There are many reasons why North Florida is such an wonderful place to visit (or live). The climate is spectacular; great for boating, golfing, surfing, fishing and other forms of sports and recreation. In addition, the area is rich in arts and entertainment, fine-dining, shopping and history. North Florida also offers miles of beautiful beaches and waterways, cultural pursuits from jazz and Scottish festivals, to hot clubs and remarkable, ethnically diverse restaurants.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Gainesville Florida . . .


Gainesville is the largest city and county seat of Alachua County. It serves as the cultural, educational and commercial center for the north central Florida region. The city provides a full range of municipal services, including police and fire protection; comprehensive land use planning and zoning services; code enforcement and neighborhood improvement; streets and drainage construction and maintenance; traffic engineering services; refuse and recycling services through a franchised operator; recreation and parks; cultural and nature services; and necessary administrative services to support these activities. Additionally, the city owns a regional transit system, a municipal airport, a 72-par championship golf course and a utility.

Gainesville is home to Florida's largest and oldest university, and is one of the state's centers of education, medicine, cultural events and athletics. The University of Florida and Shands Hospital at UF are the leading employers in Gainesville and provide jobs for many residents of surrounding counties. Known for its preservation of historic buildings and the beauty of its natural surroundings, Gainesville's numerous parks, museums and lakes provide entertainment to thousands of visitors. Because of its beautiful landscape and urban "forest," Gainesville is one of the most attractive cities in Florida.


Sunday, September 22, 2013

October Events in Jacksonville . . .



October events in the greater Jacksonville area from Halloween celebrations to the return of the Sea and Sky Spectacular Air Show to the Beaches. Here's a list of things to do in town from Visit Jacksonville.

October Events:
1-7. Jacksonville Senior Games "Forever Fit 50 & Beyond"
1-31. "Patterns" Juried Art Show at The Art Center Premiere Gallery
10-Nov. 25. "Phantom" at the Alhambra Dinner Theater
8. Columbus Day
11. The 18th Annual Barbara Ann Campbell Memorial Breakfast hosted by the Hubbard House
11. Forward Stroke Clinic with Ocean World Surf Champion and Olympic Athlete, Oscar Chalupsky. Presented by First Coast Outfitters in Jacksonville Beach.
12. Comedian Kevin Hart at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts
12. The San Marco Preservation Society hosts FREE Concert in the Park at Fletcher Park
12-14. Haunt Nights at Adventure Landing
12-14. Haunted Forest at Catty Shack Ranch
12-14. Night Terrors Haunted House on San Jose Blvd.
13. The Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra presents the Music of Queen at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts
13. Jacksonville Bullies vs. New Jersey Rascals at the Veterans Memorial Arena
13. National College Fair at the Prime Osborn Convention Center
13. The Human Race 5K walk/run at the St. Johns Town Center benefiting the Jacksonville Arboretum
13. The 2012 Jacksonville CureSearch Walk at the Jacksonville Landing
13. Dogtoberfest 2012 at Metro Park in Downtown Jacksonville
14. Mythbusters: Behind the Myths LIVE at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts
15-21. Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open at TPC Sawgrass
16-21. "Phantom" at the Alhambra Dinner Theater
17. Gin Blossoms in concert at Whisky River
18-21. The Southern Women's Show at the Prime Osborn Convention Center
18-21. Night Terrors Haunted House on San Jose Blvd.
19. Monster Mash 5K Dash and 1M Fun Run family event at the Jacksonville Expo and Fairgrounds
19-21. Jax Sea & Sky Spectacular Air Show in Jacksonville Beach
19-21. Haunted Forest at Catty Shack Ranch
19-21. Haunt Nights at Adventure Landing
19-31. Spooktacular at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
20. Halloween Doors and More at the Jacksonville Expo and Fairgrounds
20. Zombie Buffett 5K at the Jacksonville Landing
20. Folio Weekly's Oktoberfest at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre
20. The Friends of Talbot Islands State Parks host the annual A Day for Hope and Friends benefit at Amelia Island State Park
20. Bold City Brewery's 4th Anniversary Party
20-21. Irishwaterdogs Invitational Kayak Fishing Tournament
21. Yappy Hour Howl-O-Ween at the Jacksonville Landing
23-28. "Phantom" at the Alhambra Dinner Theater
25. One Ocean hosts the 2nd annual James Beard Benefit Dinner with Azurea Chef Ted Peters, Chef Tom Gray of Bistro Aix, Chef Matthew Medure of Matthew's and Chef Brian Siebenschuh of Orsay
25-27. Florida/Georgia Celebrations at the Jacksonville Landing
25-28. Night Terrors Haunted House on San Jose Blvd.
26. The 2012 Fall Zoo Camp at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm

26-27. Creatures of the Night, Trick-or-Treating at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm
26-31. Haunt Nights at Adventure Landing
27. Georgia vs. Florida Football Classic at EverBank Field
28. Symphony Spooktacular at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts
28. Eli Young Band live in concert at Mavericks Rock N Honky Tonk
31. Halloween
31. Night Terrors Haunted House on San Jose Blvd.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

It's not North Florida, but . . .

I love St Simons Island. And it's worth a look, if you ever find yourself in North Florida.


St. Simon Island, GA is home to fabulous beaches, golfing, charter fishing, spas and salons, and a variety of restaurants, fun events and entertainment for everyone. The unspoiled beauty of St. Simons and its distinctively charming beach lifestyle that is unhurried and under-developed are what make it so special.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens

The Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens is a 120-acre urban woodland full of trails for you to explore and enjoy.

From the trailhead next to the parking lot, a stabilized walkway encircles a beautiful two-acre lake. This trail gently descends about 25 feet from to the foot of the lake and then returns up a gentle slope on the opposite side to the trailhead. Interpretive signs and over 100 labeled plants enhance the loop.

In addition, over two miles of rustic hiking trails wind quietly through a series of distinct ecological habitats.

Along the trails, benches invite you either to pause and enjoy the view or to get in a good stretch during a vigorous walk.

The Arboretum is developed and managed by the Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens, Inc., a non-profit entity that leases the land from the City. Except for special events, there is no admission fee.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Ravine Gardens State Park . . .

A must see North Florida experience . . .

A ravine was created over thousands of years by water flowing from the sandy ridges on the shore of the St. Johns River.

 In 1933, this ravine was transformed into a dramatic garden by the federal Works Progress Administration. Much of the original landscaping still exists as formal gardens and an extensive trail system. 

 A 1.8-mile paved road winds around the ravine, offering motorists and bicyclists a view of the gardens. The Ravine Loop is closed to vehicle traffic one hour before sunset, but remains open for pedestrians, bicycles, and wheelchairs.

The garden's peak flowering period is azalea season, late January to April. Numerous picnic sites, equipped with tables and grills, are available to visitors. The Roy E. Campbell Civic Center complex features a large covered pavilion, auditorium, and meeting rooms that are available for rent. Located in Palatka at 1600 Twigg Street.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Castaway Island Preserve . . .

Protecting more than 300 acres of coastal habitats along the meandering, estuarine San Pablo River, Castaway Island Preserve is a breezy spot to get away from the city neighborhoods and enjoy a breath of fresh air outdoors.

 A peninsula on the edge of suburbia, it’s its own world once you pass through the gates. Ibis and wood storks comb through the shallow marsh edges. Gopher tortoises lumber through the protected pine flatwoods of the island, which is surrounded by the estuary.

This is a gentle mile-long walk for all ages, well-interpreted and fun to follow – especially for kids – with plenty of benches and overlooks along the way.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Jacksonville Florida Beach Activities . . .


Immerse yourself in Jacksonville’s 21 miles of wide, uncrowded beaches. Visitors will find plenty to do, with diverse activities, family fun, restaurants and nightlife, souvenir shops and oceanfront hotels blending into the scene without crowding views of the shoreline.

Start your exploration of the beaches with a refreshing walk along the wide, paved boardwalk or take to the sea on foot. The Jacksonville Beach Fishing Pier launches out nearly a quarter of a mile into the Atlantic Ocean and offers great views of the coastline. Admission is only $1 for pedestrians, fishermen are $4.

Explore the beach’s colorful history with a stop at the Beaches Museum & History Center in Jacksonville Beach. With its replica boardwalk filled with photos and displays, visitors will be whisked back in time to an era when Jacksonville's beaches were the playground of politicians, celebrities, gangsters and socialites. The museum is also home to one of four Visit Jacksonville Visitor Centers.

If you prefer water immersion to dry land, take a surf lesson from a local surf shop like Aqua East or search the ocean for dolphins and sand bars that come and go with the tide. Kayak Amelia offers family-friendly guided excursions, including the Shell Hunter and Island Hopper tour where paddlers discover what the tide leaves behind on sand bars – sharks’ teeth, shells, crabs and more. Or head out to sea on the Dutton Island Dolphin Adventure. You'll not only catch glimpses of dolphin, but also Florida’s birds and manatees.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Shop North Florida . . .

Welcome to the St. Johns Town Center® representing the heart of shopping and dining in Jacksonville, Florida.


The outdoor lifestyle mall is home to 150 of the hottest stores, many exclusive in the market, including Dillard’s, Apple, Pottery Barn and Ann Taylor as well as shops in the palm-lined streets of the Luxury Collection such as Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co. and Mayors.  

As much a fashion-forward shopping hotspot as a dining destination, the diverse palate is represented with exciting options as The Cheesecake Factory, The Capital Grille and Cantina Laredo. Or relax among the Florida sunshine at the Park Green’s turtle pond, life-sized chess board or dog park.

Conveniently located in Jacksonville’s Southside neighborhood, St. Johns Town Center is easily accessible to I-95, I-295 and J. Turner Butler Boulevard and between Downtown and the beaches serving Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Amelia Island and South Georgia.    From the management team at St. Johns Town Center, we hope to see you soon!  

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Historic Mayport Village


Mayport's history began with the Timucuan Indians, who lived in what is now the southeastern United States for more than 5,000 years.  These Indians developed a high level of technological achievement compared to otherNorth American Indian cultures.  Their life styles were recorded by Jacques Le Moyne, an artist who accompanied French explorer Jean Ribault.

When Ribault arrived to explore the area of Mayport and the St. Johns River of Northeast Florida, his landing site was Batten Island, across from present day Mayport Village.  Ribault entered the river on the first day of May in 1562 with three ships.  Upon Ribault's arrival he was met by the Timucuans, led by Chief Satouriba.  After a short settlement, the French were expelled by a Spanish force from St. Augustine.  Spain then ruled Florida until 1821 when it was ceded to the United States.

Historians have no recorded date for the original settlement of Mayport Village.  The suggested dates range from 1562 when the French first settled to 1828 when the area really began to grow.  Early settlers of Mayport came from France, Portugal and the island of Minorca.  These people were fishermen and they thrived due to the close proximity of the continental shelf and large quantities of fish.  

Fishing has been the major economic base for the Village, but in the early days Mayport also supported itself through the lumber industry.  Mayport Mills was the name of the fishing village until the end of the Civil War.  Mayport was also a well known resort town during the 1800s, gaining a bold reputation with its hotels, prize fighters and taverns.  Tourists from Jacksonville would cruise down the St. Johns River for a scenic ride along the Mayport coast.  Boats would then dock and the passengers would dine or stay overnight.

Until 1899, boat transportation was the major access into and out of Mayport.  Since Mayport was important for incoming and outgoing cargo, the Jacksonville and Atlantic Railroad was built to connect Mayport with Jacksonville.  A railroad dock was then built where cargo would be transshipped inland.  The dock stood where the present day U.S. Coast Guard Station now stands.  The railway lasted until 1919 when it was abandoned.  The fishing village became semi-isolated until Word War II with the construction of the U.S. Naval Air Station.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Scenic North Florida Drives . . .

Driving through northeastern Florida and the Panhandle provides a perfect balance between wild nature and human influence. When you think Florida you usually think of all the built-up areas in southern and central Florida. However, if you skip the northern parts of the state you'll miss these excellent scenic drives:

Scenic Drives from Jacksonville

If you're planning a trip down to central and southern Florida's attractions but you want to see some beautiful nature and old-time towns and attractions on your way south, you can take a detour between Jacksonville and Flagler Beach (north of Daytona Beach) on the coast. From I-95 on the eastern side of Jacksonville take Route 202 to Jacksonville Beach. You'll find yourself on historic Route 1, the first highway to travel from all-the-way north - Fort Kent, Maine to all-the-way south - Key West -. On this stretch of the highway, you'll pass through St. Augustine, lots of excellent beaches on the barrier island, and will end up in Flagler Beach, which boasts old Victorian-style buildings right off the highway.

Northeast Florida Scenic Drives

In the Gainesville area, toward the center of the region, you can take the Old Florida Heritage Highway. This 48-mile drive, which starts in Gainesville, takes Route 441, and goes through the historic towns of Micanopy, Rochelle, Evinston, and Cross Creek. Micanopy claims to be the oldest mainland settlement in Florida, with the first post office opening up in 1826. Old and respectful Victorian houses and buildings line the streets of these cities, with Southern charm dripping from the deciduous trees. It was the setting for the Michael J. Fox movie “Doc Hollywood,” where on his way to some great position in California he crashes his Porsche in … well, Grady, South Carolina. But it was filmed in Micanopy!

Florida Panhandle Scenic Drives

Around the city of Tallahassee are the “Canopy Roads,” so-called for the lush Spanish Moss overhanging. Many of these roads feature fancy and tasteful residences that add to the overall beauty of the scenery. For emphasis on archaeology and 19th-century houses, and the Spanish missions that rose up in the 17th centuries, drive the Native Trail. If you want to see the area's old cotton plantations, drive the Cotton Trail Loop. For a calm, enjoyable drive through a dense pine forest, take the Quail Trail. Give yourself time to take in the scenery on these loop drives, as, at a leisurely pace, each one can take up to two hours to complete. A Canopy Roads map will likely help you navigate the area better.

Pensacola Scenic Drives

In Pensacola, one great drive is to travel the length of Escambia Bay, where the river bluffs overlooking the bay provide an excellent view of the surroundings. You can reach Route 10A, which stretches from one end of the bay to the other, from I-10, the highway that leads from Jacksonville all the way to Pensacola. Lining the bay's beach are large bluffs of red clay, which play off the color of water to provide excellent views for miles. From where 10A meets the water to where it leaves off is approximately six miles.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Paynes Praire . . .

Paynes Prairie

This beautiful central Florida preserve was the first in the state and is known for its diverse community of plants and animals.

William Bartram the great American explorer and naturalist called Paynes Prairie "The great Alachua Savannah" when he first wrote about it in 1774. With over 20 distinct biological communities, over 270 bird species and home to wild bison and Spanish horse and cattle, Paynes Prairie is certainly one of the top places to view wildlife in Florida.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Good Eats . . .

Tops in Jacksonville

It goes without saying that picking “best” or “top” restaurants is a subjective exercise. Because no two diners have exactly the same preferences and tastes, compiling a one-size-fits-all list of favorite eateries is not a scientific endeavor. What it is, however, is extremely labor intensive, sometimes contentious, often rewarding and always challenging.

No matter a diner’s preference for flavors and spices, we believe our readers can agree on a few features and amenities that separate the good restaurants from the great. These are the things Jacksonville Magazine looks for when settling upon eateries to highlight in our annual list. For example, an establishment’s attention to cleanliness is always appreciated. In addition, aspects such as pleasing decor and atmosphere, perceived value (regardless of the price for entrées), consistent food quality, creativity and innovation, professional and attentive service elevate the best above the rest. Then there are other intangibles, including how the staff handles a mistake or a complaint from a customer, if the bartender remembers your favorite drink, if the busboys retrieve plates, silver and glasses quietly, and if the manager or chef stops by the table to converse with guests.

As you review and digest this year’s Top 25 list and the various side dishes that accompany them, we anticipate you will see some old neighborhood favorites as well as a few restaurants you have yet to visit. We know there won’t be universal agreement with our choices. And that’s okay. We believe you will agree that the story is arguably the most thoroughly researched and informative article on fine dining and good eats served in Northeast Florida.

Aqua Grill

950 Sawgrass Village Dr., Ponte Vedra Beach, 285-3017

Many Ponte Vedra restaurants have come and gone over the two decades since Aqua Grill opened its doors. An unpretentious atmosphere and a consistent focus on seafood and meat-and-potatoes staples with a twist may explain some of its longevity. From pork osso buco to braised beef shortribs to herb-crusted tofu, the menu covers lots of ground. Some regulars stick to the classics like the fried seafood platter with panko-coated fish, lump crab cake, scallops, shrimp, fries and cole slaw.

Most Expensive Entrée: Wild mushroom smothered grilled filet mignon with horseradish whipped potatoes, grilled asparagus and fried onion straws, $34
Least Expensive Entrée: Eggplant parmesan “To Die For” with plum tomato sauce, three cheeses, and sautéed angel hair pasta, $17
Jax Mag Recommends: Day’s catch prepared First Coast Hemingway-style coated in parmesan, herbs, sesame seeds, sautéed crispy, with a sun-dried tomato mornay sauce and rosemary red potatoes, $22. Aqua Grill knows fish.


1019 Hendricks Ave., San Marco, 306-0100

A few of bb’s dishes have been on the menu since day one, including the Mediterranean chicken salad and mozzarella bruschetta. The grilled pizzas—white truffle, marinated artichoke, Thai bbq and jambalaya—are perennial favorites. However, arguably the best way to go when ordering are the daily chef specials, a collection of dishes that really allow the chefs to stretch their creativity. Seating in the bistro is snug and it can get loud. Arrive late for lunch and the only seat available may be one at the short bar near the door. Sit and enjoy, though don’t leave before checking out the dessert case near the back.

Most Expensive Entrée: Black Angus filet of beef with bacon and shallot potato gratin, asparagus, boursin cheese, red onion marmalade, toasted hazelnuts and sauce bordelaise, $31
Least Expensive Entrée: Orecchiette pasta with spicy Italian sausage, Swiss chard, roasted baby carrots, sundried tomatoes, shaved parmesan and herbs, $21
Jax Mag Recommends: White truffle pizza with wild mushrooms, shaved parmigiano, mozzarella, prosciutto and arugula, $12; And the dessert case. Just pick one of anything here. The slice will be big enough to share.


3556 St. Johns Ave., Avondale, 387-2060

Upon entering Biscottis, check out the big blackboard above the bar to see what the week’s specials are. The dessert case will be a distraction, so be sure to peek inside it before the bill comes. The Avondale favorite offers all items one expects from an exemplary cafe, including terrific soups, salads and sandwiches (try the ancho honey glazed salmon BLT or open-faced meatloaf sandwich). Back to the dessert case—triple chocolate cake, red velvet cake, white chocolate raspberry cheesecake… oh, where does one begin?

Most Expensive Entrée: Tortilla-crusted cod sandwich, $12 (daily blackboard specials are pricier)
Least Expensive Entrée: 8-inch free range chicken pizza with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, $10
Jax Mag Recommends: The mozzarella bruschetta, $10, is a tiny loaf filled with fresh cheese, baked with olive oil and lots of garlic, plum tomatoes, basil, pine nuts and cracked pepper. Two, please!

Bistro Aix

1440 San Marco Blvd., San Marco, 398-1949

For a decade now Bistro Aix has been among the city’s most popular fine dining establishments. Stylish without being stuffy, the restaurant earns raves for consistently delicious food, including innovative seasonal specials and classic menu favorites. Creamy French onion soup, house-made bacon and brie pizza, lamb short ribs, roast chicken and fresh pasta dishes—the menu is diverse, but all the while pays homage to the Southern French cooking roots favored by executive chef Tom Gray.

Most Expensive Entrée: Angus beef filet mignon with green beans, shallots, Stilton bleu cheese and au gratin potatoes, $36
Least Expensive Entrée: Three-cheese wood-fired pizza with tomatoes and basil, $12
Jax Mag Recommends: Steak frites bistro “onglet” steak with green beans, red wine shallot sauce and French fries, $23. The next-door Onyx Bar is a chic spot in which to enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail.

Blackstone Grille – filet mignon au poivre

Blackstone Grille

112 Bartram Oaks Walk, Julington Creek, 287-0766

The River City has too few white tablecloth dining spots. Count Blackstone among those few. Chef Charles Wang characterizes his cuisine as “modern American fusion.” Diners who frequent the attractive Bartram Oaks restaurant just call it good. Blackstone features an impressive collection of wines, capped by bottles of Opus One Meritage, $240. From grilled quesadillas to flambéed quail and vegetable dumplings to lobster ravioli, deciding upon what to eat can be a challenge.

Most Expensive Entrée: Grilled rack of lamb with dill sour cream sauce, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, spinach and asparagus, $32.95
Least Expensive Entrée: Grilled vegetables on a bed of linguine pasta with tomatoes, basil garlic and olive oil, $17.95
Jax Mag Recommends: Tea-smoked duck breast topped with apricot shallot demi glaze and served with roasted garlic mashed potatoes, spinach and asparagus, $20.95. Unusually delicious.

Friday, April 26, 2013

A Day at the Beach . . .

Found along northeast Florida’s "First Coast," Jacksonville Beach offers vast stretches of gorgeous beach, a newly redesigned golf course, a famous fishing pier and boatloads of water activities.


Beach volleyball, surfing, fishing and a wide variety of eateries – Jacksonville Beach has it all.

Visitors and natives alike are delighted by dolphins rolling just outside the surf line. Surfers are drawn to the area by some of the best waves in the region. Devoting some time to Jacksonville Beach and its surrounding attractions unearths a unique combination of history, leisure and recreational activities.

Visit Florida