The Ultimate Summer Bucket List: Free & Cheap Things to Do in Jacksonville

summerGet out and enjoy the heat! There is so much fun to be had this (and every) summer on the First Coast. We compiled some of our must-do favorites for a bucket list worth checking off! And the best part is, a lot of it is free!

Keep Cool & Beat the Heat

Head to the Beach: It’s not summer in Florida without a trip to the beach. Grab some sunscreen and your favorite beach toys, and have some fun!

Hanna Park Beach & Splash Park: Hanna Park offers SO much to do, at a really low price. You can hit up the beach, go kayaking, hike some nature trails, go camping… it’s fantastic! The splash park has been recently renovated and is ready for visitors!

South Beach Park and Sunshine Playground: Head to Jacksonville Beach where the kids can work up a sweat on the newly renovated playground, and then head over to the splash pad when they’re ready to cool down. Bonus: There are some pretty sick ramps for the older kids to take a ride on!

Murray Hill Playground Splash Pad: This park boasts a playground kids will love, with a water feature that doubles as an area your kids will love to run and splash in.

Spring Park Pool and Splash Pad: Located on the St. Johns River in Green Cove Springs, this park was renovated in recent years. The gorgeous park has both a spring-fed pool and a splash pad, sure to keep kids cool and having a blast.

Losco Park Splash Pad: This park in Mandarin has a playground, grills, and pavilions, and a splash pad, so after working up an appetite playing, you can have a picnic for the family ready, too.

Adventure Landing: is loads of fun for the whole family! The Jax Beach location will be open for one more season, so make sure to visit while you can for a race around the go-cart track, a round of mini-golf, or cool off on one of their water slides! Up for a day trip? Check out the St. Augustine location!

Summer Waves Water Park: Summer Waves is just a day trip away with options from lazy laps in the river to high-speed thrills on slides, which is quite perfect to suit every family member.

Head to a Museum

The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens: Kids love taking in the beautiful historic gardens, and when it’s time to cool down, the Art Connections area for children has lots of up-close learning and fun in air-conditioned bliss.

Museum of Science and History: A great way to keep cool and keep the kids entertained at the same time, MOSH is encouraging their summer guests to become a Dinosaur Explorer this year and we. are. PUMPED!

Museum of Contemporary Art JacksonvilleFree admission to MOCA on the last Friday of each month with a library card. All Jacksonville Library cardholders — including residents, educators, students, military, and those who hold active non-resident cards — are eligible for this benefit.

Kingsley Plantation: You can visit the Kingsley Plantation for free from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Wednesday-Sunday, and explore the grounds, which includes the slave quarters, barn, waterfront, plantation house, kitchen house, and interpretive garden.

Catch a Free (or Cheap) Show, Movie, or Concert

San Marco Theatre Summer Kids Films: This local gem is proud to offer Summer Kids Films twice a week at 10 a.m. $7 covers not only your admission but also includes popcorn and drink! Such a fun way to beat the heat!

Regal Summer Movie Express:Summer Movie Express tickets are just $2 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays featuring summer movies the whole family will enjoy.

Cinemark Summer Movie Clubhouse: Beginning June 15, Cinemark at Tinseltown, Atlantic North, and Durbin Park will offer kid movies for just $1.50 at various times.

Jacksonville Jazz Festival: The annual (FREE) Jacksonville Jazz Festival will take place over the course of four days in Downtown Jax along the St. Johns River for you to get your groove on!

Free St. Augustine Concerts: Concerts in the Plaza, St. Augustine’s free summer-long music series, returns to the Plaza de la Constitución on June 2 and continues every Thursday until September 1!

Kid Movies at Sun-Ray Cinema: Summer Kid’s series returns June 1st! Screenings will be on Wednesdays and Saturdays until the end of July for just $3 per ticket! 

Get Hooked on Books with a Free Story Time

Traveling Tales Kit: The Duval County Library offers Traveling Tales Kits available for check out from the Main Library in downtown Jacksonville.  The kits include books, puppets, songs, craft ideas, snack recipes, a music CD, a DVD, and a flannel board story all related to a theme. You must visit the Main Library to check out the kits, but they can be returned to any Duval County Library.

Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge: Scholastic has a summer reading challenge where kids read and then go online to record the minutes they’ve read this summer. They’ll also be able to take weekly challenges to earn rewards.

Chamblin Bookmine: Chamblin’s has been selling new, used, and rare books in Jacksonville since 1976. Take in your previously loved books and either trade them in for credit or sell them! It’s super simple and nurtures your child’s desire to read!

Learn Something New at a Free Class or Workshop

Lowes Build and Grow Clinic: Kids can use a real hammer and build something great at one of the various Build and Grow Clinics at Lowes this summer. Registration opens a few weeks before each clinic’s date.

Michaels Kids’ Club Online: Discover fun and engaging projects the whole family can enjoy! Get online for creative classes designed for kids ages 3 and up. A few in-store events are scheduled, too!

Explore the Outdoors

Castaway Island Preserve is another great family-friendly hiking trail!

Florida State Parks: Florida State Parks are a great way to explore the outdoors, and a lot of them are not far from Jacksonville. The Junior Ranger program can make exploring Florida’s outdoors even more exciting, too.

Georgia State Parks: Georgia State Parks are also a great option for family adventures, so head across the state border and check out parks like the Okefenokee Swamp, Crooked River, and Stephen C Foster, only about an hour away.

Free National Park Day: Celebrate the National Park Service Birthday with free entrance to all National Parks. Jacksonville’s closest National Park that charges admission is Castillo De San Marcos in St. Augustine.

Every Kid In A Park Pass: All kids in the fourth grade have access to their own Every Kid in a Park Pass, which allows free access to all National Parks for students and their families.

Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens: The Arboretum is a great hidden wonder, giving you the chance to explore 120 acres of natural preserve trails. Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy your time among the blooms!

Great Birding Trail: There are hundreds of bird sites, so grab your binoculars and get on the road. Kids will love seeing birds like egrets, herons, bluebirds, woodpeckers, bald eagles, and more!

Jacksonville Rocks: Join a group, like Jacksonville Rocks, dedicated to hiding and finding painted rocks at parks throughout Jacksonville. It’s almost as much fun for a kid to find a painted rock as it is to hide them!

REI Activity Journal: Print out an REI Kids’ Adventure Journal before your next outdoor trip to get the kids involved in their experience to make it even more exciting and fun.

Art Walks: The Jacksonville Area is home to two different FREE Art Walks. The Downtown Art Walk is the first Wednesday of every month from 5-9 p.m. The North Beaches Art Walk is the third Thursday of every month from 5-9 p.m.

Skyway Express: You can take a complimentary ride around Downtown Jacksonville on the Skyway Express. The Skyway runs Monday-Friday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on the weekends only during special events.

Blueberry picking is super popular this time of year.

Get Some Free (or Cheap) Food

Celebrate Free Slurpee Day: On July 11, head to 7-Eleven, and get a free Slurpee! There’s no better way to beat this Florida heat!

Celebrate Mini-Mania-Monday: Head to the St. Johns Town Center and stop by Sweet By Holly, where all day on Mondays their delicious mini cupcakes are offered at a discounted rate.

National Doughnut Day: Calling all doughnut lovers! June 3 is National Doughnut Day, and you can get a free doughnut at Krispy Kreme and Dunkin Donuts, as well as check out other doughnut specials around town.

Dreamette Cones: A Jacksonville institution, it’s a must-stop over the summer for a cool treat. Check out their newest location in San Marco!

Blueberry Picking: Blueberry picking gives kids a fun day outside, as well as a chance to bring a healthy, hard-earned treat home. Sounds like a win-win in our book!

There is so much to do and explore in Jacksonville. Photo by Corinna Hoffman Photography.

Other Fun Summer Activities

Bowl for Free: Bowling is a great activity in the summer because it gives kids a chance to get the wiggles out while staying in the air conditioning to escape the Florida heat. And with Kids Bowl Free, you can get two free games every single day.

Riverside Arts Market: The Arts Market is every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., rain or shine. RAM features a variety of small businesses, everything from artists to farmers to makers and bakers. Get out and support local!

Stroll the Pier: The Jacksonville Beach Pier is currently under construction, but you can head down to St. Augustine and explore the St. Johns County Ocean Pier, where you’ll find a splash pad, volleyball, and bocce courts, as well as restaurants and shops within walking distance.

Jacksonville Beach Summer Arts Market: This Arts Market features local artists, craftsmen, and artisans who will have their work on display in beautiful Jacksonville Beach.

Activities at Home

Sidewalk chalk, anyone? Photo courtesy of Emily Harrison.

Science Fun: The world of science offers endless opportunities to make learning fun, even over the summer when school is the last thing on their minds. Whether you have younger kids or older kids, there are tons of options.

Start a Business: Summer is a perfect time for kids to learn about starting their own business. Whether it’s lemonade stands or car washing, it’s not only fun but also a great learning experience.

Build a Little Free Library: You may have seen these occasionally around town, and it’s a project you can do with your kids, too. There are easy, affordable DIY instructions, and you can build one together as a family. Imagine how excited your kids will be to stock it with their old books or to see new ones appear.

Make Some Chalk Art: Chalk drawings are an easy and simple way to spend time with your kiddos while bringing color to your otherwise plain driveway. Bonus points: those summer rain showers do the cleanup for you!

Bubble Fun: Break out the bubbles for fun in the backyard. And hey, the bigger, the better — check out this homemade recipe for massive bubbles!

Keep In Touch: Slow summer days are the best time to reacquaint our littles with the lost art of writing letters. And while you’re at it, they can make some friendship bracelets, drawings, or other crafts to send to their friends with their letters. It’s even more fun if you plan it out with other moms in advance, so checking the mail will be exciting all summer long.

What are your favorite summer activities around Jacksonville?

Born and raised in the Aloha state and a traveling gypsy at heart, Chantel left the nest fresh out of high school and headed off for college in sunny Southern California. Almost a decade later she met and fell madly in love with her hubby who whisked her off to the great Midwest. After five brutal winters in Nebraska, Chantel realized that home will always be where the ocean is (and the snow isn’t), so off to Jacksonville they went, where this Hawaiian girl now spends her days as a stay-at-home wrangler to her two baby bears. Prior to becoming a household CEO, she joyfully spent her time as the Program Assistant Director of a preschool. Digging deep into wellness and health is her jam alongside spontaneous dance parties with her kiddos are what sing to her soul. Chantel is wildly passionate about advocating for her son, who lives with multiple severe food allergies. You can find her out and about on a daily basis as she is a self-proclaimed busy body and loves hitting up the beach or exploring new spots in town while homeschooling her kiddos. If you ever see this fast-paced mama on the go, be sure to say hi because she is always up for meeting new people and making new friends!


  1. At Kingsley Plantation, kids can participate in the National Park Service junior ranger program with a fun booklet of activities. They receive a junior ranger badge and are sworn in when completed!

  2. Thanks so much for sharing the information about the Jacksonville. From your post, many of the people can love it and also many of them want to visit it. After reading your post now I am planning to visit Jacksonville in this year.


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