"Jacksonville & America's First Coast" Top 5 Page for this destination Jacksonville by HumblyServingChrist

Jacksonville Travel Guide: 391 reviews and 760 photos

WHERE CITY LIFE, BEACH LIFE, AND NATURE CONVERGE

Imagine wide beaches of fine white powder sand highlighting a distinctive natural scenery where colorful, sub-tropical flowering plants and palm trees intermingle with magnolias and shady water oaks dressed in Spanish moss. Imagine a major, curvaceous river slices through these lush coastal hardwood hammocks, flowing into numerous finger tributaries and watering acres of expansive wetlands teeming with nature.

Now, imagine you're staying or living right in the middle of it, in a vibrant, cosmopolitan hotbed of culture, entertainment, recreation, commerce, and relaxation. Yes, you've just imagined many of the reasons why visiting or living in
Jacksonville can be a special and unusual big city experience.

WHERE ALL THE ACTION IS

Downtown Jacksonville, located 12 miles from the sea, is bisected by the St. Johns River. Both the Northbank and Southbank business districts boast spectacular modern skyscrapers, pedestrian riverwalks, and museums. Water taxis and a skyway transport pedestrians from one side of the river to the other, along with the city's iconic bridges. Friendship Fountain, on the Southbank, is one of the largest fountains of its kind, and is brilliantly illuminated at night.

Lining the river south and east of downtown are numerous tree-covered neigborhoods including the stately "old money" wealthly neighborhoods of Ortega, Riverside/Avondale, Epping Forest and popular San Marco. Jacksonville's chic artsy types and yuppies come together in this part of town at the sidewalk cafes and bistros of
San Marco Square, Five Points and the Shoppes of Avondale, close to downtown.

Jacksonville's beach communities include three laid-back beach towns popular with surfers, families, tourists and yuppies -- Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach and
Jacksonville Beach -- each of which offers a lively "Town Center" or downtown shopping, dining and nightlife district in addition to sharing the same wide strand of soft, white powder sand. Jacksonville Beach also boasts an ocean pier and a water park. In addition, Jacksonville's beaches are bookended by two exclusive playgrounds of the rich and famous -- Ponte Vedra Beach and Amelia Island -- known for their world-renowned 4 and 5 star oceanfront resorts as well as their top-notch golf courses and tennis facilities. Amelia Island also boasts the historic pirate town of Fernandina Beach and a beachfront Civil War fort, Fort Clinch. Intermingled with these diverse communities are several stretches of pristine natural beaches including Hanna Park, Huguenot Park, the Talbot Islands, and the Guana River Reserve. Mayport, located at the mouth of the St. Johns River just north of Hanna Park, has a dual identity as both a weathered, rustic fishing village with a fleet of shrimp boats and a major navy base. Part of famous route A1A, the only public auto ferry in Florida shuttles drivers across the river every half hour between Mayport and Ft. George Island on Jacksonville's Northside.

CULTURAL, HISTORICAL, AND NATURAL

Like any big city, Jacksonville has numerous cultural options highlighted by the Museum of Science & History, the renown Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, the Museum of Modern Art, the Jacksonville Symphony, the Florida Ballet, and the numerous concerts and traveling shows that hit the Florida Theater and the Times-Union Center, respectively. Other major attractions include the Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens, with its penguins and acclaimed "Range of the Jaguar" exhibit; the water slides of Adventure Landing; and the World Golf Hall of Fame, which also has an IMAX Theater. 45 minutes south of Jacksonville are the historic sites of St. Augustine, and about an hour south, Marineland offers visitors the opportunity to interact or even swim with dolphins.

As you might expect, the best restaurants and nightlife are found along the downtown riverfront, in the central historic neighborhoods, and throughout the beaches, as well as in the booming
Deerwood area of the city's Southside. St. Johns Town Center, located in the Deerwood area, is an outdoor "Main Street" style mall that mixes upscale retailers (e.g.: Tiffany & Co., Louis Vitton, etc.) with upscale and trendy "destination" restaurants (e.g.: The Cheesecake Factory, P.F. Chang's, California Pizza Kitchen, etc.). Of course, standard chains are also plentiful throughout the city, especially around the Avenues, Regency Square, and Orange Park malls.

If you think of Florida as a fake, Disney-fied playland then you might be surprised to find that Jacksonville is also rich with authentic history. In fact, the first Europeans to reach North America are believed to have set foot on the shores of what is now Guana River State Park, half way between Jacksonville and St. Augustine, in the year 1513. (By the way, St. Augustine, located 40 miles south of downtown, is the oldest city in North America!) For centuries, the area that now consists of the Jacksonville metropolitan area (from Amelia Island south to Marineland) saw many conflicts between the Spanish, French, British and Native Americans before it ever became part of what we now know as the United States. The Eastern Jacksonville neighborhood area of Fort Caroline, located half-way between downtown and the beach, is home to
Fort Caroline National Memorial, a replica of a French encampment on a high bluff overlooking the river. It is here where it is thought that French Hugenots seeking religious freedom built a cross, perhaps first bringing Christianity to the New World. It is also thought that the first port transaction in the New World also took place here. The fort's visitor center also serves as the entrance to the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, acres of protected land suitable for kayaking, hiking and other outdoor pursuits, which serves as a centerpiece for the largest urban park system in the country. This park system also includes 2 oceanfront city parks and the unique Talbot Islands State Parks. The Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens is an awesome natural area that straddles Jones Creek, with trails that take visitors over small bridges, up ravines, through dense foliage and past babbling brooks. Other great nature walks can be had at Howell Park in Atlantic Beach, Walter Jones Historical Park in the Mandarin section of the city, and at the University of North Florida, which boasts its own nature preserve.

AN ACTIVE SPORTS CITY

Many know that Jacksonville hosted the Super Bowl in 2005, but many don't know the city's full sports spectrum. Annual football events include theGator Bowl and the Florida-Georgia games. The NFL's Jaguars also play their home games at Everbank Field every fall. In addition, the JU Dolphins play football on campus and the Sharks play arena football in the Veterans Memorial Arena. For golf fans, the Players Championship draws top pro golfers to Ponte Vedra. Jacksonville is also home of the Suns, a AA team that plays at the Baseball Grounds. The city also sports two NCAA baseball and basketball teams at JU and UNF.

11TH LARGEST CITY IN THE U.S.

Jacksonville is the 11th most populous city in the US and the most populous city in the Southeast with an estimated 821,784 residents (2010). That said, Jacksonville also covers more land than any other in the lower 48 states, so its overall metro area only has a population of nearly 1.5 million (40th).

Most of the city's recent development has occurred between downtown and the beaches. This area covers much of eastern Jacksonville, a mix of neighborhoods ranging from tranquil to bustling, scenic to commercial, and eco-sensitive to cosmopolitan. Like all big cities, Jacksonville also has some bad areas too, like the neighborhoods northwest of downtown, but there isn't reason to go there. Additionally, boom towns south of the city, like
Orange Park and Fruit Cove, are experiencing rapid growth. Of course, there are still places in the fringes of the metro that remain quite rural, like Callahan.

JACKSONVILLE DESTINATION AREA

JACKSONVILLE BEACHES

Atlantic Beach | Neptune Beach | Jacksonville Beach | Ponte Vedra Beach
Talbot Islands State Parks | Mayport & Hanna Park | Ft. George Island

JACKSONVILLE NEIGHBORHOODS

Downtown | San Marco | Riverside-Avondale | Southside | Ft. Caroline | Mandarin

SOUTH OF JACKSONVILLE

St. Augustine | St. Augustine Beach | Crescent Beach | Marineland
Vilano Beach | St. Johns | Orange Park | Palm Coast | Guana Reserve

NORTH OF JACKSONVILLE

Amelia Island & Fernandina Beach | Jekyll Island | St. Simons Island
Brunswick | Kingsland & St. Marys | Callahan | Yulee

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Pros and Cons
  • Pros:An ideal yet underpublicized mix of big city, inviting beaches, and natural beauty!
  • Intro Updated Jul 16, 2014
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Reviews (149)

Comments (11)

  • gingersanders2's Profile Photo
    Jul 19, 2012 at 3:18 PM

    This all sounds so wonderful! Thank you so much! I just want to hop onto the first form of transportation that I can find and get down there to Jacksonville. I wonder if it would be as much fun as I picture it.

  • Jan 22, 2008 at 1:19 PM

    Thank you so much for this Jacksonville page. My wife and I are looking to relocate and you gave us a wealth of info.

  • Mehmet1234's Profile Photo
    Feb 24, 2007 at 3:54 PM

    I loved your jacksonville page very nicely done. I visited your city many times years ago loved it. Mehmet

  • Jun 19, 2006 at 11:14 AM

    Thanks so much for the great information and photos - we're visiting Atlantic Beach in July and intend to use your advice.

  • oooblah66's Profile Photo
    Apr 10, 2005 at 7:54 AM

    Thank you SO much for your info on Mickler's Landing! I went yesterday and it was AwEsOmE!!!! I even found 5 Shark's teeth! That was the best part! I would like to add that animals are allowed, too, and that includes horses! Thanks again! ~ Kristen

  • Ekahau's Profile Photo
    Mar 19, 2005 at 11:09 AM

    Thanks for the great page on Jacksonville -- heading to the Ritz-Carlton resort on Amelia Island for 4 days tonight and read ever one of your pages very useful information.

  • Yaqui's Profile Photo
    Feb 28, 2005 at 3:30 PM

    Wow, loads of wonderful information here. Been to Florida once to Ft. Walton. That was a very nice place, but this place looks awesome. Great job on your hometown page too!

  • thecatsmeow's Profile Photo
    Sep 8, 2004 at 8:59 PM

    Good thing you built this page. You have done an outstanding job and the pride in your city truely shows Steve. =^oo^=

  • craic's Profile Photo
    Jul 22, 2004 at 8:58 PM

    Great stuff.

  • shashasharon's Profile Photo
    Oct 28, 2003 at 1:54 PM

    you just joined today..you are out of control!!! excellent start..and sorry to tell you I am an idiot at times..

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