Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Discover Jacksonville

Have you signed up for the newsletter yet? The first edition is set to go out tomorrow morning with one of my favorite recipes, a giveaway for three lucky newsletter subscribers, coupons, plus a sneak peak at this month's Write-Away contest and some of the good things coming up. Make sure you also responded to the confirmation email that was sent after you registered--I show that a little over 100 people have signed up but not responded to the confirmation email and will miss it!

Today's travel guest post comes from Kelli of Wild Squirrel who guides us through northern Florida in a family-friendly and cost effective way. The mother of four and married for sixteen years it's wonderful to have her insight so let's make her feel welcome.


When I have the money, I usually don't have time; when I have time, I usually don't have the money! If you fit into the latter category and you find yourself in the north Florida (some would say south Georgia) area, check out these options for some fun, family-friendly activities that won't break the bank.

Kids Kampus is a city-owned park in Jacksonville, Florida, that boasts an active educational and recreational offering including miniature replicas of popular downtown landmarks, a splash water park, Fire Museum, and open air pavilions and picnic tables that can be reserved for personal or group use.

While the target audience is elementary school-aged children, even the youngest and oldest among us can enjoy a relaxing morning or afternoon with the kids along with the cool breeze coming off of the St. John's River while sitting on a picnic blanket under a shade tree. It's a popular destination during the summer, especially for birthday parties and group get-togethers. Best of all, it's free!

According to the web site, The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens was built on the home site of Arthur and Ninah Cummer. The beautiful gardens were created by Mrs. Cummer and are considered one of the museum's glories. Stop and pick up an art kit at the rear of the building where the gardens stretch out before you and sketch a scene or two. Materials are free for patrons' use while exploring the gardens (but must be returned before leaving). While the museum's permanent art collection can be viewed online, Art Connections, a series of interactive exhibits, are best experienced in-person.

Activities include collage making, virtual painting, a cozy reading area, and a room where your silhouetted dance moves are captured on a large screen. It brings back memories of a childhood show where children dashed across the television screen trailed by their shadows in psychedelic colors. Anyone else remember that episode of Sesame Street? Or was it Zoom? Anyway, if you've ever been nervous about taking your children to a museum, leave your fears behind and enjoy Tuesday evenings between 4 pm and 9 pm free of charge thanks to various local sponsors.

Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park is a great option for the outdoor enthusiast. Stay overnight in one of the wooded campsites, walk the sandy beaches, fish in the freshwater lake, or visit the kids water park, all for around $3 per car load. You might also bring your bike or volleyball, and certainly don't forget the sunscreen and picnic lunch. This is an all-day adventure!

Brush up on your history while in the area by stopping at the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve and Fort Caroline National Memorial. This 46,000-acre preserve is staffed and owned by a variety of entities including the National Park Service as well as state, city, and non-profit agencies. The National Park Service sites are free and open to the public while some other areas charge either a per person or per vehicle fee. Visitors can explore Kingsley Plantation, the oldest plantation house still in existence in Florida, watch for over 150 species of birds (among the highest in the US), and learn about the European Protestants' colonization of Florida, which happened to precede the Plymouth colony by around 50 years! Again, pack a lunch and make an afternoon or day of it.

From March until August a series of traditional events are held at Jacksonville Beach's Sea Walk Pavilion. Beach lovers, fishing fanatics, and symphony goers will all find something of interest. Families on a budget, however, will be most excited about the Moonlight Movie Series. During May and June, a different movie is shown each week for approximately four weeks outside under the starry sky. Folks bring their lawn chairs, blankets, and munchies, and take in a classic such as Jurassic Park or Ferris Bueller's Day Off. A children's play area is also nearby.

These attractions are really just the tip of the peninsula; other low-cost entertainment options include Tree Hill Nature Center (and the Annual Butterfly Festival--coupon link here), Huguenot Memorial Park where we can easily spot starfish and other small sea life, and the Ritz Theatre and La Villa Museum featuring free admission as part of the downtown First Wednesday Art Walk. So, on your next road trip south to Disney World in Orlando, feel free to stop in the third most populated city on the East coast behind New York City and Philly, the largest city in land area in the contiguous US, and home to the St. John's River, one of the few rivers in the entire country that flows north. It's Jacksonville. "Where Florida begins."


Congratulations to the giveaway winner! Last week's Puddlegear winner was Vincent from Madison, Wisconsin and this week's La Cense Beef, Sunsweet Dried Plums and Tyson Foods giveaway winner is Charles of High Ridge, Missouri. That should make for a nice spring.

Sponsored by AK Easy Job.com, Alaska's most comprehensive job site and by and Dimples and Dandelions with the Serena and Lily Bedding Collection for children.


Maddy said...

Yes, the time / money continuum. Our annual break is to Britain [for our sins] and there aren't enough left over holidays to go anywhere else, nor the $$$ come to think of it. At least if you take a 'local' holiday then you don't have to worry about the exchange rate.

Munchkins and Music said...

Okay, all these posts on different cities are making me really want to vacation! :) And that quote by Grace is awesome, she rocks!

Neas Nuttiness said...

Loved reading about Jacksonville. I lived there for several years, and was very happy there!

Looking forward to tomorrows newsletter!!!

jodirhoades said...

If it is sunny and warm I am all over it.

CountessLaurie said...

Thanks Kelli for a wonderful article. My mother in law recently moved not too far from Jacksonville so we will definitely be checking out some of these sites in the future.

Anonymous said...

I just got your newsletter today and I was so thrilled. You did a wonderful job. I cant wait to try the sandwich. yummy.