Arlington gets a bum rap.
Take it from a guy who spent many days as a teen playing hoops in Sin City and other courts in this neighborhood. We’re talking Arlington’s Sin City, not Robert Rodriguez’s. It’s not that bad.
The area’s heyday — from the opening of the Mathews Bridge to the rise of Regency — has long since past. There was a time, in the ’60s and ’70s, when Arlington had a reputation as the place where the rich lived. Now, many newcomers to Jacksonville don’t give it a first thought, or if they do, the thought is “My friend told me I might be murdered in my sleep.” (The crime problem is overhyped.)
The area’s rep got so bad that a few folks who live between Kernan and The Ditch began labeling themselves “Beaches West” — some thought “Land of a Thousand Mini-Malls” was more accurate, but I digress — which eventually morphed into Intracoastal West.
Regardless, this area’s main attractions remain mostly outdoors, a welcome respite from the wasteland that’s become Regency Mall. Sure, you can sit in front of stacks of chips at bestbet Poker Room, but it proves far cheaper to rest under the beautiful Arlington canopy.
For those who love the outdoors, this is the place to chill out: Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens, still one of the city’s best-kept secrets since its opening in 2008 and a great escape from the suburban sprawl, offers hiking, opportunities to shoot beautiful nature photography, and sweet serenity.
There’s also Reddie Point Preserve, Tree Hill Nature Center, the oak-shrouded campus of Jacksonville University and the 140 acres of Ed Austin Regional Park. The undulating trails of Timucuan National Preserve are most enjoyable for those who take the time. And in Arlington, you won’t need riverfront property to gain access to the St. Johns River and many creeks. Also, there might be more buried history here than nearly anywhere in the U.S. (See the replica of the original French colony of Fort Caroline, though historians disagree on the fort’s actual location.)
With all of this (and some amazing architecture) going for it, Arlington is begging for a comeback. And maybe we’ll bring ICW along for the ride.
A FEW OF OUR FAVORITE THINGS
Bitter Sweet Bakery & Eatery (14286 Beach Blvd.)
Donut Shoppe (1535 University Blvd. N.)
Maharlika Hall & Sports Grill (14255 Beach Blvd.)
Marker 32 (14549 Beach Blvd.)
Matt’s Italian Cuisine (2771 Monument Road)
The Mudville Grille (1301 Monument Road, Ste. 1)
Nero’s Café (3607 University Blvd.)
Peterbrooke Chocolatier (4765 Hodges Blvd.)
The Sheik Sandwich Deli (9720 Atlantic Blvd.)
Lila’s Seafood & Steaks (7546 Beach Blvd.)
University Diner (5959 Merrill Road)
Cliff’s Bar & Grill (3033 Monument Road)
Miller’s Ale House & Raw Bar (9541 Regency Square Blvd.)
Your Place Bar & Grill (13245 Atlantic Blvd.)
Arlington Flower Shop (7130 Merrill Road)
Champion Consignment (9750 Regency Square Blvd.)
Dance ’N Stuff Boutique (8011 Merrill Road)
Plant Place (5611 Fort Caroline Road)
bestbet Poker Room (201 Monument Road)
Blue Cypress Park (4012 University Blvd. N.)
Ed Austin Regional Park (11751 McCormick Road)
Reddie Point Preserve (4499 Yachtsman Way)
Tree Hill Nature Center (7152 Lone Star Road)
Windsor Parke Golf Club (13823 Sutton Park Dr.)
Alexander Brest Museum & Gallery (2800 University Blvd.)
Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens (1445 Millcoe Road)
Jazzland Café (1324 University Blvd. N.)
Timucuan National Preserve (12713 Fort Caroline Road)