Places to Go Out And About (Safely) in and around Jacksonville this Winter
Your family could really use a fun outing, but you're committed to social distancing. If you haven't been motivated to get outside in the winter in the past, make this your year to explore new places and try new things, all while staying a safe distance from others. If you can, switch your schedule and do your outings on weekdays to avoid weekend crowds. Here are a few suggestions you may not have considered, and all of them are nearby.
When Staying Home is Your Only Option
We know that things are changing quickly, and whether it's new local regulations or your own family's need to isolate, even the safest "out and about" options may not be appropriate for you at some point this winter. If that's the case, keep in mind that we've got plenty of ideas to keep life interesting while you're at home.
Go on a Hunt
Kids love a good hunt! There is something very motivating and satisfying about seaching for something, whether it's treasure or not. One fun way to lean into that impulse is to go geocaching. Did you know that little treasures are hidden all over the place? If you've never tried geocaching, it's a wonderful opportunity for kids to get some activity outside while using using their deductive skills. There are also tons of companies that offer virtual scavenger hunts, either for items that you can find just about anywhere, or region-specific hunts that provide a tour of a special place. Both activities offer the chance to safely explore while keeping a distance from others.
If you dress appropriately, you can take a hike year-round. It's great exercise, it lets you connect with nature and each other, and best of all, it's free. Put away the phones (except for cool activities like geocaching, looking up new plants, or making a photo collage or map) and head out to the trail! Click the link below for nearby options, and also check out our article of tips and tricks for making the most of the experience and avoiding whining.
A garden or arboretum is a special change of pace from your usual walk in nature. You'll find careful design, information about plants and how they grow, and a bit more "formal" atmosphere, but there's usually still plenty of space to explore. Visit again and again to notice the change of seasons, bring along a blanket and a book, or pack a picnic if it's allowed. Visit The Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens where you can find peace and connect with nature.
Zoos and Nature CentersFauna and flora in our corner of the world
While you're staying away from crowds of people, now's a great time for some animal encounters and the peace we find in the natural world. Your local zoos and nature centers offer just what we all need right now: space. Many have created brand-new programs designed to accommodate safety procedures while still giving visitors the opportunity to interact with meaningful parts of our world with room to breathe. As of mid- December, Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary, St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park, and Amelia Island Nature Center (pre-registration required) are open for tours and Jacksonville Zoo is requiring advance reservations prior to visting. Tree Hill Nature Center is open Monday-Saturday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., closed holidays.