Things to Do in Jacksonville: By JUNKET
Did you know Jacksonville was the birthplace of the blues? Or that it was the nation’s major winter film center until Hollywood rose to movie-making fame?
With the endless expanse of the Atlantic Ocean stretching out before it, Jacksonville emerges as a city that proudly embodies the spirit of the sea. From the days of swashbuckling pirates who sailed the high seas to the modern-day shrimping boats that line its harbor, Jacksonville's seafaring heritage is woven into the fabric of the city, making it a treasure trove of maritime history and adventure waiting to be discovered.
Best of Both Worlds
Escape the mundane and explore the hidden gems of Jacksonville, where both adventure and relaxation await you. Satisfy your cravings for adrenaline by kayaking through the lush greenery of the Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve or experiencing the thrill of extreme water slides at Adventure Landing.
On the slower side of life, explore the city's rich art and botanical beauty at the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens or stroll through Beaches Town Center, where you'll find a myriad of shopping, dining, and entertainment options. Take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy the natural beauty of Little Talbot Island State Park, where you can swim in the ocean, hike through scenic trails, or simply relax and soak in the sun.
Phantoms of the Florida Coast
As the sun sets and the sky turns into an inky blackness, Jacksonville transforms into a realm of endless possibilities. For a thrilling night out, head Downtown, where the streets are alive with the sound of music and laughter. Sip on delicious cocktails at the chic bars or dance the night away at the many nightclubs, all while soaking in the electrifying atmosphere.
This is the perfect hour for the shadows of the city to come to life on the fascinating Jacksonville Ghost Tour. Embark on a chilling journey into the city’s haunted past where you will:
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From Cowford to Winter City
The area that is now Jacksonville was originally inhabited by the indigenous Timucua people who inhabited the area for thousands of years before the arrival of European explorers. The city's location on the banks of the St. Johns River made it a desirable location for settlement, trade, and commerce.
In 1562, French explorer Jean Ribault sailed up the St. Johns River and claimed the area for France, where the first European settlement was established at Fort Caroline, the first Protestant colony in America. It was later ceded to Spain after Spanish soldiers from St. Augustine after conquering the French. It was named “Cowford” for the narrow spot on the river where cows were ferried across.
In 1821, the United States acquired colonial Florida from Spain and renamed the city for Andrew Jackson, the first military governor of the Florida Territory who later became President of the United States.
During the Civil War, Jacksonville was a strategic location for both the Union and the Confederacy. It was a key supply point for hogs and cattle for the Confederate army but was occupied by Union troops for much of the war, after which the city was largely destroyed. After the war, Jacksonville was rebuilt and continued to grow and prosper.
“I have never seen a place where there are so many opportunities for pleasant everyday living - good houses, good streets, beautiful parks, splendid beach, good schools, excellent churches, and fine business blocks.” – James Weldon Johnson, writer and civil rights activist, 1898
Trial By Fire
In the mid-to-late 19th century, Jacksonville became known as an oasis for those looking to escape the chilly northern climates. With its warm, sunny weather, stunning beaches, bustling port, and thriving waterways, the city beckoned visitors from all corners of the globe.
It was a place where time seemed to stand still, where the worries of the world faded away under the warm Florida sun. But it was not a paradise immune from tragedy.
One of the most significant events in Jacksonville's history was the Great Fire of 1901, which quickly spread and destroyed much of the city's business district. It remains the largest urban fire to occur in the South. Over 2,000 buildings were lost, leaving over 10,000 people homeless. Despite the devastation, the city was rebuilt, and many of the buildings that were constructed after the fire still stand today.
The city continued to grow, and it wasn't just the natural beauty of the Florida coast that drew people in. Jacksonville was also a major shipping port, with busy waterways that brought in goods and people from all over the world. This created a vibrant, multicultural community, with a rich tapestry of languages, customs, and traditions.
Winter Film Capital of the World
Jacksonville's warm climate, exotic locations, and excellent rail access proved irresistible to moviemakers from New York, who flocked to the city in the early 1900s. At one point, there were over 30 motion picture studios in Jacksonville, making it the undisputed "Winter Film Capital of the World.”
Jacksonville's river and ocean port were the pulse of the city for many years, driving growth and development, and drawing people from far and wide. With each passing year, the city became more prosperous, more vibrant, and more cosmopolitan, establishing itself as a major player in the South's business landscape.
In The Big Leagues
And then, in 1993, everything changed. The National Football League granted Jacksonville a franchise, catapulting the city onto the national stage and setting it on a course for a new era of success and recognition. It was a turning point in the city's history, a moment when everything seemed possible, and anything could happen.
From its inception, Jacksonville has been a place of wonder and enchantment, a true jewel of the South. And even today, with all its modern amenities and conveniences, it still retains that magical quality that drew visitors so many years ago.
Relax in River City
As you make your way down the palm tree-lined streets of Jacksonville, you can't help but feel a sense of excitement and anticipation. The city, cradled between the mighty St. Johns River and the sparkling Atlantic Ocean, is a place of endless possibilities and unforgettable experiences. With a rich history dating back centuries, diverse culture, and a vibrant arts and entertainment scene, there's something for everyone here.
“I think the city of Jacksonville is one of the most beautiful cities in the United States."
– John Mellencamp
JAX: Art and Soul
Immerse yourself in a world of art, history, and music as you discover Jacksonville's rich cultural attractions, a vibrant tapestry that weaves together the city's varied heritage and contemporary creativity.
Enjoy a leisurely Saturday morning at the Riverside Arts Market, a weekly venue that features local artists, musicians, and food vendors. The Museum of Science and History offers a range of interactive exhibits and programs that explore science, history, and innovation.
With its multitude of outdoor activities, from kayaking and fishing to hiking and biking, you'll find yourself immersed in the stunning natural beauty that surrounds this enchanting city.
Jacksonville is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Florida, including Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach, and Atlantic Beach, where swimming, surfing, fishing, and sunbathing are undeniably essential. The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens offer visitors the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors while viewing a wide variety of plants and over 2,000 animals.
From fresh seafood straight from the Atlantic Ocean to mouth-watering BBQ and soul food, this city's food scene is nothing short of epic. Whether you’re seeking food trucks or fine dining, this city's culinary landscape is a masterpiece waiting to be savored. Take your tastebuds on a trip abroad at Hawkers or stay true to your Southern roots at Sweet Mama’s.
Get to Know Jacksonville
Encounter the unforgettable magic of Jacksonville, from the breathtaking beauty of its sun-drenched beaches to the thrilling excitement of its sports arenas. Immerse yourself in its rich culture and history, where the past comes alive and the outdoors beckon.
In addition to the Jacksonville Junket Experience, the city offers a wealth of attractions, including:
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