Jacksonville with Tweens: A Perfect Family Day

by Megan Champion, an AOL Travel ContributorPosted Sep 15th 2010 01:00 PM

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A visit to Jacksonville with tweens can be a fun-filled vacation for everyone in the family. Whether you enjoy exploring nature or prefer to relax on the beach, Jacksonville has a host of things to do that will satisfy both tweens and adults.



Morning


After breakfast, head into the city to find out what makes the rides tick at major theme parks like Universal Studios. Sally Corporation builds robots and rides for theme parks all over the world and offers a tour of its factory for visitors age 7 and up. Visitors learn about the process of building the very large, dark rides they see at theme parks, such as Pirates of the Caribbean. The fascinating behind-the-scenes tour explains how animatronics work, from concept to placement. The process involves professionals as diverse as storytellers, sculptors, electronics technicians and engineers that make the characters come to life. Tours of the Sally Corporation have been so inspiring in the past that many children have come back as adults to work for them. My own brother became an engineer in part because of the things he saw at Sally, which he still talks about today. Tours are offered every Tuesday and Thursday from 9AM to 1PM on the hour.

Insider Tip: Tours are free, but advanced reservations are required. Tours are typically not offered in July and August.

Sally Corporation
745 West Forsythe Street
Jacksonville, Florida 32204
904-355-7100

If you're looking for adventurous things to do with your tweens in Jacksonville, Kayak Amelia offers guided kayak tours of the harbors, inlets and marshes on the Jacksonville coastline. A kayak allows you to get closer to wild animals than you would be able to on land or in a noisy motor boat. You will start your tour on land with instructions on the basics of kayaking, steering, stopping and safety. Then it's into the water you go! Being in the boat is a lot of fun in itself, and your family will enjoy connecting with the water and getting down the rhythm of paddling. Then, of course, there is so much to see. What a thrill to see wild animals eye to eye in their natural habitat. The trip will fly by because you and the kids will constantly be on the lookout for the next creature. Before you know it, you're pulling in and it's time for lunch (good thing because the granola bars are almost gone!).

Kayak Amelia offers six different kayak tours leaving from Jacksonville, each exploring a different area of the coast. All tours last approximately three hours with two hours of paddling.

Kayak Amelia
13030 Heckscher Drive
Jacksonville, Florida 32226
904-251-0016

Tour Prices (includes all gear and snack)
Adults - $60
Children - $55


Afternoon


Exploring Jacksonville with tweens in kayaks is sure to work up an appetite. Just down the road from Kayak Amelia is Nicole's On the River, where the staff can spot a water baby from a mile away – don't be surprised if they ask you about your trip! Everything is good here, but the two specialties are the enormous hamburgers cooked to order and all the fresh seafood choices. The portions are big and there's usually enough to share. A local hangout for kids, your only problem might be getting your own to leave.

Nicole's On the River
9429 Heckscher Drive
Jacksonville, FL 32226
904-251-9977

Next on your list of family vacation ideas is hiking the trails at Hanna Park. The natural, undeveloped scenery of Florida will surround you on the trails that run along coastlines, up dunes and beside marshes. After everyone has had their fill of exploration, jump into the ocean for a swim. There is nothing that beats playing in those cool waves after a long day of activity, and you won't want to miss out on the miles of incredible beaches during your stay. If your tweens need additional things to do and want to try their hand at boogie boarding, boards can be purchased at any surrounding store for about 10 dollars and will provide hours of fun, even for a beginner. After exploring the park and playing in the waves, towel off and head back to the hotel for a quick shower before dinner.

Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park
500 Wonderwood Drive
Jacksonville, Florida 32233
904-249-4700
Hours: April-October 8AM-8PM, November-March 8AM-6PM


Evening


Cap off your family vacation in Jacksonville with tweens with an adventure in dining. For the most authentic, rustic dining experience, look no further than Clark's Fish Camp & Seafood. Just when you think you're lost, keep driving. Clark's is kitschy in every sense of the word and, love it or hate it, your family will talk about it for the rest of their lives. Inside the restaurant, you'll find a plethora of animals from squirrels to tigers with one thing in common – the same facial expression. Between the taxidermy and the silk plants, your tweens will definitely be entertained while you enjoy a family meal. The outdoor dining is quite nice, with a large open deck over the water where alligators (live ones) roam freely and can be observed from a safe distance. The menu features traditional fish camp fare as well as interesting, non-traditional meats to try such as kangaroo, frog legs, eel and gator tail.

Insider Tip: Make reservations; Clark's is a very popular restaurant.

Clark's Fish Camp & Seafood
12903 Hood Road
Jacksonville, Florida 32258
904-268-3474
Hours: Mon-Thu 4:30PM-9:30PM, Fri 4:30PM-10PM, Sat 11:30AM-10PM, Sun 11:30AM-9:30PM


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