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Tips to Make the Most Out of Your Trip When Visiting Jacksonville, Florida

Updated on June 10, 2014
BNadyn profile image

Bernadyn is a writer who contributes her work to various websites and magazines and is the Owner/Director for the website, B is 4.

The River City

View of Main Street Bridge and Friendship Fountain, one of the largest self-contained fountains ever built.  It is one of Jacksonville's most recognized attractions, displaying a colorful light show at night.
View of Main Street Bridge and Friendship Fountain, one of the largest self-contained fountains ever built. It is one of Jacksonville's most recognized attractions, displaying a colorful light show at night. | Source

Downtown Jacksonville

A photo of the Main Street Bridge in Jacksonville, FL
A photo of the Main Street Bridge in Jacksonville, FL | Source

Hidden Gems in Jacksonville, FL

Jacksonville is one of those places that you cannot judge just by looking at her from a quick glance. She makes you work to unveil a lot of the hidden gems that many of the residents have grown to love. I think that is a good thing because it encourages you to dig deep and to keep your eyes open for new things happening and fresh places to explore.

Even after years of living in Jacksonville, many residents still find they have not discovered all the diamonds that lie in the nooks and crannies of what makes up the River City. This may also be because new places are popping up constantly!

Riverside: One of Jacksonville's Treasures

Jacksonville, FL: An Affordable and Unique Travel Destination

I am one of those long-time residents still discovering all the hidden pieces that make J-ville worth getting to know. I have grown to love this city more as I grow older and I suppose, wiser. Jacksonville has a lot of potential and much to offer.

I thought it would be worth sharing for anyone considering a travel destination that is unique and affordable. I believe you will get your money's worth visiting Jacksonville, especially with some tips on places to explore and ways to prepare for your visit!

Snapshot of Jacksonville, FL: My Favorite Things About the River City

Why should I visit Jacksonville? What's in it for me?

Allow me to satisfy your curiosity. Let's dive right into the many reasons why I have love for my hometown. Here are some of my favorite things I enjoy about the city and reasons you should tour the New Bold City of the South:

  • Warm weather
  • Sunny, blue skies
  • Water...everywhere - perfect for water-lovers
  • Plenty of beautiful scenery
  • Parks: Jacksonville operates the largest urban park system in the USA
  • Free events
  • Art
  • Food
  • Budget-friendly
  • Family-friendly
  • Diversity
  • Traffic is not as bad as other big cities
  • Big city but maintains a small-town feel (Jacksonville has the largest land mass in the nation - over 800 square miles)
  • Interesting history
  • Close to other great tourist attractions and cities (Daytona Beach, Orlando, St.Augustine, Ponte Vedra Beach, Amelia Island)

Jacksonville, Home to Art, Gardens, Beautiful Scenery

Click thumbnail to view full-size
"The gardens are unique in Florida and the southeast, representing the history of American landscape design in the first four decades of the 20th century" (National Register of Historic Places).An abundance of flowers, plants, trees and nature scenes are scattered throughout the city.  Some parks, such as Riverside Park, are adorned with their own bountiful gardens.Picture-perfect scenery is common around Jacksonville.  Bring your kids and cameras for a memorable time in the River City!A mural on the outside of CoRK Arts District (Corner of Rosselle and King), an art gallery located in Riverside.
"The gardens are unique in Florida and the southeast, representing the history of American landscape design in the first four decades of the 20th century" (National Register of Historic Places).
"The gardens are unique in Florida and the southeast, representing the history of American landscape design in the first four decades of the 20th century" (National Register of Historic Places). | Source
An abundance of flowers, plants, trees and nature scenes are scattered throughout the city.
An abundance of flowers, plants, trees and nature scenes are scattered throughout the city. | Source
Some parks, such as Riverside Park, are adorned with their own bountiful gardens.
Some parks, such as Riverside Park, are adorned with their own bountiful gardens. | Source
Picture-perfect scenery is common around Jacksonville.  Bring your kids and cameras for a memorable time in the River City!
Picture-perfect scenery is common around Jacksonville. Bring your kids and cameras for a memorable time in the River City! | Source
A mural on the outside of CoRK Arts District (Corner of Rosselle and King), an art gallery located in Riverside.
A mural on the outside of CoRK Arts District (Corner of Rosselle and King), an art gallery located in Riverside. | Source

Trip to Jacksonville, FL

Have you ever been to Jacksonville?

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Bring An Open Mind and A Sense of Adventure

Now that I am a wife and a parent, I have discovered that Jacksonville has plenty to offer when it comes to things to do. I like that there are so many places I have yet to experience here because that means more things to uncover! A lot of activities are affordable and places like museums and the zoo, offer discounts and free admission on certain days. Check in advance before you go!

Jacksonville has plenty if you do your research, are willing to try new things and have an open mind!

Suggestions on places, events and things to do when you visit:

  • Water recreational activities: surfing, fishing, boating, jet skiing
  • Parks/nature trails/playgrounds: A few popular ones and some of my favorites are Memorial Park, Riverside Park, Tree Hill Nature Center, Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens, Mandarin Park, Stinson Park, 9A Baymeadows Regional Park, Boone Park, Tillie K. Fowler Regional Park, Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park (has nature trails, lakes, beach and camping)
  • Museums: Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Cummer Museum of Arts and Gardens, Fire Museum, Museum of Science and History (MOSH), Museum of Southern History, Maritime Museum
  • Art/Crafts: Riverside Arts Market (RAM), Art Walk (Downtown and Beaches both hold one once a month) - admission is always free to these events, CoRK Arts District, Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School
  • Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens: has nationwide recognition; recently opened attraction- Land of the Tiger
  • Entertainment: Latitude 30 (bowling, movie theater, dining, game room, private party and events room), Dave and Busters (games, dining, private party room), Chuck E. Cheese (children's games, parties, dining), Adventure Landing (mini golf, laser tag, games, parties, dining), comedy shows (The Comedy Zone, Comedy Club of Jacksonville)
  • Movies/Theaters: Cinegrille (located inside Latitude 30), Sun-Ray Cinema, San Marco Theater, Florida Theatre, Alhambra Dinner Theatre, Tinseltown, AMC 24 Movie Theaters, Regal Cinemas, Hollywood River City 14, free movies in the park and beach (usually during summer season)
  • Sports: Home to Jacksonville Jaguars, Jacksonville Sharks, Jacksonville Suns, Jacksonville Giants
  • Concerts/Music: Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, Florida Theatre, Murray Hill Theatre, Freebird Live, Jack Rabbits and other various bars, restaurants and smaller venues
  • Shopping: St.John's Town Center, Five Points in Riverside area, Avondale Shopping District, San Marco Square, Avenues Mall, Orange Park Mall, River City Marketplace, Oak Hill Village Shopping Center
  • Other events/things to do: Painting parties (Painting With a Twist, Yes You Canvas), fairs, carnivals, festivals, bowling, karaoke (Monkey's Uncle, Austin's Karaoke, other bars), Catty Shack Ranch, Jacksonville Landing (offers dining, shopping, entertainment-bands/concerts)

Many places here, including, restaurants, zoo, museums, theaters and entertainment, offer free or discounted admission on certain days. Just check in advance so you can plan accordingly. The site, Jax4kids.com offers plenty of information on family-friendly things to do all around town.

Jacksonville: Home to Various Parks and Nature Trails

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Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens offers many nature trails, creeks and free programs to learn more about nature and animal.  They also offer volunteer opportunities to help maintain the park.Another gem of Jacksonville: Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens is a peaceful place to take walks, enjoy nature and take photos.Memorial Park, a popular park located on the Riverside in Jacksonville.  It has a beautiful view of the St.John's River and so many people like to fish at this park.  You'll often find families, joggers and people walking their dogs here.
Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens offers many nature trails, creeks and free programs to learn more about nature and animal.  They also offer volunteer opportunities to help maintain the park.
Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens offers many nature trails, creeks and free programs to learn more about nature and animal. They also offer volunteer opportunities to help maintain the park. | Source
Another gem of Jacksonville: Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens is a peaceful place to take walks, enjoy nature and take photos.
Another gem of Jacksonville: Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens is a peaceful place to take walks, enjoy nature and take photos. | Source
Memorial Park, a popular park located on the Riverside in Jacksonville.  It has a beautiful view of the St.John's River and so many people like to fish at this park.  You'll often find families, joggers and people walking their dogs here.
Memorial Park, a popular park located on the Riverside in Jacksonville. It has a beautiful view of the St.John's River and so many people like to fish at this park. You'll often find families, joggers and people walking their dogs here. | Source

Bring Your Appetite! Check Out These Places to Eat in Jacksonville:

Breakfast/Brunch
Lunch/Dinner
Cafe/Coffee
Dessert/Treats
Metro Diner (American)
Biscottis (European, Modern American)
Bold Bean Coffee Roasters
Sweet Theory (Vegan, Gluten-free, Allergy-free)
The Fox Restaurant (American)
Black Sheep (American)
Sippers Coffee
Biscottis
Cool Moose Cafe and Bistro (American)
Tres Leche (Spanish)
Three Layers
French Pantry
Tres Leche (Spanish)
Kickbacks (American)
Cool Moose Cafe
Florida Creamery
French Pantry (French, bakery)
Restuarant Orsay (French, dinner only)
Coffee Grinder
 
Maple Stree Biscuit Company (American)
River City Brewing Co. (Seafood, American)
Coffee Roasters of Florida
 
Black Sheep (Contemporary American)
Bowl of Pho (Vietnamese)
 
 
River City Brewing Co. (Seafood, American)
Chomp Chomp (chef-inspired street food)
 
 
Biscottis (European, Modern American)
Kickbacks Gastropub (Modern American)
 
 
 
BB's (American)
 
 
 
TacoLu (Mexican)
 
 
 
13 Gypsies (Spanish, Tapas)
 
 
 
Matthews Restaurant (American)
 
 
 
Hawkers Asian Street Fare (Asian Fusion, Tapas)
 
 
 
Burrito Gallery (Mexican)
 
 
 
Casbah Cafe (Mediterranean, Hookah Lounge)
 
 

Jacksonville: Home to Assorted Food

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Florida Creamery is tucked away in Avondale.  They not only offer various desserts, candy and treats but serve food like hot dogs, too!  Florida Creamery in AvondaleBiscottis is also snuggled up in Avondale, serving delicious meals and dessert.Biscottis in AvondaleHidden in the south side of Jax, French Pantry is a bakery that often has a line dripping out the doors.   The tasty food, however, is worth the wait.Cool Moose Café makes its home in Riverside, offering appetizing breakfast and brunch.  Cool Moose Cafe in Riverside Jax.Sweet Theory Baking Co. is easy to miss if you do not know where to look.  This is a quaint, vintage-decorated bakery in Riverside where all food are vegan-friendly, gluten and allergy-free.
Florida Creamery is tucked away in Avondale.  They not only offer various desserts, candy and treats but serve food like hot dogs, too!
Florida Creamery is tucked away in Avondale. They not only offer various desserts, candy and treats but serve food like hot dogs, too! | Source
Florida Creamery in Avondale
Florida Creamery in Avondale | Source
Biscottis is also snuggled up in Avondale, serving delicious meals and dessert.
Biscottis is also snuggled up in Avondale, serving delicious meals and dessert. | Source
Biscottis in Avondale
Biscottis in Avondale | Source
Hidden in the south side of Jax, French Pantry is a bakery that often has a line dripping out the doors.   The tasty food, however, is worth the wait.
Hidden in the south side of Jax, French Pantry is a bakery that often has a line dripping out the doors. The tasty food, however, is worth the wait. | Source
Cool Moose Café makes its home in Riverside, offering appetizing breakfast and brunch.
Cool Moose Café makes its home in Riverside, offering appetizing breakfast and brunch. | Source
Cool Moose Cafe in Riverside Jax.
Cool Moose Cafe in Riverside Jax. | Source
Sweet Theory Baking Co. is easy to miss if you do not know where to look.  This is a quaint, vintage-decorated bakery in Riverside where all food are vegan-friendly, gluten and allergy-free.
Sweet Theory Baking Co. is easy to miss if you do not know where to look. This is a quaint, vintage-decorated bakery in Riverside where all food are vegan-friendly, gluten and allergy-free. | Source

Jacksonville Food Trucks

Food trucks are also a fun way to experience food here in Jacksonville. There are multiple food trucks that are part of events, daily lunch and dinner around town. Visit eatdrinkjax.com to learn more. Track them down for good food when you are in town!

Jacksonville: Home to Beaches, Sun and Sand

Bring your comfortable clothes and sunscreen to enjoy Jacksonville's beaches, sand and sunny skies.
Bring your comfortable clothes and sunscreen to enjoy Jacksonville's beaches, sand and sunny skies. | Source

Bring Proper Attire and Accessories

Leave your heavy coats at home! Most likely, especially when you are here March-December, you will not need it. The weather here is typically warm year-round. We do get a breeze coming in from the water that surrounds our city, including the St.Johns River, (which stretches for 310 miles), so you will be certain to see it flowing through the city and the cool breeze usually sweeps in with it. The multiple beaches also offer some solace from the sunny weather. Parks are scattered in abundance throughout the city, too and many of them have a view of the river and a wealth of trees for shade.

You can make a nice vacation just hanging out at the parks and beaches.

Here are some tips on things to wear and bring to prepare for a visit in this town:

Clothes
Accessories
Other Useful Items
Shorts and comfortable clothes
Hats, visors
Sunscreen
Sandals, flip flops
Sunglasses
Water bottles, drink canisters
Walking/running shoes
Beach Towels
Blankets, mats for grass/sand (for park/beach)
Light sweater or light jacket
Tote bags
Camera
Sundress, black dress, nice blouse for a nice dinner or bars, clubs (women)
Umbrella
 
Dress shirt and slacks, blazer for nice dinner, bars, clubs (men)
 
 
Rain coat, rain boots (we get hit every now and then with bipolar Florida weather where rain will come and go)
 
 

Jacksonville: Home to Historic Five Points, Avondale and San Marco

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Five Points is a gem in the city that is located within Riverside.  There is dining, boutique shopping and it has its own theater, Sun-Ray Cinema, where you can dine while you watch a movie.  Avondale is a bit more upscale and also has shopping boutiques and pleasant eateries.Located in San Marco, Maple Street Biscuit Co. is a cozy, delicious and affordable restaurant to enjoy a coffee or breakfast.
Five Points is a gem in the city that is located within Riverside.  There is dining, boutique shopping and it has its own theater, Sun-Ray Cinema, where you can dine while you watch a movie.
Five Points is a gem in the city that is located within Riverside. There is dining, boutique shopping and it has its own theater, Sun-Ray Cinema, where you can dine while you watch a movie. | Source
Avondale is a bit more upscale and also has shopping boutiques and pleasant eateries.
Avondale is a bit more upscale and also has shopping boutiques and pleasant eateries. | Source
Located in San Marco, Maple Street Biscuit Co. is a cozy, delicious and affordable restaurant to enjoy a coffee or breakfast.
Located in San Marco, Maple Street Biscuit Co. is a cozy, delicious and affordable restaurant to enjoy a coffee or breakfast. | Source

Jacksonville: Home to Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

On May 12, 2014, the zoo will be celebrating its centennial anniversary!
On May 12, 2014, the zoo will be celebrating its centennial anniversary! | Source

Bring Your Camera and Capture Memories

Photography is one of my hobbies and I have grown addicted to taking pictures since having children.

A favorite thing about Jacksonville for me now is the many photo-opportunities that you can find here. From the Downtown skyline, beaches, river, lakes, creeks, parks, buildings and to the lesser known, tiny spaces...the scene of opportunities are almost endless. So, bring a good camera and snap away while you explore Jacksonville!

Visit the site, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens for more details and events at the zoo.

More Information About One Spark

Jacksonville: Home to One Spark, World's First Crowdfunding Festival

Something extremely unique to Jacksonville is the huge crowdfunding festival: One Spark. The first one was held last year and this year, it is being held again in April (9-13). It is a festival hosted in Downtown Jacksonville, occupying a 20 square block to showcase the passions of innovators, entrepreneurs, artists and musicians.

The festival's goals are to connect creators' ideas with resources. These creators will be highlighting their craft whether it be art, science, technology or music. Whatever their craft or project may be, this event provides them the opportunity to demonstrate what they are ultimately "creating" to gain support through funds from the public and through investors that will be a part of this momentous event.

You do not need to attend physically to vote. You can register to vote and donate online to the creators you wish to support. During the festival, there will be plenty of entertainment, food and after parties, as well. A win-win for all who come to share, experience and connect!

Read more about One Spark here.

Enjoy Nightlife and Sports in J-Ville

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Jax is home to the football stadium, Everbank Field, situated in Downtown.Black Sheep is a stylish restaurant that has a rooftop bar above it, perfect to have a drink with some friends or a romantic evening under the open, night sky.
Jax is home to the football stadium, Everbank Field, situated in Downtown.
Jax is home to the football stadium, Everbank Field, situated in Downtown. | Source
Black Sheep is a stylish restaurant that has a rooftop bar above it, perfect to have a drink with some friends or a romantic evening under the open, night sky.
Black Sheep is a stylish restaurant that has a rooftop bar above it, perfect to have a drink with some friends or a romantic evening under the open, night sky. | Source

Bring Your Family, Friends or Special Someone

Traveling is always better when you can share the experience with others. There are many cities where it is best to leave the kids and elderly parents or grandparents at home. Not Jacksonville - bring those youngsters and oldies on over! I love the fact that there are plenty of free and discounted activities for young children and older folk.

Bring your friends and significant other, too. Enjoy a nice day or night out. Jacksonville has an array of bars, wine bars, lounges, clubs and evening events for a fun night out with good friends or a romantic evening with that special someone.

Here are some websites that provide more details on events and places to go around town:


Read More About Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville: Home to Photogenic Views

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A view from Mandarin Park, which offers great photo-taking opportunities. It has a boat ramp so you can bring your boat right onto the water to enjoy the day and snap photos.A view from Stinson Park, a nice park to take photos of the boats, green scenery and river.The city is surrounded by lively colors, making it a vibrant place to snap vivid pictures.
A view from Mandarin Park, which offers great photo-taking opportunities. It has a boat ramp so you can bring your boat right onto the water to enjoy the day and snap photos.
A view from Mandarin Park, which offers great photo-taking opportunities. It has a boat ramp so you can bring your boat right onto the water to enjoy the day and snap photos. | Source
A view from Stinson Park, a nice park to take photos of the boats, green scenery and river.
A view from Stinson Park, a nice park to take photos of the boats, green scenery and river. | Source
The city is surrounded by lively colors, making it a vibrant place to snap vivid pictures.
The city is surrounded by lively colors, making it a vibrant place to snap vivid pictures. | Source

Jacksonville: My Home ...and Maybe Your Next Vacation Stop?

Sometimes, I want to take a trip to a place that is not bustling with the normal tourist crowds nor spend a lot to see expensive attractions. If you feel the same, Jacksonville may be the place to visit!

Your city and your travel destination is what you make it. Jacksonville is a city that can feel more like home but can still make for an interesting, valuable vacation, even if it is just while you are passing through on the way to St. Augustine or Orlando. Discover the hidden gems here - grab a bite to eat, check out some free events or visit a museum or the zoo.

Remember, if you want a good value-priced travel destination that has something for everyone, this is the place to go ... without having to spend much!

©BNadyn 2014


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  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

    I've never been to Florida, so thanks for the tour. Maybe some day. :)

  • BNadyn profile image
    Author

    Bernadyn 3 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida

    Sure, you are welcome! It's a more laid back setting than the main tourist spots here in Florida but still has the beaches and sunny Florida feel that attract most tourists...and not as costly to visit here. :)

  • WriterJanis profile image

    Janis 3 years ago from California

    I have been to Florida before, but not here. It looks like it would be a wonderful place to visit. Great that you gave the dining recommendations.

  • BNadyn profile image
    Author

    Bernadyn 3 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida

    It's definitely not Orlando but it is a great place to visit, especially if you know where to get food and some good places to check out. There are really tasty restaurants to dine here and the ones here represent some of them. Thanks for reading!

  • profile image

    Elliott Raggio 3 years ago from Hove

    oh i am so thankful that i bumped into your hub..great destination me thinks...

  • BNadyn profile image
    Author

    Bernadyn 3 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida

    I'm glad you found this then! The best time for visitors is probably Spring and Summer when there's a lot of events and you can enjoy the water.

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