Jacksonville

Destination Location

  • 30.332184, -81.655651:primary
  • 30.4925, -81.689:secondary

Overview

With the largest land area and population in Florida, Jacksonville has a diverse and expansive lifestyle in each of its four corners. This city is bordered by the sunny shores of the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the resort-like ambiance of Nassau County to the north, the rural beauty of Baker County to the west and the stunning lakes and forested landscape of Clay County to the south.

As the United States’ third-largest seaport, Jacksonville also has a large military presence. The U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Air National Guard all have multiple facilities within the city limits. Colossal warships, aircraft carriers, fighter jets and helicopters are all part of the exciting scenery in Jacksonville.

There are heaps of museums to choose from, with subject matter ranging from historic maritime exhibits to contemporary art and interactive children’s museums. Jacksonville Landing is a massive complex of shopping, dining and entertainment options that should not be missed. Then there’s Riverwalk, a system of pathways running along the St. Johns River where entertainment pavilions along the way offer live music and shows daily. Also, locals and visitors all agree that the Jacksonville Zoo ranks among the world’s best.

The 20 miles of unspoiled, sumptuous beaches along Jacksonville’s eastern shoreline will give you ample space and opportunity to enjoy the Florida sunshine and spend time relaxing, playing and having fun. With over 50 golf courses in the region, players have their pick of courses, each with varying challenges to suit all levels of experience.

For a slightly different flavour to your trip, visit nearby Amelia Island where the town of Fernandina Beach has its own distinct flair. Victorian buildings add to the atmosphere as this tiny island has a rich past filled with pirates, confederates and Timucua Indians. Be sure to stop in at the oldest continuously-running bar – The Palace Saloon, as well as the Amelia Island Museum of History, and Old Town where you can learn about the former Spanish fort, San Carlos.

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Destination basics

Jacksonville enjoys the same humid, subtropical climate as the rest of Florida. Summers are hot and winters are mild. No matter what time of year you plan to travel, the great weather is going to be part of what makes your trip incredible.

July average high temperatures are typically around 33 C and drop only as low as 22 C. Nights are very comfortable with a light breeze, though you won’t need a jacket to dine al fresco. August and September are usually the rainiest months, so be sure to bring an umbrella or jacket.

In the early summer months, the humidity causes frequent, albeit brief, thundershowers most afternoons. Your best bet is to head indoors to one of Jacksonville’s awesome museums or shopping centers to get out of the rain.

Winters are very comfortable. High temperatures can average around 18 C and cool to 6 C in January.

Average monthly temperature and average monthly rainfall diagrams for Jacksonville

Jacksonville's diverse culture ensures an eclectic group of eateries for visitors to choose from. Everything from Japanese to American barbecue can be found here, and most at affordable prices.

Downtown
Downtown Jacksonville is filled with dining options to please any visitor. Part nightclub, part restaurant, De Real Ting Cafe has many Caribbean classics on its menu. The chefs at Angelo's Italian Restaurant never fail to please diners with their skilled preparation of Italian classics.

Jacksonville Beach
At the beach, such atmospheric enclaves as Ragtime Tavern Seafood & Grille are tempting spots when sandals and jeans are in order. The milkshakes at the Cruiser's Grill are not to be missed. Be sure to enjoy your meal out on the beach. The Florida Cracker Cafe is another casual option, with many options for the kiddies. You can spend all day and night at the Gypsy Cab Company Bar & Grill, where locals often come to kick back a few on the weekends and the service is always stellar.

Mayport/Fort George Island and North
In this area, to the north of Jacksonville, there are a few smaller dining options. Despite its hidden location, there are still a surprisingly diverse group of restaurants to choose from. Chan's serves Chinese creations in a family-style atmosphere. The Sandollar Restaurant and Marina is an aptly-named seafood joint, where the service is top-notch. Take the chance to dine with a view at Chowder Ted's, a casual eatery that gets the food to your table fast.

Jacksonville defines itself by its historic past and its location where the St. Johns River and the Atlantic Ocean meet. A key crossroads for more than 200 years, Jacksonville lured Northerners in search of sunshine.

Downtown
Downtown Jacksonville is a bustling urban center, filled with many interesting restaurants, shops and tourist attractions. The Jacksonville Museum of Science and History, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens and the Friendship Park and Fountain can all be found in this district. Browse these offerings that sit alongside the River, a picturesque reminder of the city's historic ties to river life.

Jacksonville Beach
Home to nature areas like Guana River State Park and the Ravine State Gardens, Jacksonville Beach is mainly a resort and residential community. Tucked away restaurants and quaint shops flavor the personality of this area, where visitors mainly come to swim, surf, fish or just lay out on the beach and relax. The Players Championship, part of the PGA tour takes place here annually.

St. Augustine
St. Augustine is the country's oldest city, where historic homes line cobblestone streets in the Colonial Spanish Quarter. The Castillo de San Marcos is located here. It's the oldest European fort in the US. The Fountain of Youth archaeological park marks St. Augustine's significance as the place that Ponce de Leon landed in 1513. Families spend hours at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Potter's Wax Museum, two lighthearted entertainment options.

Mayport/Fort George Island and North
The area around the Mayport Naval Station and Fort George Island is home to many attractions, and is known for its beach life and many wildlife preserves. Huguenot Memorial Park, with its bird observatory and many hiking trails, as well as Fort Clinch State Park, attract visitors drawn to the great outdoors. Nearby Amelia Island, home to the tucked-away Amelia Island Plantation and the 200-acre Amelia Island State Recreation Area, is a good destination for those looking to enjoy a private vacation.

The heart and soul of this Southern metropolis is the St. Johns River, twisting and turning through the city and finally emptying into the Atlantic Ocean on the city's eastern border. All that water seeps into every aspect of Jacksonville's entertainment scene, from the fast-paced downtown grid that straddles the river to miles of sandy beaches where the parties go on well into the night.

Museums
The Museum of Science and History offers a learning experience with interactive exhibits on deep-sea adventures, native wildlife, and a look at the stars above in the Alexander Brest Planetarium.

Contemporary art lovers can immerse themselves in Jacksonville's up-and-coming art scene at the renowned Cummer Art Museum and Gardens and the Jacksonville Museum of Modern Art.

Performing Arts
Jacksonville is a thriving center of the performing and visual arts. Facing the sparkling St. Johns River is the Times Union Performing Arts Center, newly rebuilt and proudly featuring top performances by the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, Broadway in Jacksonville and a wide range of other musical concerts and art exhibitions.

Theater
The historic Florida Theatre hosts concerts, dance, theater and film festivals. Theatre Jacksonville is home to the longest continuously running community theater in the United States. Another revitalized piece of Jacksonville's past is the Ritz Theatre & LaVilla Museum, home to the area's hottest jazz concerts and an African-American cultural center.

Shopping
Your first stop on the First Coast should be at the city's center on the north bank of the river where you'll find the lively festival marketplace called Jacksonville Landing, packed with shops, restaurants and an arcade. Throughout the year it also plays host to many outdoor concerts, parties and festivals.

If you don't have your own boat or a rental craft, you can hail a water taxi for a ride across the river to the south bank of the St. Johns where you can stroll along the quaint half mile Riverwalk, which is lined with shops, museums, restaurants, lounges and dance spots. At one end of the Riverwalk is Friendship Fountain, billed as one of the world's highest-spraying fountains. At night, a colorful lights create a dazzling display.

Sports
Just a mile away from the city center is the impressive EverBank Field, home of the National Football League Jacksonville Jaguars, beloved hometown heroes. The stadium is also a venue for major rock concerts, college footballs games and monster-truck shows.

Festivals
Metropolitan Park, directly on the river in front of the stadium, is easy to recognize with its permanent, multi-peaked tent that's home to the annual Jacksonville Jazz Festival, fireworks shows, and music festivals where picnicking along the riverfront adds to the fun.

Jacksonville

State: Florida

Country: United States

Jacksonville by the Numbers
Population: 868,000 (city); 1,573,600 (metropolitan)
Elevation: 16 feet / 5 meters
Average Annual Precipitation: 50 inches / 127 centimeters
Average January Temperature: 56°F / 13.3°C
Average July Temperature: 82°F / 27.8°C

Quick Facts 

Electricity: 110 volts, 60Hz, standard two pin plugs

Time Zone: GMT-5; Eastern Standard Time (EST)

Country Dialing Code: 1

Area Code: 904

Did You Know?

Jacksonville is the most southeastern city in the United States.

Orientation

Situated on Florida's northern border and coastline, Jacksonville is about 139 miles (234 kilometers) from Savannah, GA and 141 miles (227 kilometers) from Orlando, FL.

Nowhere else in Florida or in the nation will you be closer to the nation's roots than in this region of Florida which likes to call itself Florida First Coast. That "First" is a reference to the region's undisputed antiquity, not to mention its spot in history as the first place in the nation to welcome European explorers and as the first foreign settlement in the nation.

Historically, Florida was born here, and it was here that the first tiny trickle of tourism flowed into what was to become a flood of visitors to the nation's number one vacation destination. When Jacksonville welcomed its first tourist, Miami was still a swamp. And long before that, when Jacksonville was just a forest of scrub pine and some lonely sand, neighboring St. Augustine was already a thriving colony.

Here on Florida's First Coast, you meet a part of the state that is like no other sector of this sunny peninsula. Its sand is packed hard enough to drive on; its lifestyle is as gentle as its Southern drawls. Here mists drift over wide rivers, and pine woods and giant live oaks drip an odd, epiphytic plant called Spanish moss that makes an eerie sight on a foggy morn.

This land was in the middle of a battle long before the Pilgrims ever dreamed of sailing off into the sunset. In those early days, the religiously persecuted were the French Huguenots, whose Protestant religion was frowned upon by Catholic Europe. In 1562, they set sail from France, arriving here months later and settling in a tiny colony that was to meet a violent end.

Long before that, in 1493, the region's favorite son, Juan Ponce de Leon, landed here as part of an exploration group led by another intrepid explorer of some renown, none other than Christopher Columbus, the man generally credited with discovering America.

Ponce de Leon, who went on the become the governor of Puerto Rico, must have liked what he saw on the First Coast: he returned here in 1513 on an expedition of his own, landing in nearby St. Augustine. Legend has it that Ponce de Leon was seeking the famed fountain of youth. You can still visit the reputed site of his Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine and see if it works!

Pragmatists, however, claim Ponce de Leon had something much more prosaic in mind: gold. Whatever the truth is, the explorer certainly made a most lasting impact on the state. He landed on Easter Day, called Pascua Florida, or Feast of Flowers, in Spanish and promptly dubbed this new land Florida, a name that, clearly, has stuck.

The French, the English and a crowd of rowdy Revolutionaries who called themselves 'Americans' followed Ponce de Leon and his Spanish crew. This part of the state and quite a lot of territory beyond was horse traded among those nationalities for 300 years.

Cannons boomed. Men in armor clanked through the streets of St. Augustine. Seminole Indians died in grim battles and those pesky 'Americans' kept things in an uproar about as loud as the cannon fire.

Those who sought their fortune here, whether it was gold or a fabulous fountain, have included both those benignly famed and the decidedly infamous. Pirates Jean Lafitte, Blackbeard and Sir Francis Drake pillaged and pirated their way along the coastline, sacking cities that now perversely honor those rogues with an oceanside road called the Buccaneer Trail.

Jacksonville's African-American heritage has long and strong roots here, too—most of them grimly tied to slave traders. Chief among those was Zephaniah Kingsley, a slave trader who built an enormous plantation here from profits in notorious 'black gold', then married an elegant African princess and made her a free woman, an exceptionally rare creature in those dark days. It went on like that, the famous and the infamous making their mark on the region. With them came glorious days when silk gowns rustled across the shining wood floors of great plantation houses, when champagne frothed and money flowed. With them came grim days when cannons thundered, guns roared, fires burned and men died to claim this land.

Great galleons filled with gold have sailed past this coastline, and some of them remain here still, buried forever beneath seas that betrayed them. Massive ships filled with the betrayed also slithered in here, unshackling cargoes of the black gold of slavery that was to leave its own infamous mark here and everywhere in the nation.

Waves of joy and jinx, victors and vanquished have rippled over this land, leaving behind towering fortresses and tiny houses, lacy gowns and gold doubloons, fragments and figments of a past that lives on proudly here in a multi-cultural heritage encompassing French, Spanish, English and African settlers.

Today, Jacksonville, whose urban sprawl has made it geographically the largest city in the nation, covering more than 800 square miles, is a bustling, booming banking and insurance capital where only two French words are now common: mortgage and champagne.

Points of interest in Jacksonville

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