Families love to play here. Vacation starts when you pick your hotel and find your fun. Kids and adults love our hotels and restaurants where you’ll find something for every taste. Many hotels and restaurants are conveniently located along Western Boulevard. Jacksonville is only 30 minutes from the beach with family-friendly room rates and enticing amenities.
Photo: Dogs by the dunes at pet-friendly North Topsail Beach
Beach or Bust
Grab your chairs, gear, and cooler. Drive east to Hammocks Beach State Park in Swansboro, NC, or south to North Topsail Beach.
At Hammocks Beach State Park, you’ll park for free in the visitor center lot. Check the ferry schedule before you go. The ferry runs from April to October in good weather. Be prepared to walk about half a mile from the ferry landing to one of the most pristine stretches of uninterrupted shoreline in the state. Light concessions and restrooms are available.
At North Topsail Beach, enjoy the waves and sand just past the dunes. This coastal community with beach homes and condos is a laid-back, family beach. Onslow County Tourism will guide your parking plan.
Insider Tip: Did you forget your cooler? Five Below on Western Boulevard is a great place to pick up reasonably-priced gear for last-minute beach runs.
Photo Credit: NC Tripping, Family fun at Mike's Farm
Fun at Mike's Farm
Mike’s Farm in Richlands offers seasonal berry and pumpkin picking. The holidays welcome hayrides with light displays and music shows. Call ahead to get these tickets. Year-round, guests can pet and feed farm animals, or take in the view from a rocking chair on the wrap-around porch. Family-style dinners featuring fried chicken and serious mac and cheese keep kids and grownups smiling.
Insider Tip: Be sure to visit the bakery before or after your meal. It opens up to a festive Christmas shop. Need even more of a shopping fix? Take in the large NC Products Barn right on the farm!
Photo: Wilson Bay Park offers a mix of water views, boardwalks, and recreation space
Play at a Park
Explore more than 17 miles of trails and greenways by foot or by bicycle. We’re a BYOB (bring- your-own-bicycle) town. Here, you can throw a baseball, meander through the woods, or watch your little ones swing and climb a jungle gym. Pack a picnic lunch and spread a blanket on Jacksonville's highest hill overlooking Wilson Bay at Sturgeon City Park. Enjoy one of our playgrounds or follow the Sturgeon City boardwalk trail over the river marsh. Find frisbee golf courses, gazebos, playgrounds, and more.
Photo: With 50 animal habitats, the Lynwood Park Zoo will fascinate visitors.
Meet the Animals at Lynwood Park Zoo
Lynnwood Park Zoo is an animal and reptile sanctuary with a mission of connecting the public with wildlife through education. Animals hail from various backgrounds, including owner surrenders and rescues. Occasionally, facilities downsize or shut down and ask the facility to care for animals unfit for release into the wild. Zoo employees and volunteers take special care of the animals here.
Insider Tip: The Lynwood Park Zoo is closed on Thursdays.
Photo: Family fishing in Jacksonville NC with Just Got Reel Inshore Charters
Family Fishing Trips
Our favorite family fishing recommendation is Just Got Reel Inshore Charters. Knowledgeable and fun Captain David Fountain has never met a stranger. He loves to take families fishing on the New River. At the end of the trip, he will drop you off at the Marina Cafe where the day’s catch is cooked and eaten. Talk about fresh seafood! Captain Fountain guides beginners and experienced fishing families. Learn more about our guides and fishing.
Photo: Children playing together at Zing Zumm Children's Museum
Fun for Every Age and Interest
Practice your baseball batting and golf skills at Swingin’ Things. For indoor fun, get some hands-on playtime at Zing Zumm Children’s Museum, an interactive museum popular with younger children, and Mega Play. Tweens and teens enjoy Altitude Trampoline Park, Roller City skating rink, and Glo-Mania Lazer Tag. CrackedIt! Escape Games is a clever escape room experience for friends or family outings. Perfect for teens, this experience engages your entire family’s wit and imagination to solve the mystery. For an artistic outing, visit one of Jacksonville’s art studios, Wine and Design, where your family will have fun painting and creating their newest masterpiece.
Photo: Swoon over these over-the-top ice cream treats at YoBre’z Frozen Dessert Bar
Every excursion ends on a sweet note when you visit YoBre’z Frozen Dessert Bar or one of our bakeries. Check out Darel’s Bakery & Sweets, Rita’s Italian Ice, or the bakery at Liliana’s Columbian Restaurant & Bakery. The Kettle Diner handles big families with ease, and you’ll want to save room for homemade cakes for dessert.
Photo: Grandfather with granddaughter walking to Eagle Globe & Anchor at the Lejeune Memorial Gardens
A Mix of History and Fun
Set aside an hour to stroll the azalea-lined paths at the Lejeune Memorial Gardens where you can learn about military history. There, you’ll find the national memorial to the first black Marines, the second largest Vietnam Veterans Memorial in the country, a 9/11 beam from the Twin Towers, and the largest Eagle, Globe & Anchor statue in the USA. Reference this downloadable pdf to guide your experience. The gardens are also lit at night.
Our most popular selfie or TikTok video spot may be the Freedom Fountain, just a block away from the Lejeune Memorial Gardens. The Freedom Fountain is the gateway to downtown Jacksonville and honors all who pass through the area in service to their country.
Photos: Meet Regina Triche, aka “The Waffle Lady” at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Jacksonville, NC. Read more about her in this blog from Charlotte Travel and Food Writer Heidi Billotto.
Looking for affordable international fare? Options are as familiar as tacos and popsicles, and we offer plenty of adventure, too. Many of our International Food Trail restaurants offer kids' menus. Check them out.
Ready for a free concert, movie, or family-friendly events? Visit our calendar.
See where Christina Riley and Carl Hedinger of the NC Tripping blog explored when they visited Jacksonville NC with their young daughter.