I am a Christian. I was an 8th-grade American History teacher. I am currently a freelance writer, public speaker, & homeschooling mom of 9.
Are you looking for fun, free (or inexpensive) activities, events, and field trip ideas for kids in the North Florida area: Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Gainesville, and Live Oak? Here are our favorite local family trips and field trips we've enjoyed while going on field trips or entertaining visitors from out of town.
- *Go to https://fun4gatorkids.com/ to find daily events.*
- Florida Museum of Natural History has a gorgeous display of butterflies, a fun fake outdoor area that feels like you’re in a forest and then in a cave, a Native American area with a Calusa hut, and lots of fossilized bones and shells. They also have a few annual science-related events which are usually great. *Tip: Be sure to take a stroll on the nature walk area that is right next to the museum (to the left when you’re facing the museum). COST: Free
- HARN Museum of Art is right next door to the Museum of Natural History. It’s modern art, which isn’t my preference, but it does have a nice Asian area. You can at least pop in briefly. COST: Free
- Hogtown Reptile Shop is about half a mile from those two museums. It’s almost like visiting the reptile house at a zoo. It’s also right next door to a neat aquarium store, which is also fun to visit. COST: Free
- Mill Creek Farms (in Alachua) is a retirement home for horses. It has a stroller-friendly one-mile loop around & you can see and feed over a hundred horses. It’s open every Saturday (11 AM - 3 PM). Bring carrots or sliced apples to feed the horses. We usually bring a two-pound of carrots per child and always run out. COST: Free
- La Chua Trail at Paynes Prairie (not the main entrance to Paynes Prairie) is a one-mile trail (straight out – not a loop) that goes through a swamp area and a wild prairie. We saw at least 100 alligators, plenty of wild birds, some wild horses (descendants from the ones from the Spanish explorers), and a herd of bison (which used to roam wild here). The path is stroller-friendly. COST: $4/vehicle & bring cash as it’s unmanned
- Devil's Millhopper is a unique state park as you get to hike into an enormous sinkhole. They also have a stroller-friendly walking trail around the sinkhole. COST: $4/vehicle
- O’Leno State Park (in High Springs): You’ll pass this state park off I-75. If you like hiking, this is a nice stop. It has a trail that’s about 1 ½ miles that passes sinkholes with water and turtles. It has a fun suspension walking bridge over the river that leads to stairs that take you down to a spot with shallow water where you can splash in the river. COST: $5/vehicle
- Depot Park is a great place to stop on a hot day to let the kids play. It's a nice sized splash pad & park surrounded by a gate. If you like running, they also hold weekly 5K runs for free every Saturday starting at the park. COST: Free
- Annual Events Worth Attending: Free events at the Museum of Natural History (Collector's Day in January, Can You Dig It Geology Open House in March, & Butterfly Fest in October), Hoggetowne Medieval Faire in January (reasonable rates on Educator's/Family Day), & BugFest Open House at UF in April (free)
- *Go to https://fun4firstcoastkids.com/ to find daily events.*
- Jacksonville Beach is of course always a favorite. We usually go to Neptune Beach because we can usually find nearby parking. COST: Free (except for parking)
- Cummer Museum & Gardens has a nice collection of art, a pretty garden, & a small but fun play area for kids. COST: Free the first Saturday of each month & if you have a NARM or AHS memberships - If you don't know about those great memberships, I posted about them here. We actually buy our annual family membership from Cummer Museum since it includes the NARM, AHS, and SERM memberships.
- Fort Caroline has a small recreated fort & Timucuan home along with a nice nature trail area. COST: Free
- Big Talbot Island State Park is just neat to visit because it looks so different from the other beaches. It has lots of fallen-over trees from erosion. It's a great place to take gorgeous photos. COST: $3/vehicle & bring cash as it’s unmanned
- Museum of Science & History is great for kids with a section on marine animals, a small area with live native animals, an area that walks you through the history of Jacksonville, & a couple areas with rotating exhibits. COST: $12/$15 but free if you have an ASTC membership.
- Jacksonville Zoo – COST: We have a family membership ($125/year), so we go frequently. While the zoo is great, I personally wouldn’t go if we didn’t have the membership as it’s pricey. It's one of my children's favorite places in North Florida.
- Annual Event Worth Attending: Jacksonville Sea & Sky Show/Air Show in October (free)
- *Go to https://fun4tallykids.com/ to find daily events.*
- The Museum of Florida History has a neat mastodon from a nearby river and lots of other historical artifacts as you walk through Florida History. COST: Free (They have a parking garage on the left that is open during the weekends and is free to park in during the week if you get your ticket validated by the museum.)
- Tallahassee Museum has an outdoor “zoo” with native animals (black bears, panthers, deer, etc.), a historic farm including farm animals, a nature center, and a nice playground. It has an entrance fee. COST: $9/$12 but it offers a free day once a year
- Mission San Luis has a Native American village, Spanish Catholic mission (still active), and fort built as replicas with historical re-enactors. COST: $2/$5 & it offers at least one free day per year
- Florida Caverns State Park (in Marianna) is about an hour west of Tallahassee. While it's pricey, I think it's worth visiting once. COST: an entrance fee & tour fee
- Annual Events Worth Attending: Mag Lab Open House in February (free), Asian Festival in October (free), & Science Day in October (free)
- Suwannee River State Park: We’ve hiked around lots of state parks and Florida Trail sites. This is probably my favorite that is local as it has a variety of things to see (huge tree you can climb into, picturesque boardwalk bridge over water, natural springs, Civil War earthworks, remains of an old sawmill, small playground, etc.). It also has a boat ramp if you want to take out a kayak or canoe. COST: $5/vehicle & bring cash as it’s unmanned
- Mystic Jungle: Educational area for displaced wild animals focused mainly on large cats. Open Saturdays from 10 am until 3 pm with tour times at 10 am, 12 pm, 1:30 pm and 3 pm Private tours are generally scheduled on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. COST: Donation is $10. Children 3 & under are free.
- Suwannee Springs: When my kids want to go swimming, this is where we go. It has a small beach area along the river and is shallow enough in most of the areas. It also has the remains of an old bath house surrounding a sulfur spring and has an old bridge that is a popular place for photos. It’s also a good place to go if you want to put out a kayak or canoe. COST: Free
- Stephen Foster State Park (in White Springs) has some trails, a craft village, & carillon tower that still plays songs. My favorite part is the 1950s home with moving dioramas depicting Stephen Foster’s songs.*If you have a few extra minutes stop by the historic Spring House which is just outside the park entrance. COST: $5/vehicle
- Annual Events Worth Attending: Easter Festival at Heritage Park in March or April, Blueberry picking at Scott's Farm (in Wellborn) or Rooney Farms (in Live Oak) in June, White Springs Christmas Parade & free night at Festival of Lights in December, Christmas on the Square in December, & Christmas at Heritage Park in December
Are you looking for fun, free (or inexpensive) activities, events, and field trip ideas in Live Oak, Florida in Suwannee County? Check out my post What to See and Do in Live Oak, Florida at which I describe our favorite local family trips and field trips we've enjoyed while going on field trips or entertaining visitors from out of town.
Great Book to Find More Adventures
Would you like to get FREE admission to hundreds of museums, gardens, zoos, and parks? At Free Museum, Zoo, Garden, & Park Tickets I posted how to have the most fun while traveling without busting your budget! Whenever we travel, we visit sooo many art, science, history, and children's museums. We also stop by lots of botanical gardens, zoos, and parks. People think we spend a fortune on our vacations, but we don't! My entire family gets into all of those places free! Yes, really! The way we do this is through the reciprocity agreements between museums, gardens, zoos, and parks.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2013 Shannon
Do you have any other great field trip ideas for North Florida? - Or just leave a note to let me know you dropped by! I love getting feedback from you!
Shannon (author) from Florida on May 23, 2013:
@ConvenientCalendar: My children would love to go there. It's quite a distance from where we live, though.
ConvenientCalendar on May 23, 2013:
Lego land for kids!