Last week’s temps may not have felt like spring weather, but it is, in fact, springtime! And while we may still have a chilly day or two here and there, most of us are putting away our sweaters, dusting off our shorts and tank tops and heading outdoors. While we’re fortunate enough to live in the Sunshine State and be able to play outside for a good portion of the year, spring makes us want to live outside, and we do. From the beach to BBQ’s to picnics and beyond April starts the outdoor adventures. If you’re looking for a place to play, picnic or frolic, here are my favorite Jacksonville parks to visit.
Ed Austin – Perfect for Sports
At 114-acres, Ed Austin offers all the amenities you need for an athletic child or the kid that just needs the room to run around. It has more soccer fields than I am even aware of, baseball fields, a skateboard area, a 1.75 mile paved (mostly shaded) path, basketball courts, two playgrounds and anything else you can imagine a kid (and some adults) would love. There is even a Frisbee Golf course. I had never heard of this game before until I visited this park. Apparently it’s a very popular sport, and I’ve seen many a dad pack a stroller (minus the kids) with a box of Frisbees and throw their way through the park. But I have to say the path is by far my favorite part. There aren’t many parks that can offer that big of a paved route to run, walk, ride your bike, walk your dog, chase your kids or do whatever you feel like doing.
South Beach Park – Perfect for Splashing and Playing
Located minutes from the beach, South Beach Park is a bustling little park with one of the coolest playgrounds I’ve ever seen. My husband says it looks like something out of Harry Potter, and it’s certainly just as exciting to meander through. What’s nice about South Beach Park is that it has two areas for toddlers and bigger kids. In the toddler section are toddler-sized slides, swings, and even monkey bars. The bigger kid area has regular swings, tire swings, a sand pit, taller and longer slides and lots of areas to climb through. During the summer months, South Beach Park opens its splash park. This is a great stop if the kids want to play in water but you don’t quite feel like packing up for a beach run. South Beach Park also has a ¼ mile paved loop, three volleyball courts, a tennis court, basketball court and a giant field. In the evening, this park fills up with soccer games, pre-bedtime playing, adult basketball and volleyball games and late-night exercisers. Bonus: Stroller Strength classes are held here Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 9:30 a.m.!
Losco Park – Perfect for a Quiet Stroll
On your first visit to this Mandarin park, you will feel like you’re in the country. Located just off Philips Highway, Losco Park is a little oasis in the middle of a busy area in Jacksonville. You’d never know you were so close to the main road as this park offers a quiet atmosphere complete with a scenic paved trail that wraps around the wooded park. Losco also offers soccer fields and two playgrounds – one for toddlers and one for older kids.
Jack Russell Park – Perfect for Parties
I’m not sure what it is about this park, but it’s just plain fun! Maybe it’s because it’s in the adorable Atlantic Beach area or because the kids seem to go wild over the little playground. Whatever it is Jack Russell is one of my favorite parks in Jacksonville. Much like the other parks I’ve mentioned, Jack Russell has multiple tennis courts, racquetball courts, soccer fields, baseball fields, playgrounds and even a huge skateboard park. It also has a great picnic pavilion perfect for birthday parties (reservations only) and directly across the street are wooded running paths (not suitable for strollers but older kids might enjoy dodging logs). I do have to give a little warning about this park. It is located right next to a busy road with a less than adequate fence. However, I know a few moms who feel safer at Jack Russell because everything is pretty contained and not so spread out.
Bird Island Park – Perfect for a Play Date
This one is a total secret! Located behind the public library in Ponte Vedra (close to Solana Rd), Bird Island Park was designed to represent North Florida ecosystems. Enjoy walking the nature trails and navigating the sea turtle maze. It’s a great place to walk a stroller or let kids play on the small playground after exploring. Check out their website here where you can find a scavenger hunt for the kids!
Bull Memorial Park – Perfect for Shaded Fun
Located one block from the beach, Bull Park was just recently renovated and now includes a brand new COVERED state of the art playground complete with a soft rubber ground. This shady playground is perfect for little and big kiddos alike. There is a smaller slide for the little ones, and a slightly bigger slide and monkey bars for the bigger kids, among other things. The park also includes swings, a tennis court, a basketball court and a big grassy area for kids to run around and play.
The park is in the heart of the beautiful Atlantic Beach and is surrounded by palm trees and gorgeous houses. It’s also a short bike ride or walk to the Neptune Beach Town Center, so lunch and a park playdate is the perfect activity for a beautiful day. What’s not to love!
Clarke House Park – Perfect for Exploring
Hands down one of the best wooden structures for kids to play on! This magical castle offers a toddler area and a few spots with swings. Lots of shade and lots of places to roam!
Boone Park – Perfect For Playing
On the Park St side of Boone, there is a larger playground, several clay and hard tennis courts (Available for play by the hour or with a yearly membership), and multiple pavilions, picnic tables, and benches. It’s also worth noting that the park’s only restroom is on this side, as well.
Riverside Park – Perfect For Picnics
In addition to several pieces of playground equipment, Riverside Park has basketball courts and tons of open space for sports and picnics. It’s most memorable feature, however, has to be “Duck Island,” the large combination water feature/ duck pond. Bring something to feed them with and you’ll make friends for life!
Alpine Grove – Perfect For a Nature Walk
Alpine Groves Park is a passive park containing 54.5 acres. It is located in Northwest St. Johns County between the beautiful St. Johns River and William Bartram Scenic & Historic Highway in Switzerland, Florida.
When you enter the park, you step back in time as you view the partially restored house and grounds of a turn-of-the-century homestead and citrus grove under moss-draped oak and magnolia trees on a high bluff overlooking the river.
A magnificent butterfly garden, a farm-themed playground, picnic area and a winding wooded trail that leads you to hanging swings in a quiet natural setting inviting guests to linger and unwind. Alpine Groves provides a stunning natural landscape for taking photographs, painting, or just relaxing and reading a great book on the farmhouse porch. Families can also enjoy a covered dock for fishing or taking a journey down the St. Johns River from the park canoe/kayak launch.
The park is a designated destination on the Great Florida Birding Trail. You can find eagles, osprey, owls, wood ducks and many other avian species calling the park their home.
To learn more about parks in Jacksonville, or to find a park near you, visit the City of Jacksonville’s JaxParks website.