There is ALWAYS something going on in Jacksonville and A TON of places around town to have fun with the family. Being that Jax is the largest city in the United States, sometimes those places can get a little crowded.
Long lines, difficulty parking, crowds and toddlers do not always mix well.
If you’re looking to literally go off the beaten path and try something a little different, consider these toddler-friendly Hidden Gems. They are guaranteed to not only broaden your activity agenda, but ensure a solid nap time afterward.
Cancer Survivor Park
My 3 year old has been obsessed with bridges since I took a wrong turn on the way to take some listing pictures and get breakfast in Riverside. That wrong turn resulted in us going over the “blue bridge”, where he saw the “red bridge”, and sent us on a mission to go over the “green bridge”, etc…
At that point, I remembered seeing this park once after showing riverfront condos and knew we had to swing by. It was a great way to burn off some energy and go over all his favorite bridges of Jacksonville again.
Personally having had loved ones go through the “maze” of cancer, the overall purpose of the park really hits home as well.
Bird Island Park
Books and nature and firetrucks- oh my!
A secret garden of sorts, this Ponte Vedra park is able to be completely forgotten unless you know its there.
Perfect for a break with littles, it is small but packs a big punch. There is a Sea Turtle shaped maze to run through, a playground, animal statues to pose with, and a dock where you can watch countless turtles, fish, and birds make their way around the island.
You could also pack a picnic lunch and eat in the shade of the Rookery Pavilion or the Story Telling Area.
The park backs up to the Ponte Vedra Fire Station as well, so if you’re lucky, you may get a chance to see the Fire Trucks!
From time to time, Ponte Vedra Public Library offers Baby & Me classes and Toddler story events. With a little planning, you could make an entire daytrip out of this visit!
Sweet Pete’s Candy Shop
“A candy store?” you may be thinking…
Yes. A candy store. Like something out of Willy Wonka’s!
This three story wonderland not only has an ice cream shop, toy store, and full-on retro candy store where the candy is actually made on site, but also puts on classes where they will teach you how to make the candy, boasts a full restaurant and hosts private events.
AND they have special Toddler Times where you not only get to enjoy a Pete the Cat story, make a craft, and get a tidbit, but also meet Pete!
Wow. Just. Wow.
Grab the kiddos a bite to eat and some treats to add to your secret stash, then head across the street to walk some of it off while you look at the sculptures in Hemming Park.
Hanna Park is not only a really fun place to camp, but it is also a great place to spend the day with your kiddos.
As long as your babes are less than 4 feet tall, they are able to play in the splash pad area. This will allow them run around being silly while cooling off at the same time.
There are also bike and hiking trails, an enormous lake for water sports -and- some locals don’t even know: the park has beach access!
It’s nice and quiet and has some prime surf (but shhhhh don’t tell anyone).
Tree Hill Nature Center
You’d never guess that there would be a nature center in the heart of Arlington, but there is!
If you’re looking to delve into some stellar nature walks as well as have fun with farm animals, then this is your place. There are over 50+ acres of trails to explore and most are even stroller friendly (bonus points!).
Looking to have your kids think you are the G.O.A.T.? Then you definitely have to hit up the amazing pygmy goat exhibit.
There’s also a museum to cool down in with touch tanks, and a popular Butterfly festival in the spring.
These are just a few of the Toddler Approved Hidden Gems we’ve stumbled upon around town. Are there any more that you’d recommend?