In Northeast Florida, where the St. John’s River meets the Atlantic Ocean, lies the city we love: Jacksonville, Florida. With vast stretches of gorgeous beaches, an extensive park system, historic neighborhoods, and lively nightlife combined with affordability (and more), this city has it all! A study ranked Jacksonville the most affordable big city in Florida and number 37 nationwide, and Lonely Planet named it one of the world’s top 10 best value destinations! Sound too good to be true? See for yourself! Click play below to watch us tour around our favorite Jacksonville spots.
Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens
Home to more than 2,000 different animals and 1,000 types of plants, the Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens is a fun destination for the entire family. But what makes it different from other zoos? Well, the Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens is considered a leader in creating an engaging, educational experience and in its conservation efforts. It is also one of only seven zoos in the United States with a dedicated animal wellness team, meaning every animal gets top-of-the-line care. So grab a ticket, and be sure to check out the updates to the Land of the Tiger and African Forest sites when you visit.
Jacksonville Farmers Market
Open every day of the year except Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Jacksonville Farmers Market has one of the city’s most unique shopping experiences. If you love variety, you’ll enjoy strolling through hundreds of vendor bays in this open-air market. Locally-grown fruits and vegetables are available year-round, meaning you can always support farmers in your area and wow your friends and family with fresh ingredients in all of your cooking. So next time your grocery list gets long or if you just need a quick snack during your vacation, be sure to stop by for all of your food-related needs.
Desert Rider Sandwich Shop
Philadelphia has cheesesteaks. Minneapolis has the Juicy Lucy. But when it comes to famous sandwiches from the state of Florida, Jacksonville boasts the Desert Rider. For more than 40 years, Desert Rider Sandwich Shop has been serving up its signature sandwich to the joy of Jacksonville natives and visitors. The Desert Rider features ham, salami, cheese, rider sauce, vinaigrette, lettuce, tomato, and mild peppers on pita. Yum! Don’t worry; if that’s not your style, they have plenty of other sandwich options to make sure you leave the restaurant happy and full.
Need a way to work off that Desert Rider sandwich? Stretch your legs at the Southbank Riverwalk. This just-over-a-mile stretch of concrete along the St. John’s River is proof that Jacksonville’s “River City” nickname is well-earned. Every day, residents and tourists walk, jog, and sit beside the river to enjoy the skyline views from the water’s edge.
Jacksonville is home to 22 miles of family-friendly beach areas with many nearby activities and amenities. However, Mickler’s Beach is a favorite of ours due to its convenient location, beautiful white sand, and of course, the ocean for miles. A real stand out is the significant amount of shark teeth that wash up on its shore. As you walk the waterline, see if you can spot shiny black shark tooth triangles in the sand. It’ll be a treasure hunt the whole family can enjoy!
The Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary
Even if you’re not a “cat person” we think you’ll enjoy the Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary, a non-profit organization that provides safe, forever homes to endangered big cats. That’s right, BIG cats as in tigers, lions, pumas, leopards, and lynx, plus honorary “cats” including, foxes, and coatimundis. Choose one of their tours to see all of the resident animals, then wander around afterward to revisit them, or attend a night feeding to watch the keepers feed the animals as much as 600 pounds of meat. Roar-some!
Maple Street Biscuit Company
For good ole’ southern biscuits and gravy with a modern twist, we recommend grabbing a table at Maple Street Biscuit Company. Not only is their food delicious, but the company also focuses on making their store a part of the community. For example, they use open-style seating to help spark conversations between their patrons. Since opening their doors in 2012, they’ve expanded to over a dozen locations throughout Florida and other southern U.S. states, but Jacksonville, Florida, is where Maple Street was first built.
Sweet Pete’s Candy
Willy Wonka would be envious of Sweet Pete’s! You’ll feel like a kid in an actual candy store as you browse every type of candy imaginable in this two-floor historic 1903 building. Satisfy your sweet tooth as you choose from individual pieces or boxes of candy, chocolate, gummies, gourmet lollipops, caramel apples, toffee, or other sweet things. They also offer classes, summer camps, birthday parties, and more. Kids of all ages will love it!
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