compiled by Staff // photos by Agnes Lopez
Each year, we ask for our readers’ input on the best of the best in the River City. Though trends come and go, excellent service, quality products and attention to detail are always in style, and the winners of our poll consistently tick off all those boxes. What follows are our readers’ picks for the best places to eat, drink, shop and relax in Northeast Florida in 2016.
Best New Restaurant
Sbraga & Company
220 Riverside Ave., Brooklyn (746-0909)
This Southern-inspired, rustic restaurant opened in the Brooklyn neighborhood in late 2015 to much anticipation. Owner and Top Chef winner Kevin Sbraga didn’t disappoint: the menu includes family-style entreés like duck breast with pecan-carrot romesco and charred scallion, a raw bar and small plates such as grilled octopus with fried eggplant and field pea salad. We recommend washing your dinner down with a Hop Collins: gin, simple syrup and grapefruit juice mixed with IPA.
Local Craft Brew
Intuition Ale Works
720 King St., Riverside (683-7720)
Next to railroad tracks in a large Riverside warehouse sits Intuition Ale Works—for now. Established in 2010 by Ben Davis, it was the first brewery in Florida to start canning its beers. This summer they’re prepping to move Downtown to 929 E. Bay Street where the plans are to add a rooftop beer garden and expand production. Local favorites like the I-10 and Jon Boat are available in cans at stores, but you have to visit the taproom to try more complex brews like the Trappist Speedball, a Belgian-style quad brewed with coffee.
Six locations including 1607 University Blvd., Lakewood (732-7200)
Though each location of this barbecue string is slightly different, there’s one delicious thread running throughout: you’ll always find all the trappings for a smoky, saucy feast. Platters filled with pulled pork, Texas toast and mac-and-cheese are always popular, but diners can also step outside the norm with sandwiches like “the Smitty,” beef brisket and smoked sausage served on a toasted bun with cheddar. Or, try our favorite two words—burnt ends.
Four locations including 299 Atlantic Blvd., Atlantic Beach (241-2599)
Sure, you can get the traditional burger at M Shack, but there are so many unusual options at this casual spot owned by the Medure brothers of local fine-dining fame. Try the Sunrise burger, which is topped with bacon and a sunny-side-up-egg, or the Insanity burger which puts two grilled patties in between two grilled cheeses.
Soul Food Bistro
5310 Lenox Ave., Westside (394-0860); 11876 Atlantic Blvd., Arlington (394-2801)
Southern food abounds at Soul Food Bistro which serves up comfort classics cafeteria-style. Fried chicken is a must, but there are also pork chops and numerous sides like Grandma used to make—collard greens, sweet buttered corn and mac-and-cheese. Worth the food coma you’ll suffer afterwards.
1712 Beach Blvd., Jacksonville Beach (249-8226)
TacoLu doesn’t serve up the traditional gut-busting, queso-slathered Mexican fare one might expect in a city so far from the border. The menu focuses on fresh ingredients in items like the $10 Taco with filet mignon (it’s actually only $5) and the bangin’ shrimp taco filled with fried shrimp and chipotle crema. Always ask for the day’s specials, which often include fresh catch like swordfish, shark and Mahi.
7316 N. Main St., Downtown (765-0335); 30 Ocean Blvd., Atlantic Beach (270-1122)
Many can attest to the feeling of satisfaction after leaving this Jacksonville staple. Joseph’s Pizza is more than just a neighborhood pizza spot. For more than 50 years, the family-owned restaurant has been serving authentic Italian cuisine. Try the chicken cacciatore sautéed with mushrooms, green peppers, black olives and house-made marinara sauce.
1974 San Marco Blvd., San Marco (503-7013); 21 E. Adams St., Downtown (598-5303)
Busy Downtown bistro Indochine consistently gets readers' votes for its flavorful Thai cuisine. If you're feeling saucy, order entrees "Thai hot"—but seriously, prepare yourself for eye-watering spice. The drunken noodles are a fan favorite, as are the curries. If you're looking for something lighter try their soups—the Tom Yum has tangy lime and lemongrass with chicken, mushrooms and peppers.
Bowl of Pho 9902 Old Baymeadows Rd., Southside (646-4455)
Pho—Vietnamese soup made of broth, noodles, herbs and meat—is a warm, comforting craze that’s caught on in Jacksonville. Bowl of Pho, tucked into a busy Baymeadows strip mall, serves up delicious broths and soup add-ons that keep the place packed. The steak pho is a go-to, but there’s also a barbecue pork egg noodle soup that’s equally delish.
9802 Baymeadows Rd., Southside (620-0777)
Intricately spiced curries are paired with rice and pillowy naan at this quiet and simply-decorated eatery. Here, curry enthusiasts pile their fluffy naan with tandoor specialties like the chicken tikka or vegetarian plates like the chana masala, chickpeas cooked with spices. Hit up the limited, but tasty, lunch buffet and don’t skip the kheer, a traditional rice pudding with almonds and raisins that’s low-key crave-inducing.
9965 San Jose Blvd., Mandarin (683-9903)
Mandarin’s Kazu stands out among numerous so-so sushi places in the River City with its tasty menu items and friendly atmosphere. Try specialties like the Triple Crown roll, salmon, tuna, yellowtail and avocado all rolled into a seaweed wrap, or the Rising Sun roll which has tuna, smoked salmon and cream cheese.
4378 Ocean St., Mayport (246-4911)
For 25 years, Safe Harbor operated as a wholesale distribution company. It wasn’t until 2013 that the family decided to go into the restaurant business and seafood lovers are sure glad they did. Try the Mayport shrimp basket but get there early because the line is known to stretch far beyond the door.
1201 Riverplace Blvd., Downtown (396-6200); 814 A1A N., Ponte Vedra Beach (285-0014)
It may be a national chain, but that doesn’t diminish locals’ love for this upscale steakhouse. The white tablecloths and sizzling steaks are a draw for special occasions and date nights. If you feel like sharing, order the porterhouse for two, a giant 40-ounce slab of prime beef. It is complemented with sides like a baked potato or asparagus.
Gluten Free Eats
1243 King St., Riverside (387-1001)
More and more restaurants are offering wheat-free options these days, but it’s still difficult to find eateries with more than one or two selections. Riverside bakery Sweet Theory is a celiac’s dream—gluten-free items (there are dozens, including cupcakes, cookies and savory biscuits) are clearly marked, and all are prepared in a separate area of the kitchen to prevent cross-contamination.
3646 Post St., Murray Hill (388-2558); 9825 San Jose Blvd., Mandarin (379-4343)
We all scream for Dreamette, a cash-only family favorite that’s been serving up creamy classics in the summer heat for more than 60 years. Ordering your cone dipped in cake batter is an absolute must.
6301 Powers Ave., Southside (730-8696)
You know you’re in the right place when you see a line that stretches out the door and spills into the parking lot. The Pantry is always packed, but a meal at the gluten-filled eatery is worth the wait. While you’re in line, go ahead and order a Neapolitan or slice of wedding cake, a sweet way to top off a meal of fresh baked bruschetta and a chicken panini.
1024 Park St., Five Points (374-5789)
Artisan toast is a trend that’s still catching on in the River City. BREW was one of the first spots in town to take what may not seem like that new an idea—warm bread with stuff on top—and turn it into something amazing. Toast toppings include caramelized onions, avocado and chocolate-pecan spread, but the Loki’s Escape is the most popular. Imagine a toasted slice of Community Loaves’ rosemary garlic bread covered in dill cream cheese, smoked salmon and shaved asparagus.
319 23rd Ave. S., Jacksonville Beach (270-0356); 5613 San Jose Blvd., Lakewood (737-2874); 3 St. George St., St. Augustine (824-6993)
Cruisers has burgers and quesadillas, but the real draw is the french fries. You can get them plain or with some ranch dressing—but go big or go home. The cheddar fries with bacon, chives and jalapeños are about as big as it gets.
1523 Penman Rd., Jacksonville Beach (246-1728)
Every fall people start anticipating the extremely popular pumpkin spice doughnuts from Cinotti’s. One mouthwatering bite and you’ll be returning to this little Beaches bakery as often as you can. Friend’s birthday? You’ll need a cake. Dinner party? Bring some cookies. Hungry? Just eat pastries for every meal.
12740 Atlantic Blvd., Arlington (374-7326)
Epik Burger is a small fry on Jacksonville’s burger scene but its diverse menu and selection of veggie burgers more than measures up. The restaurant’s vegetarian sandwich options include the Vietnamese burger with pickled veggies, cilantro, jalapeño and spicy mayo and the Divine Vegetarian served on a brioche bun with brie cheese, caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato and balsamic mayo.
Six locations, including 3302 Hendricks Ave., San Marco (398-3701)
Some would say that Metro Diner is sort of a Jacksonville food scene staple, especially with its Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives TV show fame. But our readers can attest that the stardom hasn’t gone to their heads. They love the bustling diner atmosphere and the always-delicious Yo Hala on the Square, huevos rancheros and, of course, the fried chicken and waffles.
Pinegrove Market & Deli
1511 Pinegrove Ave., Avondale (389-8655)
The rider sandwich is what some call Jacksonville’s signature dish. If you’re not familiar, its sandwich ingredients are stuffed in a pita pocket—and with one crispy warm bite, you’ll know it’s more than the sum of its parts. The best rider, according to our readers, comes from this Avondale deli that has been serving the neighborhood and surrounding areas for more than 60 years. Try the Camel Rider with honey-cured ham, salami, bologna, lettuce, tomato, banana peppers, American cheese and Italian dressing.
Shrimp & Grits
1534 Oak St., Five Points (380-3091)
The restaurant which quickly became a neighborhood landmark due to its craft cocktails, hip menu and rooftop bar is also a good spot to get your Southern food fix. The wild Georgia shrimp and grits is made with cheddar grits, ham and shrimp, all smothered in a Creole tomato gravy. It’s real good, y’all.
Guys’ Night Out
Hoptinger 333 1st St. N., Jacksonville Beach (222-0796); 200 Anastasia Blvd., St. Augustine (217-8100)
Guys looking for a fun place to kick back and have a few brews flock to Hoptinger. It’s a dude’s dream: not only do they have more than 100 beers from which to choose, their specialties are messy bratwursts and burgers (the Burger Roulette—with surprise toppings every day—is a double-dare waiting to happen) and sports are always on one of the HDTVs surrounding the restaurant.
Girls’ Night Out
Coopers Hawk Winery & Restaurant St. Johns Town Center (559-4999)
Ladies looking for a good place to enjoy a few glasses (or bottles) of wine with their friends favor Cooper’s Hawk. This Town Center spot has its own private winery which turns out everything from sparkling to dessert wines. Of course, it’s not just all about the wine—sophisticated dishes, a full-service bar and an artful interior space make Cooper’s Hawk a well-rounded choice for a girls’ night out.
1962 San Marco Blvd., San Marco (396-9222); 3645 St Johns Ave., Avondale (379-6908)
Having a craving for something sweet, but trying to eat clean? Pulp has a healthy and fresh way to do both: smoothies, juices, frozen yogurt, coffee, tea, organic beer and wine and a few breakfast items like steel-cut oats and acai bowls. There’s nothing wrong with having organic beer, right? It’s organic.
Happy Grilled Cheese
On the Road
Few meals are as comforting as a grilled cheese sandwich and Happy Grilled Cheese specializes in just that. While loyal patrons await the opening of a brick-and-mortar location in Five Points, the food truck is still on the move. Try the Mac & Cheese Melt with American cheese, grilled onions, jalapeños and tomato, and be sure to order a dipping cup of tomato soup to go alongside.
1406 Hendricks Ave., San Marco (527-8990)
There are mixed drinks and there are cocktails. Sidecar’s goal is to honor the original definition of the cocktail—a combination of spirits, sugar, water and bitters—by crafting cocktails using locally sourced flavor and ingredients, and serving them in a chill, speakeasy kind of atmosphere.
Bold Bean Coffee Roasters
69 Stockton St., Riverside (855-1811); 2400 3rd St. S., Jacksonville Beach
Forget franchised brews, Jaxons want their coffee locally roasted, hand-poured and topped with a hipster vibe—and Bold Bean is the place to get it. The imported beans, house-made syrups and passion that go into every cup o’ Joe at Bold Bean bring out deep flavors you just won’t find in a corporate coffee shop.
3556 St. Johns Ave., Avondale (387-2060)
It’s perfectly fine to go to Biscottis and eat a whole meal—you really can’t go wrong with the blackboard specials. But with a dessert case like theirs, stocked with Grand Marnier tropical cake, pineapple cheesecake, fresh fruit tarts, croissant bread pudding (don’t overlook this one), mini éclairs and so much more, it’s hard to resist just skipping right to the sweet stuff.
Ovinté St. Johns Town Center (900-7730)
Unless you’re a certified sommelier, chances are you haven’t tried each of the more than 240 different wines on Ovinté’s wine list. But the restaurant’s wine tastings every first Wednesday of each month provides wine connoisseurs with that opportunity. And if that isn’t enough, there’s also a membership program where patrons can store their own wine in lockers at the restaurant. Let’s toast to that!
Riverside Liquors 1251 King St., Riverside (356-4517)
It’s safe to say that this speakeasy-style shop and bar is perfect for wine-lovers and connoisseurs alike. Free wine-tastings are offered on Friday nights from 5-8 PM and if there’s a bottle or two that you like, pair it with any of the dishes offered in the bar’s restaurant, open Monday through Saturday at 4 PM.
Grassroots Natural Market
2007 Park St., Five Points (384-4474)
Grassroots Natural Market provides natural, healthy and organic food, including fresh produce and meats. The shop also provides freshly squeezed juices, smoothies and deli sandwiches.
925 King St., Riverside (476-7283)
If you’re single and looking to mingle, this Riverside hangout provides the perfect backdrop each Tuesday through Saturday. Each night there’s a different music theme ranging from the ‘80s to current and top 40 music, accompanied by some trippy videos on the big projector screens which might make a great conversation starter.
3630 Park St., Avondale (381-0909)
The intimate, chic Orsay is ideal for a romantic night out, but it’s their brunch that has our readers’ hearts. The French-inspired comfort food is perfect for a weekend morning filled with deviled eggs, bourbon French toast and omelettes. Top it all off with a bloody Mary, because brunch without booze is just a sad, late breakfast.
Jax Restaurant Reviews
If you’ve searched any Jacksonville-related hashtags on Instagram, you may have come across this account. @jaxrestaurantreviews provides followers with the latest in restaurant reviews and foodie events in the River City with some delicious-looking photos to boot.
1018 3rd St. N, Jacksonville Beach (372-4456); 321 A1A Beach Blvd., St. Augustine (217-3256) Inside the laid-back Salt Life Food Shack, videos of fishing and surfing play on repeat and there’s no rush to finish that plate of shrimp and chorizo nachos. The restaurant’s surf-themed fare won best appetizers with offerings like the wicked tuna tostada and Hawaiian wings—smoked, fried and coated with a sweet sauce and sesame seeds. Awesome, dude. Awesome.
Pizza & Chicken Wings
1406 Hendricks Ave., San Marco (527-1511); 528 1st St. N., Jacksonville Beach (853-6633): 12601 San Jose Blvd., Mandarin (647-9424)
V Pizza bakes all their pies in a 900-degree, authentic Italian-style wood-fired oven for just 90 seconds. The thin crust slices get crispy and a little black from the oven—it’s not burned, that’s just extra flavor. Opt for the traditional Margherita or, for the more ambitious pie connoisseurs, the Capricciosa topped with prosciutto, mushrooms, artichoke, black olives, egg and mozzarella. V also won for their chicken wings marinated with lemon, extra virgin olive oil, rosemary, salt, pepper and garlic before being placed in the wood oven to be roasted, then they’re topped with caramelized onions .
Women’s Boutique • Local Instagrammer: Fashion
2251 Oak St., Riverside (570-9101)
This one-stop women’s shop features apparel, jewelry, skincare products, candles, greeting cards, handbags and more. The Riverside boutique specializing in California-style, boho chic apparel with a Floridian flair, also won our readers’ choice for favorite local fashion Instagram account.
1188 Edgewood Ave., Murray Hill (321-9087)
Momni was established by mother-daughter duo Joy and Mary—hence the name, a play on Mom and I. The boutique features custom, boho and classic pieces that are designed to accommodate women of different age groups, budgets and styles.
5500 San Jose Blvd., San Marco (733-8633); 2400 3rd St., Jacksonville Beach (247-9755)
Founded in 1898, Rosenblum’s began as a pushcart in Downtown Jacksonville. Today, with clothing and accessories from lines such as Peter Millar, Billy Reid and Canali, plus an in-house tailor to ensure everything fits just right, the family-owned business is the place for the discerning sartorialist. Leather loafers, linen shorts and patterned ties round out the mix.
3643 St. Johns Ave., Avondale (232-8866); 21 12th St. S., Jacksonville Beach (249-6444)
The charming boutique is packed with jewelry, and the styles are vast and varied. In addition to classic gold fringe necklaces by Sylvia Benson, shoppers will find dainty earrings and one-of-a-kind vintage pieces.
Open Road Bicycles
3544 St. Johns Ave., Avondale (388-9066)
In the Riverside and Avondale communities, it’s common to see residents maneuvering around on foot or bike. Open Road has anything you could want to assist on a leisurely trip through Five Points or an adventurous ride wherever the trail may lead.
Anita’s Garden Shop & Design
3637 St. Johns Ave., Avondale (388-2060)
This Avondale-based garden shop has been a favorite among locals since its beginnings in the mid-1980s. Whether you have a green thumb or are just venturing into the gardening game, you’ll find plenty of inspiration here with seasonal arrangements and wreaths.
3802 Beach Blvd., Arlington (642-1244)
Since 1947, Kuhn Flowers has provided fresh flower arrangements to the Northeast Florida community. The Beach Boulevard shop is huge and always smells amazing, stocked with arrangements for the season and upcoming holidays. Their Christmas window decorations are legendary.
St. John’s Town Center (642-3071), Avenues Mall, Southside (519-7934)
If you’re looking for a beauty company that cares about their customers and products, LUSH is just what you need. With handmade, organic and cruelty-free hand and face soap, body butter, massage bars (go for the Wiccy Magic, trust us) shampoos, face masks and more, LUSH is a one-stop shop for all things beauty.
Rusted: A Vintage Market
1523 San Marco Blvd., San Marco (398-1523)
Looking for DIY home décor but don’t want to break the bank? Rusted features tons of treasures that are sure to capture the eye and heart. Wares from a selection of vendors are for sale at the small shop, which also hosts seasonal outdoor “Rust-a-paloozas.”
Bark on Park
1021 Park Street, Avondale (356-4530); Bark Downtown: 45 W Adams St., Downtown (516-7836)
Pet beds, toys, treats and more. Bark on Park and Bark Downtown are two of our readers’ favorite choices for giving your pooch the best care possible. Spa treatments and boarding options are also available.
St. Johns Town Center (645-7904) Athletic leisurewear is all the rage right now, and the trend doesn't seem to be dying down any time soon. Whether you’re a yogi looking for some new stretchy pants, a runner in need of a sports bra or just want some comfy clothes to sit on the couch in while you tell yourself you’re definitely gonna go to the gym, Lululemon has just the thing.
1011 Park St., Five Points (619-3092)
Whether you’re looking for a trim or to change the color of your hair, the recently expanded Hawthorn Salon is your spot. Drawing crowds from upscale Ortega to trendy Riverside, the stylishly-coiffed, oft-tattooed stylists work their magic to give you the bob or balayage highlights you’ve been contemplating.
Total Hair Experience
12620 Beach Blvd., Southside (900-5772)
Total Hair Experience does everything from blowouts to trims, massages to aromatherapy. With a sleek metropolitan vibe and skilled staff, this new salon is definitely making the cut with our readers.
Old School Barber Shop
880 N. A1A, Ponte Vedra Beach (273-8203); 3541 St. Johns Ave., Avondale (647-5351); 12795 San Jose Blvd., (551-6970)
The shop specializes in no-nonsense traditional cuts and shaves. Cuts are a reasonably priced $16, so you can get out without spending a fortune. Shaves are reminiscent of, well… an old-school barber shop, done with a straight razor and hot towel.
Ponte Vedra Spa
302 Ponte Vedra Blvd., Ponte Vedra Beach (273-7700)
Luxurious treatments are what the Ponte Vedra Spa does best. Their service menu offers more than 100 options, among them indulgent mani-pedi treatments such as the anti-aging guava manicure, sports mani-pedi and the soothing bliss pedicure.Services for men and maternity guests are available, as well as bridal party packages.
Tan Like a Celebrity
1003 3rd St., N., Jacksonville Beach (534-7721)
Spray tanning can be stressful, but at Tan Like a Celebrity, visitors have nothing to fear. They promise a no-stain, orange-free, flawless tan for every occasion and at an affordable price. A favorite for brides is the golden glow Fake Bake treatment, and the salon’s most popular spray solution is the Australian, which leaves visitors looking like they’ve spent the day on Bondi Beach.
1661 Riverside Ave., Five Points (312-9867)
Cool. Quick. Urban. Just a few of the words often associated with LunchBOX, a full wax service salon. Their menu offers a variety of services, whether you want hair removal from the classic spots (bikini, legs, eyebrows) or trickier areas (ears, nostrils and a cheeky mankini).
4154 Herschel St., Avondale (680-7344)
It can be hard to relax in a bustling city like Jacksonville, but Soluna Yoga offers a sanctuary of peace. Their yoga classes promote the wellness of the body, mind and soul, and their studio welcomes all levels of enthusiasts, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced yogi. Sessions include restorative yoga, yoga nidra, silent treatment and many more. Mommy-and-me, as well as kids’ sessions, are also available.
One Ocean Spa
1 Ocean Blvd, Atlantic Beach (249-7402)
One Ocean offers more than just ocean views and a top-rated restaurant. It’s the place to get pampered as well. Try the Ocean Mist facial—it refreshes your skin with mineral-rich marine spring water and plants that are customized to your skin type.
200 1st St., Neptune Beach (595-5092)
It’s never too early for kids to start developing their own style, and Kyds Clothing Boutique can help with that. The cute shop sells everything from infant to neonate name-brand favorites, including Baby Nay, Roxy, Ella Moss, Quicksilver and more. Need more than just clothing? Don’t worry—they have a shoe and accessory selection as well.
1080 Edgewood Ave. S., Murray Hill (379-3912)
The Growing Tree gets it: times are tough, and prices for just about everything are on the rise. But this kids’ consignment store goes beyond just resale. Their mission is to minimize contribution to overflowing landfills, and along with clothing and toys, they’re offering locally made items such as children’s art and baby items like bibs and binky clips. Buying from them means a wardrobe and trinkets for your kids at a fraction of the price.
Five area locations, including 3611 St. Johns Ave., Avondale (388-0200)
On any given night, Mellow Mushroom will be holding one of their weekly events, whether it be trivia, bingo or live music. The kids can enjoy the fun, too, at just $5.50 a meal. This groovy chain’s selections include comfort food favorites like meatballs, grilled cheese, 8-inch pizzas, mac-and-cheese and grilled chicken tenders.
140 Gateway Cir., St. Johns (287-8603)
Chances are, your kids are curious about the world, and Club Scientific wants to help foster their ideas. Topics they cover range from astronomy to food science, forensics to robotics. Each club, camp and workshop gives kids an opportunity to complete hands-on activities and experiments, while also promoting critical thinking and problem-solving.
Local Website • Local Blog
Jax Mom’s Blog
Founded by two moms who thought North Florida could use a little help in parent resources, and backed by a team of 19 women, Jax Mom’s Blog is the website to go to for navigating the city with your children. Their blog posts have everything you need to know about activities, parks, restaurants and more, all of them family friendly, as well as specialty posts such as birthday planning in Jacksonville and various seasonal events.
Bay & Bee
13475 Atlantic Blvd., Arlington (221-1900)
If you have kids, you’ll probably be planning a birthday sometime soon, and Bay & Bee wants to help you throw it. Their open-concept, Montessori and Waldorf-inspired play area is perfect for groups of children and adults alike. Toys and play sets, as well as puzzles and a 36-foot train track, are just some of the activities they have available for parties, and additional options include yoga, creative dance and access to a professional photographer.
Tommy Hulihan Sports Camps
212 5th St. N., Jacksonville Beach (349-2611)
Parents of sports-crazed kids look no further. Tommy Hulihan camps are an excellent way to occupy a child’s summer. Held the end of May to early August, their sports camp features a variety of activities like basketball, soccer, flag football and more. A basketball camp is also available for grades 3-8.
Attraction to Take Visitors & Exhibit of the Year
Destination: DINO, Jacksonville Zoo
370 Zoo Parkway, Northside (757-4463)
Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! The Jacksonville Zoo has all of that and more and is our readers’ pick for best attraction to bring out-of-towners to. It’s currently featuring the year’s best exhibit, too: Destination: DINO. More than 20 animatronic, life-size dinosaurs greet visitors on a train ride through their swampy, prehistoric environment. The exhibit is open until July 4.
South of Savannah
Self-described as “A little bit country, a little bit rock n’ roll and a whole lot more,” South of Savannah is rocking out every area of Jacksonville. With consistent shows on the Northside, Mandarin, Middleburg and the Southside, this band is taking Jacksonville by storm with an authentic country vibe paired with a classic rock n’ roll flow. See them at Seven Bridges on May 14 and at Rack ‘Em Up in Mandarin on May 26.
St. Augustine Amphitheatre
1340C A1A South, St. Augustine (209-0367)
Nights under the stars at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre are hard to beat. Concerts, events, and plays fill the area to bring some inspiring entertainment to the Oldest City for the whole family to enjoy. With seating for up to 4,100, multiple concession stands, and walking trails, the Amphitheatre has everything you need for an evening of good friends and good music. Upcoming concerts include Cyndi Lauper, Barenaked Ladies and the Goo Goo Dolls.
Concert of the Year
Welcome to Rockville
Each year, Welcome to Rockville takes over Metropolitan Park for two days and brings some seriously big names to Downtown Jax. Local restaurants and breweries gather, too, making sure the party doesn’t stop when the music does. Disturbed, 3 Doors Down and ZZ Top are just a few of the rockers who performed at the 2016 metal fest.
Place to Hear a Local Band
Jack Rabbits Live
1528 Hendricks Ave., San Marco (398-7496)
Local artists looking to get out of the garage rock out at Jack Rabbits. Crowds range from 16-year-olds discovering a love for music to patrons who have been attending shows here for 20 years. Upcoming Jaxons taking the stage include Jacob Hudson on May 14 and Rhythm of Fear on June 3.
Attraction to Take Parents
Alhambra Theatre and Dining
12000 Beach Blvd, Southside (641-1212)
The Alhambra brings a little bit of Broadway to Jax almost every night of the week. Enjoy a three-course dinner and a show from some of the greatest traveling acts. Since the renovation in 2009, the theatre has brought in some well-known television and film actors to accompany the upscale dining. Upcoming shows include Beauty and the Beast, June 15 through July 31.
Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens
829 Riverside Ave., Riverside (356-6857) With more than 5,000 pieces in its permanent collection, the Cummer Museum has become a staple in the regional art scene. Visitors can browse fine exhibits inside or complete a lap around the Cummer Gardens, garnished with lawn ornaments, a marble fountain, impeccable landscaping and azaleas. Clear your schedule—you’ll want to make this one a day trip.
Wine & Paint Night
Painting With a Twist
1525 San Marco Blvd., San Marco (515-5393)
Any place you can be crafty while drinking sounds like a fun place to us—not that we don’t do this at home, but that’s not usually accompanied by friends and the crafts don’t turn out quite as nicely. Wine and paint studios are popping up all over town, but Painting with a Twist, with its three Northeast Florida locations, peppy staff and fun atmosphere, is a reader fave.
1028 Park St., Five Points (359-0049)
Sun-Ray Cinema has been through many different phases since its opening in 1927. Today, at the locally owned movie house, patrons can catch mainstream and indie films on one of the two screens while snacking on hot dogs, pizza, popcorn (don’t skip the fixin’s), hummus, shakes, wine, craft brews and a large selection of vegetarian and vegan options you just won’t find at regular theatres.
Players by the Sea
106 N. 6th St., Jacksonville Beach (249-0289)
Local playwrights, solo performances, and budding actors can all be seen at this quirky Jacksonville Beach theatre. Players by the Sea has partnered with the Cummer and the Jacksonville Symphony, given students an opportunity to foster their budding talents and supported charities nurturing community artists. Upcoming shows include Shipwrecked! An Entertainment and Memphis.
Park for a Picnic
1620 Riverside Ave, Riverside
Memorial Park is the heart of Riverside. On any sunny day, you can find couples enjoying a picnic, dogs catching frisbees, pick-up soccer games, yogis and kids learning to roller blade. Pack a basket and bring a blanket to spend an afternoon soaking in the sun and the community vibes.
Place to Sunset Kayak
Dutton Island Preserve
1600 Dutton Island Rd W., Atlantic Beach (247-5800)
There is something about a sunset in Northeast Florida that just takes your breath away. Hike through some of the pine and oak covered trails to launch your kayak from the marsh and explore the Dutton Island Preserve to catch that gorgeous Florida sunset on the Intracoastal. Bring a fishing pole and catch some of the reds and trout as they’re pretty plentiful in the salt marsh ecosystem.
Place to Go for a Run
Taking a run down the stretch of the St. Johns that flows through Downtown gives you a unique view of the city. Stretching from the Shipyards past the Landing, and from end-to-end on the Southbank, the breeze from the river keeps runners cool as they pass all the shops and people enjoying the view.
Place to View Wildlife
Guana River State Park
Located between Ponte Vedra and St. Augustine, the Guana River State Park’s 60,000+ acres are comprised of beaches, sand dunes, oyster beds and forests for the whole family to explore. You’ll find people of all ages hiking, swimming, biking and admiring the wildlife which includes 44 mammals, 358 types of birds, and 48 protected animals.
Local Instagrammer: Jax Life
If you don’t follow @igersjax, do you even Jacksonville? The man behind the hashtag, Stefan Stears, posts photos from all around Duval showing the beauty and life that Jaxons have grown to know and love. Think bridges, beaches, food, sunsets and sports. Use #igersjax in your own Instagram post and he might even repost if it catches his eye.