At 840 square miles -- geographically, the largest city in the continental U.S. -- Jacksonville, Florida, is able to incorporate the benefits of big city life in a region of natural beauty right along the water. Culture combines with over 111,600 acres of parks to explore -- the largest urban park system in the country -- and more than 20 miles of coastline.
The St. Johns River divides downtown Jacksonville into two districts.Jacksonville Landing on the north bank of the St. Johns River is a great place to start the fun if it’s shopping and entertainment you seek, including waterfront dining.
Hemming Plazais a block-sized park in the center of Jacksonville's downtown. Surrounding the park is Jacksonville's City Hall -- a restored department store built in 1912 in the prairie style -- plus the United States Courthouse and the public Main Library, a postmodern structure which opened in 2005 and is the largest in the state. The Museum of Contemporary Art is here too, with its impressive collection of almost 800 works. Across the river from downtown Jacksonville is the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, which houses over 5,000 works of art spanning more than 8,000 years.
Celebrations of the arts are regular events in Jacksonville including downtown Jacksonville’s First Wednesday Art Walk, on the first Wednesday of each month. The free event includes more than 40 venues celebrating visual art, live music and free food and wine samples. The first week of the month, a block party takes place in the Five Points district in historic Riverside for First Fridays in Five Points. This monthly event celebrates the shops selling vintage and designer clothing with late nights, live music and local artwork. The monthly North Beach Artwalk happens every third Thursday night in the Beaches Town Center area with live music supporting more than 40 local artists.
Besides Jacksonville’s beaches, you can enjoy the great outdoors with a visit to the city’s parks including the 46,000-acre Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve for those in good shape.Trails with steep hills take you through the natural beauty of unspoiled coastal wetlands and exhibits along the way including Fort Caroline National Memorial, a tribute to the 16th century French colonists. The Jacksonville-Baldwin Trail takes hikers and bikers on a 14-mile paved trail through pine flatwoods, wetlands and hardwood uplands, with the chance to spot wildlife such as songbirds, hawks, wild turkey and white-tailed deer.
As you would expect, the country’s largest city has no shortage of dining choices and for every budget. Among your options are southern cuisine, meals from a James Beard-nominated chef, international delicacies and local pizza joints and casual spots near the beach.
Jacksonville International Airport (JIA), located 15 minutes from downtown Jacksonville, has over 200 daily arrivals and departures with non-stop and connecting flights across the country. Rental car is the way to get around the city and beyond, as the bus system and elevated rail system are not the most convenient.
As a northern Florida city, Jacksonville enjoys a temperate climate. Winter temperatures in January and February average 42° to 67° F., while summer average temperatures range from 70° to 91° F.