Where First Coast - - CONTENTS -

This South­ern city of­fers the best of both worlds: an ur­ban cen­ter with nightlife and cul­ture and beau­ti­ful beaches for R&R. BY SHEL­LEY PRE­STON

Some like to call Jack­sonville the big­gest city in South Ge­or­gia. There is no dis­pute that this city on the St. Johns River is in Florida, but un­like Florida’s other ur­ban cities, the feel is more South­ern than trop­i­cal. Jack­sonville’s many charms in­clude river views, quaint old neigh­bor­hoods and trendy ar­eas taken over by artists and cre­ative types. It’s also huge. Though not as densely pop­u­lated as At­lanta or Dal­las, Jack­sonville is the largest city in the con­ti­nen­tal United States with more than 840 square miles in its ju­ris­dic­tion. Oh, and did we men­tion beaches? So many great op­tions are only a few miles away from the city’s core.


One of the largest his­toric districts in the South, the Old City, as the area is called, has sev­eral dis­tinct fla­vors within prox­im­ity to each other. Avon­dale is dot­ted with bed and break­fasts and places to stroll such as the up­scale Shoppes of Avon­dale with plenty of cafés with out­door seat­ing. In River­side, the trendy types make Five Points their go-to des­ti­na­tion. Be­yond eclec­tic and col­or­ful store­fronts are lo­cal cof­fee houses, hip bars with home­made cock­tails and cloth­ing stores run by lo­cal art school grad­u­ates. From April to De­cem­ber, visit the River­side Arts and Farm­ers Mar­ket on Satur­day morn­ings.


This area is one of Jack­sonville’s most pop­u­lated ar­eas lo­cated south of down­town. The enor­mous St. Johns Town Cen­ter is a one-stop des­ti­na­tion for shop­ping and din­ing. Nearby, catch a show at the Al­ham­bra The­ater, the old­est con­tin­u­ally run­ning din­ner the­ater in the U.S. Pretty San Marco, lo­cated across the Main Street and Acosta bridges from down­town Jack­sonville, is the hippest part of South­side with in­de­pen­dent bou­tiques on vin­tage, tree-lined streets and home to Theatre Jack­sonville. Don’t ex­pect rows of dusty an­tique dens, the stores here brim with up­scale bou­tiques, art gal­leries and fine din­ing. The rest of the neigh­bor­hood is an in­ter­est­ing blend of high­rise con­dos, his­toric homes and river­side man­sions.

A view of down­town Jack­sonville from

St. Johns River

Cum­mer Mu­seum

of Art & Gar­dens

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