What are the best Jacksonville museums?

Answers from Our Experts (1)

Natalie Wearstler

Jacksonville is home to a rich variety of museums to explore. Take your pick from these five museums to gain a new perspective on the Bold New City of the South:

The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens is considered by many to be the crown jewel of the city's museum scene. Established in 1958 by longtime art collector and community advocate Ninah Cummer, the Cummer's permanent collection includes works by masters such as Peter Paul Rubens, Winslow Homer, Thomas Moran and Norman Rockwell, plus one of the world's top three collections of Early Meissen Porcelain. Rotating exhibits often highlight the work of local artists, photographers and students, and the museum's stunning gardens along the St. Johns River are used throughout the year for concerts, classes and special events.

From the 1920s through the '60s, Jacksonville's La Villa neighborhood was considered the "Harlem of the South." The Ritz Theatre and Museum highlights the artistic contributions of the African American community with a permanent exhibit of photographs documenting this period. It's also a gathering spot for locals who come together for monthly spoken word nights and jazz concerts.

The ever-changing exhibits at the Museum of Contemporary Art make it a regular favorite for River City residents. As the partner gallery for the University of North Florida, MOCA is a community learning place where free lectures and film screenings complement intriguing student artwork and thought-provoking temporary exhibits (past highlights have included folk art by Howard Finster and photography by Melanie Pullen). Admission fees to MOCA are waived for the monthly Art Walk held in Downtown Jacksonville on the first Wednesday of each month, rain or shine.

The coast of North Florida has drawn explorers throughout history, from French and Spanish sailors to modern-day treasure hunters who flock to the shore in search of relics of the past. Learn about the history of Jacksonville Beach and its sister communities at the Beaches Museum and History Park, a family-friendly learning center that has hosted exhibits like "Mermaids of the First Coast" (an exploration of the women's surfing community) and "Lifeguard on Duty" (a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the American Red Cross Lifeguards Corps' presence in Jacksonville Beach). 

Kids can't resist all the hands-on activities at the Museum of Science and History. The inner workings of the human body, the majestic world of marine biology and the nature of energy are displayed in fun, interactive exhibits that challenge young minds (and adults, too) to see the world around them with new eyes. Try to catch a show at the Bryan Gooding Planetarium during your stay — your kids will rave about it for weeks.


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