They have a saying in Jacksonville, that it’s “where Florida begins.” If your traveling south on I-95 that’s kind of true. Jacksonville is the first major city coming down the coast. But in terms of great places to spend a vacation, you could just as easily say that Jacksonville is “where Florida ends.” Why keep going once you’re there? After all, you’ve arrived at the largest contiguous city in the continental U.S. and it has pretty much everything you could want to do, and then some.
Sun, Surf & Sand
Actor Danny DeVito stars in “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” but Jacksonville enjoys 220 sun-filled days each year, which is a lot more than Pennsylvania. That’s why its 22 miles of beautiful Atlantic coast beaches are a vacation anchor. The best places for sun, sand and surf include Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach, Atlantic Beach, the northern fishing village of Mayport. Locals say that if you want to really hit the waves, “The Poles” at Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park are outstanding. Apparently life’s a beach in Jacksonville and much, much more.
Jacksonville has a tremendously hip cultural air to it that took root at the turn of the 20th Century. After a fire ravaged 146 city blocks, it was rebuilt under the architectural hand of Henry John Kluto. It became so attractive to silent filmmakers of the era that Jacksonville became known as the “Winter Film Capital of the World.” And that type of street-level innovation continues today.
Each year Jacksonville hosts the growing One Spark crowdfunding festival, spanning more than a 20-square-block radius. One Spark may be one of the hippest events going because it brings creators, entrepreneurs and innovators together to showcase their inventions in the downtown area. Attendees can help crowdfund these mad scientists’ projects and the five-day party rolls out plenty of entertainment, great food and drinks, and speakers. The DIY gathering has grown from 130,000 people in 2013 to nearly 400,000 in 2016. And the potential cash investments being thrown around rose from a cool million in 2013 to $3.5 million in 2015.Going to One Spark is a lot like checking out a hoverboard in a Back to the Future movie.
On the other end of the spectrum, Jacksonville has emerged as one of the biggest sports cities in America. Few places can boast the full palette of sports that are based in this northern Florida city. During the NFL’s last expansion, Jacksonville was awarded the Jaguars and pro football has been a part of the city’s fabric ever since. The Jags have made six playoff runs and are currently considered one of the rising teams in terms of talent. The franchise has been booming and its value has nearly doubled from $770 million to $1.48 billion, according to Forbes. Jacksonville was recently awarded a professional soccer franchise, The Armada FC, and has hosted minor league baseball games for the past century and the American Basketball Association began play in 2010. The semi-pro Rugby League Football organization founded the Axemen in 2006 and the Jacksonville Women’s Rugby Club are known as “The Sinners.” You probably need to go to an after-party to find out why.
The crown jewel of sporting events may be golf. The PGA is headquartered in the suburb of Ponte Vedra Beach, where the Players Championship is held each year. Golf may have been banned by King James IV of Scotland, but it rules in Jacksonville!