Jacksonville's Great Outdoors

Many people visiting or new to the Jacksonville area don't realize the awesome assortment of outdoor activities our city has to offer.

By Erin Warren for Jacksonville Mom

Take Camp Chowenwaw. Ever heard of it? It's an ex-Girl Scout recreation facility (now open to the public) that features activities like hiking and swimming. Oh- and TREE HOUSE CABINS. That's right, I said tree house cabins. It's okay- my mind was blown, too. Jacksonville Mom can tell you more about them- and the best of everything else outdoors- in their post 'Explore The Outdoors- Kid-Friendly Destinations in Jacksonville'.

If your idea of fun is getting down and not so dirty with nature, Jacksonville (and the surrounding area), is home to several of Florida's 161 state parks. With beach parks like Big Talbot Island, famous for its gorgeous Live Oak and Cedar driftwood- to the suspension bridges and shady trails of O'Leno State Park, there's sure to be a park for everyone. Maybe you've always dreamed of getting up close and personal with a Florida Manatee? Blue Springs State Park has 73-degree water and a regular manatee season. Your kids have been begging you to take them river tubing? The Ichetuknee River flows for six sweet tubing miles at Ichetuknee Springs State Park. Maybe you want a little bit of everything the great outdoors has to offer? At Anastasia State Park, you can hike, swim, bike- even rent paddleboats and sailboats, among other things. (Find more information on the area's State Park offerings at 'Florida State Parks: A Mom's Guide to Enjoying the Real Florida'!)

Who doesn't love a cool fort? Whether it's blankets and cardboard boxes for a three-year-old, or stonewalls and giant cannons for older kids, forts are always a good time. And Jacksonville has no less than four of its very own. There's Fort Caroline, with its kid (and pet!) friendly fun. Fort Clinch has tunnels to explore and soldier reenactments on the first Saturday and Sunday of every month. You may have heard of Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in North America. It features multiple exhibits and often schedules weapons demonstrations, too. There's also Fort Matanzas, a quick 15 miles away from Castillo de San Marcos and accessed by a short ferry ride across the river- which already makes it a winner in my book! For more details and applicable admission info, check out Jacksonville Moms Blog's 'Explore Our Forts of the First Coast.'

Of course, you may be unlucky enough to be in Jacksonville for only a day or so, stuck in a two-day conference or on a Tuesday business trip. Jacksonville has an outdoor adventure for you, too. Get out of that tiny, windowless hotel fitness room and lace up your shoes: We're going running. Is your hotel downtown? Then how about a gorgeous three-mile stretch along the St. Johns River, on the Jacksonville Riverwalk? Or connect your run from the North and South banks via the Main Street and Acosta bridges. Maybe you're off A1A and can take in the gorgeous scenery that is Beauclerc/Scott Mill Road, location of the Thanksgiving Day Half Marathon. Quick visitors staying at the beaches have… the beaches! Time your run right and catch a can't-be-missed First Coast sunrise before your day of meetings. (These and other great running spots can be found at 'My Top Five Favorite Running Destinations in Jacksonville,' courtesy of Jacksonville Moms Blog.)

Get out there, people- Outdoor Jacksonville is waiting for you!

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