Watering Holes of Jacksonville, Florida

+Veterans United Craft Brewery, 8999 Western Way #104, Jacksonville, FL 32256

You’d never find it if you weren’t looking. You’ll almost feel like your GPS is taking you on a ride. But faithfully there, is some of the best beer brewed on site in Jacksonville.

I’m not in the military, but my dad was in the Navy. Whether you have a connection or not, everyone is welcomed in this comfortable atmosphere. A group of veterans formed the brewery and keep the motif alive with aptly named brews and décor of military memorabilia.

Fridays there is live music, there are board games such as battleships, people bring take out to eat over a beer, and it’s dog friendly.

The beers really are top notch, Jeff was buying Scout Dog from the grocery store of the rest of our stay and I was raving bout the Buzzin’ Bee. Maybe it’s because my dad was a Seabee, but really it’s probably that awesome honey aftertaste. The taproom is open Wednesday through Saturday and $7 tours on Saturday a include tasting glass and sample pours.

+Rain Dogs, 1045 Park St, Jacksonville, FL 32204

Riverside is a happening little neighborhood and this dive has one of the best atmospheres you could hope for in a bar. By definition (of the bar), a rain dog is a dog caught in the rain, with its whole trail washed away by the water so he can’t get back home. The art on the wall is equally as deep, dark, and fitting.

We came on a night with live music, the band was jamming with an instrument I’d never even seen before.

As if it couldn’t get any better, there is a Simpsons pinball machine.

A glass of red wine in hand, this is my happy place.

+Engine 15 Brewing Co, 1500 Beach Blvd #217, Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250

A popular brewery with two locations, one downtown and the other by the beach.

The lively atmosphere has indoor and outdoor seating, and is stacked with arcade games (no pinball!). Skimming the brews, you may hiccup when you read the name of one of their most population libations, the nut sack double brown ale’s tagline reads: give our nut sack a taste.

Don’t blush, it’s a great brew and all the other ones are very tame!

+Budweiser Brewery Experience, 111 Busch Dr, Jacksonville, FL 32218-5546

Since the 1960s, Bud has been brewing beer in Jacksonville, one of a dozen locations throughout the US. Grab your complimentary sample and take yourself on a free self guided brewery tour.

Learn about the brewing process which takes 30 days or more to produce one of the worlds most famous beers.

Delve into the story of the company, from its origins to prohibition, and even advertisements throughout the decades – those who aren’t interest in drinking might like to know the history of such a successful corporation. Guided tours, beer school, and a big gift shop are among the paid programs you can participate in.

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Ice Cream in Jacksonville, Florida

+Whit’s Frozen Custard, 1232 Beach Blvd, Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250

Not ice cream. I know this post is supposed to be about ice cream, but this is frozen custard and they are not the same thing. Frozen custard is creamier, thicker, and smoother than ice cream. It uses a higher butterfat content, it’s a slower process, and it’s served 10 degrees warmer than ice cream. It’s got a cult following and I’m drinking the kool aid. Whit’s is a franchise found at multiple locations in Florida and around the US. They have a standard chocolate, vanilla, and rotating flavor of the week. This week is Chocolate Covered Strawberry, next is an Almond Custard with Maraschino Cherry Halves. It can be a bit of an addiction to check out what’s coming next. When I went fate was on my side and my favorite flavor was there – Sea Salt Caramel. You can mix in toppings and paired with reeses cups this was an indulgent out of this world treat.

It hooked me on custard and Whit’s for life. You can use the custard in a banana split, milkshake, or malt.

+M Shack, 1012 Margaret St Jacksonville, FL 32204

Kind of ice cream. You may start to think I’m untrustworthy, but this is a milkshake…it has ice cream in it, so I guess it’s a compromise. Thick hand-spun shakes with flavors such as bananas foster, pecan pie, and oreo cheesecake, my mouth was watering. The only option for me though, was the marshamallow brulee. The flavor was so right on, like drinking a liquid marshmallow, and the texture was perfect! That toasted marshmallow on top was the icing on the cake, this is truly a legendary shake.

Jeff was tempted by the tale of the man at the register telling of a ‘shake wizard’ in the back who mixes incredible concoctions. To this very day we have no idea what he put into this magical creation – but it was epic. The portions are huge, even for a small, and affordably priced. There are multiple locations, but we went to the one in the Riverside Neighborhood and parking was very easy. We came solely for the shakes, but this place is also known for their burgers.

+Five Fx Ice Cream, 9802 Baymeadows Rd #6, Jacksonville, FL 32256

Ice cream! Pure and true. This is ice cream of the trendy variety. I had been seeing rolled ice cream on social media everywhere and Jacksonville is hip to the game. One of the fun elements of this place is you get to watch your ice cream made fresh.

It’s a friendly to those with lactose allergies because you can pick the kind of milk you want your ice cream made of. There are so many flavors to choose from, interesting ones including taro, thai tea, spice chai, lavender, cream cheese, red bean, lychee, and avocado. Along with toppings, your possibilities are virtually endless.

Loaded into a waffle cone, this sugar overload was incredible. Another trendy constituent offered is their Taiyaki fish with over a dozen flavor options – both sweet and savory variety.

Been there done that still looking for something trendier? Try a Korean style Patbingsu which is shaved ice with sweet toppings and red beans. The five F’s stand for fresh, fruits, fun treats, friendly, franchise. The first location opened in Jacksonville and the company uses only natural ingredients.

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Maple Street Biscuit Co in Jacksonville, Florida

What was your first concert? Britney Spears was mine. But why are we getting so personal? You’ll have to be open to visit Maple Street Biscuit Co, they are going to ask you a question like this or:

…Your favorite vacation spot?

…Your first model of car?

…Who do you admire most?

Instead of calling out a number or a persons name, it’s very funny to hear these responses when your food is ready. The franchise started in Jacksonville. I went to the Murray Hill location because it was near to where I was staying, but there are multiple locations in the city, and throughout the Southeast.

The BLT called to me, fresh and crisp on a fluffy biscuit, while Jeff went for the Ralphie.

If you can’t tell what’s underneath that perfect over easy egg, it’s a flaky biscuit with sausage gravy. It’s safe to say we were both very happy with our choices, the service, and the comfortable atmosphere for breakfast. However, the display case is devious at breakfast time. A side of breakfast dessert was inevitable, the iced cinnamon pecan biscuits were calling.

I love the combination of sweet and savory! If you walk down the block from this location, there is a beautiful mosaic wall that adds to the experience.

Parking was easy and I’d like to go back to try a fried chicken sandwich around lunch sometime!

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Safe Harbor Seafood Restaurant in Jacksonville, FL

Right on the waters edge you know the food is going to be fresh and with a line like this – you can bet your bottom dollar it’s going to be good.

Safe Harbor Seafood Restaurant [2510 2nd Ave N Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250] is the promise land in Jacksonville for seafood lovers. While you wait online someone may bring out a menu for you to look at. This is great, because when you get up to the counter you order there. Then someone will bring you your food when you sit down.

The atmosphere is casual, but classic on the partially open air deck – perfect at sunset. Meals are very aptly price for the nice location and the quality of the food. Food comes out piping hot and I was 100% satisfied with our plates. Blackened shrimp nachos were so juicy and perfectly cooked, the flavor just hit the spot.

The portion was very filling. The blackened fresh catch of the day was equally as pleasing – hot and tender flaky fish.

Watched the sun dip down into the horizon from the parking lot after a perfect meal.

Nothing better!

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Places to Play Pinball in Jacksonville, Florida

There are many dives, bars and restaurants, where you can find a stray pinball or two around Jacksonville. If you’re looking for a solid collection of machines these three locations are for you.

+Fernandina Beach Pinball Museum, 2106 Sadler Rd, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

Almost thirty pinball machines in mint condition, this is the premiere spot to play the silverball in the Jacksonville Area in a very clean and friendly atmosphere. Rates are unlimited free play, all day for $14 or just for an hour at $10. Make sure you check the hours, as they are limited. Older classics and brand new machines like Game of Thrones and Ghostbusters.

Some of my favorites such as Tales from the Crypt and the Simpsons.

It’s interesting, but I’ve never seen a Space Jams machine outside of the Jacksonville, but they seem to be at a few different locations.

+Video Game Rescue, 2415 Blanding Blvd, Jacksonville, FL 32210

The collection of machines here is really nostalgic for those of us who grew up in the 90s, but great for anyone, including Ninja Turtles, Ghostbusters,

Super Mario Bros, Street Fighter,

and another Space Jams!

There are other vintage arcade games like Pacman and this is also a video game store where you can purchase games to play at home. Open daily through the early evening.

+Solids and Stripes Billiards, 175 Blanding Blvd #4, Orange Park, FL 32073

A bar where you can play pool with a side of pinball.

The Addams Family is one of the most popular machines of all time, and I personally love the Sopranos because it’s a great machine and I enjoyed the show. What was really exciting for me was the Golden Eye pinball, because I’d never seen it until this bar!

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Art Around Jacksonville, Florida

If you’re on a budget, but still enjoy fine art, there is no shortage of opportunity in Jacksonville. Be sure to mark your calendar and fit in the right day to visit these museums.

+Cummer Museum, 829 Riverside Ave, Jacksonville, FL 32204

A museum on the smaller side, though it does have 5,000 works in its permanent collection, is perfect for an hour or two of browsing. The range of artwork here is huge from 2100 BC to the 21st century. There is a great wealth of Early Meissen Porcelain, which is the first European hard-paste porcelain from the 1700s.

I was happy to see a piece from one of my favorite artists, Norman Rockwell. It was called Second Holiday and accompanied a short story that made me tear up.

The Yeamans, an elderly couple whose doctor told them to travel to the Mayo Clinic – treated this trip like an extravagant vacation, instead of succumbing to the terrible news of the wife’s condition. Nightfall at the Hangar is a piece from the 1930s that seemed alien to me, but would have been a contemporary scene.

Painted the same year as the Hindenburg disaster, but it is a mystery of whether before or after. Dreamlike June Morning, from the end of WWII.

A unique Double Self Portrait which shows Duke Ellington inside the reflection of the artists glasses.

I instantly recognized the distinct work of Florida native Rattner, from the time I visited his museum on the Gulf Coast.

My favorite piece was an eclectic contemporary work on grainy wood with old radios piled beneath it called Pago Pago.

I really welcomed all of the history and tidbits I got from the posted descriptions here – adding to my experience of enjoying the art.

Once finished with the few wings I went outside to enjoy one of the loveliest gardens, which is listed on the national historic register.

I was impressed by the Cummer oak arms spreading over to shade the garden. It is approximately 200 years old and 80 feet tall with a 21’ circumference.

An English, Italian, and Olmstead garden each with its own charm.

At a quiet time I couldn’t imagine a lovelier location.

The breeze from the St. Johns River is perfect, cools you down even on a hot day.

It is such a shame that the recent Hurricane Irma has thoroughly devastated the garden. Although there is no reopen date set as of now, I am truly hoping it is restored to its former glory. No matter what your budget is, there are many opportunities to visit the museum for free. Free admission Tuesdays from 4-9 and first Saturday of the month from 10-4.

+Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, 333 N Laura St, Jacksonville, FL 32202

A very small collection, so I would recommending heading out on free day such as the first Wednesday of each month from 5-9, or for college students Tuesday-Friday 1:30-5. I really appreciated the stone books that take antique to whole new level

A piece from a sculptor I’ve seen elsewhere, including the Pepsico Sculpture Park in Westchester, NY.

A wispy gator almost made me imagine I was in a dream.

Outside the museum is rifle with art as well. Learn about your tastebuds and walk through the chompers of a larger than life mouth.

Find birds on the buildings

and painted on the walls.

Murals are prevalent in this neighborhood,

be sure to walk up and down some side streets.

+Jacksonville Lighthouse,W Union St. and N Pearl St. intersection

Attached to a parking garage not anywhere near the water this is a fun and random bit of art in the city to take a quick drive by.

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Mid-range Hikes in Jacksonville, Florida

If three to four miles of hiking is your sweet spot, here are three free trails each with a distinct atmosphere.

+Jacksonville Arboretum, 1445 Millcoe Rd, Jacksonville, FL 32225

If you want to learn how to identify Florida flora, this is a great place to study. There are 100 labeled plants in the park!

Over three miles of looping trails go through a number of diverse habitats. You’ll even find some nice hills. Beautiful sights are commonplace.

Little details are the sweetest. A budding bush.

A set of roots.

A rainbow gradient twig.

There are even sculptures scattered about. One trail I recommend not missing is the Rosemary Ridge Trail. Locate the small gated access point to the Rosemary Scrub made of soft sand.

The endemic rosemary plant is found inside, it is one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world.

+Tillie K Fowler Regional Park, 700 Roosevelt Blvd Jacksonville, FL 32244

This is a local park, popular with dog walkers, bikers, and nature lovers. To tell it true, the trails are a little confusing here – not always marked the best. However, I had a really wonderful time getting lost in the woods – which aren’t all that big. A history lesson is hidden inside.

Around three miles of paths are present, one which leads to an observation tower four stories high.

The view is great from way up high, it’s surprising how far away you can feel from the city.

But it was at ground level where I saw all the wildlife. An armadillo scrounged for some ants.

A pileated woodpecker cackling so loud the whole forest could hear, and I was able to spot it.

+Gourd Island, 10170-10310 Russell Sampson Rd, St Johns, FL 32259

If solitude is what you seek, you may not see anyone else on this four mile RT lollipop loop trail. The environment of the hike is mostly wetlands and pines.

However, there is interesting flora around for those with a keen eye.

A lone wild iris sprouted up tall.

A gathering of interesting bugs on a few blades of grass.

This area was saved from logging and is now a peaceful place. You may see gopher tortoise, deer, otter, birds and gators.

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