The child (and adult) imagination is best ignited when all five senses are activated. Not to worry, these stops in Jacksonville will keep even the littlest hands busy, with smiles all around.

You Donut Want to Miss This

The first rule of prepping for your visit to Good Dough for donuts is to check out the drool-worthy photos of their selections online. The second rule: don’t pick just one. The menu changes monthly and the varieties of their small batch, artisan donuts fall into five categories: raised, old-fashioned, cake, bomb and savory. The raised donut is the base for most of their unique flavor creations and it’s dense and buttery with a slight chew thanks to the brioche-style yeast dough. These are knife and fork donuts, draped with glazes and toppings. Yes, toppings -- like mini gingerbread man cookies or a scoop of birthday cake “batter” or a brown sugar pop tart or dried apricots, walnuts and prosciutto (those were all together with mascarpone cheese). Some favorites that appear on the menu regularly and appeal to their youngest fans are the Brown Butter, Molly Ringwald (pink raspberry glaze with sprinkles) and the Cardamom Sugar. On Fridays, they feature a vegan donut. All this sweetness needs a balance, right? The beans for all of their coffee drinks are supplied by Vagabond Coffee Co. and in keeping with seasonal theme of the donuts they serve, they also offer specialty latte flavors monthly.

Imagine, Invent, Inspire

A life-sized sculpture of a right whale might leave them speechless meanwhile the hands-on touch tank will let them explore North Florida’s coastal creatures at the Museum of Science and History, more affectionately called MOSH. The interactive museum will keep small hands and feet busy but its signature exhibit traces local history from the first Native American settlers (the Timucua) through the 1960s. One of the key highlights focuses on Jacksonville’s role in the movie industry in the early 1900s. Before Hollywood became La La Land, Jacksonville (the gateway to the sunshine state) became the “Winter Film Capital of the World.” Major film companies opened Jacksonville locations and during its 20-year run and it was the center for production for “The Gulf Between” (1917), the first Technicolor film and first feature-length film produced in the United States. The museum is also home to the Bryan-Gooding Planetarium, one of the largest single-lens planetariums in the states, offering programs throughout the day (one is included with museum admission). On the first Friday of each month, the planetarium hosts a series of hour-long Cosmic Concerts that combine laser lights, high-def images and digital sound.

Treaty Oak, an octopus-like Southern live oak, is located in Jessie Ball DuPont Park in Jacksonville.

Treaty Oak, an octopus-like Southern live oak, is located in Jessie Ball DuPont Park in Jacksonville. The tree is estimated to be 250 years old and may be the single oldest living thing in Jacksonville, predating the founding of the city by Isaiah Hart during the 1820's.

- Daron Dean for VISIT FLORIDA


Arm in Arm

More than two centuries old, Jacksonville’s Treaty Oak stands more than 70 feet tall with a trunk circumference of at least 25 feet in diameter and is the centerpiece of Jessie Ball DuPont Park. The city has constructed a wood boardwalk that meanders around and under the Southern Live Oak and kids will be awed by long, outstretched limbs which bring to mind an octopus’ far-reaching arms. The lowest limbs touch the ground making it an ideal location for family photos. Jax Trivia: The oak, then known as the Great Oak, was the centerpiece of now extinct Dixieland Amusement Park, where Babe Ruth once played ball and John Phillip Sousa performed a concert. At that point, it was mainly used for shade and decked with electric lights.

Willy Wonka Would Approve

Imagine cut glass chandeliers in jelly bean hues, super soft tees with sugarspun sayings, tables laden with candy-coated caramel apples and at least 100 choices including peanut butter meltaways, rock candy and taffy to fill your own candy box. Welcome to Sweet Pete’s, which is a feast for the eyes for kids of all ages. Located next to city hall in the three-story historic Seminole Club, Sweet Pete’s was started by Peter Behringer as a home-based confectionary business, and hit the big time when it was featured on “The Profit” and Marcus Lemonis chose to team up with the Jacksonville entrepreneur. You’ll score extra brownie points with your kids by booking them a space in one of the store’s classes. The options are as varied as the store from Chocolate Bar Your Way to Gummy Making and can be scheduled online in advance. 

Public Art Tour

Larger-than-life art is having a renaissance in the urban core as top international muralists are transforming plain walls into colorful, thought-provoking murals. The charge has been lead by ArtRepublic, a weeklong cultural festival that believes all art – fashion, digital and public – leads to more meaningful human communication. In the past three years, the organization has brought in more than 20 artists to lead that charge and their work can be seen around the downtown cityscape. 

Tables for Four (or more)

“Are we there yet?” is as common a phrase as “Mom, I’m hungry.” Jax’s urban core has many fast casual options with a varied menu to help out a frazzled family. Bearded Pig pairs Southern BBQ with a great lineup of craft beers and has abundant outdoor seating and garden area for play. The Bearded Poutine with burnt ends is a great starter. For a more varied menu, head to the San Marco location of the Jacksonville-based restaurant chain The Loop, which features burgers and chicken sandwiches, entre salads and pizzas. If gourmet burgers and creative shakes are your more your thing, the Medure brothers behind Jacksonville’s gourmet fine dining hot spot Matthew’s, embraces all things beef and opened a fantastic burger concept called M Shack. Adventurous eaters will love the Sunrise Burger with a fried egg and always, always get a side of the queso for your fries. For savory tacos and burritos check out Burrito Gallery and Hightide Burrito Company or grab a slice at Al’s Pizza or Moon River Pizza.