WHERE TO GO AND WHAT TO DO IN JACKSONVILLE

When Matt asked me two years ago if I would consider moving to Jacksonville, I was honestly like, “where is that?” Having lived here for almost two years now, I feel like it’s finally time for this post (I’ve been making this list forever lol). I didn’t realize how many people travel/have family here until I started getting questions about a Jacksonville blog post. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much the first time Matt and I visited. When we first got here we went downtown – first mistake. We also had no idea where to go or where people hung out; we were just aimlessly driving around (second mistake). So let’s just say that I wasn’t immediately impressed. 🙂 BUT I love it now. I also never knew that Jacksonville is THEE largest city (by area) in the country. It’s almost double the size of New York City. How crazy?

 

So needless to say, I feel like I know Jacksonville much better than I did last year. We’ve had a lot of time to explore all the different areas here: downtown, Riverside, Five Points, San Marco, Southside, JAX Beaches, Atlantic Beach, Ponte Vedra, even Amelia Island and St. Augustine. About 7 months ago we moved to the beach, so we’ve spent way more time exploring this area and I absolutely love it. It also isn’t bad being able to ride your bike to the ocean in approx. 10 minutes. Southern hospitality is a real thing here – people are so welcoming and genuinely nice (for the most part) and complete strangers will offer to help you or compliment you. It’s just a totally different vibe from being in Chicago or New York, but it’s really been a good change as much as I miss city life.

 

So here it is – my long, long list of the best places in Jacksonville to eat, drink, shop, things to do, and everything in between. Since Jax is so big and spread out, I added locations to each one. Let me know if I missed any must-try places 🙂

 

 

KEEP SCROLLING FOR THE LIST:

 

ST JOHN’S TOWN CENTER

DOMU

COWFORD CHOPHOUSE

ST AUGUSTINE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DIFFERENT AREAS OF JACKSONVILLE

  • Jax Beaches (Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach, Atlantic Beach, Ponte Vedra Beach) – Jax Beaches consist of a few different but super close ‘beach towns’ that basically run up and down the coast. The most northern is Atlantic Beach, where I live. Atlantic Beach & Neptune Beach are basically the same exact area, just on opposite sides of Atlantic Blvd. Downtown Atlantic/Neptune Beach is steps from the ocean, super cute and quaint, with tons of restaurants, bars, home & clothing boutiques, coffee shops, etc. It’s super laid back and the perfect place to park and walk to the beach, grab coffee or breakfast, margaritas, or have frozen drinks and listen to live music on the sand at Lemon Bar. Jacksonville Beach is just a few minutes down the road and different in terms of size and the vibe. I think Jax Beach is definitely a younger crowd and more lively – way more college bars and has a lot more going on. There’s always something going on.
  • Southside – Pretty much central Jax, where we used to live, where the main outdoor shopping and restaurants are (St John’s Town Center). Tons of chain stores, restaurants, boutiques, and a some good local restaurants. It’s worth going over here for shopping and lunch at True Food Kitchen or ramen at Domu.
  • San Marco – A quaint little area on the way to downtown Jax. There’s a strip of restaurants, boutiques, cocktail bars, etc. (My faves are Taverna, Town Hall, and Grape & Grain Exchange for drinks.)
  • Downtown – Downtown Jax is sooo different from other metro areas. One of the best things there is a super high-end chic steakhouse // rooftop bar @ Cowford Chophouse.
  • 5 Points – Trendy//hipster & artsy area full of bars, casual restaurants, and trendy boutiques. (check out GenerationUs boutique & Black Sheep rooftop)

 

 

BREAKFAST / COFFEE / SWEETS

  • Southern Grounds – Neptune Beach – This is my all-time favorite outdoor/indoor breakfast & coffee spot since moving to Atlantic/Neptune Beach. They have a full coffee bar with tons of seasonal drinks, the best breakfast sandwich & pancakes, amazing desserts & pastries, plus they serve lunch AND wine. I mean they pretty much do it all. It’s always busy!
  • The Local – Neptune Beach – The Local just opened a few months ago downtown Neptune Beach. I’ve only been for dinner, but it’s super cute and the food/drinks were great. They have a full bar and tons of TVs. (open for breakfast/brunch)
  • Whit’s Frozen Custard – Neptune Beach & Jax Beach – All I can say is that it’s so fucking good. Lol here is their ‘daily flavor calendar’.
  • The Mini Bar – Jax Beach – We are obsessed with Mini Bar donuts. They have seasonal flavors every weekend and everything is made fresh to order. They only sell mini donuts. My faves: coffee cake, Pop-Tart, smore’s, lemon poppy, and fruity pebbles. They also have the best cereal milk lattes – lattes made with milk that has been soaked in different flavors of cereal. Not sure why no one else has thought of this….
  • Metro Diner – Jax Beach – By far the best diner in Jax Beach. I could eat here everyday for breakfast.
  • Cinotti’s Bakery – Jax Beach – Some of the best classic donuts you’ll ever eat.
  • Maple St Biscuit Company – Jax Beach, Southside, San Marco – The best hangover breakfast…as long as you don’t have to put on a swimsuit after. If you want the best bacon egg & cheese biscuit or biscuits & gravy, this is the place. Soo many variation of biscuits.
  • Bold Bean – Jax Beach – Unique but amazing coffee. I love their vanilla almond milk latte.
  • Sago Coffee – Jax Beach – Brand new and super trendy coffee spot.
  • Fla Juice & Bowl – Jax Beach – I live for their pb&j smoothie.
  • Vitality Bowls – Jax Beach – My favorite, favorite acai bowls.
  • Good Dough – St John’s Town Center & San Marco locations – Very unique donut flavors and amazing lavender lattes.

 

 

LUNCH/DINNER

  • Coop 303 – Neptune Beach – Just opened last year; amazing food and cocktails, plus they have a cool 2nd floor bar and outdoor patio seating that overlooks Atlantic & Neptune Beach. It’s the closest thing to a rooftop bar at the beach!
  • Hawkers – Neptune Beach & 5 Points – Asian food & cocktails. I’ve had good and bad here but it’s a fun and busy atmosphere, there’s usually a wait for dinner.
  • The Local – Neptune Beach – Brand new & just opened across from Coop. I’ve been twice for dinner/drinks and everything has been good.
  • Flying Iguana – Neptune Beach – Best Mexican food & margs in Neptune beach; my favorite place to stop after being on the beach all day!
  • North Beach Fish Camp – Neptune Beach – I hate to admit that I don’t eat much seafood, but this is supposed to be one of the best! My family loved it.
  • Ocean 60 – Neptune Beach – Seafood & wine/martini bar.
  • Slider’s – Neptune Beach – Outdoor/indoor seafood & oyster bar with live music on Monday, Wednesday, and Sunday I believe.
  • Poe’s Tavern – Neptune Beach – Popular bar/restaurant known for burgers and live music.
  • Doro – Neptune Beach – A super cute beachy restaurant I’ve been wanting to try.
  • Kamiya – Multiple locations – All kinds of fresh sushi & Japanese food plus happy hour; there’s one here in Neptune Beach and in Jax Beach.
  • Catullo’s Italian – Atlantic Beach – I’ve been dying to try this authentic Italian restaurant, I’ve heard amazing things and there is always a super long wait, I don’t think you can even make a reservation. : (
  • ABBQ – Atlantic Beach – I’m not a huge BBQ person, but when this one opened up down the road we had to try. The food is really good and it’s a  cool place to get drinks and watch sports.
  • Eleven South – Jax Beach – A more high-end tapas restaurant at the beach that I have not yet tried, but want to.
  • Salt Life Food Shack – Jax Beach – Thee famous Salt Life. I’m not a huge seafood person and that’s definitely what they’re known for, but everything we’ve had here has been really good including drinks (highly recommend the calamari).
  • Bonefish Grill – Jax Beach – Obviously known for fresh seafood but they also have an amazing brunch and bottomless mimosas.
  • Blind Rabbit – Jax Beach – Probably the most fun brunch spot in Jax Beach; super cheap bottomless mimosas.
  • Hoptinger – Jax Beach & Five Points – Your typical pub food & craft beer.
  • Burrito Gallery – Jax Beach – Just a fun Mexican restaurant/bar in Jax Beach, I really like their food and the Frosé is a must, but it will definitely sneak up on you.
  • Taco Lu – Jax Beach – I think this is everyone’s #1 Mexican restaurant in Jacksonville, there’s always a wait.
  • Marker 32 – Jax Beach – A perfect date night restaurant right on the Intracoastal with a pretty marina view (the food was amazing).
  • Valley Smoke – Ponte Vedra – Another one I’ve been wanting to try but can never get a dinner reservation here! The restaurant is known for southern dishes & bourbon.
  • Palm Valley Fish Camp – Ponte Vedra – Still want to try this place.
  • Treylor Park  – Ponte Vedra – They have a location in Savannah and are known for a super unique menu. I’ve had their ‘Illegally Blonde’ cocktail and the loaded waffle fries were amazing.
  • South Kitchen & Spirits – Ponte Vedra – Amazing cocktails, brunch, and southern food.
  • Domu – St John’s Town Center – All-time favorite ramen (I get the Tokyo) & they have the BEST crispy asian wings, lychee martini, and ice cream. It’s a super fun/trendy vibe for dinner & drinks. They have Happy Hour all night on Tuesdays.
  • Grub Burger Bar – St John’s Town Center – BEST burgers at the Town Center; plus they have a full bar and amazing milkshakes.
  • Ida Clair – St John’s Town Center – Brand new breakfast/brunch place that looks super cute.
  • Midtown Table – St John’s Town Center – Another brand new restaurant & bar with a homemade/scratch kitchen (pizzas & pastas).
  • True Food Kitchen – at St John’s Town Center – Technically a chain, but I still love this place for lunch or happy hour drinks.
  • Taverna – San Marco – Definitely one of our favorite date night spots. We always get the parmesan truffle fries and meatball app. They have Sunday happy hour 3-7.
  • Cowford Chophouse & Rooftop – Super chic high-end steakhouse and cocktail bar in the heart of downtown Jax. The food is amazing, but the rooftop is one of the best in Jax for drinks and a view.
  • Bellweather – Downtown – Matt and I have been here for different date nights and the food is amazing. It’s similar to Cowford, but not as busy and more casual.
  • Ruth’s Chris – Downtown & Ponte Vedra

 

 

DRINKS/BARS

  • One Ocean – This is probably the only luxury hotel & restaurant/bar at the beach; great cocktails & they serve brunch.
  • Lemon Bar – Neptune Beach – Beachfront sand bar connected to a hotel w/ happy hour all day M-F.
  • Penthouse @ Casa Marina – Jax Beach – Hotel with a rooftop bar overlooking the ocean. They have ladies night on Wednesdays with live music and $5 martinis. Plus HH 5-7 M-F and live music on the weekends.
  • Brix & The Ritz – Jax Beach – Your typical local beach bars.
  • Mellow Mushroom – Jax Beach – A chain pizza restaurant & bar – buttt they have ladies night every Thursday with $1 wine.
  • Surfer The Bar – Jax Beach – Super beachy, young, and laid back bar with a walk up taco stand and live music.
  • Lynch’s Irish Pub – Jax Beach – Kinda divey but super fun on the weekends and they have really good bands // live music almost every night.
  • Flask & Cannon – Jax Beach – Craft cocktail bar at the beach.
  • Mavi Waterfront – Jax Beach – Seafood restaurant & tiki bar with live music right on a boat marina. Not the best service but I’d say it’s worth drinks and music on the weekends.
  • Grape & Grain Exchange – San Marco – One of my favorite date night spots in San Marco for craft cocktails & wine.
  • Town Hall – San Marco – Another fun date night cocktail bar/restaurant.
  • Cowford Chophouse Rooftop – Downtown – Even if you don’t have dinner, worth going for the view.
  • River & Post Rooftop – Riverside – The first restaurant/rooftop bar Matt & I ever went to in Jax when we came to visit. The restaurant is okay, but the rooftop has amazing skyline views.
  • Black Sheep Rooftop  – Honestly we’ve had some reallly shitty service at this rooftop bar, lol, but it is a cool place to have brunch or drinks with an unique menu.
  • Hoptinger Biergarten Rooftop – Jax Beach & Riverside – The Jax Beach location is a cool place to pre-game before the beach bars or grab food, but the 5 Points location has an amazing rooftop Bier Garden and really cool 2nd floor bar with pool tables.

 

 

SHOPPING

  • Gypset & Pearl – Jax Beach – One of my all-time favorite boutiques! They carry clothing, swimwear, shoes, lounge, sleepwear, skincare, home, and wine – basically everything you need in life. They carry some of the newest trending brands that you normally only find on places like Revolve (Lack of Color, Faithfull The Brand, Beach Riot, Capulet, Eberjey, Sancia, & more). They also do weekly wine tastings which is super fun.
  • Drift – Neptune Beach – Another super cute beach boutique that also carries apparel, swim, shoes, accessories (I love all of the unique jewelry/accessory brands that they carry) – you can also shop online.
  • There are soo many boutiques from Atlantic Beach to Ponte Vedra Beach, I just haven’t been to them all! Definitely worth looking into if you’re here to do some local shopping.
  • Generation Us – Five Points – SO worth the drive, I want everything in this store. It’s a super contemporary, trendy, home boutique with everything from designer coffee table books to Jonathan Adler Xanax pillows. Perfect place to shop for unique gifts.
  • St John’s Town Center (Southside/central Jax) – the nicest and only mall to go to in Jax.
  • San Marco Square – I don’t know the names, but there are a few little boutiques right in San Marco.

 

 

STUFF TO DO

  • Museums – Cummer Museum (5 Points), MOCA (downtown), MOSH
  • Five Points/Riverside – super artsy/hipster, boutiques, restaurants, bars, speakeasies, arcade bars
  • Jaguars Game at TIAA Bank field or a concert at Daily’s Place (the two are connected)
  • Jacksonville Zoo
  • Friendship Fountain – Downtown
  • San Marco Square – Quite a few old & new restaurants, cocktail bars, and boutiques to walk around and explore.
  • Top Golf – Southside/St John’s Town Center – sooo fun with a group plus amazing food & drinks.
  • St John’s Town Center – high end outdoor shopping, restaurants, department stores, etc.
  • Take surf lessons @ Jax Surf & Paddle – Neptune Beach – this has been one of my goals since moving here!!
  • Jacksonville Beach & Pier
  • Atlantic Beach Access
  • Mickler’s Beach Access – Ponte Vedra – Best beach for shell & shark tooth hunting, super quiet and family oriented.
  • TPC Sawgrass – The Player’s Championship – annual PGA tournament held in Jax & definitely a lot of fun.
  • Concert at St. Augustine Amphitheater – Such a fun outdoor concert venue.
  • The Ice Plant – St. Augustine – Happy Hour Tuesdays; they have a super cool and unique second floor bar and restaurant.
  • Alligator Farm – St. Augustine
  • Castillo de San Marcos – St. Augustine
  • St. Augustine Distillery – St. Augustine
  • Lighthouse & Museum – St. Augustine
  • Basically just spend a whole day in St. Augustine if you have the time – it’s super historic with lots of touristy things to do, historic Spanish architecture, amazinggg restaurants, and lots and lots of bars all within walking distance. **Highly recommend Tini Martini Bar, Harry’s Seafood Restaurant (always a long wait), Prohibition Kitchen for food, drinks, and live music (also usually an hour wait), and Cousteau’s Waffle & Milkshake bar for dessert (a must).

 

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