If you’re looking for a fun and exciting vacation destination, Jacksonville, Florida should definitely be on your list! This vibrant city, located in the northeastern part of the state, is the largest city by area in the contiguous United States and has a lot to offer visitors. In this guide, we’ll explore the history and culture of Jacksonville, its top attractions, food and drink options, shopping destinations, accommodation options, and ways to get around the city.
History and Culture
Jacksonville’s history dates back thousands of years and is rooted in the indigenous culture of the Timucua Indians, who were the original inhabitants of the area. Their traditions, beliefs, and way of life can still be seen and celebrated today through various festivals and cultural events.
Over time, Jacksonville has been influenced by many different cultures, including Spanish, French, British, and African American. The city played a significant role in the Civil War, serving as a key port for the Confederate army.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Jacksonville experienced a period of growth and prosperity. During this time, many of the city’s historic buildings and landmarks were built, including the Florida Theatre, which opened in 1927 and is still in operation today.
During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, Jacksonville played a pivotal role in the fight for racial equality. The city was home to several prominent civil rights leaders, including Rutledge Pearson, who organized a successful boycott of the city’s segregated buses.
Today, Jacksonville is a thriving, multicultural city that celebrates its diverse history and culture. Visitors can explore the city’s past through various museums, landmarks, and historic sites, such as the Kingsley Plantation, a former plantation that is now a national park, and the Old City Cemetery, which dates back to the mid-19th century.
Jacksonville is also home to a vibrant arts and music scene. The city hosts several festivals throughout the year, including the Jacksonville Jazz Festival, the Springing the Blues Festival, and the One Spark festival, which showcases innovative ideas and creative projects.
The City has no shortage of things to see and do. One of the city’s top attractions is the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, which is home to more than 2,000 animals and 1,000 plant species. Another popular destination is the Beaches, which include Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach, and Atlantic Beach. Here, visitors can swim, surf, sunbathe, and enjoy a variety of water activities.
Other top attractions in Jacksonville include:
- Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens: With over 2,000 animals and 1,000 plant species, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is a must-visit attraction for animal lovers and nature enthusiasts. Visitors can explore various habitats, from the African savanna to the South American rainforest, and see animals such as lions, tigers, giraffes, and more.
- Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens: Located on the banks of the St. Johns River, the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens is home to a vast collection of art and artifacts, including pieces from ancient Egypt and contemporary works. The museum’s gardens, which feature sculptures, fountains, and a stunning river view, are also a popular attraction.
- Jacksonville Beach: With miles of sandy beaches, clear blue water, and plenty of sunshine, Jacksonville Beach is a favorite destination for locals and visitors alike. Whether you want to swim, surf, sunbathe, or just take a relaxing walk along the shore, Jacksonville Beach has something for everyone.
- Museum of Science and History: The Museum of Science and History, or MOSH for short, is a fun and educational attraction for all ages. Visitors can explore interactive exhibits on topics such as space exploration, health and wellness, and Florida’s natural history, and even watch live science demonstrations.
Food and Drinks
Jacksonville is a food lover’s paradise! The city has a wide variety of restaurants, bars, and cafes that offer everything from classic Southern cuisine to international dishes. Some of the city’s must-try foods include:
- Fish Camps: Located on the banks of the St. Johns River, Fish Camps are a popular dining destination in Jacksonville. Visitors can enjoy fresh seafood, such as shrimp, oysters, and fish, as well as other Southern favorites like hush puppies and collard greens. Safe Harbor Seafood and Clark’s Fish Camp are two highly recommended options.
- BBQ: Jacksonville has a thriving BBQ scene, with several restaurants serving up mouth-watering smoked meats and sides. The Bearded Pig and Mojo BBQ are two popular options that should not be missed.
- Craft Breweries: Jacksonville is home to several craft breweries that are worth a visit, such as Intuition Ale Works and Aardwolf Brewing Company. Visitors can sample a variety of unique and flavorful beers, and even take a tour of the brewery.
- Jacksonville Farmer’s Market: For those who prefer to cook their own meals, the Jacksonville Farmer’s Market is a must-visit destination. This open-air market features fresh, locally-grown produce, as well as artisanal breads, cheeses, and other specialty items.
- Sweet Treats: Visitors with a sweet tooth won’t want to miss the various dessert options in Jacksonville. From classic Southern pies at The French Pantry to artisanal ice cream at Dreamette, there is something for every taste.
If you love to shop, Jacksonville has plenty of options for you! Some of the city’s top shopping destinations include:
- St. Johns Town Center: This open-air shopping center is a top destination for retail therapy in Jacksonville. Over 150 stores, including Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co., Apple, and Sephora, offer something for everyone.
- Riverside Arts Market: The Riverside Arts Market features local artists, artisans, and farmers every Saturday under the Fuller Warren Bridge. Visitors can browse handmade crafts, artisanal foods, and fresh produce, and even catch live music and entertainment.
- San Marco Square: San Marco Square, a lovely retail district in old San Marco, with local stores and national chains. Visitors can shop for clothes, jewelry, household products, and more and eat or drink at one of the many restaurants and bars.
- Beaches Town Center: Situated in the beachfront communities of Atlantic Beach and Neptune Beach, the Beaches Town Center is a vibrant shopping and dining destination. Visitors can browse unique shops and boutiques, and enjoy a meal or drink with an ocean view.
- Jacksonville Landing: Jacksonville Landing, a historic shopping and entertainment complex, will reopen soon after rehabilitation. Once reopened, visitors can expect a mix of retail shops, restaurants, and events in a scenic riverfront setting.
If you’re planning a trip to Jacksonville, you’ll need a comfortable and convenient place to stay. Fortunately, there are plenty of great accommodation options to choose from in the city.
- Hotels: Jacksonville has a wide variety of hotels to suit every budget and preference. City hotels range from luxurious to inexpensive. Jacksonville’s top hotels are the Omni Jacksonville Hotel, Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront, and DoubleTree by Hilton Jacksonville Riverfront.
- Vacation Rentals: For those who prefer a more homey atmosphere, vacation rentals can be a great option. Airbnb and VRBO offer a variety of options, including apartments, condos, and houses. This is a great option for those who want to save money by cooking their meals and having more space.
- Bed and Breakfasts: Jacksonville also offers a number of charming bed and breakfasts for a cozy and unique experience. One popular option is the Riverdale Inn, which is housed in a beautifully restored Victorian mansion.
- Resorts: Jacksonville has some fantastic resorts for those who want to enjoy a luxurious vacation. Some of the best options include the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club, Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort and Spa, and the One Ocean Resort and Spa.
Getting around Jacksonville is a breeze, thanks to its excellent transportation options. Here are some of the best ways to get around the city:
- Car Rental: Renting a car is a popular option in Jacksonville, especially for those who want to explore the surrounding areas. There are plenty of car rental companies located at the airport and throughout the city, including Avis, Hertz, and Enterprise. With a car, you’ll be able to easily explore all the sights and attractions that Jacksonville has to offer.
- Public Transit: Jacksonville also has an efficient public transit system, operated by the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA). The JTA operates buses throughout the city, with several routes running 24 hours a day. They also operate the Skyway, a monorail that connects downtown Jacksonville with several other areas of the city. Fares are affordable, making this a great option for those on a budget.
- Biking and Walking: Jacksonville is a great city to explore on foot or by bike. The city’s bike lanes and walking routes make car-free travel easier. Bike rental shops and the JTA’s Bike Share program are available in the city.
- Ride-Sharing Services: Jacksonville offers easy and economical ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. This is ideal for folks who don’t want to rent a car or take public transit.
As you can see, Jacksonville is a city that truly has it all. From its rich history and culture to its top attractions, delicious food and drinks, unique shopping experiences, and comfortable accommodations, there’s something for everyone in this exciting city. So why not plan your next vacation to Jacksonville and experience all the fun and excitement for yourself? We’re sure you’ll fall in love with this vibrant city and all it has to offer.
READ MORE HERE: Top 22 Things to Do in Jacksonville