How to make the most of a 24 hour stay in Jacksonville

Jacksonville was officially founded in 1822 and is named after US President Andrew Jackson.


Exploring Jacksonville in one day is no easy task – it’s the largest city in the United States by area and the most populous in Florida. While tackling this sprawling metropolis in just 24 hours may seem a bit intimidating, there is no shortage of enticing attractions to discover during a day trip to the city. Whether you are looking for fine dining, fascinating museums or delicious craft brews, Jacksonville has something unique to offer for every guest, even the briefest of visits.

Where to spend the night

An outdoor pool surrounded by chairs with a city skyline in the background

Jacksonville was known as “The Bold New City of the South” in the mid-20th century.

Omni Jacksonville

Jacksonville measures approximately 870 square miles, so location is key when trying to make the most of a short trip. Fortunately for short-term visitors, Jacksonville is full of luxury hotels on both sides of the St. Johns River.

To get the most of your limited time in town, book a night at the Omni Jacksonville Hotel, a lavish venue in the heart of downtown. Leaving the marble-clad lobby, guests are minutes from the Northbank River Walk in Jacksonville, while some of the city’s trendiest neighborhoods – Five Points and San Marco – are just half an hour away on foot. If you’re feeling too drained at the hotel to explore, don’t worry – the Omni has a rooftop pool to relax and take in skyline views, while Juliette’s Bistro offers delicious Mediterranean-inspired cuisine without leaving the hotel.

Drink and eat in the city center

four separate six-packs of beer stacked on top of each other

The state of Florida is home to over 200 breweries.

Kühne city brewery

Though Jacksonville flies under the radar when it comes to Florida’s food and drink scene, the city’s massive population has given way to a thriving culinary culture in recent decades.

If you are planning on staying in downtown Jacksonville, there are a variety of incredible restaurants just steps from your hotel. For those staying north of the St. Johns River, the Olio Restaurant offers a diverse menu of dishes, from lamb gyros to shrimp po’boys to legendary grilled duck cheese, a hearty selection featured on Adam Richman’s Best Sandwich on the Travel Channel America in 2012. If you fancy some Thai food, be sure to look for sweet curry snapper downtown Indochine, while those in search of hearty smoked meat should look no further than The Bearded Pig, one of the hottest places In Jacksonville, should look for grilling paired with a great selection of local beers.

Speaking of beer, no visit to the city is complete without trying some of North Florida’s best craft ales. Hoptinger Bier Garden & Sausage House has a couple of florid beers that are served alongside decadent pub grub, and is stocked with over 60 different beers on tap. When it comes to local production, Bold City Brewery has a really diverse selection of beers for amateur and seasoned beer drinkers alike. Whether you want to try nitro pastry stouts and pickle gose in their rustic Riverside manufacturing facility or just take it easy with a flagship Mad Manatee IPA in their cozy downtown tasting room, Bold City will delight even the finest of palates. If you’re still thirsty after that, you can continue the party south of the river at the Aardwolf Brewing Company, a stately red-brick venue best known for its award-winning pale ale.

Jacksonville’s main attractions

A jaguar sitting on a pile of stones

The Jacksonville Zoo has been an integral part of northeast Florida for over a century … [+] Opened in 1914.

Scott A. Drake

Jacksonville’s top attractions tend to be downtown, but there is one particular place worth traveling to – namely the Jacksonville Zoo. While this acclaimed institution is home to more than a thousand individual creatures, including lions, African elephants, and jaguars, the park offers a lot more than just its animal inhabitants. The Jacksonville Zoo is a conservation leader, supporting over 45 conservation initiatives worldwide, ranging from the Central African Okapi Conservation Project to strengthening the native striped newt population in Florida.

If the Sunshine State doesn’t look particularly sunny during your visit, don’t worry – Jacksonville’s finest museums are just a short hike from the comfort of your hotel room. Make your way west to the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, a historic institution that houses the largest art collection in northeast Florida. If you’re in the mood to familiarize yourself with Florida’s native wildlife, peer into the cosmos, or learn more about the biological functions that make us tick, head to the Southbank River Walk to see the Museum of Science & History or MOSH to explore .

It would take days after days to visit any of the attractions listed above, and that barely scratches the surface of what Jacksonville has to offer. After getting off the plane, exploring to your heart’s content, and then returning to the airport, you may feel a little overwhelmed by Florida’s largest city. On the way to your next destination, take some time to gather your thoughts, make a note of the spots you missed, and plan your next trip to the vibrant banks of the St. Johns River.

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