Don’t panic, but we’ve heard Downtown Jacksonville “is on fire.” Or so says the group actually called “Downtown Is on Fire” and the hundreds of advocates assuring the rest of us that they’re rebuilding the urban core and are ready for the crowd.
The first thing you need to understand about heading Downtown is that parking can be, shall we say, problematic; instead, park at a Skyway entrance and take the coolest ride in town — yeah, it’s air-conditioned (and sadly, it’s usually empty enough that body heat won’t be an issue, which perhaps makes it this city’s best-kept secret). Get off and get lost at Chamblin’s Uptown Books, where you’re likely to rub elbows with all kinds of folks, from button-down city government types to local artists. In the mood for some culture? Check out the Museum of Contemporary Art up the block on Laura. Inside MOCA is a highly regarded eatery, Café Nola, boasting some of the best lobster gnocchi in town. Or chill out in Hemming Plaza, smack in the center of Downtown, the first and oldest park in the city.
You’ll find kickass retail shops, too — Grease Rags Clothing sells reasonably priced rockabilly/retro style clothing and accessories. There’s also KAnthony Boutique, Downtown’s higher-end fashion spot. (Take that, Ponte Vedra Beach.)
And while we’re on the subject of fancy, let’s journey to the Omni Hotel’s hidden gem, Juliette’s Bistro, for happy hour. It’s the standard in elegant imbibing. Feeling not so fancy? Hit up Chomp Chomp on East Adams. It’s not totally unlike an actual hole in the wall, offering sandwiches, salads and stuff on the cheap.
For the active people hitting the Downtown scene, there’s the Riverwalk. It stretches from Riverside all the way to the Northbank, and you can see the whole city while enjoying the breeze off the river on the extensive track. The tour is not complete without a stop at Burrito Gallery on East Adams. Seriously: The. Best. Burritos.
Last but obviously not least, the historic and architecturally awesome Florida Theatre brings in international acts, packing in crowds on the regular. It may or may not be haunted. Oh, we have The Sports, too. The Jaguars (NFL), Suns (minor league baseball), Sharks (AFL) and (soon!) the Jacksonville Armada (NASL) all play Downtown during their seasons.
A FEW OF OUR FAVORITE THINGS
Adams St. Deli & Grill (126 W. Adams St.)
Burrito Gallery (21 E. Adams St.)
Café Nola (333 N. Laura St.)
Casa Dora (108 E. Forsythe St.)
Chomp Chomp (106 E. Adams St.)
Indochine (21 E. Adams St.)
Juliette’s Bistro (245 Water St.)
Koja Sushi (2 Independent Drive)
Olio (301 E. Bay St.)
Zodiac Grill (120 W. Adams St.)
Burro Bar (100 E. Adams St.)
Dive Bar (331 E. Bay St.)
Downtown Cigar Lounge (11 N. Ocean Drive)
Dos Gatos (123 E. Forsyth St.)
Fionn MacCool’s (2 Independent Drive)
Jaxx Sports Bar (225 E. Coastline Drive)
The Hourglass Pub (345 E. Bay St.)
The Volstead (115 W. Adams St.)
Budget Records/Letter Shop (228 E. Forsyth St.)
Frugal Diva Boutique (2 Independent Drive)
Grease Rags Clothing Company (40 W. Monroe St.)
Gus & Company Shoe Repair (229 W. Adams St.)
KAnthony Boutique (209 N. Laura St.)
Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville (301 A. Philip Randolph Blvd.)
EverBank Field (1 EverBank Field Drive)
Veterans Memorial Arena (300 A. Philip Randolph Blvd.)
Chamblin’s Uptown Books (225 N. Laura, info)
Florida Theatre (128 E. Forsyth St.)
MOCA (333 N. Laura St.)