Explore Arts and Culture in Northeast Florida

This is the area of the oldest settlement in the United States, St. Augustine, as well as the shrimping capital of the world! There’s lots of things to see and do in North Florida.

Museums

St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum

The St. Augustine Lighthouse stands 175 feet tall on Anastasia Island, situated between the Matanzas River and Salt Run. Built over 100 years ago, the lighthouse is still an aid to boaters.

Visit the lighthouse and climb to the top of the tower. Check out exhibits in the four additional historic buildings. See demonstrations on boat building, lighthouses and maritime archaeology. View articles from shipwrecks. Enjoy with a walk along the park’s nature trails.

The Lightner Museum, St. Augustine

The Lightner Museum is located in the 1888 Alcazar Hotel. The beautiful hotel now houses the Victorian-era antique collection of Otto Lightner.

Every room of the five-floor building has been restored to its original elegance. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Amelia Island Museum of History, Fernandina Beach

The Amelia Island Museum exhibits 4,000 years of local history. Learn about the Timucuan Indians to more modern history. The museum is housed in the former Nassau County Jail. The museum also offers a Veterans History Project, ghost tours, and other themed events each year.

They are affiliated with the Fernandina Beach Marine Welcome Center & Shrimping Museum. Fernandina Beach is known as the birthplace of the shrimping industry. Learn about net-making, ship building, and the history of the industry.

Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, St. Augustine

The area that is now St. Augustine was first explored by Juan Ponce de Leon in 1513. Settled in 1565 by Pedro Menendez de Aviles in 1565, it is the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the United States. With over 500 years of history, this “Old Town” has some great stories to tell.

Although Ponce de Leon didn’t really go looking for the Fountain of Youth this spot has become an archaeological gold mine.

In 1874 the first artifacts were unearthed here. In 1985 archaeologists discovered a Spanish well filled with 16th century artifacts. Foundations of some of the first Spanish structures were identified on the site.

Just in case you do believe, be sure to visit the Spring House and take a sip from the Fountain. Who knows? You may be right!

Museum of Science and History, Jacksonville

The Museum of Science and History is filled with interactive exhibits that bring northeast Florida’s past to life. There’s something for explorers of all ages.

Get up close to coastal marine creatures in the tidal tank. Reveal the secrets of the galaxy at a planetarium presentation. Learn how various systems in your body work.

Discover how the first Native Americans in the area lived. Explore over 12,000 years of Northeast Florida history. Take a stroll through the Hixon Native Plant Courtyard. There’s even a special “Kid Space” for children under 5 to enjoy.

Art Museums and Galleries

The Museum of Contemporary Art, Jacksonville

The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) is collection of modern and contemporary art. MOCA provides the Jacksonville community with a high-quality arts and education programs.

It’s a cultural institute of the University of North Florida in 2009. They host special lectures and present college-level art courses. They also exhibit work through special faculty and student exhibitions.

University of North Florida (UNF) Queer Art Gallery, Jacksonville

The University of North Florida’s LGBT Resource Center’s Queer Art Gallery offers rotating exhibits by LGBT students, faculty and staff. The Gallery uses art to highlight queer expression and expand artistic and cultural dialogue.

The artworks express the many sides of the LGBT experiences. The art also brings awareness to LGBT issues and to contemporary artists in the LGBT community.

Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, Jacksonville

The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens engages and inspires through the arts, gardens, and education. Ninah Cummer established the art collection in 1958. She left her collection of 60 pieces, plus her home, and gardens to create a museum.

Today, it’s home to over 5,000 works of art. The historic gardens are also worth a stroll.

St. Augustine Art Association

The St. Augustine Art Association, established in 1924, is located in the Historic District. It began as a winter art colony where artists from the Northern U.S. would gather in the cold months to continue their work.

The gallery also produces monthly juried exhibits of art by emerging and professional artists, as well as an annual Thanksgiving Art & Craft Festival. The gallery serves as a cultural hub for the community and a gathering place for workshops, lectures, concerts, and other special events.

Performing Arts

Hippodrome Theatre, Gainesville

The Hippodrome (locally referred to as “The Hipp”) is the region’s only professional theatre and has been Gainesville’s most acclaimed performing arts center for over 40 years. They present high-quality productions of musicals, comedies, dramas, and holiday productions. They also offer art-house cinema, a visual arts gallery, theatre education classes for children, and full-service facility rentals.

Ritz Theatre and Museum, Jacksonville

The Ritz Theatre and Museum was built in 1999 on the site where the 1929 Ritz Theatre was located, in the historic African American community of La Villa. The area was known as the “Harlem of the South” during its heyday from the 1920’s to the 1960’s. The Ritz is reaching out to the community to highlight the past, present and future contributions of African American arts and culture in Jacksonville, by influencing, educating, empowering, and encouraging current and future leaders.

The Ritz presents concerts, films, lectures, music, dance performances and shows, while the museum strives to connect and celebrate the rich African American heritage of Florida through its exhibits and recordings. For a truly exceptional treat, attend a concert by Ritz Voices, a group of middle and high school students receiving a musical education by developing their vocal abilities and showmanship, and by learning the value of community involvement. The group has won numerous awards, performed at major events, including Super Bowl XXXIX, and performed with musical legends like Dionne Warwick, Barry Manilow, and John Secada.

Players by the Sea Theatre, Jacksonville Beach

For more than 50 years, the Players by the Sea Theatre (PBST) has enhanced the community by their excellent productions of live and innovative theatre. This community theatre provides educational and creative opportunities for local collaborators.  The venue has two performance spaces which host a large range of performance types.

If you enjoy these locations, check out other fun destinations in Northeast Florida.

Written by Marsha Adelson

Marsha AdelsonMarsha is a retired Federal Employee, having spent 32+ years as a cartographer creating aeronautical navigation maps. After retiring, she started a second career as a Certified Tour Manager and Tour Guide. Although she focuses on guiding visitors to the Washington, DC area, she has escorted groups to many other places in the mid-Atlantic region. She’s had a lot of experience taking groups to museums, galleries, concerts, and staying in a wide variety of hotels and inns. In addition, she and her partner have traveled cross-country in a motorhome from Maryland to Fairbanks, Alaska and back, visiting many National Parks along the way.


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