1 day agoNatalie Wearstler answered the question:There are plenty of ways to enjoy your time in Jacksonville without having to spend a penny. Here are my favorite cost-free activities:
1. Walk (or jog) the Northbank Riverwalk. Located right on the beautiful St. Johns River, the Riverwalk is a paved walkway that's a favorite among walkers and joggers. It feeds right into the popular "Bridges Loop," a running route that crosses the Main Street and Acosta bridges. Swing by any evening around dusk, and you'll see runners of all ages and ability levels enjoying the pretty skyline views as they work up a sweat.
2. Get your art fix. On the first Wednesday evening of each month, rain or shine, Downtown becomes an art-lover's dream as galleries offer free admission, artists sell their wares in Hemming Plaza and live music fills the air. It's a Jacksonville tradition that's gained tons of traction with the creative community in the past few years, and it's worth checking out if only for the free admission to the Museum of Contemporary Art. (Insider tip: you can also visit the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens every Tuesday evening, starting at 4 p.m., for free. The Riverside museum is a stunning community asset that features local and international artists from a wide range of time periods.)
3. Build a sandcastle. Jacksonville Beach is only 20 minutes away from downtown. Simply hop on Beach Boulevard or Atlantic Boulevard and head east until you see the shore. Just don't try making this trip around rush hour.
4. Reconnect with nature at the Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens. I almost hate to share this tip, as it's one of the city's best-kept secrets! The Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens is a natural park filled with walking trails, hidden in the city's Arlington neighborhood. From the moment you set foot on the trail, you'll find yourself amidst creeks, trees and birds — and very little else.
5. Toss a frisbee at Memorial Park. Jaxsons are very proud of the St. Johns River, and one of the best places to see it is at Memorial Park in Riverside. Grab a coffee from nearby Starbucks or pick up a few picnic items from Publix (they're both located just across the street), bring along a book or magazine and sit back for an afternoon of sunbathing and people-watching.
5 days agoNatalie Wearstler answered the question:EverBank Field is Jacksonville's top sports venue. On Jaguars game days, the stadium fills with fans decked out in their favorite black and teal outfits. The downtown stadium is also where the annual showdown between the University of Florida gators and the University of Georgia bulldogs, a SEC college football rivalry that's as much ingrained in Jacksonville's sports community as the college towns from which the teams hail.
The Jacksonville Suns, the city's minor league baseball team, take to the field at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. Located just across the street from EverBank Field, this stadium is a popular spot during the summer months; tickets to Suns games are a bargain, and promotions like dollar beer night and fireworks after every Friday night home game make a trip to the ball game a fun experience for all ages.
Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena is where the Jacksonville Giants, an American Basketball Association team, and the Jacksonville Sharks, the city's Arena Football League team, hold their home games.
It may not be in Jacksonville, but it's worth noting that TPC Sawgrass is just a 30-minute drive south. The famed golf course is home to THE PLAYERS Championship each spring. Even on non-tournament weekends, it's not uncommon to see professional golfers perfecting their swing on the course, as there are a number of pros who live in the nearby Ponte Vedra Beach or TPC Sawgrass neighborhoods.
6 days agoNatalie Wearstler answered the question:Jacksonville is home to one of my favorite concert venues: the historic Florida Theatre. Since 1927, the stage has served as a temporary home to troubadors of all styles, from country music legend Kris Kristofferson to indie rock darlings Death Cab for Cutie. To me, the loge seats are the best in the house.
Another great venue is Underbelly, a relatively new music hall and bar that's a short walk from the Florida Theatre. Local bands and independent bands come through regularly; in the months before I moved out of Jacksonville, I saw Lost in the Trees, an orchestral folk band, and Sunbears!, an indie-pop duo. The crowd here tends to be hip, but friendly. It's a favorite stop for the city's creative professionals.
If the Florida Theatre and Underbelly draw an NPR crowd, then Veterans Memorial Arena takes care of the Top 40 fans. This is where big-name acts like Justin Bieber and Mary J. Blige book their shows. Concerts here are big, loud and bold. I saw Bob Seger here in 2012, and even in his aging state, he put on a fun and energetic show that kept the entire audience on their feet.
On May 15Natalie Wearstler answered the question:Jacksonville is home to the country's largest urban park system — with 80,000 of parks spread around the city, there are countless places to lay down a blanket and dig in to a good book. Before you set your plot of land aside for the afternoon, swing by one of these book stores to pick up a classic or that New York Times bestseller that's been on your reading list all year:
Ron Chamblin is the city's literary hero. His labyrinthine bookstore, Chamblin Bookmine, is a maze of books in every genre that are piled high in stacks and bookshelves that practically reach the ceiling. Ask an employee at the front desk for assistance if there's a specific title you're looking for — but if you have time to spare, revel in the experience of getting lost in the bounty of new and used titles. It's a hobby that local book lovers have held since the store first opened in 1976. Chamblin's Uptown, the bookmine's sister store, is located just off of Hemming Plaza in Downtown. It doesn't have the volume of options that its older sibling carries, but it does feature a charming cafe with fresh coffee and great food.
Beachcombers in the know stop by The BookMark in Neptune Beach before walking over to the shore. Owner Rona Brinlee has a sharp eye for the best up-and-coming authors and established writers, and she carefully stocks her shop with their best work. Check the store's calendar during your visit — authors are always stopping by for lectures, book readings and book signing events.
Rare first-editions are a specialty at San Marco Bookstore, a small shop that packs an impressive range of titles into its shelves. This is a particularly great place to read up on Jacksonville or Florida history, or pick up a military history volume (Jacksonville is a military town, after all). Kids' books and classics also get their fair share of real estate.
On May 15Natalie Wearstler answered the question:Jacksonville is home to a rich variety of museums to explore. Take your pick from these five museums to gain a new perspective on the Bold New City of the South:
The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens is considered by many to be the crown jewel of the city's museum scene. Established in 1958 by longtime art collector and community advocate Ninah Cummer, the Cummer's permanent collection includes works by masters such as Peter Paul Rubens, Winslow Homer, Thomas Moran and Norman Rockwell, plus one of the world's top three collections of Early Meissen Porcelain. Rotating exhibits often highlight the work of local artists, photographers and students, and the museum's stunning gardens along the St. Johns River are used throughout the year for concerts, classes and special events.
From the 1920s through the '60s, Jacksonville's La Villa neighborhood was considered the "Harlem of the South." The Ritz Theatre and Museum highlights the artistic contributions of the African American community with a permanent exhibit of photographs documenting this period. It's also a gathering spot for locals who come together for monthly spoken word nights and jazz concerts.
The ever-changing exhibits at the Museum of Contemporary Art make it a regular favorite for River City residents. As the partner gallery for the University of North Florida, MOCA is a community learning place where free lectures and film screenings complement intriguing student artwork and thought-provoking temporary exhibits (past highlights have included folk art by Howard Finster and photography by Melanie Pullen). Admission fees to MOCA are waived for the monthly Art Walk held in Downtown Jacksonville on the first Wednesday of each month, rain or shine.
The coast of North Florida has drawn explorers throughout history, from French and Spanish sailors to modern-day treasure hunters who flock to the shore in search of relics of the past. Learn about the history of Jacksonville Beach and its sister communities at the Beaches Museum and History Park, a family-friendly learning center that has hosted exhibits like "Mermaids of the First Coast" (an exploration of the women's surfing community) and "Lifeguard on Duty" (a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the American Red Cross Lifeguards Corps' presence in Jacksonville Beach).
Kids can't resist all the hands-on activities at the Museum of Science and History. The inner workings of the human body, the majestic world of marine biology and the nature of energy are displayed in fun, interactive exhibits that challenge young minds (and adults, too) to see the world around them with new eyes. Try to catch a show at the Bryan Gooding Planetarium during your stay — your kids will rave about it for weeks.
On September 28Natalie Wearstler answered the question:Traveling by car is the best way to get around Jacksonville’s many neighborhoods. Interstates 95 and 295 should connect you to most destinations, and busy thoroughfares like Butler Boulevard and Southside Boulevard cover quite a bit of ground, as well — just plan for congestion around lunch hour. When sightseeing in the city’s downtown area, park the car at a metered spot (they’re free on weekends and after 6:00 p.m. during the week) and take a ride on the Skyway. Its white cars run high along busy little one-ways, providing a fun way to see the city’s core while traveling quickly between its most popular points of interest. When the weather is nice, board the S.S. Marine Taxi for a short ride to various downtown destinations along the St. Johns River, including EverBank Field and the Jacksonville Landing.
On September 28Natalie Wearstler answered the question:The best thing to bring home from Jacksonville is an ode to the city’s favorite football team. Jaguars fans are fiercely loyal to their team, as well as its new owner, Shad Khan. Khan made headlines across the nation when he rolled into town in late 2011 to purchase the team from its original majority owner, Wayne Weaver. He didn’t look like any football executive that Jacksonville (or the NFL, for that matter) had ever seen; instantly, his perfectly-groomed mustache became a local icon. It wasn’t long before “The Jax Stache” started popping up on stickers, hats and t-shirts. At $4.50, the Euro sticker makes for a fun reminder of time spent in the River City.
On September 28Natalie Wearstler answered the question:When thinking about the five best Jacksonville food experiences, start from the fact that the city’s food scene extends far past the typical restaurant dining room. Give your taste buds something to write home about at these River City originals.
1. Open-air food court. Each Saturday between March and December, the Riverside Arts Market pops up under the Fuller Warren Bridge on the bank of the St. Johns River. Vendors sell everything from fresh produce to handmade gifts, but plenty of attendees come just to sample goods from the food court near the water. Sweet kettle corn, Maryland-style crabcakes, hot coffee, BBQ pork sliders, fusion tacos and fresh-squeezed lemonade are just a few of the options that keep regulars coming back each week.
2. Quirky cinema kitchens. Dinner and a movie gets a whole new meaning at two historic theaters in Jacksonville. Sun-Ray Cinema in Jacksonville’s Five Points district has gone through several name changes since it opened as the Park Street Theater in 1927. These days, the modern cinema offers a full menu of eclectic eats, including vegan-friendly pizza, hummus with chips or seasonal veggies and “knick knack sticks” (breadsticks served with marinara, hummus or queso). Across town, one can find the funky San Marco Theater in an Art Deco building that dates back to 1938. Luckily, the kitchen serves modern options like a turkey and guacamole panino and a barbecue chicken quesadilla. Both theaters offer beer and wine, too.
3. Florida’s oldest farmers market. Farmers in Northeast Florida benefit from a generous year-round growing season, and shoppers at the Jacksonville Farmers Market reap all of the rewards. Fresh fruits and vegetables have been sold out of this massive outdoor market since 1938; on any given day, shoppers can select their goods from over 200 farmers and vendors. Prices are notoriously low, with most products ranging anywhere from 50 cents to a few dollars.
4. Sugary sweets. Floridians love their sugar, as evidenced by one sip of authentic sweet tea. The region's sweet tooth is often satisfied by Peterbrooke Chocolatier, a Southern franchise with Jacksonville roots dating back to 1983. The chain’s chocolate-covered popcorn is a simple, yet addictive treat that has been a local favorite for decades.
5. Southern fried chicken. No trip to the South is complete without sampling a plate of crispy, golden-fried chicken. When visiting Jacksonville with a large group, a stop at Beach Road Chicken Dinners is a must. The dining room may not look like much, but the home-style portions of biscuits, cream peas, coleslaw and mashed potatoes have kept families well fed since 1939.
On September 28Natalie Wearstler answered the question:The best nightlife in Jacksonville can take you from brew pubs to cocktail bars to underground music joints. Beer lovers will find plenty to raise a glass to in the city’s Riverside neighborhood, where the breweries, restaurants and pubs along Park Street and King Street have earned the area unofficial billing as "Jacksonville’s Beer District." Start your journey with local craft brews at Bold City Brewery and Intuition Ale Works before walking down King Street to Kickbacks, a gastropub that boasts over 600 bottled beers and 84 taps. Further down the street, Dahlia’s Pour House has 85 taps, several of which come from 14 different Florida breweries. Keep going to Pele’s Wood Fire, which offers 50 different drafts. Farther down King Street, Lola’s Burrito Joint is home to 54 taps; turn right onto Park Street to enjoy the famous two-for-one happy hour and hearty sandwiches at European Street Cafe.
Once five o’ clock hits at the many business complexes and office parks on the Southside, all those workers seek out somewhere to toast a hard day’s work. Most flock to The Markets at Town Center, a retail and dining hub adjacent to the sprawling St. Johns Town Center outdoor mall. Nightlife favorites include BlackFinn American Grille, where the saloon room draws a young professional crowd; Whisky River, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s concept restaurant/bar/nightclub that drips with Southern country energy (did we mention there’s a mechanical bull?); and Suite, a dress-to-impress club where a sophisticated cocktail menu fuels late-night DJ sets.
The Urban Core in Jacksonville’s downtown neighborhood has renewed itself as a nightlife destination in recent years. Dos Gatos, a swanky cocktail lounge across from the Florida Theatre, is a local favorite for innovative cocktails after a concert. Bay Street is home to Underbelly, a spacious live music hall that serves wine and beer alongside local and touring independent acts; Mark’s downtown, a popular cocktail bar; Dive Bar, an eclectic retro bar that boasts a black light room; and Club TSI, a dance club with nightly changes to its music lineup. Gritty and unpretentious Burro Bar on Adams Street draws a late-night crowd for local underground musical acts.
On September 28Natalie Wearstler answered the question:Hitting all of Jacksonville’s highlights in one day is next to impossible; there are approximately 841 square miles inside its boundaries. Still, with a little thoughtful planning, visitors can see some of the city’s most attractive attributes by nightfall.
Nothing compares to the tranquil beauty of an Atlantic Ocean sunrise, so set the alarm early to start the day with a stroll in Jacksonville Beach. After grabbing a hearty breakfast at one of the nearby cafes or diners, hop in the car and head to the Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens. The 120-acre nature preserve in Arlington is home to several walking trails designed to help novices and experts alike take in the sights and sounds of native Florida plants and animals.
Refuel with lunch at one of the restaurants at the Jacksonville Landing; options range from specialty rolls at Koja Sushi to Irish fare at Fionn MacCool’s or a deep-dish pie at Chicago Pizza. Afterward, relax with a light stroll along the Northbank Riverwalk, a paved walkway on the St. Johns River that covers approximately two miles. Many of Jacksonville’s landmark bridges, including the Hart Bridge, the Main Street Bridge and the Acosta Bridge, are visible from any point on the walkway.
No trip to Jacksonville is complete without a visit to the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens. Permanent gallery collections feature masterpieces from ancient, medieval and modern periods. Rotating temporary exhibitions highlight local and international talent.
Dinner in Avondale is always a pleasant way to end the day, whether you opt for French eats at the Restaurant Orsay, fresh and modern American fare at Brick or the day’s fresh catch at The Blue Fish Restaurant. Grab a slice of cake from the dessert case at Biscottis before retiring for the evening.
On September 28Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question:Traveling solo, with kids or with pets, there’s something for everyone in Jacksonville accommodations. Whatever you require of your stay, you’ll find practical amenities and luxury perks at each of our picks for the five best hotels in Jacksonville.
1. The Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront. This hotel is located within walking distance from some of downtown’s most popular restaurants and cultural venues. Each room comes with Hyatt’s signature Grand Bed for a restful night of sleep, an iHome stereo system and a 25-inch-or-larger TV. Plus, all 963 guest rooms include a stunning view of either downtown Jacksonville or the St. Johns River, free of charge.
2. One Ocean Resort Hotel & Spa. Just minutes from Jacksonville in Atlantic Beach, the hotel boasts a classic Florida vibe with its airy, neutral color palette and oceanfront location. There’s a “Guest Historian” who keeps track of your preferences and requests, such as favorite foods and drinks and which newspaper you like to read in the morning. Relax on a lounge chair on the beach, and grab a meal at the hotel’s signature restaurant, Azurea.
3. Hotel Indigo Jacksonville-Deerwood Park. Beautiful hardwood floors and colorful artwork lend the rooms at Hotel Indigo a decidedly upscale aura. Located in the Tapestry Park development on the city’s Southside, this boutique-style hotel is walking distance to restaurants and shops, and full-service business and fitness centers are a nice touch for work-focused travelers.
4. The Omni Jacksonville Hotel. Relax in style at this upscale property. Plush robes, a 42” television and super-soft foam and feather pillows come standard in all 354 luxury guest rooms. Unrivaled views of downtown are best seen from the deck of the rooftop heated swimming pool. For theater lovers, there’s no better place to stay when attending a show at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts across the street.
5. The Casa Marina Hotel. This hotel has seen a few changes since it first opened in 1925, but its 25 guest rooms and parlor suites still reflect the timeless sophistication of the hotel’s early days. Guests at this Jacksonville Beach landmark are mere steps away from the Atlantic Ocean, making it a suitable option for a romantic weekend getaway.
If you don’t mind a bit of a drive, it would be worth your time to stay at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, a Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star hotel. About 40 miles north of the city, the Ritz has a Four-Star spa as well. Another spot that is further out is Sea Island on Georgia’s southern coast, which is home to two Five-Star hotels: The Lodge at Sea Island Golf Club and The Cloister. At The Cloister, be sure to take advantage of the hotel’s Five-Star restaurant and spa.