, a fort, a space shuttle, and a lighthouse. Older kids will love the interactive exercise elements, while toddlers will be happy in their own little playground with a sandbox, play trolley and boat. The park limits entrance and exit to one location only for security. It’s free fun for hours, so bring a snack or lunch to enjoy under the covered pavilion. It’s a great activity if you’ve planned a day trip to St. Augustine with the kids.


Special thanks to Fun 4 First Coast Kids for contributing this post. Fun 4 First Coast Kids is the # 1 family resource on the First Coast since 2013. You’re always just a click away from all the latest updates on the best of what Jacksonville and the surrounding areas have to offer your family! Follow them on Facebook or Instagram, and sign up for their newsletter for giveaways, family-friendly events, and so much more!

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Off the Beaten Path: Hidden Gems for First Coast Families

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