If you’re looking for a suburban feel with access to beautiful scenery and an average of 270 days of sunshine per year, Jacksonville, Florida, is the place for you. While the city is known for some of its most popular attractions like the Cummer Museum of Arts & Gardens and the Friendship Fountain, it’s also full of secret spots to uncover. From the most beautiful beaches to fantastic food options, the River City is home to all sorts of local favorites that will give you a truly unique perspective on the city.
Not sure where to start? We’re here to help. We’ve asked Jacksonville locals to take you through the city from an insider’s perspective. So whether you’re renting an apartment in Jacksonville Beach, buying a house in Miramar, or considering moving to the area, get ready to explore the top hidden gems in Jacksonville.
Jacksonville’s outdoor hidden gems
Home to the most extensive urban park system in the U.S., Jacksonville has something for any outdoor enthusiast. Here you’ll find 80,000 acres of parks and world-class beaches. The most popular beaches include Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach, Jacksonville Beach, and Ponte Vedra Beach. However, if you’re looking for something a bit more low-key and unique, stray away and try these other local favorites. Grab your sunscreen and get ready to start exploring the city’s favorite outdoor spaces.
For a picturesque lesser-known location, try Driftwood Beach
Marcella, a local Jacksonville photographer of Hype Girl Boudoir recommends Driftwood Beach on Big Talbot Island. “This is one of our absolute favorite places to photograph,” says Marcella. “You take a beautiful walking trail down to the beach, and the scenery there is like no other. Massive driftwood, almost skeletal-looking trees cover the coastline, making you feel like you’re in another world.”
Tabitha Baldwin, another local photographer, agrees, “The beach is full of big beautiful trees spread across the sand and picturesque black rocks along the shore. One of my most requested locations for local portrait sessions.”
For the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets, head to Amelia Island
“The true definition of a hidden gem is Amelia Island, Florida, which natives refer to as Fernandina Beach,” says Coast One Tours, a black historical touring company. “Amelia Island is located NE of Jacksonville on the Atlantic Ocean shores. The island is known for having the friendliest people around, where visitors and Natives can enjoy the rich African American culture of American Beach.
Explore the unique and historic homes in Jacksonville Beach
“Looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city? Jacksonville Beach, located a short drive from the city, is filled with unique and historic beach houses dotted along the coastal shore.” Says Nancy from Florida Rental By Owners, a vacation rental company in Jacksonville. “These affordable Jacksonville vacation beach houses are close to the pier, local festivals, shops, and restaurants.”
Head over to the Metropolitan Park & Marina for all kinds of entertainment
PierShare, a local Jacksonville company where you can rent boat docks, recommends the Metropolitan Park and Marina. “Located next to the home base of the NFL’s Jaguars, TIAA Bank Field, Metropolitan Park and Marina is a hidden gem in downtown Jacksonville. The 32-acre multi-purpose park has picnic space, playgrounds, bicycle racks, an exhibition area for craft shows, and a concert pavilion.”
Hidden gems in Jacksonville for the foodies
If you crave a taste of a delicious dish, Jacksonville is for you. From food and entertainment along the St. Johns River in Southbank to fresh seafood in downtown Jacksonville, there are options for anyone looking to grab a bite to eat.
For a romantic date, head to Ruth’s Chris Steak House
Rani Garner, a local painter, suggests to “Have drinks at the bar, even if steak is not your thing, and then go outside for the most breathtaking city view. Downtown Jax and all its bridges are lit up, reflected in the water, and a short stroll along the Riverfront will lead you to colorful fountains.”
For great food and entertainment, try Jazzy’s Restaurant & Lounge
Like much of Jacksonville, the King Street District in the Riverside neighborhood is pretension-free and welcoming. Justin from BarGlance, a local company that shows you the best bars in town, says, “It’s rare to find a place with great food and entertainment, but Jazzy’s Restaurant & Lounge in the heart of King Street has managed to pull it off. Make sure you try the fried lobster tail and the pineapple bread pudding. I promise you won’t regret it.”
Need to satisfy your sweet tooth? Opt for Cookies and Cream
“Cookies and Cream is our favorite go-to date night spot.” says Tonya Beaver, a local in Jacksonville. “They are local beach owned and operated and they have gluten-free cookies as well as dairy-free ice cream options. Sit out on their little game patio and enjoy the best ice cream in town. You won’t be disappointed.”
Have a chill night and try the Flamingo in the historic district
“Nestled in the historic neighborhood of Murray Hill, just a couple miles southwest of downtown Jacksonville is one of our favorite spots, The Flamingo,” says Lauren from We Are The Bowsers, a local photography, and videography company. “With its ultra-chill vibe, exposed brick walls, and high ceilings, it’s a great spot to pop in and grab a delicious iced latte or hang out with friends while enjoying a pint of craft beer or a glass of wine.”
Spice up your night and head to Indochine for some curry
Tifanie from Whisper Photo Company shares, “We love the chill atmosphere of Indochine. It’s right down the road from our studio, which makes it perfect for a quick lunch break since the service is always fast. Not only do they serve the most delicious food, but we have always been so welcomed there. Their curry crab rangoons and yellow chicken curry are my personal favorites, and my business partner is wholeheartedly obsessed with their spring rolls.”
Hidden gems in Jacksonville for the city explorer
There are plenty of things to see and do while living in Jacksonville. If you want to learn more about your city, head over to the Springfield historic district or opt for a private tour around downtown. There’s something unique to discover in every neighborhood.
Opt for a private tour to learn about Jacksonville
“If you want to connect with the history and architecture of downtown Jacksonville, then you need to book a private tour with Go Tuk’n,” says Ann from Premier Bride Expo, which features the top wedding professionals from Jacksonville and surrounding areas. “Ride around and relax on the electric tuk-tuks while hearing the history of Jacksonville. You’ll learn about its unique buildings and historic homes, see the parks, and more.”
Dance to the music of the city at the historic 1904 Music Hall
Lenny from Florida Beaches, a company that highlights the Florida Lifestyle, shares, “A bit edgy, a bit laid back, and a bit whatever you may be into on any given weekend night can be found at the 1904 Music Hall in downtown Jacksonville. Originally a bar from the 1900s, the 1904 Music Hall features musicians from across the country in this 300-person venue. Street art murals adorn the outside patio where music lovers can experience a diverse sound ranging from metal to hip hop and electronic dance music.”
Check out some of the city’s best artwork
“Home to over 50 murals, Downtown Jacksonville’s streets are the perfect venue for a laid-back walk with a friend or special someone,” says Shanna from Pink Parrott Weddings & Events. “I recommend stopping for lunch at Kazu Sushi Burrito for the best poke bowls. Then head over to Sweet Pete’s Candy for some chocolatey goodness. It’s a great way to explore Jacksonville’s older neighborhoods and see some of the city’s beautiful creative artwork.”
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