Jacksonville is the largest U.S. city by landmass and has more shoreline than any other with 22 miles of beaches and 40 miles of Intracoastal Waterway. It also has the longest stretch of the St. Johns River in the state of Florida. Founded in 1822, the city was once Northeast Florida’s urban economic engine. Now, it is home to more than 400 city parks, two national parks, and seven state parks that offer an abundance of outdoor recreation. According to Where Traveler, Jacksonville is also a growing culinary destination and has a diverse art scene. Keep reading to learn more about four of the city’s popular neighborhoods.
San Marco is known for its historic estates, charming mansions and trendy bistros. Located just south of downtown, it is a quaint neighborhood with nearby amenities. It was developed in the 1920s with Tudor, Georgian and Colonial-style homes and was formerly the independent city of South Jacksonville. The neighborhood’s main attraction is San Marco Square, built to resemble the Piazza San Marco in Venice, Italy, with its fountain of lions. The neighborhood is a great spot to find boutiques, art galleries, and outdoor dining.
Start your day at Metro Diner for a true southern meal of chicken and waffles. Then, venture over to San Marco Square, where you can pick up a new book at San Marco Bookstore or try the famous chocolate-covered popcorn at Peterbrooke Chocolatier. For dinner, enjoy a unique dining experience at La Nopalera, set in an old train station building.
The Beaches neighborhood includes the Jacksonville, Neptune and Atlantic Beach communities. They contain miles of wide, white-sandy beaches and are hot spots for water activities, casual restaurants, and nightlife. According to The Florida Homebuyer, Jacksonville is the largest, oldest and southernmost of the three communities. It started gaining popularity after Beach Boulevard opened in 1949 and supplied a second route from the urban city to the coastal communities. Neptune was originally part of Jacksonville, but seceded and incorporated as its own municipality in 1931, following a tax revolt. Atlantic Beach began as a wealthy resort community that centered around the since burned down Continental Hotel.
This neighborhood is a surfer’s paradise. Atlantic Beach is recommended for beginners looking for good year-round waves, while Huguenot Park is where local surfers tear it up. After a morning in the water, make your way to Beaches Town Center for shopping, dining and fitness centers. We recommend Restaurant Doro – a seasonally motivated, “new American cuisine.” For family fun, play mini golf or laser tag at Adventure Landing amusement park.
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The Riverside/Avondale neighborhood has been described by Movoto as the historic and charming home to hipsters, bohemians, microbrews, and boutiques. Riverside was founded after the Civil War by Northern real estate speculators who aimed to attract the elite with the vast plantation acreage overlooking St. Johns River. It eventually merged with the neighborhood immediately south, Avondale. Since then, its numerous historic buildings have been preserved and the neighborhood is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. According to an article by Jacksonville.com, Millennials are particularly attracted to Riverside/Avondale for its renovated living spaces and nearby amenities.
Every Saturday, find local produce, handmade goodies, and live music at the Riverside Arts Market. The Five Points district has plenty of unique shops, restaurants, and entertainment, like Sun Ray Cinema and River & Post. At night, visit King Street for cool restaurants, clubs and bars. You can often find festivals and tasting events at Intuition Ale Works and one of the biggest beer selections in the world at Kickbacks Gastropub.
This neighborhood features some of the most stunning views of the St. Johns River and beautiful oak trees throughout. According to Visit Jacksonville, it was once a river port for shipping oranges and other citrus fruit northward – hence the name, Mandarin. The neighborhood was once home to Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, who described it as a “tropical paradise.” Now, it attracts tourists, young professionals, families, and retirees with its riverfront developments and numerous businesses.
Mandarin is perfect for nature lovers; it is full of city gardens, trails, sports fields, and seaside landmarks. Head to Mandarin Park for a game of tennis or pickleball. For a picnic by the river, check out the Mandarin Museum and Walter Jones Historical Park, a 10-acre site containing an 1876 farm complex with picnic areas and a citrus grove.
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Article by Megan Kong, REX Homes