I recently took a trip to my hometown of Jacksonville, Florida. While we were planning what I would write for this month, Sarajane said “why don’t you write about Jacksonville?” I had never really thought of it. I mean, it’s my hometown! I always thought of it as a large city with nothing to do. That point of view was a little bit…dramatic. Jacksonville is actually the largest city by area in all of the United States and the largest city in all of Florida. It’s pretty much the most Northeast of Florida you can get to without actually being in Georgia. It’s grown a little bit since I lived there.
When I first thought about writing this post about Jacksonville I thought, “what’ll I say? You can visit the two Walmarts within ten minutes of my house? The Budweiser plant on the North side of town? But once I thought about it, and asked a few “experts”, I found some pretty interesting places around! Are these places the absolute best? Perhaps not. These are the places that I enjoyed and that I think you might enjoy if you visited Jacksonville.
One of my favorite wing places is Dick’s Wings. The fried pickles are delish, the sweet tea is tasty, and the the Honey Bar-B-Q chicken tenders are the only thing I ever get. Love them. Check it out and let me know. It’s a local chain. There are a few around town, but they all have the same menu.
The Town Center is a mall…but it’s more than a mall. It’s sort of this new wave in malls. It’s an outdoor mall, it’s upscale, and it’s laid out like, well, a town. It’s the perfect place to do some window shopping! If you’re not into chains, then this is not your kind of place. They have Starbucks, they have Cheesecake Factory, they have Maggiano’s, and P.F. Chang’s. Good food, but not local. If you’re into shopping then this will probably be your kind of place. They have your normal stores such as Gap and Old Navy, Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, and Express. But there’s also a Tiffany’s, Luis Vuitton, Betsy Johnson, Michael Kors, Coach, MAC Makeup, Steve Madden. Oh yeah, and they have an Apple Store, which is always nice. So the Town Center may or may not be for you, but you might want to at least check it out. It really puts in perspective how shitty the malls in every other town really are.
I live(d) about ten minutes down the road from these beaches. Seeing as I was underage when I lived here I never got to check out the bars but now that I’m older…I did some sightseeing for all of you. If you go down this way I’d suggest just cruising down 3rd street and seeing what catches your eye. Most of the bars/restaurants that you’ll want to check out are one street over, towards the water, on 1st street. Something worth noting is that Neptune Beach and Jacksonville Beach are right beside each other. They are right down the road from each other. But don’t you DARE lump them together! The locals will not appreciate that.
If you’re in Neptune Beach check out Neptune Beach Fish Camp if you’re into sea food. For a more American fare, check out Mezza Luna Restaurant and Bar. Mezza Luna has a nice patio that would be perfect for a summer night. Some place that is sure to catch your eye in Neptune Beach is Ragtime. Again, seafood, but it’s also a bar and tavern, and it’s open late and they have a patio.
Move on down the road to Jacksonville Beach and you’ll DEFINITELY want to check out Cruisers. Cruisers is a dive kind of joint but TRUST, the food is good. They have great burgers, but something you must try are the Marinated Chicken Chunks. I’m telling you…it sounds weird but you won’t be disappointed.
Another place to check out, particularly if you like mexican food or margaritas, or both, is Campeche Bay. While you’re down that way you may want to check out Freebird Live, the music venue. You’ll want to check out who’s performing but you may get in luck!
Lastly, make sure to check out Mojo’s Kitchen. 1) On the weekends they have local jazz musicians play, and 2) They serve Cheerwine, and I know you all LOVE your Cheerwine. It’s a BBQ place, add a little bit of jazz and you get a good night out!
In San Marco they have what they call The Dining District. San Marco is a cute little area that has some restaurants, some shops, and a cute little square. You’ll want to check out San Marco Deli. If you want to check out a show, look into the Little Theatre for music acts, broadway shows, plays. Walk around San Marco and see what draws your attention. It’s a small little square, but it’s worth going to.
This is another local chain. You’ll find a few, and it all started in San Marco. Everyone will tell you to get the chocolate covered popcorn. I don’t like popcorn but when it’s good it’s good and you should check out the chocolate covered popcorn. Something else I got was chocolate covered potato chips. They have chocolates, ice cream, pretzels. Browse and get some things!
Head over to Riverside on a Saturday and you’ll want to make sure to check out the Riverside Arts Market. Tons of food, tons of art, tons of entertainment.
Check out Five Points (cause, ya know, the roads come together at five different points) and just walk. Walk until you can’t! You’ll definitely see some places you’ll like. Check out Cozy Tea, the tea room and feel fancy. For dessert make sure to check out Biscottis. They have a full menu which is really good, but they were voted Jax’s best for dessert, so make sure to at least save room for dessert. While you’re down there you may want to wander around, take a stroll, and admire the houses! This is a very cute area that I’m sure you’ll appreciate it.
In Avondale you’ll definitely want to check out The Casbah. The Casbah has Mediterranean food (great mediterranean food) and hookah. The atmosphere is a lot of fun and you’ll definitely enjoy it, but make sure you have time to wait if you go late, especially on the weekend.
If you for some reason find yourself on the North Side of town then you must check out Cleo’s. Any North Sider will tell you that you have to try Cleo’s. Cleo’s has burgers, sandwiches, but what they are famed for is their Taco Salad. You may say, “but what can you really do to a taco salad to make it so special?” Nothing! That’s the thing. Somehow it is just that good! Good enough that you want to pay for it, even though you could make it yourself. Something else you should know is that this isn’t just a restaurant…it’s in a trailer. Yep, it’s in a trailer, these women make it for you, you have the option of eating at one of the tables in the trailer, or going outside to the screened in porch. It’s hidden away so just look for the sign and you’ll find it. Also, sizes here are crazy! So if you want a large taco salad, get the medium taco salad. They come in styrofoam to go boxes and a medium is the normal sizeso…ya know what? Just trust me. Get a medium. You’ll be full.
St. Augustine isn’t really a part of Jacksonville but you’ll definitely want to check it out. It’s just about 30-45 minutes outside of Jacksonville. You can take I-95 down there but my favorite, and the prettiest, way to get there is to take A1A, which is right next to the beach. The drive is so scenic and beautiful. You’ll see the ocean, you’ll see the beach houses. It’s a very nice drive. Once you’re in St. Augustine go to the historic downtown. They have restaurants, they have shops, they have history, they have tours(regular and haunted), anything for a great day trip. Now, is it very commercialized? Perhaps. Is it full of tourists? Sure. But it is beautiful and the historic buildings and architecture are amazing to see.
So that’s Jacksonville through my eyes! I hope you visit it and enjoy it! Maybe I’ve helped you narrow down where to go. I’ll say it again, are these the BEST that jax has to offer? Maybe not. But these are what I find to be notable places. Check them out and let me know what you think!