Exploring Downtown Jacksonville with Kids – The Skyway and Downtown Library

San Marco StationMy big kids always love taking a trip downtown to ride The Skyway and explore the downtown library, but I was recently surprised when my three-year-old begged to go “ride the monorail”!  “Please! Please! Please! Please, Mommy,” she said.  Three is such a fun age – she thinks it’s a roller coaster!

If you are not familiar with the Skyway, it is a monorail that runs from the Southbank over the St. Johns River to various stops in downtown Jacksonville. It can be a bit intimidating to attempt on your own the first time so I thought I would include step-by-step instructions to help other moms navigate this fun adventure a little more easily. Then you will be ready to pick a day and conquer downtown Jacksonville!

1.  What to Pack

We usually do not pack lightly when we head on this outing, but I normally bring the stroller to help carry the load and to keep my three-year-old contained when necessary. Even my double stroller would fit on the train without being folded so it was pretty smooth traveling. I typically pack my backpack with our library card, library bag, some loose change, snacks and drinks (or even a bag lunch), a camera, and hand sanitizer.

JTA Skyway2. Start at San Marco Station

Before you start the trip, check the schedule for the Skyway. Currently it only operates Monday through Friday and on weekends for special events and admission is FREE. The San Marco Station is located at the corner of San Marco Blvd and Mary Street. We usually park in the lot that is adjacent to the station, and it has always been free for us. Load up all your stuff, and make sure to lock all of your valuables in the car.

Elevators are available if you have a stroller, otherwise this is a fun place to ride the escalator! Once you reach the platform, keep your children reined in tightly. This is the part where having a stroller to contain your child becomes especially helpful. When the train is not in the station, there is an opening from the platform directly to the track. There is an alarm that will sound if you cross the yellow line, but you can never be too safe.

Choose the train that will travel towards Central Station. If you hop on the train to Riverplace by accident, don’t worry – it’s the end of the line and comes right back to San Marco. When boarding the train, I suggest you ride in the front car so you can get a better view of downtown Jacksonville and the St. Johns River.

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3.  Travel to Hemming Plaza

To reach the library, you will take the train to Hemming Plaza. Be careful, there may be a need to change trains at Central station. Just make sure the train you are on is heading to Hemming Plaza. If not, you just exit at Central Station and transfer to the correct train. Also, if you accidentally end up on the train to Jefferson station, you get the bonus adventure of seeing one of Jacksonville’s famous historical sites, the Prime Osborn Convention Center. Back in the day, it was a functional train station!  Regardless of which route you take when you reach Hemming Plaza walk over towards Laura Street to reach the library. Enjoy the plaza on the way through by bringing some extra coins to throw in the fountain!

And don’t forget about Sweet Pete’s new location adjacent to Hemming Plaza! Stop in for some sweet, treats, a candy making class or lunch at Candy Apple Cafe!

4.  Enjoy the Library

The library is located at the corner of N. Laura Street and Monroe Street and offers many programs and events for children. My children are happy enough to just enjoy the large selection of books. It is no joke, we’ve been to several other branches and there is nothing like it. We usually walk out with tons of books because we are so happy to find so many that interest us.

Main Library Downtown

Since my hubby works downtown, we sometimes add the excursion of a trolley ride to meet him for lunch. Look forward to a future post about the Trolley and other ways to explore our city with kids!

Kathy is a Georgia girl who followed her surfer husband Chuck to the beaches of Jacksonville where she became mom to elementary-aged twins Sophie and Will, preschooler Lainey, and baby Henry! Stay at home mom and avid volunteer, Kathy truly believes in teaching her children to embrace the community, to depend on each other, and to serve one another. Kathy served for a decade in the Junior League of Jax and is in her third year serving on the executive board of the PTA where her children attend school. She is very active in her church, Neptune Baptist and has been involved in the MOMS Club of Jax Beach for over eight years. Kathy has learned so much in her career as a software consultant for Oracle, but is always amazed at the skills she has acquired as a mom and community volunteer. Kathy also enjoys running and completed her last marathon (#9) in 2011, but always wonders if she shouldn't just do another to have a good even 10 under her belt!

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