Your Guide to the Perfect Long Weekend in Jacksonville
A long weekend getaway somewhere in the Sunshine State is always a good idea. If you’re not sure where to go, we’ve found the perfect place: Jacksonville. With more than 22 miles of quiet beaches, tons of local art and a blossoming food scene, there’s a good chance it will become your new second-favorite Florida city. Here’s everything you need to know.
Where to Stay
Right across the street from the city’s iconic Main Street Bridge (one of the most beautiful sights in town), the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront is a no-brainer. With spacious rooms and gorgeous views of the river, it’s only a short walk from the center of downtown, making it one of the most convenient places to stay (from $150 per night). If you’re looking for something near the ocean, consider the One Ocean Resort & Spa in Atlantic Beach (from $175). It’s set up right on the water and offers a host of amenities, including a state-of-the-art spa and cabanas on the sand.
Where to Eat
The first place on your list should be chef Elizabeth Arana’s River & Post. If the name sounds familiar, it’s probably because she appeared on Food Network’s Door Knock Dinners with Gordon Elliott. (We’ll take the truffled steak tartare, the broiled market oysters and the blue crab beignets.) Next, head to Gilbert’s Social for the jalapeño-cheddar cornbread biscuits and Southern-inspired ramen or 13 Gypsies for all things Mediterranean. Then there’s Good Dough, where you’ll find made-from-scratch doughnuts and pastries. (We’re eyeing the Nutella bomb doughnut hole and the fried chicken “doughwich.”)
Where to Drink
With more than a dozen breweries, this city is a pro when it comes to craft beer. Catch us on the Jax Ale Trail, where you can sample the best from them all. Make sure to visit Congaree and Penn, a charming organic rice farm (the only one in Florida and one of the few left in the country) that makes great-tasting hard cider as well as other homemade items like pecan oil and Creole tomato jelly. Cowford Chophouse’s rooftop, which dates back to the early 1900s, is a great spot to sip the vodka-based Dirty Cow, garnished with bacon- and blue cheese–stuffed olives, while nibbling on steak sandwich sliders and watching the sunset.
What to Do
Jacksonville is big—like, really big. Measuring 840 square miles, it’s one of the largest cities in the continental U.S. Which means there are tons of neighborhoods to keep you busy the entire time you’re in town. One of our favorites is the Riverside-Avondale district, which includes a cool area called Five Points, lined with funky boutiques, bars and coffee shops. The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens is nearby, displaying one of the largest collections of Meissen porcelain in the world. Then there’s Brooklyn (yep, just like in NYC), an up-and-coming suburban neighborhood that’s home to the largest 3-D mural in the world. You’ll alsowant to wander through the Doro District, where several industrial buildings from the early 20th century have been transformed into a center for art, food and drink (there’s a craft brewery and distillery on site).
What to See
Jacksonville boasts the largest urban park system in the country, so you’ll probably want to spend a great deal of your trip outside. We suggest visiting Cary State Forest first. One of Florida’s original state forests, it has running and hiking trails that wind through wetlands and a cypress swamp. Besides green spaces, Jacksonville is sprinkled with art installations all over town, from dozens of public murals and other works to the CoRK Arts District, which features 80,000 square feet of artist studios and galleries.