Nestled up against the Georgia border, this is a different kind of Florida than you may have experienced further south. Almost alone among Florida’s major cities, Jacksonville was never primarily a tourist destination. An important point for the railroads of David Yulee and Henry Plant, it made its mark as a working town—paper mills, a port, transportation hub and later an insurance industry town. The city’s districts are defined by the St. Johns River, which runs north into the city, then makes a right turn to reach the Atlantic Ocean at Mayport. Although it has beaches—both tourist-kitschy and pristine—at its doorstep and elegant resorts, it’s not a resort town. As a visitor, you’ll find yourself surrounded by residents when you go to area attractions and restaurants. If you decide to stay cloistered inside a visitors-only resort, you can do that, too.
1Assuming today is Saturday, it’s a great time to hit the Riverside Arts Market in Downtown. Check out the art, crafts and fresh foods in the renovated space under the Fuller Warren Bridge in Riverside. Eat an early lunch at one of the food carts.
2 After the Art Market, you can walk to the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens. Take your time in the European section to appreciate the Old Masters, then head outside to stroll the gardens and take in the panoramic view of the St. Johns River.
3 From the Cummer, head east into downtown and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). Spend the rest of the afternoon here, or if you want, breeze through and then head for nearby Jacksonville Landing for drinks before dinner.