Monday, October 1, 2012

Travel Tuesdays....Jacksonville, Fla.

My typical destination of choice is more exotic than the locale we're visiting today, but Jacksonville made an impression on me and I wanted to share it with you.  We've visited this rather unexpected city many times, and each time I'm more and more impressed.  I'm not a fan of large(ish) cities and I'm not a fan of the hustle and bustle that accompany them.  Frankly, the average American city rarely impresses me as somewhere I'd encourage people to travel if they want to really discover new experiences, but Jacksonville just surprised me.  I hope she surprises you, as well.

The layout of this sea side town is extremely efficient and I am a fan of all things efficient.  The roads make sense, which always surprises me in a city larger than a thimble. If you don't understand what I mean, I encourage you to visit Washington D.C..  This is a city who's labyrinth of streets are as twisted as a single wide trailer caught in a Southern tornado of mammoth proportions. I digress.  Jacksonville has well laid out roads that are simple to understand and follow, and this is important!  We didn't get lost.  Not once.  For me, this created the initial opportunity to really enjoy the city and all it offers.  How much does Jacksonville offer?  Much, much more than you'd probably expect.

 Jacksonville Main Street is the center of a 44 square block area that has been undergoing a sort of rehab and preservation since 1999. Within this preservation of the history of Jacksonville, there's an active nightlife, the Landing, museums, an exceptional zoo and much more that we really felt offers something for everyone.  There's also the Main Street Bridge, also known as the John T. Alsop, Jr. Bridge, that creates spectacular night views from almost every downtown location. There's just something about a good view, isn't there?

There's a very laid back feel to Jacksonville that also impressed me.  The people weren't friendly in the way that many Southerners are friendly, but they have a vibe that gives the city a relaxed, easy feeling.  We enjoyed that and I think that you may, as well.

We had so many surprises in Jacksonville that I doubt I can cover them all, but here's a few highlights that you may be interested in:

1.  The Museum of Science and History in downtown Jacksonville.  This is an interactive museum that is referred to as the MOSH.  Our kids went wild for this place!  It's a hand-on dream of a museum with everything from anatomy, astronomy (with a planetarium!!), dinosaurs and fun physics lessons that are completely interactive!  They're open 7 days a week and the cost is 10 dollars for adults and only 8 dollars for kids.  You really can't beat this place for a fun, educational day.

2.  The zoo.  The Jacksonville Zoo is spectacular.  It's clean, well laid out and easily accessible.  All good things!  The silver back gorilla made me sad, but I'm still glad I went.  He's above spectacular, by the way.  He's regal and gorgeous.

3.  The Landing.  This place is the hot spot for all nightlife in Jacksonville.  You cannot see or do it all here in one night.  Here's another neat thing:  Jacksonville doesn't just have well laid out roads.  There's a water taxi that will take you from one location to another up and down the Main Street area.  Our hotel happened to be right on the waterway, so we would walk out to the Riverwalk that lines the area, hop on the water taxi and go just about any area we wanted to go to find active nightlife. 

4.  The Riverwalk.  While the riverwalk was a very easy way to hop the water taxi, it's also a great place to run in the mornings, which many people did, or walk it for a spectacular night view of St. John's River and the Landing.  This is completely free!

5.  Kingsley Plantation.  This is FREE, educational and interesting.  You don't find that much, do ya?

6.  San Marco Square. This is located about 5 miles from downtown Jacksonville and here is where the upscale shoppers will be happy.  The square is loaded with quaint little boutiques to satisfy every shoppers whim.  It's lovely and packed with charm.

7. Riverside/Five Points.  This area is at the heart of the funky arts district that Jacksonville quietly excels at.  There's jewelry and handmade works from all over the world to be found here.  We really had a spectacular time just window shopping and seeing all the unique offerings, but there's certainly plenty to buy if that's your bag.  There's also some great little coffee/tea shops here, as well.  Sit a while and take in the vintage clothing stores that sit alongside the edgy and trendy.  It's encouraged here. There is a mesh of old and new here that will interest anyone who cares to slow down and look.

A few pics to encourage you:

The Jacksonville skyline and Main Street Bridge.  The Landing is almost directly under this bridge.

Us strolling the Riverwalk that runs on both sides of the river.  We really utilized this.

The Museum of Science and History located downtown.

Yep...a possum.  He lives at the MOSH.

The cleanest zoo...ever. 

The cruises that leave from Jacksonville pass directly under this bridge.  They miss hitting it by a mere few feet!

A Jacksonville beach sunset. Because yes...there's also tons of beaches here, too.  

If you find yourself with a free day while in Jacksonville, you've also got the option of hitting lots of local beaches, or taking in a Jaguars game, or heading about an hour away to St. Augustine, which is absolutely beautiful and fun all by itself, or visiting any number of local parks.  We found Jacksonville to be one of the most surprising places we've ever visited. It flat out delivered more than we were expecting.  So, if money is an issue, or you simply don't have the time to go anywhere else with your busy schedule, we think you'll be surprised to find that everyone will find something that interests them here.  Get out there and live!

No comments:

Post a Comment