There are several scenically splendid ways to ride into the core of Jacksonville’s cozy little metropolis, and all of them just so happen to be 4 of our city’s 10 great big beautiful bridges – The Acosta Bridge which flanks the western area, The Hart and Mathews Bridges which take you in from the east, and the Main Street Bridge serving as the main artery, gliding you right into the heart of the city.
Many popular events find themselves in this area including, but certainly not limited to: Art Walk every first Wednesday of the month; The Jacksonville Jazz Festival, one of the biggest in the nation; The Gate River Run, held each spring; Film Festivals, including The Jacksonville Film Fest, The 24 Hour Film Fest, and Citrus Cell Animation Film Fest; Popular shows and concerts of all natures can be experienced at great venues such as The Florida Theatre, The Veterans Memorial Theatre, The Times Union Center of Performing Art, The Landing, MOCA, The Old Library, The New Library, and the list goes on. And let us not forget our dear Jaguars and Suns! Plus, the Jacksonville Farmer’s Market has fresh fruit and vegetable pickin’s from local harvesters.
This town is totally walkable, so slap on some sneakers, park the car on or near Main Street and foot it the rest of the way.
Check out the gorgeous and historic old chapels and churches near the north end and center of Main Street. Burro Bar* is a popular little place for live shows. Further down you’ll find Casa Dora for some delicious authentic Italian fair.
This is our main strip of popular restaurants and clubs* for dancing, with to-die-for spectacular and spacious art studios and apartments located above each establishment. Get in the car and drive further east where you’ll hit the area that’s home to our beloved Jags Football team and Suns Minor League Baseball team.
Check out our famous Florida Theatre, hosting such greats as Elvis Presley in its past, and now hosting popular new talents such as Wilco, amongst a slew of other various events. Burro Bags is just down the road going east if you’re in need of a custom handmade and super sturdy messenger bag, fanny pac, or backpack.
Discover more historical and unique architecture such our great big 60s revival, and truly a Jacksonville icon, the Old Library which has been converted into a great open space for Art Walk and other local events. Across from the Old Library, Burrito Gallery has some of the most fantastic fish tacos I’ve ever tasted. Further west, get your class on with some local art galleries and one of our popular upscale restaurants, Chew.
At the Southern-most end of Laura, you’ll find yourself at The Landing. Walk inside and back out to their courtyard on the river for a spectacular view. Chamblin’s Book Mine is a must see. If you love old books, nearly-new books, and everything-in-between books, you’ll adore this labyrinthine two-story gallery of books books books! Or just stop in Chamblin’s cafe for an organic coffee and turkey croissant if that suits your fancy. Our brand spanking new five-story Downtown Library is a great place for research and also hosts local events. And right next to the library is our Museum of Modern Art (MOCA) which happens to be partially owned by UNF.
Walk or bike on Riverwalk, the two boardwalks that embrace both sides of the river and truly some of the best places in the city for stunning views of the St. Johns River and the bridges that bind the north to the south, as well as the east to the west. On the south bank you’ll find the Museum of Science and History (MOSH). Right next door to MOSH, Friendship Fountain, newly restored, is quite a sight to see during the day, but most especially at night when great geysers of water shoot skyward in an array of exciting colors. Just recently I’d ridden my bike to Riverwalk to see the Fourth of July fireworks show. The fountain was lit up, the water dancing for us as loads of vendors and spectators reveled in the fountain’s pre-firework show.
The downtown area can, at times, be a great place to ride your bike, as during certain times of the day you’ll find it surprisingly quiet and serene. Other times of the day, it’s bustling with traffic and Eight to Fivers in their suits and ties. If you want to see a busy foot and bike traffic scene, pay the city center a visit during Art Walk, The Jazz Fest, Gate River Run, or really anytime a Jags game or concert is in town. You’re sure to find lots of warm bodies walking around, helping to establish a more connected community.
For a good way to keep up to date with great venues and fun events read: Folioweekly or The Florida Times Union.
My favorite online go-tos include:
*Please note, neither I, nor The University of North Florida, in any way supports or promotes underage drinking. For those old enough, drink responsibly and never drink and drive.