Jacksonville is booming, and there’s a reason. Yes, Camp Lejeune is part of it, but it doesn’t account for all the growth. The fact is, more families are moving to the area—and, more importantly, deciding to stay. Why? For a growing number of area long-termers, it’s one thing: quality of life. The area has outdoor adventures; it has extraordinary shopping options; and it has a food and arts scene that benefits from a military audience with broad cultural expectations. In other words, no matter what your family is into, Jacksonville’s a great place for it. Here are a few of our favorite things for families to do in this extraordinary, growing town.
1. Escape from Cracked it! Escape Games
The escape game phenomenon is sweeping the nation, and Jacksonville is no different. Cracked It! locks small groups of people into themed rooms, and gives them a series of puzzles and riddles to solve in order to break themselves out. Perfect for group outings and families (especially with older kids) who are looking to put a little excitement into family night.
2. Borrow a Book from the Free Library Box at Richard Ray All-American Park
The park itself is worth visiting, with winding, dog-friendly nature trails, a spectacular playground, and the kind of scenery that might just remind you why you moved to North Carolina in the first place. But to really feel like a local, swing by the free library box, where you can leave or pick up a free book to read. Just be sure to pay it forward! That's the Jacksonville way.
3. Spend the Day at Lynwood Park Zoo
Compared to big city zoo prices, admission to the 10-acre Lynwood Park Zoo is a steal at $10 for grownups and $8 for your kids (always check the zoo’s website for current opening hours and prices). The 80 animal exhibits make it not just the only animal exhibit in the Camp Lejeune area, but makes it the best one too! Just a heads up: The park closes at 5 p.m., so don’t put off your visit too late in the day.
4. Go for a Little Retail Therapy at the Jacksonville Mall
The area has more than its share of shopping boutiques, and tons of them are worth visiting. But the Jacksonville Mall is still the area’s retail mecca. Every self-respecting shopaholic this side of Raleigh knows its shop lineup by heart.
5. Break Stuff at the Smash Shack
This local gem is one of the most unique experiences your family might ever have. For a surprisingly low cost (as little as $10 for a pre-selected box of 15 smashable goodies) you can engage in some controlled destruction, breaking plates, glasses and bottles. It’s not just for fun, either (although it certainly is that). Many find that the experience is a great way to relieve stress. Talk about therapeutic.
6. Do Anything Outdoors
This is North Carolina at its finest, after all. Take the kids somewhere the sun’s shining and let them get some Tar Heel dirt between their toes. There might not be a more fitting way to honor North Carolina's status as one of the finest states in the South. Our recommendations? A hike in the Croatan National Forest, or a stroll down any of the area's beaches.