Known as the “River City by the Sea,” Jacksonville and the areas surrounding it are packed full of all kinds of fun and excitement. Whether you are looking for art and museums, fun in the sun, competitive sports, or great restaurants and shopping, you can find a bit of everything here in this popular North Florida destination.
The biggest question for anyone thinking about heading to Jacksonville is what to prioritize if you have a limited amount of time. To help you out with that, we’ve put together this itinerary breaking down a quick 48-hour trip to JAX that will expose you to a little bit of everything the city has to offer.
Day One – French Paninis, Public Art, Steaks, and Beer!
No matter what time you arrive in Jacksonville, the first stop on your list should be a meal at The French Pantry. You will have your choice of sandwiches, salads, paninis, and bruschettas here, and we recommend letting your stomach guide you wherever it wants to go here because just about everything on the menu is outstanding. You can also grab something quick from their to-go menu if you are in a hurry to get to the next stop on our Jacksonville adventure.
That next stop is actually going to be a casual stroll through downtown Jacksonville. Unlike most major cities, downtown Jacksonville doesn’t feel like a big city. It actually feels like an art gallery thanks to the incredible amount of public art on display around the community. Make sure you visit the Cork Arts District on your walk!
For dinner on your first night in Jacksonville, we’re making reservations at the Cowford Chophouse. They are known for their high ceilings, stunning decor, and unique combination of classic, coastal, and southern menu items…and there’s also the rooftop bar that offers up dramatic views of downtown Jacksonville. Pick your favorite cut of meat and enjoy a fantastic dining experience.
After dinner, we’re heading over to Alewife for a casual evening tasting some of the best craft beers that you will find in the city. This quirky bottle shop carries everything that is worth trying, so whatever they happen to have on tap is always going to be delicious.
Day Two – Beaches, BBQ, TPC, Classic French Cuisine, and Craft Cocktails!
For our second day in Jacksonville, the only way to start it out right is with a trip to the beach! Between Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach, Mayport Beach, and Atlantic Beach, there are more than 22 miles of white sand to choose from, so pick the one closest to where you are staying and spend some time relaxing in the sun.
When you are ready to grab some lunch, prepare to have your mind blown by the power of BBQ at The Bearded Pig. You can order any of their meats by the quarter pound, but we recommend going wild and getting one of their big platters to share so that everyone can try a little bit of everything.
After lunch, it’s time for a little choose-your-own-adventure-option. For golfers, it’s time to head over to TPC Sawgrass and check out the most famous hole in golf. But if the island green doesn’t get you excited, you might prefer to visit the fabulous Jacksonville Zoo, which never disappoints.
Regardless of how you spend your afternoon, make sure you are back in time to get cleaned up, because we have reservations at the iconic Orsay for dinner. This is a classic French bistro that offers up traditional French dishes as well as some with a southern American twist. Once again, order whatever catches your eye because everything here is outstanding.
For our Day Two nightcap, our destination is Sidecar. This award-winning cocktail bar mixes up all of the classic cocktails better than anyone, but they also offer some new twists that you just have to see for yourself. And when you see something amazing happening at the bar here, all you have to say is, “I’ll have one of those!”
Day Three – Wildlife, Poutine, and Shopping!
Are you still with us? Great! Let’s go!
For our third day in Jacksonville, we are going to start off at Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary. “Big Cats” are the name of the game here, and you will find plenty of them roaming around the property. These endangered tigers, cougars, and bobcats are kept safe here, and the knowledgeable staff is happy to educate you about all of their big kitties.
For lunch, we are going to visit one of the most unique restaurants in the area. The Stuffed Beaver is known as a “poutinery,” which means that they specialize in the classic Canadian dish where French fries are topped with cheese curds and beef gravy. But the poutine is taken to another level here, as is just about everything else on the menu.
If you are looking for any last minute souvenirs before heading back home, St. John’s Town Center is the perfect spot to pick up whatever you haven’t already bought for yourself. And following a little retail therapy, our 48 hours in Jacksonville are over, and it’s time to start planning the next trip.
Where to Stay in Jacksonville
For the best of the best beachfront accommodations in the Jacksonville area, the top places to explore are One Ocean Resorts and Spa on Atlantic Beach and The Lodge and Club at Ponte Vedra Beach . Both of these resorts offer first-rate amenities including access to beautiful beaches.
If you are a little more price conscious, then there are also plenty of reasonable hotels right in Jacksonville. We recommend the Homewood Suites by Hilton, but you could also opt for one of the Holiday Inn Expresses or Hampton Inns located around the city.
Airbnb is another great option for a quick trip to Jacksonville. There are cozy beach cottages and hip downtown lofts that are both reasonably priced if you are looking for something more residential than a hotel or resort.
There is so much to do in the Jacksonville area that 48 hours is never going to be enough. But with this itinerary as a guide, you should at least be able to scratch the surface of everything that the city has to offer. And whatever you don’t get to can always be saved for your next visit!
Want to learn more about this area? Be sure to check out our North Florida Retirement Guide.