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Jacksonville is one of Florida's major industrial, commercial and cultural centers, and offers sun-soaked conditions year-round. Recreational opportunities abound in Jacksonville, with water sports, fishing, hiking, biking and horseback riding being some of the more popular activities. Headquarters of the Professional Golf Association (PGA), famous golfers make Jacksonville their home and training ground. The Jacksonville Zoological Gardens is an excellent example of an ecologically aware zoo. And, the Museum of Science and History has a fascinating display on manatees and dolphins as well as an excellent Civil War collection.
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Robyn Clanton

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Ben George

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United States, Florida, California
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Cherise Isbell

Cherise Isbell- Travel Advisor & Planner

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Tressa Alspaugh

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Hawaii, United States, Florida, California
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Marla Finley

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Set on the banks of the scenic St. Johns River and flanked by the Atlantic Ocean, Jacksonville, Florida, is a major port and metropolitan area. A major East Coast center of U.S. Navy operations, with two naval installations for air and sea power, Jacksonville also boasts a booming downtown ripe with nightlife, activities, art and music, and an increasing number of fine shopping outlets, world-class restaurants and museums. Jacksonville visitors also can enjoy watching the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars or real jaguars at the Jacksonville Zoo.

The "First Coast," as the Jacksonville area is affectionately known, is also a water-lover's destination, with white-sand beaches plus exceptional fishing and surfing. Add to that mix a number of great golf courses, and Jacksonville is one of the premier outdoor destinations of the southeastern U.S.

True, by midsummer Jacksonville's weather is downright hot and humid, but cross-breezes from the Atlantic Ocean and the river help keep temperatures almost bearable, and the mild climate during the other three seasons more than makes up for a few scorching months. Fall, winter and spring are all ideal times to visit Jacksonville.

Must See or Do

Sights—Catch a breathtaking sunrise and see frolicking dolphins from the Jacksonville Pier; sit for a spell on the edge of Lake Oneida and watch the antics of the resident otters.

Museums—American and European sculpture gardens at the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens; the Museum of Science and History.

Memorable Meals—Ichiban for seafood teppanyaki prepared to order; Al's Pizza for a white pizza and draft beer after a day at the beach; Matthew's for fine Continental cuisine.

Late Night—Live music, from blues to reggae, at Freebird Live; The Atlantic for the dance-club scene.

Walks—Check out the joggers, in-line skaters and cyclists—as well as the area eateries, coffee shops and Italian-ice shops—on First Street in Neptune Beach Town Center; watch fishermen catching dinner along the boardwalk pier in Jacksonville Beach; hit the trails at Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park in Atlantic Beach.


In terms of land area, Jacksonville is the largest city in the contiguous 48 states of the U.S., with 874 sq mi/2,264 sq km. The "River City" lines both banks of the St. John's River, Florida's longest river. The topography varies from wetland marshes beside the Intracoastal Waterway to dry sand dunes along the oceanfront to heavily forested and undeveloped areas.

The Northside boasts the airport, the zoo and the Jaxport cruise terminal. The Southside is full of great shopping, nightlife and clusters of eateries. The beaches sport excellent golf, the Mayport Naval Station, and their own personality when it comes to shopping, nightlife and restaurants. Downtown is similar to those in many other fairly metropolitan U.S. cities—with a spectacular river view, that is. It's lined with one-way streets, metered parking, and quaint cafes and galleries. The Westside, typically more rural, is home to the Jacksonville Naval Air Station.

Interstate 95 runs north and south through the city. Running east to west is I-10, and I-75 is about an hour's drive west of the city. Butler Boulevard is the area expressway, which runs from the beach to the Southside, with many exits in between.


In the early 1500s, Spanish explorers discovered Florida and claimed it for Spain. The first permanent settlement in the Jacksonville area was founded in 1791 and named Cow Ford for the narrow spot in the St. John's River where cattle crossing was possible. In 1822, the city was renamed Jacksonville for Gen. Andrew Jackson, who had been the first military governor of Florida Territory and was later the seventh U.S. president.

On a May morning in 1901, a hot ember from a shanty landed on the moss roof of a fiber factory downtown. The resulting fire burned 1,700 buildings, destroyed the business district by lunchtime, and left 10,000 residents homeless. When Jacksonville was later rebuilt, the "Prairie" style of architecture was used widely and can still be seen today. The architect responsible for many of the designs, Henry J. Kluthe, was a student of Frank Lloyd Wright.

In the 1920s, Jacksonville emerged as a winter resort for wealthy citizens. Three of the new neighborhoods developed at that time (Avondale, Riverside and Springfield) are key historic districts in the city. Dozens of luxury hotels and boardinghouses, many now restored, cropped up both in Jacksonville and in neighboring St. Augustine.

The 1940s brought the U.S. Navy to town with three separate facilities, two of which are still in operation: Naval Air Station Jacksonville, on the city's Westside, and Naval Station Mayport, at the mouth of the St. John's River. Mayport is home to the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy, as well as dozens of other naval ships.


The St. Johns River, the longest river in Florida at 310 mi/500 km, is one of only a handful in the U.S. that flows north instead of south. Boaters go "up" to Sanford and "down" to Jacksonville.

Locals sometimes call the Intracoastal Waterway, which runs through Jacksonville, "The Big Ditch."

The St. Johns River Ferry, which connects Mayport and the beaches to Fort George Island, is the last remaining ferry in Florida.

The 1901 fire that destroyed Jacksonville's downtown could be seen from as far away as Savannah, Georgia. The smoke was visible as far away as North Carolina.

Jacksonville's median age of 36 makes it one of the youngest cities in Florida.

With 200 sunny days each year, Jacksonville was the first "Hollywood." In the 1920s, moviemakers took the train south from cold New York, which was then the center of the film industry, and filmed in Jacksonville during the winter.


Jaxport, Jacksonville's cruise-ship seaport on the Northside, is an embarkation point for cruises to the Caribbean and Mexico. It can accommodate one large cruise ship at a time.

There are no dining facilities at Jaxport except vending machines. Jaxport provides parking for US$15 per day. A franchised taxi service provides minivan transportation from the cruise terminal to the airport (phone 904-425-4444).

Jaxport is located at 9810 August Drive. Phone 904-630-3006.

Shore Excursions

Jaxport is an embarkation point only.

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