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Jacksonville Florida Staycation Ideas – Cheap or Free 2012

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Jacksonville Florida Staycation Ideas – Cheap or Free 2012

Are you looking for ways to enjoy Jacksonville, FL?  There is so much to do here that you won’t even have to leave town to have a fun Staycation.  I’ve compiled a list of great things to do here that are free or cheap, plus a few other options.   I’m working with several other bloggers, so if you aren’t in the Jacksonville area, check out tomorrows post for a list of other cities covering almost all 50 states, brought to you by my fellow bloggers.

Hanna Park – This is a great place to spend the entire day.  You can play at the kids water playground, bike the trails, play at the beach or camp  overnight.  Admission: $1 per person 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., then $3 per car 10 a.m. to close.  Camping fees are under $35!  We love camping at Hanna Park with it’s Huge shaded oak trees it’s very peaceful.  You can bike or walk to the beach from the campsite.

  • 1.5 miles of pristine sandy beach
  • 60-acre freshwater lake ideal for fishing, nature observation, kayaking, pedal boats and canoes (rental available)
  • water playground open Memorial Day through Labor Day for children under 54 inches tall
  • camping facilities that include RV and tent camping and rustic cabin rentals.  Prices range from $20 per night for tents off season to $34 for RV’s & Cabins.
  • scenic trails designed for both biking and hiking
  • picnic areas
  • open-air facilities for cookouts, reunions, retreats or other group

Huguenot Memorial Park – Waterfront campsites, a bird observation area, and gorgeous views of some of North Florida’s remaining natural areas await visitors to Huguenot Memorial Park. In addition to the natural beauty of the area, the park also offers swimming, fishing, surfing, a boat launch area, picnic shelters, restrooms, and shower facilities to make your stay comfortable and enjoyable.

(Enjoying some card games at the campsite)

Fort Caroline National Memorial –  This is part of the Timucaun Preserve and you can explore part of Florida’s history while hiking the beautiful hardwood forests. The visitor center and grounds are open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily; closed December 25, Thanksgiving, and New Years Day.  Admission is free.

Camp Chowenwaw Park – This used to be a Girl Scout Camp but was purchase by Clay County in 2006.  A great place for camping, swimming and more.

Timucaun Preserve

  • Explore a fort exhibit that recalls the lives and deaths of 16th-century French colonists.
  • Walk among live oaks and thickets of palmettos where pre-Columbian and Timucua Indians once lived.
  • Climb a wildlife observation platform overlooking salt marsh habitat.
  • Visit a plantation where enslaved men, women, and children of African descent labored and the plantation owner sought to make his fortune.
  • Find tranquility in a day at the beach, ride a segway, or wind your way by kayak through the marshy expanse

Little Talbot Island – Over 5 miles of sandy pristine beaches. A full-facility campground is located along the eastern salt marshes of Myrtle Creek. Kayak rentals, guided paddle tours and Segway tours are available.  Picnic pavilions are available and can be reserved.

(Hiking in Jennings State Forest)

Jennings State Forest -The forest is open during daylight hours for Hiking, Bicycling, Canoeing, Horeseback riding, and Wildlife viewing. Be advised that other recreational activities occur on the forest during seasonal hunts.  We’ve been hiking in Jennings State Forest and like any hike be sure to take bug protection including ticks!

JaxParks Publix Swimming Pools – Public swimming pools open to the public during the warmer months. Click the link for locations & hours.

Cecil Aquatic Center – An indoor facility with two pools; one olympic-size pool and a smaller family/exercise pool. It is open year-round with aqua fitness classes, learn-to-swim program, family swim time and more.  Admission is $1 per visit. 13611 Normandy Blvd.

Tree Hill – Located in the center of Jacksonville, Florida, Tree Hill Nature Center is a place to connect with nature for individuals, school field trips, home schoolers, scout troops, business groups and families.  Schedule an Animal Encounter or a Guided Trail Tour today. Stop by with your friends to explore 50-acres and three eco-systems. Plan a family reunion or evening reception in the beautiful Joseph A. Strasser Amphitheater. Enjoy fresh air, plentiful trails and an on-site butterfly house.  Admission: $4 Adults, $3 Seniors/Students/Military, $2 Children.

Jacksonville Beach – Not only can you enjoy miles of Jacksonville beaches for free but they also host free moonlight movies, concerts and craft fairs.  Check out the website for event dates and times.

Jacksonville Beach Fishing Pier – The pier extends nearly a quarter-mile into the Atlantic Ocean, providing a stunning waterfront view. Fishermen $4, pedestrians $1, kids under age 6 free.

Movies – Unfortunately AMC has discontinued it’s summer movie program in 2010 due to lack of attendance in the past.

Cinemark Summer Movie Club House.  (Yay, the Jacksonville location is participating this year!) 10 shows for $5 if paid in advance or $1 per show when you pay at the box office. Here is the Cinemark Summer Movie Schedule for the Jacksonville location.

Carmike Cinemas Summer Kids Series –  The Fleming Island and Fernandina Beach locations will be participating this year.  They will offer Thursday movies at 10am for the family for only $2 each. $2 Movie Combo includes: drink, popcorn, and admission.

Regal Summer Movie Express – Tuesdays & Wednesdays 10am at select theaters, watch a G or PG movie for only $1 per ticket! Here are the local schedules:

Kids Bowl Free – Select bowling centers and schools around the country are participating in the Kids Bowl Free program. This program is designed by bowling centers to give back to the community and provide a safe, secure, and fun way for kids to spend time this summer.  Children whose age does not exceed a limit by a participating bowling center are eligible to register for 2 free games a day, all summer long, courtesy of the participating bowling centers along with the schools and organizations.

Participating Jacksonville Locations:


The Museum of Science & History (MOSH) – Mosh is part of the Bank of America or Merrill Lynch program where card holders get in museums for free the first weekend of every month.  You can visit on Fridays for only $5 per person and they stay open till 8pm on Fridays.   You can buy a MOSH membership and get lots of benefits including free admission to over 200 Museums world wide.

Museum of Contemporary Art – Part of the Bank of America or Merrill Lynch program where card holders get in museums for free the first weekend of every month.  Also free on Wednesdays evenings during the Artwalk.  Sunday’s are free for families and there are days for free admission for military personel and college students with ID.  Check out the website for admission deals.

Beaches Museum & History Center – Relive the days when Jacksonville’s beaches first became a tourist destination with the expansion of the railroad. Walk along a replica boardwalk, while soaking in historical tales, including the story of devastating Hurricane Dora. Other exhibits outside the museum at Pablo Historical Park include the Mayport Railway Depot and a once-working Old #7 Locomotive. Adults, $5; Senior Citizens (65+), $4; Children (6-17), $3; Children 5 and under, free.

Cummer Museum and GardensFREE Tuesdays from 4:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Here’s the rest of the schedule
Tuesdays 10:00 AM – 9:00 PM (FREE Tuesdays 4:00 PM – 9:00 PM Sponsored by Florida Blue)
Wednesdays, Thursdays & Fridays 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Saturdays 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Sundays Noon – 5:00 PM
Closed Mondays and Major Holidays
Regular Admission Prices:
Members: Free
Adults: $10.00
Seniors, Military: $6.00
Children 5 & under: Free
Students* $6.00 (*College Students with ID Free during regular museum hours Tuesday through Friday)

Ritz Theatre and Museum is your ticket to Jacksonville’s African-American history. Located on the site of a historic movie house, it features animatronics and walkable “streets” that bring the city’s black heritage to life. Adults $8, children and seniors $5.

Duval County Library – The libraries host plenty of free activities for the kids including preschool story time, Toddler art, board game events, crafts and more.  The Tweens have a full list of events for their age group too including scrap booking, pizza party nights and free classes.  Check your local branch for event dates and times.

Clay County Public Library – The Clay county libraries have summer youth activities as well including puppet shows, pj storytime.

Summer Reading Programs – Lots of retailers are offering free books when your kids read a specific number of books during the summer.  Check out the list.




Jacksonville Zoo
– There are BOGO coupons in the Enjoy the City coupon books if you bought these.   Father’s Day – June 17th Father’s get free admission with another paid admission with this coupon.

Adventure Landing – Has a Mega-Arcade, Go-Karts, Miniature Golf, Laser Tag, and Batting Cages that are open every day of the year, including holidays with the exception of Christmas Day!  There are coupons in the Enjoy the City coupon books if you bought these.  During the Summer you can visit the Jacksonville Beach location for the Shipwreck Island Waterpark.  The waterark pricing can get expensive for a family but you can take advantage of promotional events:

If you think you will want to enjoy the Water park all summer, you may want to invest in a Season Pass.   There are additional year round benefits to a season pass, including 10% off food items year round.  Be sure to check out their internet coupons before you head out.  Also purchasing your tickets online can save additional money.

St. John’s River Ferry – Dating back to 1948, the St. Johns River Ferry gives passengers a scenic break from highway travel aboard one of the last remaining public ferries in the state, connecting the historic village of Mayport to Fort George Island.  We’ve done this with the kids when we camped at Little Talbot Island and then hopped on the Fairy to camp at Hanna Park.  The kids thought driving the car onto a boat was cool!  With the price of gas now, it’s a fun trip and might even save you some gas.

The Jacksonville Landing – Is located on the St. John’s River in Downtown jacksonville and has shopping, dinning and outdoor entertainment including concerts.  Check the site for event dates.

Many local craft stores offer free crafts for the kids and parents alike.  Each location can vary so be sure to check the store sites for details.  How fun would it be to take a cake decorating or scrapbooking class with the family?

A.C. Moore –  Has free make and take classes that they update monthly.  Check the website for your local store event dates and times.

JoAnn Fabrics –  They offer free demos every weekend.  They have classroom space that you can reserve for your group and work on scrapbooking, knitting or other crafts.   They will even host kids birthday parties with crafts where they do all the work for you!

Michaels – Offers free make and take events, kids birthday parties, classes and more.  Check the website for your local store event dates and times.

(Home Depot builds.  They were so young here!)

Hardware Stores  also offer free classes for adults and craft projects for the kids.

Home Depot – Each location offers free home improver workshops.  The first Saturday of each month they offer free kids workshops where the kids can make a project and take it home.  My kids love doing these and enjoy using the tools, like a hammer!

Lowe’s – Every Saturday at 10am Lowe’s has a free build and grow clinic for kids to make a project and take it home.   Lowe’s also offers in store educational workshops for adults. Check you local store for details.

Riverside Arts Market – Every Saturday, March – December from 10am-4pm you can find local artists and entertainers gathered under the canopy of the Fuller Waren bridge and it’s free for all.  The popular Children’s Creativity Center is housed in a big tent with artistic play and learning activities for the kids. One of the Market’s most praised features is the fresh produce market. Local farmers deliver truckloads of farm-fresh produce each week, with an ever-changing variety of fruit, vegetables, dairy products, honey, and eggs.  Shop local!

Artwalk – The first Wednesday of every month from 5-9pm the Art Walk is a free, self-guided tour that combines astounding visual and live art, engaging events and more in the core of Downtown Jacksonville.  This a great place for local artists to set up and sell their art.  My sister has even shown off here artwork and handmade jewelry.  It’s a great way to be part of the community.

Jacksonville Suns – Tickets start at just $7.50 and run through the summer.  Check the site for the home game schedule..

The Riverwalk – The riverwalk is a paved walkway along the St. Johns River where you can enjoy a view of the boats and cityscape as a family, and it’s free!

The Jacksonville Axemen –  The Jacksonville Rugby team.  All games are played at UNF’s Hodges Field and tickets start at $20 and kids under 12 are always free.

Vacation Bible Schools – Many local churches have free or small church donations that allow your children to attend a week of fun activities.  My kids love going to vacation bible school with friends. Check with your local churches and websites for dates and details.

Jacksonville Destroyers -FC JAX Soccer is a professional soccer franchise in Jacksonville, Florida.  The local games are played at Jacksonville University.

If you have a special place or event your family does together in Jacksonville, please leave a comment and I’ll get it added!

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