Jacksonville is often described as the hard-working brother in a playboy family, but it’s shedding that image fast. On the Southside, you can visit Treaty Oak Park. The huge oak inside is more than 250 years old. Nearby Friendship Fountain is the most notable feature of the Southbank Riverwalk, while the Museum of Science & History (MOSH) takes you from Florida’s prehistoric times to the newest discoveries in science.
Downtown, The Landing is the heart of the area – Jacksonville’s festival and marketplace on the river with shops, eateries and entertainment. Downtown is walkable, or take the Automated Skyway Express (Skyway) both downtown and over to the Southside. You can also take the River Taxi across the river and back.
Everbanks Field is the home of the Jaguars, as well as the location of the Veterans Memorial Wall, a 65-foot black granite monument that pays tribute to Jacksonville veterans of the armed forces from World War I through Operation Desert Storm and the ongoing war on terrorism. In front of the wall, an eternal flame flickers.
Step back in time to the early 20th century at Merrill House History Museum, which depicts life in the city in 1903. The Gothic red brick St. Andrew’s church next door was constructed in 1888 and was the only major church to survive Jacksonville’s Great Fire of 1901. It’s the Jacksonville Historical Society Headquarters.
Florida Theater, which originally opened on April 8, 1927, is the city’s last remaining example of a 1920’s movie palace. It’s magnificent-looking, but catch a live performance there, if you can.
Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) is filled with about 1,000 pieces in its permanent collection, making it one of the largest collections of modern and contemporary art in the Southeast. It isn’t just for grown-ups either. Visit the fifth floor for some kid-friendly activities.
There’s always something going on in Hemming Plaza, Jacksonville’s oldest public park. The Hemming Park Beer Garden has happy hour from 5-8pm every Thursday night. There are usually at least two food trucks operating.
It’s hard to label Sweet Pete’s Restaurant, lounge, candy factory, ice cream parlor, and gift shop. It’s all that, housed in what was the historic 1903 Seminole Club. You can watch candy being made in the second floor factory.
You might think “a museum above a rescue mission is strange,” but as you tour the Dr. Eartha White Museum, you understand why. Eartha was the adopted daughter of Clara White, a former slave and founder of the mission. Eartha was well-educated and had a variety of upscale careers, including opera singer. She remembered her mother’s teaching and continued the mission.
The rooms where she lived from 1932 until her death in 1974 at age 97 are maintained with her original furniture. Famous guests included Booker T. Washington, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, and Eleanor Roosevelt. One of my favorite artifacts is a beautiful pump organ, which was a gift from Duke Ellington.
The original Ritz Theater, constructed in 1929, was the center of LaVilla neighborhood. The museum showcases Jacksonville’s African American heritage.
There is so much more to see besides what’s available downtown. The Jacksonville Zoo is addictive. Kingsley Plantation was owned by a former slave. These are just two of the many options available to you.
Jacksonville is the largest U.S. city, area-wise. Like any metro area, it’s concerned about visitor safety and has Downtown Ambassadors around the downtown area. They wear orange shirts or jackets and patrol on bikes or on foot seven days a week to help in any situation. I live a few miles out of town, but I know when I come to Jacksonville, I can find whatever suits my mood.