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Jacksonville, FL

Historical roots anchor a modern metropolis

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Jacksonville, FL
In 2000, when the NFL named Jacksonville as the host city for Super Bowl XXXIX, many were surprised. The city had long been overshadowed by larger well-known Florida cities like Miami and Orlando. Interestingly, it had spent years building on its historically significant roots; and, in the process, transformed itself into a modern metropolis of the future. Despite its growth though, Jacksonville has preserved some of its past.

Now the 14th largest city in the United States, Jacksonville's location in the northeast corner of the state, where the St. Johns River meets the Atlantic Ocean, places it along Florida's First Coast. Of course, the coast was so named because it was one of the first places in Florida to welcome visitors — from Ponce de Leon who landed in 1513 at what is now Saint Augustine to the tourists who traveled by Henry Flagler's first railroad to vacation at Florida's first resort in Fernandina Beach.

Jacksonville can also lay claim to its own "firsts"...

  • The first graded road built in Florida was Old Kings Road. The 1763 roadway was named for King George of England.
  • The first building built using skyscraper technology was Jacksonville's six-story Dyal Upchurch Building. Built in 1901, the building was designed by famed architect Henry Klutho.

Jacksonville's vibrant downtown serves as its dynamic center. Situated along the St. Johns River, the city has taken advantage of the waterfront to bring people back downtown. One of downtown's sparkling jewels is most definitely Jacksonville Landing, a shopping, dining and entertainment complex that showcases the river and the southern hospitality that is Jacksonville. A festive marketplace atmosphere prevails featuring over 40 unique shops, more than a dozen dining experiences and live entertainment. It is from this location that you can book a river cruise or take a water taxi across the river to the Museum of Science and History.

Also along the riverfront is Metropolitan Park, specializing in picnics and concerts at the open-air pavilion stage. The park also offers a children's play area and a two-story riverfront overlook.

The city's futuristic monorail Skyway Express, links hotels on both sides of the river, entertainment and state-of-the-art convention locations. One of those convention facilities is the architecturally unique Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center, that long ago served the community as the "Jacksonville Railroad Terminal." Now, the Grand Lobby, a pre-function area, is adorned with 75-foot ceilings, towering windows and marble floors.

The river isn't the only jewel in Jacksonville's watery crown. More than 21 miles of wide, white-sand beaches touch the Atlantic Ocean just east of the city to add a splash of fab to this fabulous Florida city. Coastal communities of Mayport, Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach and Jacksonville Beach offer great vacations for families and couples who want to feel the ocean breezes, yet enjoy the hospitality of restaurants and shopping within easy reach.

Also within easy reach are the city's sports venues. Alltel Stadium, home to the Jacksonville Jaquars; the convertable Jacksonville Arena that can host anything from basketball to ice hockey; and, the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, home to the Jacksonville Suns.

Golf enthusiasts can enjoy fabulous fairways, some offering the challenge of maneuvering water hazards. Jacksonville has more than 1,200 holes of golf and some of the most notable courses in the state. Just down the road the World Golf Hall of Fame features exhibits on many golf greats, including Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, and acts as the centerpiece of World Golf Village.

The colorful history of Jacksonville from the Timucuan Indians to the later battles for control of the area between the French, Spanish and later the English is preserved in various spots around northeast Florida. Along the banks of the St. Johns River, Fort Caroline National Memorial comprises a fort replica, nature trails and a museum. On the Southbank Riverwalk at the foot of the Main Street Bridge, the Jacksonville Historical Center offers an entertaining and interactive persepective of area history. Tours are also available to experience Jacksonville's rich black heritage.

The greater Jacksonville area offers plenty of opportunities for nature exploration. The Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve and Big and Little Talbot Island State Parks offer visitors miles of undeveloped beaches, trails and spectacular views of nature.

If you have kids to please, Adventure Landing is the coolest way to spend time. It's not just a water park, but also features laser tag, go-karts, batting cages, miniature golf and more in two Jacksonville locations — one on the west side near Orange Park Mall and one right across from the beach along A1A.

There seems to be a fabulous Jacksonville area getaway for everyone — sightseeing, sunbathing, surfing, fishing, biking, golfing, shopping, dining, dancing and even romancing.

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