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.
SOUTHSIDE/ SAN MARCO
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
of Art & Gardens