Art Around Jacksonville, Florida

If you’re on a budget, but still enjoy fine art, there is no shortage of opportunity in Jacksonville. Be sure to mark your calendar and fit in the right day to visit these museums.

+Cummer Museum, 829 Riverside Ave, Jacksonville, FL 32204

A museum on the smaller side, though it does have 5,000 works in its permanent collection, is perfect for an hour or two of browsing. The range of artwork here is huge from 2100 BC to the 21st century. There is a great wealth of Early Meissen Porcelain, which is the first European hard-paste porcelain from the 1700s.

I was happy to see a piece from one of my favorite artists, Norman Rockwell. It was called Second Holiday and accompanied a short story that made me tear up.

The Yeamans, an elderly couple whose doctor told them to travel to the Mayo Clinic – treated this trip like an extravagant vacation, instead of succumbing to the terrible news of the wife’s condition. Nightfall at the Hangar is a piece from the 1930s that seemed alien to me, but would have been a contemporary scene.

Painted the same year as the Hindenburg disaster, but it is a mystery of whether before or after. Dreamlike June Morning, from the end of WWII.

A unique Double Self Portrait which shows Duke Ellington inside the reflection of the artists glasses.

I instantly recognized the distinct work of Florida native Rattner, from the time I visited his museum on the Gulf Coast.

My favorite piece was an eclectic contemporary work on grainy wood with old radios piled beneath it called Pago Pago.

I really welcomed all of the history and tidbits I got from the posted descriptions here – adding to my experience of enjoying the art.

Once finished with the few wings I went outside to enjoy one of the loveliest gardens, which is listed on the national historic register.

I was impressed by the Cummer oak arms spreading over to shade the garden. It is approximately 200 years old and 80 feet tall with a 21’ circumference.

An English, Italian, and Olmstead garden each with its own charm.

At a quiet time I couldn’t imagine a lovelier location.

The breeze from the St. Johns River is perfect, cools you down even on a hot day.

It is such a shame that the recent Hurricane Irma has thoroughly devastated the garden. Although there is no reopen date set as of now, I am truly hoping it is restored to its former glory. No matter what your budget is, there are many opportunities to visit the museum for free. Free admission Tuesdays from 4-9 and first Saturday of the month from 10-4.

+Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, 333 N Laura St, Jacksonville, FL 32202

A very small collection, so I would recommending heading out on free day such as the first Wednesday of each month from 5-9, or for college students Tuesday-Friday 1:30-5. I really appreciated the stone books that take antique to whole new level

A piece from a sculptor I’ve seen elsewhere, including the Pepsico Sculpture Park in Westchester, NY.

A wispy gator almost made me imagine I was in a dream.

Outside the museum is rifle with art as well. Learn about your tastebuds and walk through the chompers of a larger than life mouth.

Find birds on the buildings

and painted on the walls.

Murals are prevalent in this neighborhood,

be sure to walk up and down some side streets.

+Jacksonville Lighthouse,W Union St. and N Pearl St. intersection

Attached to a parking garage not anywhere near the water this is a fun and random bit of art in the city to take a quick drive by.

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Mid-range Hikes in Jacksonville, Florida

If three to four miles of hiking is your sweet spot, here are three free trails each with a distinct atmosphere.

+Jacksonville Arboretum, 1445 Millcoe Rd, Jacksonville, FL 32225

If you want to learn how to identify Florida flora, this is a great place to study. There are 100 labeled plants in the park!

Over three miles of looping trails go through a number of diverse habitats. You’ll even find some nice hills. Beautiful sights are commonplace.

Little details are the sweetest. A budding bush.

A set of roots.

A rainbow gradient twig.

There are even sculptures scattered about. One trail I recommend not missing is the Rosemary Ridge Trail. Locate the small gated access point to the Rosemary Scrub made of soft sand.

The endemic rosemary plant is found inside, it is one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world.

+Tillie K Fowler Regional Park, 700 Roosevelt Blvd Jacksonville, FL 32244

This is a local park, popular with dog walkers, bikers, and nature lovers. To tell it true, the trails are a little confusing here – not always marked the best. However, I had a really wonderful time getting lost in the woods – which aren’t all that big. A history lesson is hidden inside.

Around three miles of paths are present, one which leads to an observation tower four stories high.

The view is great from way up high, it’s surprising how far away you can feel from the city.

But it was at ground level where I saw all the wildlife. An armadillo scrounged for some ants.

A pileated woodpecker cackling so loud the whole forest could hear, and I was able to spot it.

+Gourd Island, 10170-10310 Russell Sampson Rd, St Johns, FL 32259

If solitude is what you seek, you may not see anyone else on this four mile RT lollipop loop trail. The environment of the hike is mostly wetlands and pines.

However, there is interesting flora around for those with a keen eye.

A lone wild iris sprouted up tall.

A gathering of interesting bugs on a few blades of grass.

This area was saved from logging and is now a peaceful place. You may see gopher tortoise, deer, otter, birds and gators.

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Short Hikes in Jacksonville, Florida

If you’re looking for a quick place to get some fresh air and Florida scenery, you’re short on time, or toting the kids – these hikes are perfect for you. Both are free and located about 10 minutes away from one another – can easily be combined.

+Castaway Island Preserve, 2885 San Pablo Rd S Jacksonville, FL 32224

A mile long roundtrip trail traverses woods and marsh on a paved trail, which is really exciting for kids.

Creative interpretive signs geared towards children play a mystery game guessing whose tracks are in the pavement by giving clues.

It’s fun for adults to guess too, and there are also plenty of things to learn about the environment for everyone as well. A boardwalk crosses into a salt marsh, a place I learned that a wide shallow salty river runs through which connects to the ocean.

Elevation changes create a change in salinity that creates zones for different plants. Here, cord grass prevails, it is very salt-tolerant.

There are restrooms and a nature center, a place to launch your kayak and grills with picnic tables.

+Dutton Island Preserve, 793 Dutton Island Road West, Atlantic Beach, FL

A lollipop loop of 1.4 miles leads through lush woods.

With the informational plaques, I learned some really awesome facts. Did you know that the opossum has the most teeth of all North American land mammals?! And that Native Americans who lived in the area, the Timucuans, were heavily tattooed?! Well, the good people, good deeds warranted tattoos. Woods give way to a marsh scene.

A great place for birding, and a favorite place for kayakers and paddle boarders due to its shallow nature.

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Timucuan Preserve in Jacksonville, Florida

One of the hidden gems of Jacksonville, Florida is its National Park. Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve is one of the largest urban park systems, named for the Native Americans that had many chiefdoms in Florida and Georgia during Spanish colonization. It is free and there are multiple parcels to explore.

+Theodore Roosevelt Area

One of my favorite things about hiking in north Florida is the fact that there are hills! This view isn’t from an observation platform.

The elevation isn’t anything to break much of a sweat about, but you’ll heart will get pumping. Approximately 2½ miles of hiking trails in this area ranging from hardwood,

to tidal marsh.

Keep a keen eye out for birds, there were many waders in the wetlands including great blue heron,

and a pair of bald eagles flew overhead. Spanish Pond is a great spot to look for birds, historically it was a pivotal location in the battle between French and Spanish. There are two access points for these trails, be sure to have a trail map.

+Fort Caroline National Memorial

France first attempted permanent settlement in North America in 1564 at the St. Johns River in Florida. It was a short lived endeavor as the Spanish sacked the fort in 1565. The site holds a great visitors center and a replica of the fort in the area it was believed to be located.

There is also a little scenic hiking loop to combine with the history lesson.

+Cedar Point

If you’re looking for solitude, you may not find any other hikers out here. This is a beautiful location for hiking, but truth be told trail maintenance could be better. A boat launch is here for kayakers as well.

+Kingsley Plantation which is the oldest plantation still standing in Florida State and American Beach provided African Americans with beach access during segregation are two other parcels I didn’t have the time to visit, but am hoping to when I return.

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Big Talbot Island in Jacksonville, Florida

Northern Florida doesn’t get flocks of tourists like the rest of the state, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t exceptional gems worth seeking out. Big Talbot Island is one of the most unique parks in all of Florida, you can’t miss it on your trip to Jacksonville. For some light hiking there are multiple pull offs for different trailheads, not very well marked. You want to find the access point for the Black Rock Trail to Boneyard Beach, one of the most spectacular places I have ever been. Coastal erosion took the life out of live oak and cedar trees near the shore, leaving a dramatic scene.

Also dubbed ‘elephant graveyard,’ plan your trip at low tide to catch these enormous skeletons in their entirety.

There are so many of these trees, it’s a jungle gym to walk down the beach. But you should. As far as your legs can take you.

Enjoy natures weathered art. Blanched.

Salt washed.

Tangled mass of roots. Strong enough to climb on.

As you keep walking down the coast, the sand and soil mixture becomes unique. Trade sand for thick mud, which turns into black rock formations which gives the trail its name.

As if the scenery wasn’t enough, the birding here is top notch as well. On the walk there was a pileated woodpecker,

bald eagle,

and shoveler.

Another hike, one above the beach is the Big Pine Trail.

You can walk part of the 2.9-mile paved Timucuan Trail that runs beside A1A to get to the trailhead, or drive back down and park there.

A short trek through the maritime hammock along the Simpson Creek, for a bit of a different view.

The Bluffs Picnic Area is a great spot for lunch with a view, and gives insight to what the trees on the shore once looked like.

Parking is $3 for theses trailheads on the honors system, bring cash to put in the envelope. Adjacent to BTI is Little Talbot Island, if you’re looking to make a day in North Jacksonville. The beach is pristine here, with almost white sands.

Much lovelier than in Jacksonville proper and a fraction of the crowd. The park has additional miles of hiking trails and an additional fee. $5 for a vehicle, $2 for bikers and pedestrians.

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Doi Inthanon National Park from Chiang Mai, Thailand

The roof of Thailand is located in Doi Inthanon National Park from Chiang Mai, a great day trip from Chiang Mai. A part of the Himalayas, the park ranges in elevation reaching over 8,000’. Temperatures can be in the 50s – even getting frost at times, don’t forget a light jacket. Time from Chiang Mai is approximately two hours and attractions are sporadically located along a road – either renting a car or hiring a private driver is recommended. We went with a driver through the Thai National Parks website and their service is great. Pricing is expensive, 3,000 baht total, but you get the whole day and relaxation. Entrance to the park is 300 baht and there are additional fees for certain attractions. There are plenty of places to eat within the park.

+Our first stop was to visit the royal stupas and gardens, a small entrance fee is required. Commemorated for the king and queens 60th birthdays, these magnificent temples sit on top of the clouds.

I gravitated towards the queens, Phra Mahathat Naphaphonphumisiri, which means ‘being the strength of the air and the grace of the land’ erected in 1992.

I have never seen a lilac temple, it looks like a flower itself. Inside the walls and ceiling are covered with delicate and stunning images.

There are explanations for all of the images in English and you can learn much about the life of Buddha.Outside walk the circumference and admire the mesmerizing purple scenes.

The garden out back was even more magical with cloudy fog dipping in and out.

The kings temple, Phra Mahathat Naphamethinidon, translates to ‘by the strength of the land and air’ and was built in 1987.

The temple and garden are equally as exquisite, with a brown motif.

+Afterwards I was excited for a hike to the Highest Spot in Thailand at 8,416’ above sea level.

I had to laugh, realizing that my presumed hike was a walk that took less than five minutes. We did pass by a nice shrine though. It is also great that this point in the country is accessible to just about anyone. There is an interesting little museum next door which tells a lot about the ecosystem within the park. I learned a lot here about the endemic species and general flora and fauna.

+Across the street is an actual hike, the Ang Ka Luang Nature Trail, through the sphagnum bog on a boardwalk.

The hike is a loop through the cloud forest just a quarter of a mile long. There is just a bit of elevation to gain and loose, but you really feel it due to the altitude! Informational plaques about the environment are spread throughout the trail.

+One of the most popular hikes in the park, Kaew Mae Pan Nature Trail, requires a Hmong Tribe guide. It’s really a wonderful trek, but the guide for 200 baht is totally unnecessary and felt like a shake down. Our guide didn’t try to teach us anything, point out any wildlife, or add to our hike at all. He just walked behind us. The hike however, was nice. The loop trail is 2 miles with some moderate rolling hills and very well maintained.

The plant life is spot,

look closely to find carnivorous plants.

A lovely little waterfall flows beside the trail.

When we made it to the panoramic viewpoint, there was nothing there!

It did make an eerie sight, neat in its own way.

I was too stubborn to keep moving, even though it was quite chilly standing in a cloud. Lo and behold, the clouds gave way to a partial view of the rocky outcropping below.

Flowers are all over, most impressive to me, the endemic rhododendron.

Yellows

and pinks too speckled the sidelines.

We didn’t see too much in the way of wildlife, except this fancy blue iridescent beetle!

I’ll take it. A spur off the loop lead to a vista that was blissfully clear,

and a remarkable view of the pagodas in the distance.

Funny how the clouds move, once we made it back to the parking lot across the way was bright blue!

+The next spot was much less visited, off the main road a bit, Siriphum Waterfall is a hidden gem. You can see the falls as you’re driving to the trailhead. There is a very small fee to enter. Be whisked away into a magical land of ferns higher than your head.

These are tree ferns which grow over 30’ tall, found only on high mountains. Curling sprouts were as big as my fist!

A meandering creek, stone bridges, and wooden gazebos over make for an enchanting stroll.

To get to the base of the waterfall, of which the park is known for, is easy – but the view isn’t that stupendous.

You can only see the base clearly due to the dense vegetation.

However, if you’re feeling adventurist you can scramble up the slippery side of the falls to get a better look.

+A much easier falls to see, Sirithan Waterfall is located right off the side of the road down a short set of stairs.

It is free to check out from the wooden platform.

+Another free site to discover is Watchiran Waterfall, and you shouldn’t miss it.

Everyone else is there too, it’s very popular, but there is a reason for that.

It’s a glamorous falls with so many different angles to view at.

You will get wet if you go close enough! Following downstream there are so many delightful cascades.

Be sure to follow the path to its conclusion, in the lower parking lot.

A set of stairs heading up to the top of the falls seemed promising. We followed it high, tired from all the hiking we had done in the day. There were plenty of spurs leading to different tiers of the falls, none more magnificent than what we had already seen. Some gorgeous little wildflowers.

When we reached the top we were waiting for something spectacular to reward us for our efforts. Joke was on us! It only led up to a dirt parking lot near the side of the road. Take it from me, it isn’t worth climbing those stairs made by trolls!

+Our last stop of the day was to Mae Klang Waterfall, over 300′ high.

You are supposed to pay a fee, but no one was there so we lucked out this time. It is a short walk get to this beautiful waterfall and there are stairs which you can walk to the top of it which peak out to some nice views. While any time of year is a good time to visit the park, popular natural events include the blossoming of pink Siamese sakura flowers in January and February and the big bird migration from March to May.

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Doi Suthep-Pui National Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Just north of the city in the hills over 3000’ elevation sits Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, the quintessential day trip from Chiang Mai. It has every element to create a magical day including a golden temple, waterfalls, and awesome views.

You can get there by public transportation and walking, you could rent a bike, or you could hire a driver. Short on time in the city, we wanted to make the most of our day so we took the more convenient, though expensive option. Attractions are located sporadically along a long and winding road, so it really does make sense to have a car to see most of the park. Foreigners pay an entrance fee and there are additional fees for certain attractions.

+First on the docket was Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, on of the most sacred temples in northern Thailand. At the base there are all sorts of shops selling crafts and food. We grabbed waffles on a stick for second breakfast and made our way to the entrance, which is 309 steps away.

The path is flanked by a multiheaded dragon creature and when you get to the top it’ll be an extra 30 baht. There are more colorful characters,

blues,

golds,

waiting around every corner. Walking around the temple site there is much to see, but the most dazzle aspect by far is the golden chedi founded in the 14th century.

Walking around up here, you can see Chiang Mai and well beyond.

+Next up we visited Doi Pui Hmong Hill Tribe Village.

It’s kind of a funny place, you can rent traditional clothing and walk around taking selfies.

There are tons of places to buy souvenirs, fresh fruit, coffee, and most importantly lunch. For a mere 10 baht you can walk around a cute little garden.

It won’t blow you away, but it’s got some charm and includes a waterfall.

Plus you get gain use of the wonderfully primitive bathroom. Out of the main tourist road nestled between local homes there is a set of stairs that leads up to a quiet temple.

The temple was closed, but the quick insight into real life and this view was worth the diversion. Found the path through the Maps.me app.

+For the nature lovers don’t miss Mon Tha Than Waterfall and nature trail.

It’s a very quick walk to get to the initial and most impressive section of the falls.

If you keep going there is another spout with a brisk pool.

Someone dove on in while we were there. Crossing the creek and heading up some elevation begin on the nature loop. There is no map anywhere, but the trail is easy to follow and fun. Gaining some elevation peaks out to a vista.

There are informational plaques throughout the trail, and it loops just south of the parking lot.

+A shorter walk to another gorgeous falls is Huay Kaew Waterfall. Pass by more shops and slumbering pups, and quickly fall in to a more natural scene.

You can see the falls from a distance, but to get up to the most exciting section of it requires some slippery scrambling up bare rock.

Many more waterfalls, temples, views, and even a palace reside within the park boundaries. You could plan multiple days exploring, though this was a great start!

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