Every year around the end of October/beginning of November, thousands of college football fans descend upon Jacksonville, FL for the showdown between the Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs. If you’re not a football fan, this is at best a minor inconvenience and at worst a weekend-destroying excuse to stay inside. But if you refuse to let a football game neutralize your weekend, follow this guide for non-football things to do in Jacksonville, FL.
Despite their nickname, the closest thing to real alligators the Florida Gators travel with are made of fabric and wear sweaters. For the real thing, head to the Jacksonville Zoo! In addition to spying these armor-plated beasts, you can feed giraffes, stare at lions in awe, and share the sidewalk with exotic birds. The Jacksonville Zoo is a must-stop.
Some argue that football is an art form. They may be right, but if you’re craving a more classic art experience, check out Jacksonville’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Exhibitions regularly rotate, so you’re sure to fall in love with new pieces with every visit.
Is mini-golf a sport? Does it matter? Not when it’s this much fun. Both Adventure Landing locations offer challenging courses full of hazards and obstacles to overcome. And if you get tired of your golf ball bouncing off wooden blocks, you can race go-karts, play arcade games, or hit the batting cages.
The closest you can get to Germany’s famous Autobahn highway without leaving Jacksonville is the indoor go-kart course named in its honor. Rip asphalt at speeds up to 50 MPH across multiple tracks for some of the best competitive racing this side of Daytona.
Embrace Tranquility at the Cummer Museum
The Cummer Museum is home to a curated selection of art spanning centuries, a collection that’s easily worth a visit on its own. But the gardens make their own argument for star of the show. After sustaining significant damage from Hurricane Irma in 2017, the gardens were reopened earlier in 2019 with restored versions of its historic garden stylings from the early 20th century.
A little more than a half dozen trails await eager hikers at the Jacksonville Arboretum. Each trail is a little different in both scenery and difficulty, making it easy to select a trail that’s not too taxing for the younger members of your family.
Jacksonville has the largest urban park system in the nation, so you’ve got lots of options for where to spend your Saturday far away from TIAA Bank Field. There’s gorgeous Memorial Park in Riverside and beachside destinations like Jarboe Park and Hanna Park. Or you can visit a 250-year-old oak tree at Jesse Ball duPont Park. If Jacksonville’s park system were an iceberg, this list would be just the tip.
Instead of dining on overpriced stadium fare, you could feast on steak at Jacksonville’s own Cowford Chophouse. Whether you’re craving a rich filet mignon or the mighty 40 oz. porterhouse, all your steak dreams will be realized at Cowford.
Indulge Your Sweet Tooth at Sweet Pete’s
Would you honestly choose a football game over a trip to a real-life version of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory? We didn’t think so. Step inside Sweet Pete’s and be transported to a fantastical world of candy, chocolate, and confections that taste too good to be true. The catch is there is no catch; feast to your sweet tooth’s content.