You may be aware Jacksonville is known for its outdoor recreation, professional and amateur sports, and many seaside pursuits, but did you know it’s also a prime museum community?
If you didn’t, here’s your chance to learn. A sampling includes jaw-dropping paintings by past and present masters, a historical African-American theatre that continues to thrive, and contemporary installations that stimulate everyone’s minds and curiosity.
The list of Jacksonville museums is much too long to cover here. Don’t worry, though. We’ll get you started with top-line suggestions.
Follow us for a primer on Jacksonville’s outstanding museum scene.
The Ritz Theatre and Museum
The Ritz opens in a new window is a good place to start, located in Jacksonville’s historic African-American neighborhood of La Villa. It honors the community’s historic role in Jacksonville, as well as the 1929 Ritz theater that stood on the site. The original Ritz served as an African-American movie theatre.
Today’s theatre is a happening, multi-cultural beehive with constant events, concerts, plays, musicals and variety shows. Catch an event at The Ritz, but make sure you take time to visit the museum inside. The Ritz Museum offers a taste of what life was like decades ago in La Villa, known as the “Harlem of the South.”
Museum of Science and History
This popular museum opens in a new window is located on the Southbank Riverwalk, on the south side of the St. John’s River in downtown Jacksonville. It offers summer learning camps for kids, three levels of exhibits for all ages, as well as a planetarium and a naturalist center dedicated to animals native to northeast Florida.
Walk through 10,000 years of Florida history. Visit the Hixon Native Plant Courtyard, which highlights regional vegetation. Learn about sea mammals. You’ll also see traveling exhibits and art displays.
Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville
This jewel in downtown Jacksonville is a piece of local history all its own. The museum is housed in the historic Western Union Telegraph Building on Hemming Park. “MOCA opens in a new window” was first founded in 1924, but today it is an extension of the nearby University of North Florida, which funds it.
Here you’ll see contemporary art of all mediums, from permanent to changing exhibitions. The emphasis is on works from 1960 through to the present. Learn about collecting art, the artists who created some of the exhibits you see, or attend art-themed events.
Best of all, you can eat at the NOLA MOCA cafe, and shop an eclectic gift shop.
Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens
The Cummer Museum opens in a new window is what you think of when you think “art museum,” but in a non-cliche way. It’s home to nearly 5,000 pieces of art that date from 2100 B.C. to our own 21st century. As an added bonus, this attraction is located in Jacksonville’s historic Riverside neighborhood, near the Interstate 95 bridge.
Founded in 1981, the museum began with the bequeathed art collection and gardens of Jacksonville resident Ninah Cummer, and has grown spectacularly since then. The museum now offers the Cummer Shop, where you can find the perfect arty memento of your visit, and the Cummer Cafe, where you can lunch and do coffee like a museum-going pro.
The oldest portions of the Cummer Museum’s three historic gardens dates to 1903. These gardens were all designed by some of the most famous folks in early 20th-century landscape architecture.
Unfortunately, as of this writing, the gardens are closed due to damage sustained from Hurricane Irma. However, rehabilitation efforts are well underway! Check the museum’s website for garden updates.
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