What are the best things to see and do in Jacksonville?

Natalie Wearstler

It may be hard to narrow down the best of countless activities at your disposal during a trip to Jacksonville. Lucky for you, we’ve whittled down the options and come up with the five best things to see and do:
 
1. Attend a First Wednesday Art Walk. Take in the city’s diverse arts scene at the monthly First Wednesday Art Walk. The free self-guided tour includes over two dozen galleries and cultural hotspots condensed within a 15-block radius. Be sure to visit the Museum of Contemporary Art, a cultural resource of the University of North Florida that showcases established and up-and-coming artists; Southlight Gallery, a space where prominent local artists display their latest work; and Hemming Plaza, where one can find live music and vendors selling original paintings, jewelry and photography.

2. Go see a football game. Cheer on the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field. The Jags are a source of deep local pride, and several season ticket holders brag that they’ve attended each game since the franchise first kicked off in 1995.

3. Stroll the Northbank Riverwalk. Dubbed the “River City” for its proximity to the St. Johns River, downtown Jacksonville is home to one of the prettiest riverfront skylines around. Take it all in on the Riverwalk, a paved walkway that stretches just under two miles along the water.

4. Get salty at the beach. Cast a line, catch a wave or simply build a sandcastle on Jacksonville Beach, a nearby city located just 20 minutes from downtown Jacksonville.
 
5. Stare in awe at the Blue Angels. The famous flight demonstration squadron of the United States Navy first took off from Naval Air Station Jacksonville in 1946. Although the Blue Angels perform in cities around the country each year, there’s something special about seeing those famous blue F/A-18 Hornets zip by in their hometown skies.

  • On September 28, 2012
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    Where is the best nightlife in Jacksonville?

    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 28, 2012
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    What is the best way to see Jacksonville in one day?

    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 28, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the best places to stay in Jacksonville?

    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.
  • On September 28, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the best places to stay in Jacksonville?

    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.
  • On September 28, 2012
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    Where is the best Jacksonville shopping?

    Shopping in two of Jacksonville’s oldest neighborhoods, Avondale and San Marco, is a pastime enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. Saint Johns Avenue in Avondale boasts several boutiques that sell everything from men’s and women’s clothes to handmade rugs, unique gifts and hard-to-find bottles of wine. In San Marco, variety is also seen in storefronts that display trendy women’s fashions, designer stationery, vintage books and couture jewelry.

    The Avenues Mall and the St. Johns Town Center are Jacksonville’s biggest destinations for national name brand clothes, electronics and accessories. Both properties include dozens of retailers priced for every budget, ranging from H&M and Banana Republic at the Avenues to Louis Vuitton and Tiffany & Co. at the St. Johns Town Center.
  • On September 28, 2012
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    What are the best things to do with kids in Jacksonville?

    Children in Jacksonville can get their hands dirty in a variety of fun ways. Here are our top five picks for your next afternoon outing:

    1. Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. Let the kids run wild alongside their favorite animals at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. The Zoo Train is a fun and exciting way for kids to see the whole operation, and youngsters can take a spin on their favorite animal on the Wildlife Carousel.

    2. Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. Grab your lucky mitt and head to the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville to cheer on the Jacksonville Suns, the Double-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins. Bleacher and berm seats start at just $4.50, and promotions like Family Feast Night (with 50-cent hot dogs, peanuts and ice cream) add to the value.

    3. The Museum of Science and History. This venue offers programs and exhibits to entertain everyone from toddlers to teenagers. The KidSpace is a play area specifically designed for children five and under with lots of hands-on activities; for older kids, permanent exhibits covering topics ranging from the human body to marine biology include more interactive segments. Special shows at the Bryan Gooding Planetarium make for educational alternatives to an afternoon at the theater.

    4. Friendship Fountain. Pack a frisbee and a picnic for an afternoon at Friendship Fountain. The downtown skyline across the St. Johns River complements the picturesque water display. Just a few blocks away, Treaty Oak Park is an ideal place to relax under the shade of an enchanting live oak tree that dates back over 200 years.

    5. Publix Aprons Cooking School. Pint-sized chefs are always welcome at Publix Aprons Cooking School in Jacksonville. Kid-friendly class topics include cooking basics, brunch and baking, and separate courses are even offered for teenagers.
  • On September 28, 2012
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    What are the best things to see and do in Jacksonville?

    It may be hard to narrow down the best of countless activities at your disposal during a trip to Jacksonville. Lucky for you, we’ve whittled down the options and come up with the five best things to see and do:
     
    1. Attend a First Wednesday Art Walk. Take in the city’s diverse arts scene at the monthly First Wednesday Art Walk. The free self-guided tour includes over two dozen galleries and cultural hotspots condensed within a 15-block radius. Be sure to visit the Museum of Contemporary Art, a cultural resource of the University of North Florida that showcases established and up-and-coming artists; Southlight Gallery, a space where prominent local artists display their latest work; and Hemming Plaza, where one can find live music and vendors selling original paintings, jewelry and photography.

    2. Go see a football game. Cheer on the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field. The Jags are a source of deep local pride, and several season ticket holders brag that they’ve attended each game since the franchise first kicked off in 1995.

    3. Stroll the Northbank Riverwalk. Dubbed the “River City” for its proximity to the St. Johns River, downtown Jacksonville is home to one of the prettiest riverfront skylines around. Take it all in on the Riverwalk, a paved walkway that stretches just under two miles along the water.

    4. Get salty at the beach. Cast a line, catch a wave or simply build a sandcastle on Jacksonville Beach, a nearby city located just 20 minutes from downtown Jacksonville.
     
    5. Stare in awe at the Blue Angels. The famous flight demonstration squadron of the United States Navy first took off from Naval Air Station Jacksonville in 1946. Although the Blue Angels perform in cities around the country each year, there’s something special about seeing those famous blue F/A-18 Hornets zip by in their hometown skies.