GO Native!

June 29, 2016
by
12 mins read

Northeast Floridians are highly evolved creatures capable of pulling off flip-flops with business casual, who know all the words to “Sweet Home Alabama” whether we like it not, have strong feelings about Florida-Georgia weekend regardless of our affinity for sports, have a ninja level ability to remain motionless for looonnnnggg periods of time to avoid sweating, and will probably always call it 9A. Sun-faded and rain-proof, we’ll drive past a hundred open parking spots to squeeze into a sliver of shade, bitch about the cold when the mercury dips below 60°F, and scoff at The House of the Mouse but never turn down free tickets to Disney.

To help newbies assimilate and locals get more local-y, Folio Weekly Magazine has compiled a list of things that you have to do, know and avoid at all costs to navigate Northeast Florida like a trueborn.

Be warned:Winter is not coming!

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THINGS YOU MUST EXPERIENCE

GET IN THE WATER
Fact: Gators bite. Fact: Sharks bite, too. But the odds of getting bitten are like a bajillion-to-one. (OK, we made that stat up.) But the fact that you are more likely to be killed by a crazy ex than eaten by a gator hasn’t stopped you from trying to get laid, has it? So slip into a suit and jump in the drink —CG

GET ON THE WATER
Ain’t nothing gonna make you feel like Shad Khan so much as the wind in your face and open water all around. Kismet, Khan’s $200 million yacht, may be way outta your price range, but that’s no ’scuse not to surf, float, paddleboard, kayak, canoe, catch a ferry, water taxi, casino cruise or charter fishing boat. Or, do like the (smart) cool kids do: Find friends who have boats. Just remember, good mooches pack coolers. —CG

ST. AUGUSTINE CAROUSEL
Located in Davenport Park, just north of the historic district, lies J&S Carousel, an antique merry-go-round with a long and colorful history dating back to 1927. In its current home since 1994 and just a buck a ride, the carousel is a favorite among kids and adults living in and visiting the Nation’s Oldest City. Giddy-up! —KP 

PAY HOMAGE TO THE TREATY OAK
There never was an actual treaty signed under the branches of this magnificent 250-year-old live oak on the St. Johns River Southbank — the name was actually created by a reporter determined to save it from the saw — but a few minutes cooling your heels under its expansive canopy and you’ll believe in its power to create peace. Older than even the city itself, the Treaty Oak has survived hurricanes, floods, development, the Great Fire of 1901, being climbed by wannabe-parkour-ers — even Florida-Georgia week. It’s a living landmark and a local treasure. —CG 

CHRISTMAS LIGHTS ON BLACKHAWK BLUFF
Years ago, a resident of the Blackhawk Bluff subdivision off Girvin Road had the novel idea to use a bow and arrow to string Christmas lights from his trees. Fast-forward to present day and pretty much everyone in the neighborhood gets into the holiday spirit, decorating houses to the nines and draping lights from trees throughout the place, creating a winteresque wonderland right here in Florida. See the Christmas Lights in Blackhawk Bluff Facebook page for more details. —CG

 

SEX ON THE BEACH
Aside from the fact that it’s illegal and there are millions of tiny grains of sand, having sex on the beach is kinda one of those things you have to do at least once if you live in Northeast Florida. We have some of the most secluded oceanfront stretches in the state and, well, to put it bluntly, sex is — for the most part — awesome. —KP

WATCH A SUNRISE ON THE BEACH
Speaking of sandy sex — this one time … we had been carousing among the dunes (long time ago, treehuggers, chill) way down near Vilano maybe? And I guess we fell asleep or something ’cause the next thing we knew, the warm Florida sun was wrapping us like a steamed hot dog bun. Except, oopsie, it was Easter morning and there were, like, 60 people standing around, looking for Jesus and finding only two hungover flower children on the sand. But the glow of the solar colors was just beautiful, man. Check your local municipal listings for legal constraints. Do not destroy vegetation on the dunes. —MD

 

FT. CLINCH STATE PARK UNDER THE STARS
Candlelight tours of the Civil War-era fort take place each Friday and Saturday through Labor Day. Plan your trip on the first weekend of the month and meet the living historians who take up the duties at the blacksmith forge, jail, infirmary, dentist’s office, kitchen, and laundry with relics on display. A three-mile drive through the maritime forest starts and ends the visit. Strange as it sounds, candlelight war reenactments are kinda romantic. Call ahead for reservations and time (it varies based on sunset). 277-7274, floridastateparks.org/park/Fort-Clinch. —MM

 

EAT AT A FISH CAMP
Some are dive-y, some are posh, but all the good fish camps have one thing in common: fish so fresh you could name it Nemo. Eating at one of the many local fish camps is like stepping into one of the better chapters of Northeast Florida’s history. Tip: Order the catch of the day and hushpuppies and check your pretenses at the door. —CG

 

PALATKA BLUE CRAB FESTIVAL
Each Memorial Day Weekend for the past three decades, our neighbors to the southwest throw one helluva party, complete with a state championship seafood cook-off, music, parade, fireworks and arts and crafts. Oh, and they have lots and lots of crabs, which makes total sense considering it’s the tried and true Palatka Blue Crab Festival. Admission and parking are free, so there’s no excuse to miss this celebration of all things callinectes sapidus. —KP

 

VISIT PARKS
Did you know that Jacksonville has the nation’s largest urban park system? Well, now you do. This network of natural bliss is spread out over more than 337 locations on more than 80,000 acres. Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve alone is a whopping 7,870 acres. Considering the county’s destruction-happy viewpoint of history, the 250-year-old Treaty Oak in Downtown’s Jessie Ball duPont Park is a testament to our savvy park system and Mother Nature’s endurance (and don’t climb on it!). Other notable parks include Little Talbot Island, Guana River State Park and Hanna Park. —DB 

NIGHTS OF LIGHTS
For more than two months, St. Augustine puts on its Sunday best in the form of millions of tiny white lights for the annual Nights of Lights celebration. It’s become such a spectacle that National Geographic even named the city’s regalia one of the 10 best holiday lighting displays in the world in 2011 and 2012. So grab some hot chocolate — or better yet, a hot toddy — and get in the holiday spirit. —KP

 

SMELL COFFEE ROASTING DOWNTOWN
When the Maxwell House Company on Bay Street fires up its roasters, it perfumes the eastern side of Downtown Jacksonville with the refreshing scent of America’s favorite breakfast drink (fun fact: In recent centuries, beer was the world’s favorite breakfast drink). Drive across the Hart Bridge with your windows down and inhale the earthy aroma of roasting coffee beans. Mmm-mmmm. —CG

 

ALLIGATOR FARM
Minus the overwhelming stench of wildlife and mud, St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park is one of those attractions that you have to visit every few years. Open 365 days a year and established way back in 1893, the Alligator Farm features a daring zipline and ropes course high above swarming reptiles, as well as albino alligators, pythons, lemurs and a sweet, 15-foot, 1,250-pound saltwater crocodile named Maximo. —KP 

BECOME ONE WITH THE HEAT 
Merge with the moistness, Northeast Florida newbie. When the heat index hits 110 degrees, you really have only two choices: Cower inside with your buckling, wheezing A/C dimed out, or go outside and surrender to the heat. There’s no escaping this scorching temperature. Trust us. So you may as well find ways to reconcile this relationship with the local humid, hinges-of-hell weather. Hit the beach, dodge horseflies on a nature trail, or stagger around Downtown with other sweat-soaked pedestrians. Also, slather on the SPF and drink a lot of water. Your skin and bean-shaped organs will thank you. —DB

 

WATCH A FLICK AT SUN-RAY CINEMA
Since 2011, Sun-Ray Cinema has been the go-to place to dig a flick, enjoy a cold beer and nosh on tasty vittles (including their PETA-No.-1-ranked vegan offerings.) Tim and Shana Massett’s left-of-field yet personable approach to programming means that arthouse, indie, comedy, music, genre, documentary, and countercultural films are a mainstay. Blockbusters also get their time on the two in-house screens, and the free Sunday night Game of Thrones screenings always pack the house. SRC also hosts notable events, like gay cinema auteurs Wakefield Poole and Bruce LaBruce, SUNN O))) and, on July 8, Todd Solondz returns to the theater to screen his new film, Wiener-Dog. —DB

RAMONA FLEA MARKET
Open every weekend since August 1971, this flea market is the veritable Crown Jewel of the Westside. Dig these digits: 35 acres, close to 600 vendors every day (with room for up to 800!), and on average 5,000-7,000 shoppers each day. And where else can you buy a hat emblazoned with hot dogs, a gallon of off-brand floor cleaner, and maybe even a Confederate Flag dreamcatcher? Be sure to cool down at the beer garden (11 a.m.-4 p.m.) with a frosty brew, then wow the crowd when it’s your turn at the karaoke mic. —DB

EXPLORE THE UNDERGROUND TUNNELS
Jacksonville’s underground tunnel system Downtown is kinda like an open secret. It’s not often there’s a tour of the tunnels, which can be accessed under the Atlantic National Bank building off Laura and Forsyth streets, but the eerie opportunity is well worth it. Giant bank vaults, twists, turns and secret passageways, oh, my! Just don’t get lost; there’s no telling when — or if — someone will find you.  —CG

 

PERUSE A FARMERS MARKET
Breaking news: Vegetables are a-mazing. Breaking-er news: Local vegetables are a-mazing-er. Northeast Floridians are lucky — we’ve got farmers markets coming out the yin yang. Riverside Arts Market, Beaches Green Market, Old City Farmers Market and Jacksonville Farmers Market are just a few. At these destinations of deliciousness, local farmers and artisans peddle delectable, beautiful wares ranging from golden beets to fresh bread to crafts to kefir (the goat’s milk kind, not misspelt Sutherland). Get you some. —CG

 

EAT/SHOP/DRINK LOCAL
The big box store revolution of the 20th century was pretty damn convenient — if GIANT packages of toilet paper are your thing — but one of the most fabulous trends of the 21st century is the return of locally sourced everything. Here in the land of sun and rain, there are breweries, distilleries, bakeries, wineries, restaurants, tailors, galleries, out-of-the-ordinary-retail shops, artists, farmers … you get the picture. —CG

 

THINGS YOU SHOULD NEVER DO

SEX ON THE BEACH
Speaking from experience, you should never have sex on the beach. First, it’s illegal. Second, there is a lot of sand. And third, did I mention that there is sand on the beach? Sure, I get that some of you might not live alone (aka sans parents) or have a van with a bed in it, but is boinking on the dune really worth finding sand in ungodly places weeks later? —KP

 

MESS WITH THE WILDLIFE
Florida is home to some pretty amazing species. Sadly, too many of our indigenous creatures are endangered or threatened by development, invasive species crowding their territory and idiots who think manatees should double as flotation devices — just no. So, please, unless you like paying fines, going to jail or being a pariah, keep your mitts, weapons and pets off the gopher tortoises, manatees, dolphins, sea turtles, waterfowl and local politicians who roam free in the wild. —CG

 

DRIVE THE BUCKMAN BRIDGE IN RUSH HOUR
Yeah, yeah, we know you like whining about the traffic, but the truth is, Northeast Florida’s roadways are a walk in the park compared to our sister cities around the state (and don’t even get us started on Atlanta traffic). With one exception: the Buckman 

Bridge on I-295. It’s long, it’s bumpy, everyone’s driving either 100 or 25 mph and, thanks to the masses that have migrated to Mandarin and Orange Park, it’s crowded as hell. So, if you can, avoid road rage and steer clear of the Buckman during rush hour. Your blood pressure will thank you. —CG

 

FORGET SUN PROTECTION
Living in Florida is essentially like camping on the surface of the sun — hot, hot, hot.  Not only is it hot, but those blinding rays that turn your seatbelt buckle into a branding iron are terrible for your skin. You’re essentially aging every time you go outside without sunblock, a hat and a long-sleeved shirt. Trust us, the leather skin look doesn’t work for anyone, so unless you like getting pieces hacked off by a dermatologist, cover up, slather up and stay in the shade. —CG

 

THINGS YOU GOTTA KNOW

PENSION PAIN
Critics are bashing Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry for his plan to pay off the Police & Fire Pension plan’s unfunded liability. Curry wants to extend the half-cent Better Jacksonville Plan sales tax beyond 2030 to do the job, but he’s reluctant to try to explain bond-finance to his knuckle-dragging constituents. Meanwhile, Northside activists Richard Cuff and Pastor R.L. Gundy oppose the mayor’s regressive sales tax plan, contending it’s all stick, and no carrot. —JD

 

ALL HAIL THE MIGHTY TIM TEBOW
Long before he was an NFL reject, won the Heisman, led the Gators to the BCS National Championship, inspired the ‘Tebow rule’ against black eye-paint messages or became his very own verb (remember ‘Tebowing?’), Tim Tebow was just a local kid blowing everyone away on the field at Nease High School. Yep, Tebow’s a Northeast Floridian — by way of the Philippines, but still. The local boy turned national hero is such a genuinely good person, even Bulldog fans give him respect. —CG

 

CHARTER SCHOOL CHA-CHING
You can’t be a #Native without hearing the loud cha-ching of school privatization money clinking into the campaign jars of local public school board candidates. Charter school proponents and other privateers have bankrolled Duval County School Board incumbents Cheryl Grymes, District 1, and Ashley Smith Juarez, District 3, as well as new candidate Greg Tison, who faces several opponents in District 7. Meanwhile, charter schools are bringing down our district-wide school grade, says Superintendent Nikolai Vitti. —JD

 

RODMAN DAM DEBATE
Back in the ’60s, some geniuses got a bright idea: Create a barge canal across Florida. Yeah, we don’t get it, either. The project was quickly canned but not before the Ocklawaha River was dammed up near Palatka, creating a vast reservoir that’s the site of a popular annual bass fishing tournament. Since then, environmentalists have fought to restore the flow of the St. Johns River’s largest tributary and equally passionate Rodman Dam advocates have fought to keep their river all stopped up. —CG

HOW TO DRIVE IN THE GODDAM RAIN
OK, you’re from O-HI-o or Illinoise or some other state out in the middle of America and you don’t have as much rain as we do here in Florida. Get over it. It’s simple, folks: Turn on your lights and wipers and turn off your cruise-control. The tsunami-like downpours blow through here, felling tree limbs and tossing pets like instant mashed potato flakes — then poof! — they’re gone! But the highway surfaces are still oily, slick death traps and the dirt roads are mudslicks. Chances are you’re driving a silver-toned Civic or a dolomite grey Beemer — the same color as the rain and the roads — so slow the hell down and keep your goddamn lights on till it’s truly all clear. Thank you. —MD

 

ST. AUGUSTINE ZONING WARS
The Ancient City is a beautiful place with much to do and see; it’s no wonder so many people want to live there. And where there’s people, money and tons of history, there’s sure to be development drama. In St. Augustine, developers are routinely getting crucified in the court of public opinion for demolishing history to put up a parking lot. And don’t even think about trimming one branch on those beloved live oaks. They build pyres for that kind of behavior. —CG

 

JACKSONVILLE SPENDING FREE-FOR-ALL
When it comes to city projects, Jacksonville practices a free hand with the checkbook. Those purse strings are loose! So loose, in fact, that city projects often come in so far over-budget that structures we should be proud of — the courthouse, the stadium, the Riverwalk — piss us off instead, particularly when our neighborhood floods ’cause the city can’t afford to fix drainage and buy those Royal Palms that make the courthouse look oh-so-fancy. —CG

 

NATIVE OR INVASIVE
The infiltration of invasive exotic species has taken a serious toll on indigenous species. Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission reports that there are more than 500 exotic creatures in the state; there are well over 100 invasive exotic plants, too, according to the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council. Locally, hogs, Cuban tree frogs and armadillos are among the worst invasive creatures; air potato, mimosa trees and cogon grass are some top offenders among invasive plants. Don’t release your pets into the wild! And educate yourself before you plant. See fleppc.org and plants.ifas.ufl.edu for more information. —CG

 

THE REAL DEAL ABOUT ANDREW JACKSON 
Jacksonville’s eponym Andrew Jackson, the seventh POTUS and the state’s first military governor, is far from beloved; a local statue of his likeness has been defaced several times. Turns out, people aren’t so fond of the slaveowner who, during the Seminole War, attacked defenseless Seminole villages, burning houses and crops and exhibiting such ruthlessness he became known as “The Knife.” It also doesn’t help that Jackson never actually visited the area that would become his namesake and it’s been reported he deeply reviled all things Florida. —CG

Folio is your guide to entertainment and culture around and near Jacksonville, Florida. We cover events, concerts, restaurants, theatre, sports, art, happenings, and all things about living and visiting Jax. Folio serves more than two million readers across Jacksonville and Northeast Florida, including St. Augustine, The Beaches, and Fernandina.

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