By Audrey Laine Seymour, Senior Communications Specialist
While you're in Jacksonville for the 2018 MCSMN Annual Conference this November, you may want to extend your stay through one or both weekends on either side of the conference! Here are some fun things to do while in the area.
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
Catch a glimpse of Florida's natural wetlands, which are home to alligators, black bears, bobcats, birds, snakes, frogs, turtles, and more. You'll also explore the River Valley Aviary, the Range of the Jaguar, Plains of East Africa, Monsoon Asia, Great Apes, Giraffe Overlook, Australian Adventures, Land of the Tiger, Stingray Bay, African Forest, and the Amphibian Conservation Center.
Watch the Jacksonville Jaguars take on the Pittsburg Steelers on Sunday, Nov. 18.
Cummer Museum: Art | Gardens | Education
The Cummer Museum holds one of the finest art collections in the Southeast, with nearly 5,000 objects in its Permanent Collection. The Museum’s 2.5 acres of historic gardens are unique examples of early 20th-century garden design, featuring reflecting pools, fountains, arbors, antique ornaments, and sculptures. The majestic Cummer Oak has a canopy of more than 150 feet and is one of the oldest trees in Jacksonville.
"River City Haunts" Ghost Tour
Local ghosts in character lead the tour by lantern through the streets, alleyways, and haunted buildings. Hear stories of the epidemics, horrors, and injustices the city has endured. Tours each Friday from 8-9:30 p.m.
If you're a golfer, you'll definitely want to check out TPC Sawgrass, home of THE PLAYERS Championship. There are two courses: THE PLAYERS Stadium Course and Dye's Valley Course.
White Oak Conservation Tour
For decades, White Oak has been a leading global organization for conservation of threatened and endangered species. Today’s White Oak, a one-of-a-kind global conservation organization with some of the world’s most innovative conservation programs to protect endangered wildlife and habitats, was established in 2013. In-depth tours bring you face-to-face with the animals and people of White Oak's conservation programs. The tours are led by wildlife experts, who introduce guests to our conservation programs, facilities, and some of the 32 species that call White Oak home, including rhino, giraffe, okapi and cheetah. Tours offered Wednesday and Friday at 10 a.m. Groups of 10 or more may schedule tours at different days and times. Length: 2 hours.
Just two hours north of Jacksonville is the charming City of Savannah. It's the oldest city in Georgia and was the only city spared from General Sherman's March to the Sea in the American Civil War. There are so many things to do in Savannah, and I highly recommend a tour to learn about the history of the town, including glimpses of the Underground Railroad, historic mansions, and culinary delights.
St. Augustine - America's Oldest City
Its unique scenery and history set this city apart from any other in the country. St. Augustine, which is a short 30-45 minute drive south from Jacksonville, has a quaint feel but boasts a big appeal. You'll see why when you stroll along the brick-lined streets and delight in the city's European flavor, with centuries-old buildings, horse-drawn carriages, hidden courtyards, and so much more. St. Augustine has plenty of history to explore—more than 450 years of it!
San Sebastian Winery
San Sebastian Winery, founded in 1996, is in St. Augustine, in one of Henry Flagler’s old East Coast Railway buildings located just a few blocks from historic downtown. Complimentary winery tours and tastings are offered daily, running every 20-25 minutes, and lasting 45 minutes. Last tours are offered at 5 p.m.
Whetstone Chocolates of St. Augustine
St. Augustine’s “Original Chocolate Tour” is led by Whetstone Chocolatiers, and is within walking distance of San Sebastian Winery. (I've often paired the two 🙂 ). You will be introduced to the history and making of chocolate and the Whetstone story. A 4-tiered tasting distinguishes the characteristics of dark, milk and white chocolate, cocoa nibs and more. Taste freshly made chocolates and confections while you walk through the factory. Tours are offered daily. Last tours are at 3:30 p.m.
Kennedy Space Center
Explore NASA's primary launch center of human spaceflight, and maybe (if you're lucky) watch a SpaceX launch! Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is organized into Mission Zones where attractions and tours are grouped by chronological era. From the dawn of space exploration to current and ongoing missions, you can get an up-close, hands-on feel for the story of humans in space. The space center is 2 hours south of Jacksonville.
A two-hour drive south will land you in this mecca of theme parks. Orlando is the home of Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, and SeaWorld Orlando. If you've got "swim with dolphins" on your bucket list, you should visit Discovery Cove. Packages at Discovery Cove include free admission to SeaWorld and SeaWorld's water park, Aquatica, for 14 consecutive days around the date of your reservation. (Yes, all of these are open in November. Welcome to Florida!) Also, Busch Gardens is a 1.5-hour drive west from Orlando, in Tampa.
Cruises out of Jacksonville
There is a Carnival cruise port in Jacksonville and a 4-night cruise sets sail on Nov. 15. We'd really hate for you to miss the last 5 hours of the conference, so if you plan to cruise, we hope you'll select the 5-night cruise that sets sail on Nov. 19. All Carnival cruises out of Jacksonville go to the Bahamas. These links are to Vacations To Go, which I personally use when booking cruises out of Jacksonville. They always have the best prices, which are at least 50% less than Carnival's listed rates.
Cruises out of Port Canaveral
Multiple cruise lines use Port Canaveral (2 hours south of Jacksonville), and there are many options for cruises to the Bahamas, the Caribbean, and Mexico/Central America. There's a 3-night Royal Caribbean cruise departing on Nov. 16. If you're bringing the family, you may consider this Disney cruise. Again, these links are to Vacations To Go, which I've used in the past. This post isn't an ad for Vacations To Go, nor am I getting compensated for linking to them. (Although I wish I could work out a deal!) If you use the search feature, they'll ask for an email address. I always give a dummy address, though, until I'm ready to buy.
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Come to Jacksonville for the conference. Stay for the fun!
Located halfway between Savannah and Orlando, Jacksonville is the ideal spot to host a conference.
Planning on attending the MCSMN Conference this November? Check out all the things you can do in your spare time.