NEIGHBORHOOD VACATIONS

by Erin Thursby
Sometimes you don’t need to go far to get away from at all. There’s plenty right here in Jacksonville that can make you feel like you’re a world away from the stresses of everyday life. We’ve taken three local areas and hit the highlights of what you can do with a long weekend.
Avondale / Riverside / 5 Points
WHERE TO STAY

If your aim is to be within walking distance of the Cummer Museum, Memorial Park, Riverside Park and the 5 Points shopping district, The Riverdale Inn would be the best place to stay. The Inn also contains an excellent restaurant, The Row, so you won’t be going hungry.
This neighborhood has plenty in the B&B department. There’s also the Inn At Oak Street and St John’s House Bed & Breakfast, which are close enough (but not as ideal) to be within walking distance of the same attractions.
Downing Street Bed and Breakfast and The Jenks House Bed and Breakfast are closer to the Park and King Street shopping area, but I’d still recommend using your car if you aren’t an avid walker. (Downing Street isn’t taking any reservations until the start of June).
The House on Cherry Street, which has gotten rave reviews from friends, is a little closer to the Avondale neighborhood, but still within the bounds of Riverside. The neighborhoods are fairly walkable or you can bring a bike, effectively ditching your car for the weekend.
WHERE TO EAT
Choices for food aren’t limited in this area and there’s plenty besides what we’re mentioning. 13 Gypsies a tiny neighborhood bistro with amazing food, was just featured on the TV show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives (so make a reservation in advance). There’s fancy eats and fab cocktails at Avondale’s Orsay. The Row is always a solid choice for upscale dining, and if you want premium Italian- go for Primi Piatti. You can go hip instead of fancy at the late-night hookah lounge Casbah or you can knock back a pint at O’Brothers. During the day you can lunch at the neighborhood classics: Biscotti’s or The Fox. For something new, try Town in Avondale.
WHERE TO SHOP
There are three shopping districts in the area: Whiteway (at the intersection of Park & King), The Shoppes of Avondale on St. Johns Street and 5 Points. Although Whiteway shopping has dwindled somewhat, it’s worth going to because of Southern Crossing. This hodgepodge of vintage and antique stuff makes for fun browsing. For unique clothes, 5 Points is the place to shop. 5 Points also has a bead store, an antique store, a source for yoga supplies and more. Avondale has plenty of upmarket shopping, knickknack stores, a toystore and even a bike shop. Avondale is where we go when we’re looking for a unique gift. All of these have great places where you can nibble post-shopping.
WHAT TO DO
When you aren’t shopping or eating, you can catch a flick at the indie 5 Points Movie Theatre or stroll through Memorial, Boone or one of the other parks in the area. Many of the houses are historic, so you’ll be able to see some great old houses if you walk in Avondale. The Cummer Museum in Riverside is a treat that should not be skipped! If you’re there on a Saturday, don’t miss the Riverside Arts Market, under the Fuller Warren Bridge on Riverside Avenue. It’s not just a market- they have entertainment there every weekend.
As for night life, that can vary widely, from speakeasy hipster bars complete with tree house for the DJ (Underbelly) to belly dancing at a hookah joint (Casbah) and from smoker friendly bars (West Inn) to outrageous drag shows (The Metro). Since you might never find it, Underbelly is the semi-secret wine bar and art lounge tucked in the back of the clothing shop Anomaly in 5 Points. They’re open Wednesday and Thursday 3-10 pm, plus Fridays and Saturdays till midnight. There’s also Walker’s Wine Bar and the Lomax Lounge if you’re itching for a place to chill with a glass of something. In Avondale try the new Elevated Avondale above the Blue Fish Restaurant (formerly Sterling’s). If you feel like more of a neighborhood bar, try the Starlite and the West Inn Lounge & Package Liquor Store. For some less wholesome entertainment you can always see if The Metro is doing a show.
Atlantic Neptune and Jacksonville Beach
WHERE TO STAY

Those who like luxury should stay at One Ocean. Casa Marina Inn on Jacksonville Beach is older and it has a sense of history, as well as an excellent tapas bar upstairs. But if your budget is tight and you’re just looking for a place to rest your head at night, try the Seahorse Inn. It’s a local favorite. If you stick to one particular beach, you can ditch your car for most of your time and you can rent a bike or scooter while there.
WHERE TO EAT
While dining choices are scattered all over these three Beaches areas, if you can’t quite decide what you’re in the mood for, head to the Beaches Town Center, which is on the dividing line between Neptune and Atlantic Beach. The restaurants are dense enough that you can walk to them and they range from casual (Al’s Pizza and Joseph’s Pizza) to fancy (Azuera in the One Ocean Hotel). Jacksonville Beach also has a district with places to eat, the focus is more on nightlife than on excellent food. I’m hard-pressed to think of a single restaurant in the Beaches Town Center that doesn’t have quality food. For a late-night nosh, I like the diner Sun Dog. Beyond the Center, we recommend Culhane’s on Atlantic for Irish bar food, Roy’s (Jacksonville Beach) for a swanky Hawaiian dinner and the Salt Life Food Shack (Jax Beach) for a taste of Jacksonville’s beach culture. If it’s barbecue you want, don’t miss Mojo’s Blues Kitchen, it’s the best in the area! But don’t limit yourself to our picks- the beaches area is filled with culinary treasures from Thai to amazing subs!
WHERE TO SHOP
While shopping isn’t the main attraction at the Beach, it is surprisingly good. Indie shops, book stores and the occasional art gallery are part of the scene here. Try the Beaches Town Center as well as Jacksonville Beach. Jax Beach is geared more toward “beach shopping.” You’ll find more surf shops and bathing suits than boutiques in the concentrated walking area of Jacksonville Beach than you will at the Center.
WHAT TO DO
Like any other beach, charter boats, scuba and other nature-centric activities are the major draw here. Then there’s the other draw. The nightlife. Jacksonville Beach has the most dense bar district of the three, so if you’re looking to bar-hop, that’s the beach to hit. To recover from the bar-hopping or the sun-bathing, One Ocean Spa has a spectacular view of the ocean. For something more exciting than relaxing, Adventure Landing is sure to be hit with the kids and sometimes, even the adults. Those of a more historical bent will want to visit Beaches Museum and History Center. Visit the Beaches Green Market in Neptune Beach’s Jarboe Park from 2- 5 pm on Saturdays.
San Marco and Southbank
WHERE TO STAY

Unfortunately, there aren’t any B&Bs to stay in the San Marco neighborhood. That’s just fine because there are a number of accommodations in the Southbank portion of Downtown, just adjacent to San Marco. The Hilton Garden Inn, Homewood Suites and the Crowne Royal Plaza are all places where you can stay. Do take your car, as this area isn’t as walker-friendly as 5 Points, Riverside and Avondale.
WHERE TO EAT
You’ll have a lot of trouble deciding where to eat in these two neighborhoods. On the upscale side of things there’s Bistro Aix and local legend Matthew’s Restaurant. Still upscale but with a slightly more casual vibe is b.b.’s and the newest San Marco gem, Taverna. For lunch you can nosh at Matthew’s Market, owned by the same chef who owns Matthew’s Restaurant.
WHERE TO SHOP
Shop at the beautiful San Marco Square. Independently owned clothing boutiques, art galleries, stationary shops and gift shops are all part of San Marco. Be sure to visit the vintage and used book store.
WHAT TO DO
Our oldest dramatic theatre is in the San Marco neighborhood- Theatre Jacksonville. You can time your mini-vacation when they have a stage production you’d enjoy. The historic San Marco Theatre shows movies- from blockbuster hits to the occasional indie flick. During the day you can walk the Southbank’s Riverwalk. There are plenty of picturesque areas if you’re a photobug. You can take a ferry to Northbank and the Landing across the river.
Kids (and many adults) might want to visit the MOSH (Museum of Science and History) on the Southbank side. You can also visit the tiny but jam-packed Maritime Museum, also on the Southbank and next to Friendship Fountain. Visit the Treaty Oak in Jessie Ball duPont Park. The oak is the oldest living thing in Jacksonville, and it’s huge.
If you like music and hole-in-the-wall bars, do spend some time at Jack Rabbits. It’s an excellent music venue for up and coming local bands and a stop for more established bands. It’s not large, so you’ll be able to see the bands up close. If you want something quite a bit more upscale and cocktail-filled for your nightlife, go to Bistro Aix’s lounge, to their Onyx Bar. You can also hang at The Grotto, a wine bar smack dab in the middle of the San Marco shopping district. Square One is still party central and you can also head to Endo Exo. For a casual, dive bar you try Sherwood’s.

About EU Jacksonville

october, 2021

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