Jacksonville Travel Guide
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- 98%History Buffs
- 98%Local Culture
- 98%Art & Design Lovers
- 55%Family Travelers
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- JacksonvilleMember ofLocal CultureBudget TravelersBusiness Travelers+ 4
Jacksonville is named in honor of President Andrew Jackson, and was platted a year after Jackson became President. It is Florida's largest city by population and geography, with a population of just under a million people.Recommended for:
- JacksonvilleMember ofLocal CultureOutdoor EnthusiastsBudget Travelers+ 2First to Review
Jacksonville has the distinction of being one of the largest cities in the United States by land area. Beyond that, there's not much else to distinguish the city in terms of places to see and things to do.Recommended for:
Picture a land where wide, white sand beaches highlight a distinctive natural scenery where colorful, sub-tropical flowering plants and palm trees intermingle with magnolias and shady water oaks dressed in Spanish moss. Slicing through these lush coastal hardwood hammocks, a curvaceous river feeds numerous finger tributaries and waters acres of expansive wetlands that teem with nature. It sounds like a secluded getaway miles from civilization, but it is actually the natural backdrop for America’s eleventh most populous city. Welcome to Jacksonville, the place where city life, beach life, and nature all converge – or, as the local CVB likes to tout it, the place “Where Florida begins.”
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 futuristic skyway transport pedestrians from one side of the river to the other, along with the city's seven 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" affluent 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 coastal communities are several stretches of pristine natural beaches includingHanna Park, Huguenot Park, the Talbot Islands Geoparks, and Guana River State Park. 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 routeA1A, 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.
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 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.
Many know that Jacksonville hosted Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005, but many do not know the city's full sports spectrum. Annual football events include the Gator Bowl and the Florida-Georgia games. Of course, the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars also play their home games at Everbank Field every fall. In addition, the Jacksonville University Dolphins play football on campus and the Jacksonville Sharks play arena football in the Veterans Memorial Arena. In other sports, the Tournament Players Championship draws top pro golfers to Ponte Vedra Beach and the MPS Group Championship draws the top stars in womens' tennis to the area every spring. Like many cities, Jacksonville is home to a minor league baseball team. The Suns, AA affiliate of the Florida Marlins, play at the Baseball Grounds. In addition, the city is home to two NCAA baseball and basketball teams at the aforementioned JU and at the U. of North Florida (home of the Ospreys).
Jacksonville is the 11th most populous city in the US with an estimated 821,784 residents (according to 2010 Census). It is also the most populous city in the Southeast. Despite these facts, the city isn't nearly as crowded as most because it covers more land than any other in the contiguous 48 states. Most of the city's development in the past few decades has occurred along the river and between downtown and the beaches. This area covers much of Jacksonville's eastern half, a unique mix of neighborhoods that range from tranquil to bustling, scenic to commercial, and eco-sensitive to cosmopolitan. In addition, towns like Orange Park and Fruit Cove, are also experiencing rapid growth. Of course, there are still places in the fringes of the metro area that remain quite rural, like Callahan.
- JacksonvilleMember ofLocal CultureOutdoor EnthusiastsBudget Travelers+ 3
Jacksonville is a port city and on the board with Georgia. It is also the end or the start of Interstate 10. It also has great birding and Florida state parks for all types of recreation.
Went to Jacksonville for work. Definitely stop by the Jacksonville Landing in downtown. Great place for pictures and lots of restaurants. Also, if you are a beer drinker, make sure to stop by the Anheuser Busch Brewery and get your budweiser taste buds ready for some beer tasting!
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