The largest city in Florida in terms of population, Jacksonville is located in the northeast, just 25 miles from Georgia. With a rich history as a seaport, the area supports two US Navy bases but has more recently come to be known for its scenic golf courses, beautifully offset against the sea. Despite its reasonably slow pace of life, Jacksonville remains an industrious area, with offices of banking and healthcare dominating the city. If you’re looking for a relaxed Floridian holiday that values cultural experience over amusement parks, Jacksonville could well be the place for you!
Attractive to film investors due to its warm climate and picturesque locations, Jacksonville was a highly-popular movie location in the 1910s before Hollywood became a household name. The cinematic history has been captured in the Norman Studios, a converted set that now houses the Jacksonville Silent Film Museum. A little-known treasure, a visit here is a great way to get to know the area through its features on the silver screen.
Where to eat
As a city that sits slightly off of the traditional tourist track, Jacksonville cuisine leans heavily towards homely, warming dishes, with a strong emphasis on brunch. For some good old-fashioned all-American cuisine, you can’t go far wrong with the Maple Street Business Company. Serving up classic biscuits (scone-like bread rolls) with all manner of marinated meats, expect to find a delicious authentic meal no matter what time of day it is. The Metro Diner is similarly comfort-driven, with shrimp, fried chicken, meatloaf and pot pies ranking highly with the locals.
If you’d rather something a little more European, The French Pantry is a great brunch spot, offering a variety of elegant salads and rye-bread sandwiches. With prices averaging between $6 and $11 dollars, it’s an affordable stop-off point on the way to the coast. For bakery brilliance, Sweet Theory Baking Co. has a menu that caters for fans of all things pastry, batter and dough related – if you’re lucky enough to visit around Thanksgiving time, the maple sweet-potato doughnut is a must-eat.
- Maple Street Biscuit Company, 410 3rd Street, Jacksonville Beach
- Sweet Theory Baking Co., 1243 King Street, Jacksonville
Where to shop
Unsurprisingly for an area of its size, Jacksonville offers a plethora of shopping opportunities, whether you’re looking for traditional malls, farmers markets or vintage boutiques. Outdoor malls are peppered across the city, but St Johns Town Center is probably the best – with over 150 stores selling fashion, homewares and technology, expect to see familiar names like Louis Vuitton, Apple and Anthropologie. If it all gets a little too much, the stunning outdoor setting and expansive Koi pond should be enough to revive you for round two of retail therapy.
For those who like to peruse shops all in one enclosed space, Regency Square Mall is open nearly 12 hours daily, offering traditional US department stores and much more besides. Regency Square is well-serviced by public transport, and perfect for families who want to make a full day of it – the mall also possesses a cinema and numerous eateries.
If you prefer your wardrobe to come second-hand, it may be worth venturing into the suburbs to get the best out of Jacksonville’s expansive vintage scene. Riverside’s Five Points area is a bohemian neighbourhood chock-full of coffee shops, antique stores and vintage clothing outlets.
- Regency Square Mall, 9501 Arlington Expy, Jacksonville
- Five Points, 1021 Park Street, Jacksonville
Where to party
Steeped in rich cinematic and musical history, Jacksonville can appear fairly highbrow upon first appearance, but that doesn’t mean it can’t party. Downtown Jacksonville is the place to be after-hours, with a huge strip of music halls, bars and clubs. For young adults who like to dance, Club TSI Discotheque and the VooDoo Ultra Lounge are both popular options but can get a little risque, so definitely not appropriate for families. If you’d rather a slightly more casual atmosphere, Dos Gatos is a fun hang-out, directly across from Florida theatre and featuring a wide range of cocktails.
For more organised entertainment, live theatre and music is a hugely popular pastime in Jacksonville. The Florida Theater offers 200 events a year, ranging from opera to country and jazz, and was the site of one of Elvis Presley’s very first indoor concerts. Similarly, the Jacksonville Veteran Memorial Arena attract huge stars, offering concerts by the likes of Elton John, Paul McCartney and Garth Brooks.
- Dos Gatos, 123 E Forsyth Street, Jacksonville
- The Florida Theater, 128 E Forsyth Street, Jacksonville
Where to go
Known for its beautiful beaches, water sports are a way of life in Jacksonville. For those who are a little too skittish for surfing or paddleboarding, kayaking is a fun option – local company Kayak Amelia offer a variety of family-friendly guided tours that will take you through Jacksonville’s creeks and waterways, learning all about the local wildlife.
A vibrant area for spectator sports, Jacksonville is home to a large number of baseball, football and basketball teams. While we’ll touch on the major teams in our sports section, it’s worth mentioning that tickets to watch the Jacksonville Giants basketball team at the Jacksonville Veteran Memorial Arena are available for as little as $6, with group discount prices applicable. A trip to Jacksonville wouldn’t be complete without a round of golf either – with over 1,220 holes and 70 courses you’ll be spoilt for choice, but the Windsor Parke golf club is a good start.
The Museum of Contemporary Art is similarly huge, taking in nearly 1,000 paintings, prints, sculptures and photographs. Representing the likes of Hans Hofmann, Robert Longo and Joan Mitchell, expect to be both challenged and entertained by the diverse art on offer, the perfect way to explore Jacksonville’s thriving culture.