Jacksonville has the title as the city with the youngest demographic in the United States, as of 2010. The median age is only 22.8 years, according to CNNMoney.com. While that largely stems from the presence of the Marines Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station New River, it also means many families with youngsters live in Jacksonville, N.C. Call your own troops to attention and head out to see what Jacksonville has to offer for family fun.
Let your little adventurers dress up as Robin Hood and play at the playgrounds of Sherwood Forest Park (no website; 212 A Nottingham Road, Jacksonville NC 28546). As the name implies, you can pretend amid the heavily wooded area and make the playground your camp headquarters for plotting against the Sherrif of Nottingham, played by Mom or Dad, of course! Wilson Bay Park (no website; 5 West Bayshore Blvd., Jacksonville NC 28540) provides waterfront access to dip your feet in and relax. Richard Ray Park (no website; 1200 Commons Drive North, Jacksonville NC 28546) boasts a state-of-the art playground with a synthetic rubber surface.
Bring out your inner animal with a visit to Lynnwood Park Zoo (lynnwoodparkzoo.com). Let your preschooler hold the map and act as your guide to discovering 80 animal exhibits. Keep an eye out for opportunities to pet reptiles and farm animals! Among the creatures stirring, your family can spot an alligator, gray fox, zebra and a Burmese python.
While your toddler or preschooler might not be qualified to caddy and drive a golf cart, he can grab a small club for mini-golf. The Sea Gull Recreation Center (no website; 2051 Dawson Cabin Road, Jacksonville, NC 28540; (910-346-1888) offers 18 holes worth of miniature golf. If it’s getting late, Swingin’ Things (swinginthings.com) turns on their lighted mini-golf course for a little extra fun. And if your golfer seems to tire quickly of staying on course, head for Disc Golf, a public course in Northeast Creek Park (no website; 910 Corbin Road, Jacksonville NC 28540). Give your little athlete her own flying disc and let her chase after it while the adults aim for the cage. Toddlers might not be interested in throwing one after a few crashes, so challenge them to chase your disc down and jump on it so the disc won’t fly away.
A perfect excuse for hand-holding, toddlers and preschoolers can start learning how to skate. Your child's low center of gravity helps them learn faster than a first-timer adult. Bowlarena Lanes and Recreation Station (no website; 433 Western Blvd., Jacksonville, NC 28540; (910-455-8800) is the place to hit the ice. After your family’s debut to figure skating, you can lob a few balls granny-style down at the bowling lanes. Preschoolers might enjoy gearing up for a friendly game of laser tag to finish the day. Wheels Roller Skating Rink (no website; 120 Bridget Lane, Jacksonville, NC 28540; (910-455-8711) provides families with the opportunity to try out roller skating.