Get your ass outside.
And you say there’s nothing to do in Jacksonville …
Instead of visiting each one (because that would take literally years), we’re going to take you through a few lesser-known jewels of the Bold City in no particular order.
SouthwestRiver Oaks Park
Where? Corner of San Jose Blvd & Brookwood Rd
This park runs along a finger of the St. Johns. It’s shady and quiet. The trees keep the park hidden and block the sound from the cars running along Roosevelt. Music floats around the park from the houses right next door. I saw two Red-winged Blackbirds being chased by a hawk. The hawk kindly sat still long enough for me to take some pretty good pictures. It’s a nice park for a walkthrough and a picnic.Murray Hill Four Corners Park
Where? 4602 Lawnview St
Lamboll Avenue and Lawnview Street cut the park into four corners. There’s enough space between the trees for a good game of frisbee. Because there are houses that surround the park, the only wildlife I saw was the infamous squirrel. If you want to have a good park day and get away from the Sunday Memorial Park crowd, this is the place to go.Mom’s Park
Where? 2950 St. Johns Ave
This park is small, but it’s adorable. A stone path carves its way through the greenery. Handmade sculptures here and there decorate the path. A small gazebo sits next to the river, its inside completely decorated by mosaic. A giant oak’s arms look ready to embrace you. It’s the perfect park to walk your dog or sit and read. Maybe just watch the water for awhile.
NortheastJack Russell Park
Where? 850 Seminole Rd
Jack Russell Park is a traditional park. It’s right behind Atlantic Beach City Hall and has all the amenities you’d imagine a park to have — tennis courts, a skate park, playgrounds, baseball diamonds, basketball courts and a pavilion with picnic tables. Great for families any day.Howell Park
Where? Corner of Seminole Rd & Palm Ave
Howell is right across Jack Russell Park from Seminole Road. I parked at City Hall and walked across the street, or you can get onto Palm Avenue from Seminole Road and park in a small dirt lot. This park was easy to get “lost” in, as there wasn’t a map of the trails and it seemed to constantly go in circles. That’s just because it criss-crosses over Sherman Creek. You can’t actually get lost because the trails are very well-marked. Wood beams run the length of the white shell trail, surrounded by giant palmettos.Dutton Island Preserve
Where? 793 Dutton Island Road West
Dutton is so Florida. There are picnic tables, each with their own grill, at the entrance of the park. Then, a map that shows points of interest along the 1.4 mile loop trail. It’s a very wide, sandy trail that’s almost eerily quiet. The only clear space is the trail itself. The woods beside are filled to the brim with plants, but the tree cover makes most of the trail shady, which helps make the walk easier. Best part of the trail? BABY RACCOONS! I had been looking down at my camera and walking along the trail. I looked up and right in the middle of the trail were two tiny raccoons staring at me, their bushy tails barely showing any stripe. They bristled with every step I took, but would go back to foraging when I stopped. I kept expecting their mother to drop from the trees right onto my head. At one point I was barely two feet away from them. They could have jumped and crawled right up my leg.Cradle Creek Preserve
Where? Corner of Fairway Lane & 15th St South
Most of the trails here are made from boardwalk because it runs through “bottomland swamps,” which is a type of hardwood forest. There is a map of the hiking trails, but they don’t specify how long they are. The first trail is a short walk to an observation deck that looks out into the Intracoastal Waterway. There was a peaceful breeze, and I could hear a woodpecker looking for lunch. It’s a perfect place to practice hiking.
All photos by Kalee Ball.