A week ago I headed off on a Girl’s Only Vacation. After a much too quick stop in St Petersburg, we drove up to Jax FL – Jacksonville, Florida. None of us had ever been there and we were looking forward to seeing it for the first time. From fine dining, shopping, and theatre to the beauty of Florida’s east coast, Jacksonville promised to be an entertaining place for a short getaway.
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Nine Things You Never Knew About Jacksonville, Florida
How Big is Jacksonville?
Jacksonville, Florida is the largest city by population in the state of Florida, AND it’s the largest city by landmass in the continental United States. It’s a big city. In fact it is 840 square miles.
Oh and BY the way Lonely Planet recently named it one of their Top Ten Best Value Destinations in the world for 2018.
Centred on the banks of St. Johns River, Jacksonville Florida has access to water in several forms – beach, river, ocean. There are opportunities for hiking and other outdoor pursuits. Jacksonville also has amenities you traditionally find in a large city.
We did a fun kayak adventure with Kayak Amelia that lasted 3 hours.
Kayak Amelia also offers paddle boarding and segway tours. That was one of our favourite activities in Florida. Our guide Buddy was pretty amazing and very good at giving us direction. Cookie Island was our favourite part. But let’s be honest kayaking can be hard work. There was a bit of time when the wind picked up and we had to paddle hard. When you paddle across the finish line though and you haven’t tipped that kayak, well it can be a satisfying experience.
But, the Food:
This city has a wide range of restaurants, ranging from southern comfort food to Caribbean, bakeries, cafes and a busy food truck scene. Moxie Kitchen and Cocktails at the St Johns Town Center and Maple Street Biscuit were our two favourites. Have the biscuits and mac and cheese at Maple Street Biscuit. Their coffees are excellent too.
Looking for more details on what to expect from the food scene here – Check out Jacksonville’s 15 Best Restaurants.
Shopping in Jacksonville:
Jacksonville Florida has some excellent shopping and outlet malls. Any girl’s weekend must include some shopping.
There are several shopping areas but the one we ended up spending the most time at was the outdoor River City Marketplace. One of us had to leave early but the rest of us spent an entire afternoon shopping here. Close to the Jacksonville International Airport, and a wide range of stores from Ulta Beauty to Best Buy and Maurice’s as well as Office Max and so many more.
Life is a Beach
Where’s the beach?
There are beaches in Jacksonville. I swear to God I had no idea. None of us knew that Jacksonville had beach. 22 miles of beach actually. There is also 1,100 miles of shoreline. It is great for surfing and also quite picturesque as you will see above.
22 annual music festivals.
The Birthplace of Rock:
So, who knew that this was the birthplace of southern rock? Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers Band were formed in Jacksonville.
There are some direct flights to Jacksonville from Toronto and many other major cities. For your information, Jacksonville International Airport is cute and clean and easy to navigate. The area nearby Jacksonville International Airport area has good shopping and restaurants too. So if you need to spend a few hours before boarding a plane you are set.
With the largest urban park system in the nation, Jacksonville has 450 city parks, 7 state parks and 2 national parks. There are many golf courses too.
JAX – Jacksonville Florida Facts and a Few Other Things
My friends and I had a wonderful time on our girls’ trip through Florida. We had a great kayaking experience and we had a couple of enjoyable dining experiences too in Jacksonville, Florida. Loved Kayak Amelia – they provided excellent service.
Truly enjoyed my meal at Moxie Kitchen and Cocktails and Maple Street Biscuit Company. TRY the maple vanilla latte and the Mac and Cheese at Maple Street. Moxie menu was awesome in my opinion.
The Casa Marina
We stayed at Casa Marina which is a historic hotel on the beach. Was the beach view amazing? Yes. Is the building itself inside a bit run down? Yes. We also found it noisy and service was not great.
From the exterior, Casa Marina in Jacksonville Florida was attractive and it had a great rooftop sunset and sunrise view. But the inside was a big letdown for me and frankly it needs attention. Rooms and beds are small because it is an historic hotel. The furniture is extremely dated and worn. There are many other places to stay in Jacksonville if you are passing through the area or visiting for a bit. I can’t really recommend Casa Marina in Jacksonville Florida.
My Jacksonville Florida Travel Tip
Pick a nice hotel or resort and don’t worry so much about being on the beach. There are a lot of chain hotel options.
Although it can be a bit overwhelming if you’ve never been before, take time to explore what Jacksonville has to offer. Consider Alhambra Dinner Theatre too.
If traveling with multiple generations, or seniors, you might enjoy a performance there with dinner as well. It is affordable. With just two days to spend, we saw only a small percentage of what this city has available. This is a snapshot of what we enjoyed.
For more on our other Florida stops read these posts:
We were guests of Visit Jacksonville and Visit Florida while on our girl’s getaway week. We received flights, accommodations, food and tickets to see and do various activities. My opinion is all my own and it is truthful.