Best in Jax 2018

From shopping and dining out to touring museums and catching a local theatre troupe, there is much to enjoy and do in Jax. Narrowing it down to exactly what can be is often the hard part. That’s where our readers come in. Each year, we ask Jacksonville Magazine fans to share their opinion on the best things to do and places to go in town. Some of the winners crop up year after year, though there are always new faces, places, and even new categories to discover. Whether it’s a great place to go for girls’ night out or a cool local Instagram account to follow, you’ll find here. Best in Jax

Things to Do | Beauty and Wellness | Shopping | Kids

Beaches | Southside/Towncenter | San Marco/Mandarin | Orange Park | Downtown/Springfield | Riverside/Avondale/Ortega/Murray Hill

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Good Dough

We’re pretty sure there’s no such thing as a bad doughnut, but for the best doughnuts head to Good Dough in San Marco. Made from scratch daily, these come in a wide array of flavors, with standouts such as milk and honey old fashioned, butterscotch bacon and brown butter. The brioche style yeast dough makes the donuts rich and chewy, complementing the creamy sweetness of the glaze. The menu changes monthly, so new flavors keep customers looking for surprises. 1636 Hendricks Ave. (527-1875)

River & Post

The restaurant industry is notoriously fickle, though locals are betting on River & Post. Nestled on the outskirts of Five Points, the eatery boasts both indoor and outdoor seating and a rooftop bar with views of the St. Johns River. The menu features dishes from both the land and the sea including a double cut pork chop, filet mignon, seared sea scallops and linguini with clams. 1000 Riverside Ave. (575-2366)

Beach Road Chicken Dinners

Beach Road has been around since Atlantic Boulevard was the only direct route from the city out to the beaches—hence the name. It’s stood the test of time on account of its chicken, which has ever so crispy skin. Each table has both honey and hot sauce for topping, but it’s recommended to mix them together and dunk drumsticks right into the blend. All of the dinners, from half-a-chicken to a two-piece white or dark, come with endless sides including mashed potatoes and gravy, creamed peas and biscuits. Sorry Colonel, but turns out Beach Road is what Jaxons consider finger lickin’ good. 4132 Atlantic Blvd (398-7980)

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It’s hard to beat French bistro Orsay when it comes to best special occasion restaurant. The atmosphere is elegant, making it ideal for a standout date night or birthday dinner. Start with cocktails or peruse the extensive wine list, indulge in oysters from the raw bar, share a plate of house-made charcuterie and nosh on dishes such as cocoa rubbed venison or Prince Edward Island mussels frites. No special occasion would be complete without dessert, naturally, and the petit four tower—brimming with macarons, truffles, tarts, wonuts (a waffle-donut hybrid), eclairs and creme brûlée—is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. Readers also dig Orsay’s weekend brunch, a sophisticated affair featuring lobster omelettes, bourbon French toast—plus mimosas and bloody Marys. 3630 Park St. (381-0909)


North Florida is lucky enough to have beautiful weather year round, and the best way to take advantage of those days while enjoying a meal is to grab a table on Taverna’s patio. Nestled in the heart of San Marco Square, the restaurant offers a lively ambiance, a delicious menu of pizzas, pastas, and the like, and a great view of Balis Park or stylish passers-by. 1986 San Marco Blvd (398-3005)

Alhambra Theatre & Dining

An experience at Alhambra Theatre & Dining goes well beyond the show. Expect the best service in town with a wait staff catering to one’s every need, providing an extensive knowledge of the menu and a keen grace for delivering courses throughout the show. The Alhambra has been pleasing guests for more than 50 years, and a handful of the servers have been there for more than 10 themselves. Become a regular and they’ll remember how you take your drink and any favorite dishes. The entire staff works to provide superior service as those in the box office are more than happy to answer any questions and assist guests. Actors might make an appearance in the dining room to say hello and show their appreciation to those who came out to the show. 12000 Beach Blvd. (641-1212)

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Whit’s Frozen Custard

Whit’s may have won this, but there’s the thing: they actually serve custard (which tends to be richer than ice cream, thanks to the addition of egg yolks). It seems the people have spoken. Ice cream is out and custard is in. Whit’s originated in Ohio, but has made Jacksonville home with a handful of locations nestled into various neighborhoods. Here, custard is made with three simple ingredients—cream, egg and sugar—but takes on a life of its own with a variety of mix-ins, like candy and sauces. There’s even a doggie sundae for four-legged friends. Four locations including 1232 Beach Blvd. (595-5891)



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Gilbert’s Social

There’s no shortage of Southern fare in Jax, making it a true feat that Gilbert’s Social came out on top in the Southern Cuisine category. Chef Kenny Gilbert has eateries popping up all over town, but this joint is one of the originals. The menu is filled with classic fixins’ such as biscuits, chicken skins, turnip greens, mac and cheese, burnt ends and pulled pork, but there’s almost always an innovative twist, as in the Southern ramen and roasted Moroccan spiced cauliflower. 4021 Southside Blvd. (647-7936)

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Bearded Pig 

When approaching this Texas style BBQ joint on Kings Avenue, one can smell the smoker hard at work, cooking slabs of meat until they’re fall-apart tender and don’t-even-need-the-sauce flavorful—although XXX and The Drizz are both hard to pass up. Options include brisket, ribs, pulled pork, chicken, turkey, sausage and even a beef rib (which is massive) and classic BBQ sides—think baked beans, mac and cheese, cole slaw, and potato salad. To go along with all that smoky goodness is a carefully selected beer and wine list. 1224 Kings Ave. (619-2247)

V Pizza

V focuses on giving patrons the most authentic Napoletana pizza possible. That means imported Italian ingredients that come together to form a pizza that will look a bit different from the ones you typically have delivered to your home. They’re not perfectly round, and they have burn marks on the crust, but they’re innately Italian and perfectly chewy, thanks to the wood-fired ovens dotted throughout the kitchen. Four locations including 1406 Hendricks Ave. (527-1511)

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Over the last 10 years, TacoLu has established itself as a Jax staple. It’s the place to bring out-of-towners, hold birthday celebrations and meet up when one is just really in need of a margarita. Their tequila and mezcal selection is vast and only enhanced by the skilled staff behind the bar. The tacos are the perfect size for taking down a few, which is good because it would be hard to choose just one. The bangin’ shrimp and brisket are fan favorites, but it never hurts to ask about specials, which typically involve a variety of fresh fish. If there’s still room in the end, finish off with a plate of churros or sopapillas—or just order another round of margaritas. We won’t judge. 1712 Beach Blvd. (249-8226)

Blue Orchid Thai Cuisine

Founded to inspire a love of Thai cuisine and culture, Blue Orchid is about as authentic as it gets here in the U.S. Ingredients are true to form in dishes like Choo Chee fish, curry duck, Pad Preow Wan or basil fried rice. While most eateries tucked into strip malls stick with bare bones decor, Blue Orchid is fitted to impress with a chandelier over a rounded bar and suspended umbrellas filling the room with color.  13475 Atlantic Blvd. (723-1300)


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Hawkers Street Fare

While the menu at Hawker’s is filled with hearty dishes from spicy soups to rice bowls, there’s really something to be said about their small plates. They’re a great way to satisfy a variety of tastes or entice picky eaters to try something new. The roti canai (Malaysian flatbread with a curry dipping sauce) is a must-order, though be sure to order enough for everyone at the table. Korean, twice-fried wings offer a satisfying crunch, while steamed bao buns make a perfectly fluffy vehicle for duck and pork. 1001 Park St. (508-0342); 241 N. Atlantic Blvd. (425-1025)

Fil Am Eatery & BBQ

Jacksonville is home to the largest Filipino population in Florida, so whittling down the best of the island nation’s food is no easy feat. Fil-Am comes out on top, thanks to a family-like atmosphere and crave-worthy bowls of sinigang pompano, savory pork adobo and a variety of silogs. For something adventurous, look no further than Mia’s special sisig—a sizzling plate of pork cubes with ginger, chilis, lemons and onions, topped with an egg at your table.14185-3 Beach Blvd. (992-9893)

India’s Restaurant

Chicken Tandoori is a favorite here, marinated and mildly spiced before being barbecued in a clay oven. Can’t decide on your entrée? Try the Mixed Grill, which allows you a taste of various tandoori specialties. The Vegetable Pakora will get you started with spiced veggie fritters. India’s also has plenty of vegetarian options for both entrées and apps. 9802 Baymeadows Rd. (620-0777)

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Bowl of Pho

There’s not much more comforting on a cold day than a simmering pot of pho, the Vietnamese soup that comes with a variety of proteins, from rare steak to well-done brisket, soaked in beef broth over rice noodles. A toppings tray allows patrons to customize their soup with items such as jalapeños, herbs, bean sprouts, onions and hot chili sauce. There are also dry noodles, rice bowls and salads on offer, for those in the mood for Vietnamese, but not into slurping. 9902 Old Baymeadows Rd. (646-4455)

The Tree Steakhouse

They’ve been serving top-notch steaks in Jacksonville for nearly 50 years so the Tree knows its stuff, be it filet, ribeye, or New York strip. Of course, there’s also lobster tail, chicken breast Alfredo, and butternut squash ravioli—not to mention numerous satisfying sides including lobster mac & cheese, steakhouse onion rings and plenty of greens. Pair them with wine, beer, or your favorite cocktail, and don’t leave without trying the warm chocolate torte for dessert. 11362 San Jose Blvd. (262-0006)

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M Shack

M Shack does the classics, and then they do… other stuff. The Asian Burger includes spicy cole slaw, BBQ glaze and Pepper Jack. The Swamp Burger, unmistakably Southern, combines a patty with pulled pork, melted Swiss, BBQ sauce, pickles and cole slaw. Feeling like going off your rocker? The aptly titled Insanity Burger consists of two beef patties between two grilled cheese sandwiches, along with lettuce, tomato, pickle and Shack Sauce. Whatever you settle on, don’t forget to wash it down with one of the Shack’s many milkshakes. Four locations including 299 Atlantic Blvd. (241-2599)

Safe Harbor

Despite that fact that Jacksonville sits on the coast and has a river running through it, there are surprisingly few restaurants located directly on the water. Safe Harbor not only has a waterfront location going for it, but it just happens to serve up some mighty fine fish, too. The line to order often makes its way into the parking lot, but it moves quickly and is worth the wait. Grab a table outside and nosh on a basket of fried, grilled or blackened fresh catch, scallops or Mayport shrimp—Safe Harbor was also voted best for its use of the local crustacean. Watch out for the seagulls—though they add to the charm, they aren’t afraid to swoop in for a crab cake. 4378 Ocean St. (246-4911); 2510 2nd Ave N. (479-3474)

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Fish Camps

It may not have originated here, but shrimp and grits is definitely a dish of the River City. Whipping up the creamiest grits and topping them off with perfectly cooked shrimp in a flavorful sauce that mixes in delightfully with the grits are the Fish Camps—located in North Beach, Julington Creek and Palm Valley. 100 1st St. (249-3474); 299 Roscoe Blvd. N. (285-3200); 12760 San Jose Blvd. (886-2267)

Hana Yori

Nestled in a strip mall on the Southside is Hana Yori, which might not look like much on the outside, but inside houses the best sushi in town, according to our voters. There’s nigiri, sashimi, Japanese rolls, deep fried rolls and a slew of signature creations. Fan favorites include the caterpillar roll (eel and cucumber topped with avocado and tobiko drizzled with eel sauce) and the lobster roll, with deep fried lobster, lettuce and avocado topped with eel sauce. Although it’s not sushi, a must order is lava fries—steak fries topped with spicy krab mix and a side of extra dipping sauce. 12226 Beach Blvd. (527-8875)

Aroma Corner

Aroma Corner has endless tea options and combinations, but voters opted to add boba to their beverages here. Sitting in the bottom of nai gai, flavored tea, milk tea, tea lattes or even smoothies, tapioca pearls—boba—add a certain flavor and texture to drinks that can’t be matched, especially when it comes to Aroma Corner. 5111 Baymeadows Rd. (737-2622); 11757 Beach Blvd. (998-3600)


There are fries and then there are Cruisers’ fries—perfectly seasoned, piping hot, and—if you’re into this kind of thing—smothered in cheddar cheese, bacon, chives and jalapeños. Big enough to share, of course, though we’re not opposed to taking on the whole thing alone. Just don’t skimp on the ranch dressing. 319 23rd Ave. S. (270-0356); 5613 San Jose Blvd. (737-2874); 3 St. George St. (824-6993)

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Flying Iguana

Some advice: don’t try and tackle this alone. It’s not even recommended to take on as a party of two. This bowl of guacamole is the biggest in town—and now it’s been voted the best. It’s prepared table-side with astonishingly ripe avocados, jalapeños, tomatoes, red onions, cilantro and lime—although since the creator is right there you can always tell them to leave something out you don’t like or add a little extra of something you do. Pairs wonderfully with a house margarita. 207 Atlantic Blvd. (853-5680)

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The Bread & Board—Applewood Ham & Brie

The bread at The Bread & Board is baked fresh and usually served warm. Add ham, triple cream brie, mustard aioli, arugula and raspberry jam and you’ve got yourself the best sandwich in town, according to readers. It can be ordered hot or cold—it’s the ham whose temperature really changes—in the form of a sandwich or deconstructed onto a board with rolls as opposed to a baguette. Ham with jam gives one a slight reminder of fall, but the brightness of the raspberry makes it enjoyable year-round. 1030 Oak St. (862-6992)

Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails

Pimento cheese is one of those dishes that varies widely, each maker offering his own twist or technique. For the best in town head to Moxie, where Southern classics are given a refined spin. The pimento cheese here comes on farm fresh bread, toasted, topped with potato crisps and scallions and drizzled with pepper jelly. Moxie also came out on top when it came to chicken and waffles—a dish that’s popular all over town. What sets Moxie’s above the rest? Not only is the chicken fried to perfection, but the waffle has a bread pudding consistency. Finishing it off is maple mousse and a drizzle of pepper jelly. St. Johns Town Center (998-9744)

Metro Diner

Wake up with a growling stomach? The solution is Metro Diner. Chow down on the famed chicken and waffles with strawberry butter or fill up on biscuits smothered in sausage gravy. For those who like their breakfast to be a little closer to dessert there’s Yo Hala on the Square—two thick slices of challah bread stuffed with bananas, brown sugar, cream cheese and hazelnut syrup, prepared like French toast, topped with a blueberry strawberry compote and powdered sugar. There are classics like avocado toast and Western omelettes, too, or go for the 12-inch pancake. Seven area locations including 3302 Hendricks Ave. (398-3701)

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The dessert case at Biscottis produces the same emotions wrapped presents nestled beneath a Christmas tree give one as a child. Each one a delight in itself, there’s everything from chocolate truffle cheesecake and cappuccino torte cake to mango-key lime pie and rum pound cake. Can’t settle on just one? Try a few of their petite desserts—there are tarts, eclairs, brownies, cake truffles, cupcakes and macarons. The entrées at Biscottis are good, too, but there’s nothing wrong with just stopping in for dessert. 3556 St. Johns Ave. (387-2060)

Southern Roots

Vegetarians and vegans often get stuck with just an option or two when eating out because many restaurants don’t cater to their needs. Southern Roots, on the other hand, goes far and above with their veg options. They serve bowls and sandwiches that fit into a healthy diet—think pumpkin seed pesto, cilantro oil, tofu and carrot slaw—and desserts like vegan cookies, pastries and pies (whipped coconut cream and all), plus bulk items such as herbs and nuts to take home. 1275 King St.(513-4726)

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Cowford Chophouse

From the standout patterned floors to the high and defined ceiling, and every detail in between, Cowford Chophouse serves as the perfect backdrop for a photo. All of the art thoughtfully nods to the city’s roots, from pasture paintings to a river design making its way across a pair of long tables. If the interior design doesn’t make you pull out your phone and snap a few pics, the rooftop view will. To the South, catch the Main Street Bridge allowing boats to pass and framing the north and the west is the expanse of Downtown, becoming more beautiful each time detail is put into old buildings such as this one. 101 E. Bay St. (862-6464)

Native Sun Natural Foods Market

Though gluten-free diets have increased in popularity (and necessity) in recent years, accessing a variety of gluten-free options is sadly still not easy. Enter Native Sun, home to Jacksonville’s only dedicated gluten-free bakery, turning out whoopie pies, chocolate cake, muffins, and a variety of cookies and breads. The organic grocer won for more than its gluten-free options, though—the mini chain’s smoothies also received high marks. We’re partial to the Peanut Butter Pie, a blend of peanuts, banana, soy milk, and agave nectar, though you can get just about anything (beets, matcha, peppermint, and more) in your concoction. Multiple locations


Year after year, Cinotti’s takes the cake for best bakery. Five generations ago the Cinotti family opened a shop in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1990, the bakery moved to Jacksonville, where it’s been satisfying sweet-tooths ever since. Cupcakes, doughnuts, pies, cookies, pastries—you name it, the Beaches landmark has it. And they do it well. Beyond sweets there are sandwiches and subs built on freshly baked bread. It might be a little early, but it’s hard to acknowledge Cinotti’s without mentioning the pumpkin doughnuts. Come October make sure to stop by and indulge in one of those fall flavored delights. 1523 Penman Rd. (246-1728)

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Happy Grilled Cheese

The little food truck that could, Happy Grilled Cheese makes its way all over town and never disappoints. The menu is ever changing, but keep an eye out for the cheesy jalapeño popper melt with three cheeses, nacho cheese, mac & cheese, bacon and, of course, jalapeños; or the fancy schmancy with goat cheese, mozzarella, sun dried tomatoes, bacon, red onion, arugula, & balsamic glaze. Not sure where the truck is parked? There’s a permanent Happy Grilled Cheese Downtown that’s always serving up gooey delights. Permanent location at 219 N Hogan St. (451-0126)

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Rooftop bars may be popping up all over town, but Black Sheep is the original—and was voted best in town. Cozy up to the bar, grab a spot at one of the geometric standing tables, or snag a seat in front of the fire pit. The space was planned for the elements, as they have heaters for chilly nights and shades to pull out when the sun beats down. Munch on some bar bites or go for a full meal—just don’t pass up a cocktail—the Dusty Boot comes highly recommended. 1534 Oak St. (380-3091)

Riverside Liquors

Big box stores don’t hold a candle to Riverside Liquors. Choose from bottles of wine or small batch spirits, and don’t be afraid to ask the employees for a little guidance as they’ll be happy to suggest something to fits one’s taste. Try something new on Friday nights at a weekly wine tasting or stop in when they host distillers and sample the spirits. For those who like a little food with their wine, there’s a restaurant tucked away in the back. There’s a bar back there, too, with bartenders more than willing to mix up a variety of drinks and cocktails. 1251 King St. (356-4517)

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Many local libations now boast the flavors of Manifest Distilling, Downtown's only full-scale organic distillery. Manifest’s award-winning spirits include vodka, gin and rye; but for something really extraordinary try the bourbon barrel-aged gin or the citrus vodka. While the distillery isn’t exactly a functioning bar it makes for a great private event venue, or head into the tasting room to give some of their makes a try (they offer samples on certain event days Downtown). For those into really getting down to the science of it, book a behind-the-scenes tour. 960 E. Forsyth St. (619-1479)

Intuition Ale Works

Intuition opened the doors to a humble space on King Street in 2010, but every year since, the brewery found itself doubling in production size and growing in popularity. Today, Intuition is located near the Sports Complex Downtown, in a behemoth building with a 50 barrel production system, gourmet eats, a taproom that spans two stories and a to-go window and walk up bar perfect for game day. Core brews, such as I-10 IPA and People’s Pale Ale, can be found around town, but head into the taproom for seasonals such as imperial German altbier Alternative Medicine. BLK SHP @ Intuition shares the building, accompanying bubbly beverages with bar food along the lines of hamburgers, hand-made hot dogs and pork rind nachos. 929 E. Bay St. (683-7720)

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The Capital Grille & Matthew Brookshire at The Capital Grille

The Capital Grille is known far and wide for its top-of-the-line steak and seafood selection, but according to our poll, cuisine isn’t the only thing they do well. In fact, the fine-dining hot spot won two categories in drink. Choose a glass or bottle of wine from the award-winning wine list that boasts more than 350 varieties or grab a seat at the bar and chat with bartender Matthew Brookshire. He’ll be happy to not only walk you through the wine, but craft any cocktail you have in mind. For those who take the art of drinking seriously, there are wine lockers to store the most rare and valued goods, although they do come at a price. St. Johns Town Center (997-9233)

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Bold Bean

If one is tired enough any coffee will do, but for those looking for the best coffee in Jax head to one of the Bold Beans sprinkled around town—in Riverside, San Marco and Jax Beach. They source their coffee from around the world and craft robust expresso and creamy cappuccinos. Since iced coffee is a must in the coming months, try a sparkling Americano—it swaps out hot water for some sparkling water and ice and is sure to be refreshing. If you’re really looking for a pick-me-up go for the AM/PM, a shot of expresso and a glass of beer. 869 Stockton St.; 2400 3rd St. S.; 905 Hendricks Ave. (853-6545)


Sidecar’s bartenders will craft everything from fizzes to tiki drinks, Old Fashioneds to sazeracs. For those interested in something bubbly, there’s an extensive collection of beer or for something smooth sip on a glass of wine. Cozy up to the bar or grab a seat on the patio, where dogs are known to frequent. If drinking stirs up an appetite just order a pizza and wings from V, which is right next door. Become a welcome regular and you might just have an order named after you—just ask Big Kyle (he’s the one on the patio with a PBR and a shot of Four Roses). 1406 Hendricks Ave (527-8990)

Burrito Gallery

Roses, steak and champagne can be nice, but most dates call for simpler terms—and there’s no going wrong with a big ol’ burrito, chips and queso and a can of beer at Burrito Gallery. Stop in during Art Walk the first Wednesday of each month Downtown, head to the Brooklyn location’s rooftop patio or settle into the bar at the Jax Beach restaurant. Is their anything more romanic than watching someone cram a burrito in their mouth? We think not. 21 East Adams St. (592-2922); 90 Riverside Ave. (355-4889); 300 Beach Blvd. (246-6521)

The Mini Bar

If you didn’t take a photo of your #minibardonuts did you even have them? There’s no denying the small, round and delicious treats are cute, thanks in large part to colorful sprinkles, drizzles of chocolate and marshmallows. Just don’t forget to get your shot before digging in. 1300 Beach Blvd.


If you scroll past @NateDoesFood on Instagram, your mouth might start to water. Nate Mayo seeks out delicious and good-looking food from around town, posting photos of everything from sushi rolls to cinnamon rolls topped with frosting and crushed Oreos. Bonus: In addition to pretty food pics, he also offers followers the inside scoop on new and soon-to-open eateries.


St. Augustine Amphitheatre

Small enough to be intimate, yet large enough to attract well-known bands, the open-air setup at the St. Augustine Amphitheater offers the best of both worlds. There’s usually a food truck or two on hand, and the lineup is always stellar, with upcoming shows including John Fogerty and ZZ Top, Paramore and Slightly Stoopid. 1340C A1A S. (209-3746)

Blue Jay Listening Room

Small bands are often pushed into the corners of bars, forced to endlessly play covers for a crowd that hardly notices they’re there. This is not the case at Blue Jay Listening room, an intimate venue with a stage front and center and a handful of seats circled around. Here artists can tell their stories and play those deep tracks, and attendees will really be able to listen. The exclusivity is apparent by the fact that there's no sign—so make sure you know where you’re going. It's above Casa Maria Mexican restaurant, across the street from Bold Bean out at Jax Beach. 2457B S. 3rd St.

Coopers Hawk

Ditch the guys, grab the ladies and head to Coopers Hawk if you’re looking for a can’t-beat girls’ night. Start with a wine tasting and sample different and interesting blends, handcrafted at Cooper Hawk’s own winery. With this newly gained knowledge head into the dining room and take advantage of happy hour dishes such as ahi tuna tacos or a caprese flatbread, which you’ll be able to perfectly pair with a glass of wine. 10531 Brightman Blvd. (328-2002)

Top Golf

Gather the guys for some friendly competition at Topgolf, where a classic sport meets flashy technology. Order some grub and a pitcher of beer to enjoy between swings or, if hanging out away from the clubs is more your style, sidle up to the bar and watch the game on one of 200 TVs. On Fridays and Saturdays, there’s no need to cut guys’ night short, as Topgolf is open until 2 AM. Fore! 10531 Brightman Blvd. (328-2002)


Sip on beer, wine, top-shelf drinks or well cocktails and dance the night away, as Birdies is known for its music scene. If dancing isn’t quite your thing just cozy up to the bar, play a game of billiards in the wood paneled back room or enjoy some Five Points people watching out on the patio—although those on the street might be watching you, too. Head in with the girls, the guys, a mixed group, a weird group—everyone is accepted at Birdies. 1044 Park St. (356-4444)

St. Augustine

Snowbirds flock to Florida and vacation where we call home, but sometimes we, too, want to play tourist—like on a sunny spring day when walking down St. George Street. There’s really no better day or weekend trip, but with its centuries old buildings and endless sightseeing activities it makes one feel as though they are far away. Whether taking the kids to see the cannons at Castillo de San Marcos or touring St. Augustine Distillery and grabbing a few drinks at Ice Plant Bar, it’s worth the risk of having to rub elbows with a few out-of-towners.

Players by the Sea

Players by the Sea has been an integral part of the local culture scene for more than 50 years. Still, it manages to keep its repertoire fresh, exciting and relevant—and always entertaining. The 2018-2019 schedule includes A Seat at the Table, In the Heights, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-Time.

Sun-Ray Cinema

This quirky little theatre in Five Points is hard to beat, screening both off-beat indie movies and blockbusters on two screens. Enjoy the flick with a bucket of beer, popcorn flavored with seasoning from the toppings bar—truffle oil and dried seaweed make a great combination—or if you’re really hungry order a dish off the extensive menu of pizzas, sandwiches, salads and finger foods, with quite a few vegan options. 1028 Park St. (359-0049)

Mind Bender Escape Rooms

At Mind Bender, groups are locked inside a themed room and required to solve a series of clues and puzzles in order to get out. There are four rooms to choose from: The Jewel Heist, Jack the Ripper, The Woodshed and Captain Mayhem’s Revenge. It’s recommended to choose a group with different skill levels—just don’t forget to work together as there are only 60 minutes to escape. 1500 Beach Blvd. (853-6192)

Keg & Coin

Drinking is a fun group activity and arcade games are a fun group activity—why not do them both at once? Keg & Coin offers the best of both worlds, with the barcade giving people the chance to play both classic and new games with a beer in hand—or in the attached cup holder because both hands are sometimes needed for more serious gamers. There are 15 rotating taps, coolers with cans and bottles of beer, a row of pinball machines, Mortal Kombat, skee-ball, NBA Jam and a variety of others covering everything from Pac-Man to Batman. Game on. 1269 King St. (388-0033)

Painting with a Twist

The best way to take the pressure off the fact that you’re not an artist, but are currently trying to paint like one: wine. Even if a couple of glasses don’t make you feel like Picasso, at Painting with a Twist instructors are there to guide you step-by-step through your masterpiece—and they never present too challenging of a design. 1525 San Marco Blvd. (399-8399)

Firewater Tent Revival

A little bit punk, a lot a bit bluegrass, Firewater Tent Revival gets Jaxons up on their feet, dancing and singing along to “Wingnut,” “Shot for Shot” and “Line in the River.” The band hosts an array of instruments and musicians always filling the stage with everything from wash boards to a stand-up bass. Catch them every Wednesday at Fly’s Tie Irish Pub or around town places such as Bold City Brewery, Lynch’s and Prohibition Kitchen.


Looking for something to do with the kids today? Follow @Fun4FirstCoastKids on Twitter to stay up-to-date on exhibit openings, festivals, sporting events and outdoor activities, all kid friendly and nearby. Find summer camp suggestions, day trip ideas and even healthy snack options sure to please the kiddos.




For newcomers yoga can be a bit intimidating, and for seasoned pros it can become stale if not challenging. Everbalance meets the expectations of both these groups in a fun and friendly atmosphere. Each class includes aromatherapy and goes through yin and yang poses. They offer mindbody yoga, covering all the basics, gentle power yoga, based on the power of vinyasa, and candle light yoga, which is sure to bring even the most stressed mind to peace. Beyond yoga, the studio offers reformer or mat pilates and barre classes. There are even crossover classes such as yoga core fusion, where both a good sweat and a tranquil mediation are mixed in. 5298 Sunbeam Rd. (304-2886)


Think you have the most difficult and damaged hair that nothing can be done with? These stylists are up to the challenge (bonus: they can style it in a way that’s easy to replicate at home). Whether looking for a cut, extensions, color, correction or just an extravagant styling, Redfields is the place Jaxons go for the best in haircare. Dog lovers, be on the lookout for resident pup Jackson—a giant schnauzer who calls the salon home, although the place is fitted to make everyone feel at home. 820 Post St. (355-7333)


After a trip to LASH one will be able to say, “I woke up like this,” and mean it. The salon specializes in lashes, of course, offering extensions, fills, lifts and tints (a perm and a dye for lashes). After the eyes are taken care of don’t forget the brows—LASH also offers microblading, waxing and tinting, plus full-body waxing services and a variety of facials. There’s also a club membership that includes discounted monthly visits, each one starting off with a glass of champagne. 1500 Beach Blvd. (758-1072)

Hawthorn Salon

Men often shy away from salons, which tend to be hyper feminine, in favor of barbershops, but Hawthorne Salon manages to find a spot right in the middle. The atmosphere has a modern yet earthy feel with wood accents and black fixtures—plus craft brews and coffee always on offer for clients. Men can be treated to a hair cut, brow wax and beard trim—cleaning them up and making them look and feel their best. 1011 Park St. (619-3092)

The Spa at Ponte Vedra Inn & Club

Spending a day at The Spa at Ponte Vedra Inn & Club is like taking a one day vacation. Slip on a fluffy white robe, lounge in jetted tubs and be pampered with various amenities and services. On the top of the services list is The Spa’s massage, 50 to 80 minutes long and completely customized to suit each individuals’ needs. For an extra treat go for the pink Himalayan stone massage or the Moroccan scalp ritual. Once the body is taken care of move onto the hands and feet with a mani/pedi that goes beyond simple grooming and painting—there’s an exfoliating scrub, shea butter mask and soothing massage. The purchase of one service includes access to all the amenities, so finish off the day by sipping cocktails by the pool or snacking on lunch in the café. 302 Ponte Vedra Blvd. (273-7700)

One Ocean Resort & Spa

While facials may just seem like a great way to be pampered and relax, they’re also one of the best things one can do for their skin. For a top of the line treatment head to One Ocean, which offers a lengthy menu of spa services. Hydrate & nourish, detoxify & renew or turn back the effects of aging with one of the spa’s botanical facials or receive an oxygen facial utilizing 87 different vitamins, minerals and enzymes. For true indulgence, the 80 minute Ocean Mist facial goes well beyond a standard cleansing. 1 Ocean Blvd. (249-7402)

Lunchbox Wax

It’s not exactly enjoyable to have hot wax slathered on your body and then ripped off, though Lunchbox Wax makes the experience as comfortable as it can be. Aestheticians here will quickly and easily take care of simple areas such as brows and bikini, but with the same care can handle a Brazilian, full back or legs from toe to hip. They’ll even tackle nooks and crannies like ears, nostrils or “between the cheeks.” 1661 Riverside Ave. (222-6003)

Tan Like a Celebrity

Soaking up rays is old school. For a modern glow there’s Tan Like a Celebrity offering natural looking spray tans that won’t turn orange, ruin clothes or lead to wrinkles and skin cancer. Options include fake bake—although no one will be able to tell it’s fake—a scented artisan tan or the Australian, which makes it look like you just came back from an extended trip down under. 1003 3rd St. N. (534-7721)


The whole family can get their sweat on at the YMCA. Workout cardio or strength on one of the machines using various equipment, take a few laps around the pool or the track, sign the kiddos up for soccer, volleyball or flag football or drop them off at daycare. Enjoy a good sweat in the sauna and finish off with a massage. The Y has pretty much anything one could need to improve his or her health and wellness—and it’s highly suggested to check out the huge Riverside facility. Multiple area locations including 221 Riverside Ave. (355-1436)



Named after an ancient rune symbol that means the start of a new creative process, Inguz is a beachside shop with a sophisticated yet laid back vibe—the kind one can only find near the ocean. Both guys and gals can find linen pants, bold accessories, flowy dresses and playsuits, colorful graphic tees and lightweight button downs for easy-to-put-together, comfortable outfits that shine with style. 388 9th Ave. N., 595-5884

Copper Closet

Looking for a stylish outfit that won’t break the bank? Jaxons find that Copper Closet fits the bill with an entire selection priced under $45 while packing a modern and trendy punch. Inspiration is endless on the shop’s Instagram account, which boasts cute outfits sure to make one want to put on her best dress—or top or mini skirt or jumpsuit—too. Copper Closet has everything from distressed denim to ruffled and tied tops, and any of their outfits call to be finished off with some delicate, earthy jewelry. 815 Lomax St. (423-0539); The Avenues; St. Johns Town Center (516-7001)


For a no-fuss shopping experience with only the highest quality goods and superior service, men head to Rosenblums. The fine clothing shop has been family run for 120 years outfitting men—and women—in dapper outfits fit for any occasion from a Sunday brunch to important business meeting, and everything in between. 5500 San Jose Blvd. (733-8633); 2400 3rd St. S. (247-9755)

Vintage Arts

Find new, old and locally handcrafted items all in one place at Vintage Arts. The space has an industrial, yet farmhouse feel with exposed metal beams and mix-matched chandeliers hanging throughout. Items for sale include handmade jewelry, wooden golf clubs, old wooden doors, vintage glassware and chairs of all different sorts. With so many different products of many different types, it’s the kind of place to take your time and really browse through—you never know what you might find. 10041 San Jose Blvd. (600-4278)

Home Décor
Generation Us

Find contemporary home furnishings at Generation Us, full of colorful sofas, acrylic chairs, fluffy pillows, cheeky neon signs and funky art. Find fun accessories and local goods, such as notebooks, postcards, soaps or vases, to fill the cabinets and shelves at home, or simply browse for some daring inspiration to bring change to pieces you already have. Don’t have the skill to put together a space yourself? Enlist Generation Us design services to have your home outfitted to look its very best. 822 Lomax St.


This line of Jax Beach-inspired jewelry can be found sprinkled in shops throughout the area—Aqua East, Scout & Molly’s and LulaMae, for example. The collection covers everything from earrings to anklets, each piece adding to any modern bohemian aesthetic. Natural stones and metals are prevalent throughout, along with imagery of both the sea and the night sky. Found at various local boutiques

Pet Paradise

Let’s face it, it’s hard to leave the fur babies behind. Pet Paradise makes it a little easier providing pets with clean facilities, friendly, trained staff and plenty of activities—including swim time in a bone-shaped pool. Pups and cats can be boarded for extended stays or be dropped off for the day at daycare. There are even grooming and a vet onsite to keep pets both clean and healthy. For those with serious separation anxiety (people not pets) they even have a furever connected package that includes daily communication with photos and updates. 5140 University Blvd. W. (396-7529); 14272 Pecan Park Road (741-0050)


When Jaxons want to supply their dogs with the best they head to Bark, where they can fit their pooch with the latest collars, clothes and bandanas or fill them up with treats and baked goods. Pick a bed or doggie duvet for them to lounge in at home or a carrier so they can come everywhere with you (because you only go places they can go, right?). There’s a variety of toys, from the sweet and plush to the virtually indestructible, for those who like to get down and dirty and play. To clean them up afterwords there’s a selection of soaps, shampoos and even nail polish. Let’s just hope your salon has the same shade so you can match. 1021 Park St. (356-4530); 45 W. Adams St. (516-7836)

Open Road

In the market for a bike? Any bike desired—from a kid’s first bike with the attached training wheels to one ready to take on a triathlon to those that can power over mountains—can be found at Open Road Bike Shop. Already have a bike?They have any part needed and can service repairs or improvements. There are helmets, baskets, car racks and anything required to enhance a riding experience. Get advice from knowledgeable staff or sign up to go on rides with fellow enthusiasts in your neighborhood, starting at Open Road. 1021 Park St. (356-4530); 45 W. Adams St. (516-7836)

Kuhn Flowers

There’s no missing Kuhn Flower’s window displays when driving past the building nestled on the side of Beach Boulevard. It’s a must-visit during the holidays to show the kids a Mr. And Mrs. Claus surrounded by festively decorated trees and an assortment of wreaths and ornaments. They change up the display all year depending on the occasion and can send one home with a slice of the magic via one of their bouquets. The arrangements cover everything from a dozen red roses to vases displaying tropical paradise to carnations in the shape of a puppy or a kitten. Forgetful? Set up notifications from Kuhn Flowers and they’ll make sure you never miss a birthday or anniversary again. 3802 Beach Blvd. (398-8601)

Chamblin Bookmine

Books might be a bit old-fashioned compared to all the latest gizmos and gadgets, but there’s something about curling up in an overstuffed chair with a novel and turning the pages as a story progresses. Chamblin has pretty much any book one could be after, along with a huge selection that is entertaining to simply browse through—odd titles and subjects are accompanied by mid- or turn-of-the-century artwork,. Just start looking and pull out a few and see what you find. Beyond tactile versions of books Chamblin has movies and music on DVDs and CDs—throwback! 4551 Roosevelt Blvd. (384-1685)


Bay & Bee

13475 Atlantic Blvd. (221-1900); 120 Everest Lane (217-3637) While kids may not consciously remember them, early birthday parties have a lasting impact—and what parent doesn’t want to celebrate the fact that they’ve made it through the first few years? For a clean, safe space that gives the kiddos endless opportunities to be active, there’s Bay & Bee. Here, kids can play dress up, climb a wooden play set, visit the pretend farmers market—and parents can socialize. For first to fifth birthdays they’ll help with everything needed, making the party not only more enjoyable for parents, but the little ones, too

KiD to KiD

10601 San Jose Blvd. (513-3910) Sometimes you buy kids a pair of shoes and the next day they don’t fit. Or there’s a toy they just have to have, but after a week or so it’s already lost its luster. There’s no reason to pay top dollar when things don’t last long: enter KiD to KiD. Patrons can buy or sell top quality items such as clothes, shoes, puzzles and games, toys, wagons, books, playpens, strollers and even maternity items. The store is clean and organized and makes it easy to sell for cash or credit or pick out the latest goods.

KYDS Children’s Boutique

216 1st St. (595-5092) Just because they’re little people doesn’t mean they can’t have big style. At Kyds the little ones, from infants to tweens, can fashion themselves in rompers, fringe booties, tie-dye dresses, cheeky graphic tees and tropical button-down shirts. Find tiny kicks that will make any shoe lover envious, jewelry featuring pineapples and puppies and beachwear that’s as cute as it is practical. We’re kind of bummed some of these outfits are too small for sharing.

Jacksonville Mom’s Blog

Navigating life with children is quite different than going at it alone. For guidance specific to River City parents, there’s the Jax Mom’s Blog. The site offers a kid-friendly city guide, family directory, calendar of events (with a handful of events to choose from every single day), neighborhood groups and blog posts from other parents sharing activities and stories. No one ever said parenting was easy, but this site does an admirable job of helping come up with ideas to make it at least a little easier.

Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens

370 Zoo Pkwy. (757-4463) What kid, or adult for that matter, doesn’t love animals? Watch monkeys jump around their jungle gym, catch the jaguars lounging around and head into Africa to feed a giraffe. A new exhibit even features models of prehistoric creatures such as spinosaurus and triceratops. Beyond the animal-watching, there’s a playground, splash zone, carousel, 4-D theatre and train—in case too many of the animals happen to be taking their afternoon naps or if the little ones are attempting not to take theirs.

Mellow Mushroom

Four area locations including 3611 St. Johns Ave. (388-0200) Dollars to doughnuts, kids will say their favorite food is pizza. Embracing this, and still appealing to adults, Mellow Mushroom gives the kiddos endless menu options—they can make a customized small pie or something else entirely, like meatball stacks, pretzel dippers or macaroni and cheese. A quirky atmosphere at every location is sure to entertain.

Club Scientific

150 Hilden Rd. (287-8603) For a camp where the kids learn as much as they have fun, Jaxons turn to Club Scientific. Whatever their interests are, there’s a camp for it. Those intrigued by veterinarian medicine can be hands-on with animals. For the kids who can’t take their eyes off the screen there’s a game developer camp. There’s a paleontologist camp for those into the prehistoric world. Movie maker camp gives kids the chance to become filmmakers. And that’s just a few of the options that Club Scientific has to offer.