Here's what its like to live in Jacksonville, FL
Abundant employment opportunities, top recreational facilities, and warm sunshine throughout the year contribute to Jacksonville being ranked among the most livable U.S. cities. Is it any wonder that many people are relocating to this popular tourist center? Discover why, whether you're at work or at play, life is better in Jacksonville, Florida.
Where Is Jacksonville?
Jacksonville lies on the banks of the St. Johns River in Florida's northeastern corner. It is 25 miles south of the Georgia-Florida border and 140 miles south of the nearest large city, Orlando. With Jacksonville International Airport 13 miles north of the downtown area and Interstate highways 10, 95, 295, and 795 servicing the city, Jacksonville is well-connected to surrounding states and the rest of the United States.
Living in Jacksonville
Jacksonville is Florida's most populous city. More than 890,000 residents call the city home. However, since it's also the largest city by area in the United States, extending across more than 874 square miles, you'll never feel like you're living on top of your neighbors.
Unlike many large cities, Jacksonville's cost of living is relatively low. Properties are affordable, and you may find that you can upsize or boost your savings by living here. Utilities, groceries, and entertainment expenses are also lower than in other cities of a comparable size. Moving to Jacksonville may be a smart financial decision.
Sports fans love living in Jacksonville. The Jacksonville Jaguars, the local NFL team, always attracts big crowds at TIAA Bank Field. Baseball also has a strong following in Jacksonville. The Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp may only play in the minor leagues, but hometown fans treat the players like superstars.
If golf is your game, you'll get a real thrill seeing the world's top players go head to head at The Players Championship. Ponte Vedra Beach, a friendly suburb 17 miles far from downtown Jacksonville, hosts this major PGA tournament every March. You can also perfect your own game at one of the city's public or private courses, including Bent Creek Golf Course, Jacksonville Golf and Country Club, and Hyde Park Golf Club.
Jacksonville's Best Neighborhoods
Jacksonville has more than 500 neighborhoods, ranging from energizing urban areas to quiet, almost rural suburbs. Research the city carefully to find a Jacksonville location that suits your lifestyle. Will one of the following neighborhoods become your new home?
Living in Northside is all about location, location, location. Once an industrial zone, this friendly residential area north of the St. Johns River is close to key attractions including Huguenot Memorial Park, Jacksonville Zoo, and Jacksonville International Airport. Families and retirees love the spacious plots of land, which can measure an acre or more. The most expensive homes are along the riverfront. The more modest ranch-style homes a few blocks back are great options for first-time homebuyers. The Northside community is rapidly growing, but it's still small enough to give residents a peaceful respite from the bustling city.
Southside is another booming suburb popular with families. They love its low crime rate, abundant parks, and reputable schools, along with its easy access to Interstate 95. Its diverse property options appeal to a range of budgets. Enjoy the affordability of a modest bungalow or treat yourself to a more lavish property in one of Southside's gated golf communities. However, Southside's growing population has brought traffic. Allow plenty of time when commuting since rush hour can get hectic.
For many newcomers, moving to Florida means moving to the beach. Jacksonville has several beachside neighborhoods, but they command the local area's highest prices. Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach, and Jacksonville Beach attract active residents who love spending their weekends riding the waves or rollerblading or running along the water's edge. Young professionals typically gravitate to the condos and apartments, while families and retirees with more disposable income love the larger single-family homes.
Riverside is one of Jacksonville's most picturesque communities. The oak tree-lined streets are charming, with historic brownstones, bungalows, and Mediterranean-style dwellings. Despite its historic roots, Riverside has become a popular, vibrant destination for young urbanites working downtown and the doctors and nurses of St. Vincent's Medical Center, located within the community. They love how close Riverside is to work and the cool restaurants and trendy boutique stores that call this area home.
San Marco is a little slice of Italy in Jacksonville. Built in the 1920s, this artsy neighborhood was modeled after Venice's Piazza San Marco. Its historic estates and mansions attract young couples and singles, especially members of the LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex) community, artists, and urban professionals. The restaurants and retail outlets of Atlantic and San Marco boulevards are an easy walk from local residences.
Orange Park is an easy 45-minute drive from downtown Jacksonville, but living here feels like you're living a world away. The community has a serene rural setting with spacious and affordable properties. If you've dreamed of owning horses or simply having a big backyard for your kids to run around in, Orange Park is for you. As the site of the Naval Air Station, Orange Park also attracts many military workers.
Working in Jacksonville
Jacksonville's diverse economy provides a range of jobs for workers in a variety of industry sectors. Unemployment sits at about 4 percent, slightly less than the national averages. It has also fallen steadily since the global financial crisis of 2010. Wages are slightly lower than the national average, too, but with a much lower cost of living than other large cities you'll still feel like you're ahead.
Signs on the Interstate 95 remind visitors and locals that Jacksonville is “America's Logistics Center.” It's difficult to argue with the claim, with millions of products traveling through the city by air, rail, road, and sea each year.
JAXPORT is one of America's fastest growing import ports. In 2017, the port moved more than 1 million 20-foot equivalent units of containers for the first time. That same year it shipped a record 693,000 motor vehicles, aided by the three auto processors based at the port: AMPORTS, Southeast Toyota Distributors, and Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics. The port employs close to 50,000 people and contributes $2.7 billion to the economy.
Cecil Commerce Center is a massive logistics hub, spanning nearly 23,000 acres in the Westside neighborhood. The former Naval Air Station Cecil Field is home to Florida's longest runways. Amazon, Bridgestone America, and The Boeing Company also have logistics facilities at Cecil Commerce Center.
Southeastern Grocers, UPS, and Walmart also have major distribution centers in Jacksonville.
Military and Defense
Jacksonville is home base for a large number of America's military personnel. The majority of people are employed by the U.S. Navy; only Norfolk and San Diego have a larger naval presence. Jacksonville has several key military bases, including the following:
- Naval Air Station Jacksonville
- Naval Station Mayport
- Blount Island Command
The Florida Air National Guard calls Jacksonville International Airport home, while the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville has its base alongside Naval Station Mayport.
Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay is also easily commutable from Jacksonville. This U.S. Navy base is in St. Marys, Georgia, 38 miles from downtown Jacksonville.
Jacksonville is also home base for several veterans' service organizations that help former military service people in the city and the rest of the country manage their retirement. Opportunities exist at local military-focused groups such as the Wounded Warrior Project, Veterans Elite Services, and the Military Affairs and Veterans Department of the City of Jacksonville.
Banking and Financial Services
Jacksonville has been one of Florida's key banking and finance sectors for decades, but its standing has grown in recent years as finance businesses have moved from high-cost locations such as New York to more affordable bases. The local finance industry is anchored by Fortune 500 companies Fidelity National Financial and FIS. Other prominent banking and finance firms headquartered in Jacksonville include the following:
- TIAA Bank
- Ameris Bancorp
- US Assure
- Black Knight Financial Services
- Vystar Credit Union
Many other leading banks, insurance firms, and financial management companies also have a large presence in Jacksonville. Together, the financial sector employs more than 19,000 professionals.
Tourism and Hospitality
Accommodations and food services employ more locals than any other sector, keeping around 72,600 residents at work every year. Last year, nearly 7.4 million people stayed in Jacksonville's hotels and injected $1.46 billion into the local economy.
Thousands more take day trips to the city. Jacksonville's tourism and hospitality workers help support this growing sector. A range of opportunities exist at large chain and boutique hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions, and other organizations serving Jacksonville's visitors.
Education in Jacksonville
Jacksonville has several quality educational options for students of all ages. Duval County Public Schools oversees many of the local public schools for kindergarten to grade 12 students. This large school system has more than 200 schools and more than 9,600 students. Pasco, Osceola, St. Johns, and Clay Public Schools also operate some schools in Jacksonville. In addition, Jacksonville has religious and secular schools for students seeking a private education. Some of the best regarded Jacksonville schools for K to 12 students include the following:
- Chets Creek Elementary School
- Julington Creek Elementary School
- Fruit Cove Middle School
- Stanton College Preparatory School
- Julia Landon College Preparatory and Leadership Development School
- Douglas Anderson School of the Arts
After graduation, students also have easy access to a variety of tertiary institutions. Florida State College at Jacksonville, University of North Florida, and Jacksonville University all provide quality higher education for students. In addition, the main campus of the University of Florida, the state's largest public university, is only 90 minutes away.
Summers in Jacksonville can take some getting used to. Average temperatures during the midyear months regularly top 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and they often significantly exceed this mark. Humidity is also high, which can make the days feel warmer and more uncomfortable. The sweltering conditions start early and tend to linger. Daytime temperatures regularly reach the mid-80s during May and September. Avoid relocating during summer if possible. This steamy season is meant for swimming at the city's beaches or catching a blockbuster at one of the local movie theaters.
While summers can be uncomfortably warm, you'll love Jacksonville during the winter. Daytime temperatures usually reach into the 60s, and temperatures only drop into the 40s overnight. Since temperatures rarely fall below freezing, snow hasn't been seen in Jacksonville since 1989. The mild winters keep Jacksonville buzzing throughout the year. It's never too cold to enjoy time outdoors or a local event.
While summer heat lingers through early fall, fall and spring are usually pleasant with typical daytime temps in the 70s and 80s. Jacksonville gets most of its rain from late spring to summer. While the occasional showers can spoil your plans, they at least cool down the city. These storms rarely turn violent though. Jacksonville hasn't experienced a hurricane since Dora passed through in 1964.
How to Get Around Jacksonville
Since Jacksonville has such a large area, many residents drive themselves around the city. You can find a few public transportation options, but public transportation often has limited operating times and routes.
As with all major cities, Jacksonville's main streets can get quite busy in the mornings and evenings as people make their way to and from school and work. Taking secondary roads rather than the main highways can cut your time behind the wheel.
Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) has a large bus network servicing 56 routes and stops throughout the city. While the comfortable, air-conditioned buses will get you almost anywhere you want to go, you may wait a while for one. Consult the bus schedule before setting off, since many buses only leave every 30 to 60 minutes.
The express buses are the best options for commuters. While they are limited, buses travel five routes and take passengers directly to their destinations without stopping in the morning and evening. In addition, JTA operates GameDay Xpress shuttle buses which transport fans to and from TIAA Bank Field when the Jaguars play at home. Its trolley-replica buses, which run from midmorning to early afternoon, are great fun for tourists and locals alike. The Bay and Beaver Street routes are free, while the Riverside and Beach buses incur a small charge.
Some locals note that the local buses rarely run on time, so allow a buffer if you're commuting or attending important meetings. The system is also a very downtown-centric system. The lines all seem to venture into the heart of the city where traffic is heaviest. If you want to travel from one side of Jacksonville to the other, driving and bypassing downtown Jacksonville will get you to your destination much faster.
Taking the bus may seem like a smart option on a late night out or when you're working late, but Jacksonville's buses aren't made for night owls. Most stop running around 8 or 9 p.m., and no local services operate after midnight.
Taxis and Ride Share
Jacksonville has an extensive network of taxis and ride-share vehicles that serve local residents and tourists at any time of the day or night. Jacksonville's large area and busy traffic during peak hours can make these services expensive. However, they can be smart choices for getting home after a night out with friends. Hailing a cab is easy downtown, but it can be harder in Jacksonville's suburban areas. If you need a taxi outside the downtown area, call Yellow Cab.
The Jacksonville Skyway is a free monorail system with two lines. Both monorails leave from Rosa Parks Transit Station and stop at Hemming Park and Centration stations. From these stations, the lines split. The Northbank line stops at Jefferson and the Convention Center while the Southbank line stops at San Marco, Riverplace, and Kings Avenue. The ride is always picturesque and offers great views of downtown Jacksonville and the St. Johns River. As it travels high above the traffic, the Skyway is also a reliable mode of transportation.
Walk or Cycle
Jacksonville's large size makes walking and cycling impractical for many purposes. You won't find many bike paths in the inner-city areas, a situation which can leave many cyclists vulnerable to traffic. However, some neighborhoods including Riverside and San Marco are pedestrian- and bike-friendly place. This point is especially true during the winter when the temperatures and humidity are at their lowest. A leisurely stroll or bike ride is a great way to familiarize yourself with your new home or some of the other local neighborhoods.
Jacksonville's Food Scene
Jacksonville's food scene is evolving in line with modern tastes. While chain restaurants still have a place in the city, residents are gravitating toward independent restaurants owned and operated by locals. Acclaimed Jacksonville-raised chefs such as Tom Gray of Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails and Town Hall and Dwayne Beliakoff of The Bread & Board have moved back home to Jacksonville and helped revitalize a scene crying out for new ideas. Their restaurants and others like them have injected class and creativity into Jacksonville's dining options.
Many Jacksonville restaurants have a farm-to-plate philosophy. Orsay on Park Street received a Slow Food First Coast's Snail of Approval award for its use of sustainable, local produce. Its menu changes frequently depending on what's in season, but often includes Gulf Coast oysters and locally raised grass-fed beef. Black Sheep Restaurant and Kitchen on San Marco also champions local ingredients.
While Jacksonville's food scene is on the move, don't underestimate some of the city's longstanding restaurants. Beloved establishments never go out of fashion because good customer service and quality food are timeless. The Peruvian Sub, a tasty sandwich with meats, provolone, and Peruvian sauce, has been a bestseller at Angie's Subs for nearly 30 years. Open since 1939, Beach Road Chicken Dinners serves the type of fried chicken Colonel Sanders wishes he made. For a sweet treat, it has to be The Dreamette. This unassuming dessert stand has sold homemade ice cream topped with its own syrups for more than 60 years.
Best Things to Do in Jacksonville
No matter how you love spending your leisure time, you'll find plenty to do in Jacksonville. This vibrant city has a range of cultural venues, recreational facilities, and much more. Spend your down time in Jacksonville enjoying the following activities.
Visit a Park
With more than 80,000 acres of park land, Jacksonville has the largest urban parks network in the nation. Spending time in one of the city's more than 450 city parks is a great way to reconnect with nature and have some fun. Some of the best places include the following:
- Hemmings Park: Enjoy a fountain and shady trees for picnics.
- Klutho Park: Take in the sculpture park and disc golf course.
- Jessie Ball DuPont Park: Discover the fountain and ancient oak trees.
- Jarboe Park: Visit the weekly farmers market and children's playground.
- Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park: Experience a splash zone, playground, 20 miles of mixed-use trails, and a freshwater lake.
For a little more adventure, head to one of Jacksonville's national or state parks or preserves. Fort Caroline National Memorial is named for its restored French colonial fort originally constructed in 1564. Hikers love the trails at Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve and Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve State Park. You can go boating at Fort George Island Cultural State Park and swimming at Big and Little Talbot Islands. Try your luck angling for a big catch at George Crady Bridge Fishing Pier State Park.
See Some Art
Art is all around you in Jacksonville. The city has several acclaimed galleries and other art spots. Browse the European and U.S. paintings on the walls of the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens. Make sure you don't miss the waterfront garden; it's like a living work of art. The Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville showcases modern artworks that push the boundaries and inspire the mind. The works of UNF staff and students go on exhibit at the University of North Florida Gallery.
Some of the best pieces aren't hidden away inside galleries though. Fall in love with a work to decorate the walls of your new home at The Riverside Arts Market. Held on Riverside Avenue every Saturday in April to December, this arts and crafts market features more than 100 vendors selling their wares. ArtWalk is an after-work tradition for Jacksonville's art lovers. Held from 5 to 9 p.m. on the first Wednesday of every month, ArtWalk features local artists and vendors and musicians showcasing their creativity from The Landing to Hemmings Park.
Hit the Beach
Beaches are one of Florida's biggest attractions, so make sure you spend some time in the ocean. Jacksonville's beaches aren't as busy as those in the state's more popular tourist hotspots such as Miami and Orlando, although the sand still gets crowded during summer.
Jacksonville, Neptune, Atlantic, and Mayport beaches are Jacksonville's main beaches. They're all open to the public and friendly to pets. Your dog will love frolicking with you on the sand or the waves. You can also try your hand at surfing or kayaking.
During the summer rush, arrive early to claim your patch of sand or avoid the crowds by heading to the Northside area. Here you'll find quieter but beautiful beaches including Blackrock Beach, Huguenot Memorial Park, and Boneyard Beach. Enjoy the scenic journey down Heckscher Drive as you head to these more peaceful coastal locations.
Jacksonville is also an excellent place for retail therapy. The Jacksonville Landing's riverfront location makes it one of the state's most picturesque shopping spots. While the number of stores has dwindled over the years, there are still some quality options. After shopping up a storm, enjoy a drink or meal at one of the Landing's restaurants or bars. The Landing also hosts events and weekly live music on its riverfront stage.
On sunny days, you'll love St. Johns Town Center. This large open-air mall is perennially popular thanks to the presence of big-name retailers including Dillard's, Pottery Barn, and Apple. Upscale Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co., and Mayors boutiques cater to shoppers seeking indulgence. Great restaurants, a turtle pond, and a life-sized chess board make shopping at St. Johns Town Center fun.
For a more unique shopping experience, get out of the downtown area and head to the residential neighborhoods. The historic Shoppes of Avondale district and San Marco's retail precinct have more unique, boutique stores.
Jacksonville's Best Annual Events
With warm weather throughout the year, it's always a good time for partying in Jacksonville. The city hosts several first-class events throughout the year. Get to know your new neighbors at some of the following annual events.
- Christmas Made in the South: This annual craft festival, held at the Prime Osborn Convention Center, is the perfect place for finding holiday gifts.
- Jacksonville WinterFEST: Held for several weeks at Adventure Landing, this seasonal event features an ice-skating rink, manmade snowfall, and other winter fun.
- 26.2 with DONNA The National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer: As the only national marathon raising funds for breast cancer research and support, this popular event has various races held in Jacksonville's beach neighborhoods.
- World of Nations Celebrations: Held at the Jacksonville Metropolitan Park, this multicultural festival celebrates the customs, cuisines, and culture of nations around the globe.
- The PLAYERS Championship: It's arguably the highlight of Jacksonville's social calendar. You don't need to be a golf fan to appreciate watching some of the game's greats going head to head at TPC Sawgrass.
- Jacksonville Spring Fair: For one week each year, TIAA Bank Field is transformed into a county fair complete with rides, agricultural displays, a petting zoo, and thrill shows.
- Jacksonville Jazz Festival: Jazz music reigns supreme every Memorial Day weekend. Events are held throughout the downtown area, including live performances, competitions, a jazz-themed marketplace, and the famous jazz brunch at the Omni Jacksonville hotel.
- Gate River Run: Held each March, this fitness event is the country's most popular 15K run. Feel free to slow down to a walk along the Hart Bridge; it's not called the Green Monster for nothing.
- Welcome to Rockville: Get ready to rock at Jacksonville's largest heavy metal music event. Major national and international artists grace three stages on the banks of St. Johns River.
- The Great Atlantic Country Music Festival: Country musicians, a surf competition, and plenty of fresh seafood make this June festival one of Jacksonville Beach's favorite events.
- Fourth of July Celebrations: Jacksonville celebrates Independence Day in style with live music, delicious food, and free fireworks displays downtown, at the beaches, and at the Riverside Arts Market.
- Kingfish Tournament: This massive kingfish tournament attracts anglers of all ages and skill levels from across the nation each July. If fishing isn't your thing, you'll appreciate the food festival and live entertainment.
- WasabiCon: The Lexington Hotel & Conference Center hosts this family-friendly convention celebrating comic books, cosplay, video and tabletop games, anime, and geek culture.
- NAS Jacksonville Air Show: Jacksonville is fiercely proud of its Blue Angels. They come home each October to showcase their aerobatic skills at this thrilling event.
- Spooktacular: Not as creepy as it sounds, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens hosts this family-friendly Halloween event each year.
- Christmas on the St. Johns River Tree Lighting Ceremony: You'll find music, fireworks, and, of course, festive lights at this annual celebration, held the day after Thanksgiving. For many locals, this celebration marks the start of the Christmas season.
Final Thoughts: Moving to Jacksonville
Moving to Jacksonville can help you feel like you're on vacation throughout the year. The warm weather and abundant sunshine make it feel like it's always summer, but that's not all. The vibrant city is booming. As its population grows, its recreational and cultural facilities are only getting better. Unlike many growing cities, however, Jacksonville's strong and diverse economy can confidently support new and long-term residents. Once you've decided to move to Jacksonville, contact North American Van Lines. Our comprehensive moving services take the stress out of relocating to this exciting Florida city.