Wednesday, October 18, 2017

4 Things to Do in Jacksonville This Fall

Who doesn’t love the fall? A change of wardrobe, a change of outlook, and a general feeling of warmth and coziness descends at this time of year (or perhaps it’s the promise of hot chocolates and old movies after walks home from work crunching through the leaves). A pretty idyllic, Pinterest-worthy scenario, but that’s not to say everyone’s a wannabe homebody inclined to hibernate indoors as the temperature drops, donning a pair of suitably Hygge knee-high socks and a seasonal read. Indeed, some places don’t experience fall in the same nostalgia-tinted way as, say, those in the cold North East do.
Take Jacksonville, for example. With a climate that doesn’t particularly lend itself to frost, to say the least (quite the opposite, with October’s mercury still reaching to the low 80’s), fall in Jacksonville is less about nestling down and rather about reaping the benefits of extended summer living. The largest city in the continental US, Jacksonville’s 840 square miles offer a multitude of options for visitors, no matter the season, but fall gives those tourists who didn’t manage to indulge in summer pursuits elsewhere another chance to bronze their skin and breathe some fresh, Southern air.
#1 Golf (and Other Sports)
If Jacksonville is known for any sport, it’s golf (though it was also the first city in Florida to host a college football game, back in 1901, and holds a deep pride in its Jaguars; as well as a healthy competitive spirit between its Gators and its Bulldogs in the sports bars, too). A veritable paradise for those who don’t feel whole unless they’re on a green, Jacksonville has almost too many golf courses to count. Almost; there are actually 70 private and public courses in the area, combining in a grand total of over 1,220 holes. These courses are among some of the best in the country and are an absolute must for any golf fanatic worth their sporting handicap. If, however, you don’t know a putter from a driver, Jacksonville also provides an equestrian center and baseball arena, too.
#2 Natural Wonders
If sport itself is not your thing, though, then rest assured Jacksonville still has plenty to offer by way of the outdoors. That lingering climactic temperateness needs must be exploited. To this end, of particular renown are Jacksonville’s wooded hiking trails, its nature preserves, the largest urban park system in the country, and the ability to go kayaking along the region’s many rivers, marshes, and lakes (not forgetting a rather splendid ornamental garden). Jacksonville Beach is only 20 minutes from downtown, as well, and the shore is a perfect spot for watching the sun rise over the Atlantic, for trying one’s hand at a spot of line fishing, or even endeavoring to try some paddle-boarding. This is Florida, after all; no trip would be complete without some sand between the toes and the sun shining down, a warm breeze blowing (along with a few sporadic spots of rain).
#3 The Arts
If, alas, the outdoors isn’t particularly your scene, Jacksonville still won’t disappoint. Turn for indoor cultural comfort in the form of the celebration of human creativity by perusing some of the many galleries and museums (the Museum of Science and History is an option for those keen on fact instead). You can also catch the latest play, a concert, or enjoy some musical theatre – whichever you choose, Jacksonville’s long history with the performing arts (Elvis performed in the city no less than eight times) assures some satisfying entertainment and artistic interest. Further, the first Wednesday of each month sees the city host an Art Walk. Concentrated within a 15-mile radius, the self-guided tour takes in over two dozen galleries offering free admission, together with street artists and other creatives selling their wares along the way. Both fascinating and wonderfully inspiring (be sure to pick up a curio).
#4 Dining Out, Southern Style
Sweet tea, brilliant barbecue, fabulous fried chicken and waffles, not to mention the seafood – Jacksonville is on typically charming Southern form when it comes to its cuisine. Just be sure to avoid the franchises in this foodie destination and instead explore the unique establishments in top culinary areas such as Avondale, San Marco, and Five Points. Refreshingly, when a dish declares itself “locally sourced” or “farm to bar”, that’s the truth in this northern part of Florida. What benefits the city further is its melting pot of cultures, resulting in eclectic tastes and near-endless gastronomic options.

Forget leaf-peeping, this year. Instead, let Jacksonville be your post-summer, subtropical destination for Fall 2017.

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