Located in the northeastern corner of Florida, Jacksonville, or “Jax,” as locals often call it, has more coastline than any other U.S. city. With its beautiful beaches, thriving job market, diverse neighborhoods, and distinctive food and art scene, Jacksonville could be the state of Florida’s best-kept secret.
The city boasts a plethora of outdoor activities, including world-class fishing, epic surfing, and unique attractions such as the Riverwalk along the St. John’s River. With nearly one million residents, Jacksonville is the most populous city in Florida and the twelfth largest city in the United States.
With this guide, you’ll get a detailed overview of the city of Jacksonville to help you decide whether relocating there is right for you. If you’ve already made the exciting decision to make Jacksonville your home, contact MoveDay℠ to find out how our Jacksonville moving services can make your relocation easier.
Georgia Meets Florida
If Jacksonville is your first introduction to Florida, you may find it different than what you expected Florida to be. Sure, there are plenty of sandy beaches, but you won’t be swimming year-round here since it does cool down quite a bit in the winter. You will find the expected palm trees, but you may be surprised to also see dense pine forests. As far as income levels in Jacksonville, there are a few wealthy neighborhoods, but it’s nothing like the posh Miami Beach.
Since the demographics, climate, and primary industries here are unlike any other part of the state, Jacksonville is best described as a mixture of Florida and Georgia. Just 25 miles from the Georgia state line, Jacksonville has a decidedly southern feel.
Generalizing about Jacksonville is challenging since it’s a colossal city comprised of distinctly different areas that feel like separate towns. One of the reasons Jacksonville neighborhoods are so varied is that the city spans nearly 900 square miles, making it the largest U.S. city geographically. The bottom line is that if you’re planning a move to Jacksonville, you’re likely to find a section that fits your style. Keep reading to find out all about life in Jacksonville as a whole, as well as some of the nuances of each community.
Getting Around in Jacksonville
Before you settle on a new home, you’ll probably want to do some exploring. Here’s what you need to know about transportation in Jacksonville:
- Because of Jacksonville’s size, the best way to get around is probably by car. Owning or leasing a vehicle is virtually essential here unless you plan to live very close to where you shop, work, or go to school.
- Jacksonville residents often quip that every major thoroughfare here is perpetually under construction. A quick review of the Florida Department of Transportation’s Northeast Florida Roads web page will reveal just how many road construction projects are currently underway in Duval County.
- One of the first things you’ll notice when driving around Jacksonville is that you won’t get far without crossing a bridge. Between the St. John’s River, Intracoastal Waterway, and various creeks, there are nine major bridges as crossing points.
- A study from EducatedDriver.org calculated Jacksonville’s average commute time to be a staggering 52.6 minutes. However, If one of Jacksonville’s numerous highway projects is part of your planned route, you can expect the drive to take even longer.
Public transportation in Jacksonville is provided by the Jacksonville Transit Authority (JTA). The JTA offers a variety of services, including:
- Express or regular bus service
- A monorail called The Skyway, located in the downtown district
- The St. Johns River ferry for crossing the river
- Community shuttles in specific neighborhoods
- Gameday Xpress service for traveling to and from sporting events at the TIAA Bank Field
- Paratransit for elderly and disabled individuals
- On-demand Ride Request service
Choosing a Jacksonville Neighborhood
The neighborhood you choose in Jacksonville will depend on your housing budget and preferred lifestyle. Do you need to park a boat or RV in your backyard, live within walking distance to the beach, have acreage for a few horses, or live in a high-rise? Perhaps you’re just looking for a more typical tract house in an affordable new subdivision. Whatever you imagine your ideal home to be, you’ll probably find it in Jacksonville.
We’d have to create a separate neighborhood guide to cover all of the diverse communities in and around Jacksonville, so to save time, we’ll just give you a brief overview of the general regions:
Westside: Jacksonville’s Westside includes several Jacksonville neighborhoods, as well as Clay County’s city of Orange Park. This area offers affordable housing and plenty of open space to boot. Westside is perfect if you’re hoping to purchase a home with land and have lots of family-friendly activities nearby.
Northside: The north side of town was predominantly rural until just over 20 years ago. Today, it’s a bit more populated but is still a haven for residents who desire that living-on-the-outskirts feel. Northside is home to several historical sites and is the location of the Jacksonville International Airport.
Beach Communities: There are multiple beach communities to choose from, the largest of which is Jacksonville Beach. It’s worth noting that Jacksonville Beach offers more affordable housing than the other beach communities. Atlantic Beach, on the other hand, is considered upscale and priced accordingly. The smallest beach community, Neptune Beach, holds the distinction of being virtually all residential with few businesses. Like in most places, the closer you are to the water, the higher the cost of real estate.
Southside: The part of town known as the Southside is one of the most popular areas of Jacksonville, with new apartment complexes and housing developments springing up left and right. Home shoppers will find a large selection of housing, from luxury homes in upscale gated communities to smaller, more affordable single-family homes. Families with children often move here for better schools, but be prepared to fight traffic in this skyrocketing part of town.
Arlington: The areas collectively known as Arlington cover an expansive region of Jacksonville that is surprisingly affordable, even if you’re considering waterfront properties along the St. John’s River. Arlington is close to downtown, and as a bonus, the beaches are an easy 30-minute drive east.
Springfield: The Springfield area, established in the 1860s, is the oldest neighborhood in Jacksonville. Springfield is an enchanting combination of historic homes and trendy shops and restaurants. Scenic parks and ancient oak trees are part of Springfield’s appeal, along with its close proximity to downtown Jacksonville.
San Marco: The popular neighborhood of San Marco consists of a central square surrounded by stores and restaurants. Its eclectic dining options attract patrons from all over town. That, in combination with its beautiful Mediterranean architecture and top-rated art galleries, makes it not only a desirable neighborhood to live in but a point of interest for visitors.
Riverside/Avondale: The Riverside/Avondale area is a hip neighborhood with a young population. This tree-lined neighborhood along the riverfront with its well-shaded parks and quaint shopping district is among the most pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods in town. Large, two-story homes with dormer windows, charming brick duplexes, and spacious lofts provide a variety of housing choices in this walkable community.
Jacksonville is Family Friendly
With such a wide variety of neighborhoods, you’ll find plenty of family-friendly areas you’d be happy to call home. Regardless of which community you choose, you’ll never run out of fun things to do as a family.
Here are some of the top family-friendly activities in Jacksonville, both indoors and out:
Aquatic activities: As a coastal city with multiple inland waterways, Jacksonville is perfect for watersports or just relaxing in the sun. Fish for bass in the St. John’s River, surf Jacksonville Beach, or go boating or jet skiing in a vast array of settings.
Parks: With 80,000 acres of parkland, consisting of city, state, and national parks, Jacksonville reigns supreme when it comes to parks. The city’s many parks make up the most extensive urban park system in North America. The diverse terrain you will encounter includes wetlands, marshes, gardens, wooded areas, and an arboretum. The most popular parks in Jacksonville include Castaway Island Preserve, Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve, Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve State Park, Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park, and Fort George Island Cultural State Park. If you have dogs, they’ll love Dog Wood Park, a 42-acre dog park.
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is home to more than 1,000 different species of plants and 2,000 animals, plus a wide variety of world-class exhibits, such as the recently updated Land of the Tiger and the African Forest. Kids will be excited to hear that the zoo also has a train and a 4D movie theater.
The Museum of Science and History (MOSH) is one of those museums you can repeatedly visit and almost always find something new. Its event schedule and interactive exhibits are constantly changing, so locals know to return often. One of the museum’s must-see attractions is the Bryan-Gooding Planetarium, one of the largest single-lens planetariums in the United States.
Jacksonville has a lot of great schools for the kiddos, whether you’re interested in public, charter, private, or magnet schools. In fact, Duval County is among the top five ranking counties in Florida for schools.
The Duval County Public Schools system was recently given a “B” rating by the Florida Department of Education and was less than one percentage point away from an “A” rating. Duval espouses a highly effective “whole child” approach to education that has improved student achievement throughout the district. Check the school page for school locations, registration and enrollment information, bus routes, and more.
Jacksonville Colleges and Universities
There are also several higher learning institutions to choose from in and around Jacksonville:
- The University of North Florida (UNF): This large university boasts a 1300-acre campus and offers baccalaureate, master’s, and doctorate programs.
- Florida State College at Jacksonville: This is a state school that’s part of the Florida College System and offers four-year bachelor’s degree programs. It consists of four major campuses scattered throughout the Jacksonville area.
- Edward Waters College (EWC): Edward Waters was the first historically Black college in Florida. This private school was founded in 1866 and offers a choice of eight bachelor’s degree programs.
- Jacksonville University: Students worldwide are drawn to this private university with more than 100 undergraduate programs and 23 master’s and doctorate programs.
- Flagler College: This private liberal arts college is housed in a building that was formerly the Ponce de Leon Hotel built by Henry Flagler. The school offers 33 majors, 41 minors, and one master’s degree program.
Sports in Jacksonville
Looking for a city that’s passionate about its sports teams? Whether you’re a participant or spectator, you’ll enjoy living in Jax if you love sports.
Annual Sporting Events
- Greater Jacksonville Kingfish Tournament
- PGA Tour Championship
- THE PLAYERS Golf Championship
- Georgia vs. Florida Football Game
- TaxSlayer Gator Bowl
Pro Sports Teams
- Jacksonville Jaguars (NFL)
- Jacksonville Giants (American Basketball Association)
- Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp (minor league baseball)
- Jacksonville Sharks (football)
- Jacksonville Armada (soccer)
- Jacksonville Axemen (rugby)
- Jacksonville Icemen (NHL)
- Jacksonville University Dolphins
- University of North Florida Ospreys
- Florida State College at Jacksonville Blue Wave
- Edward Waters College Tigers
The weather in Jacksonville often changes by the minute, but, in general, the climate is warm here. There are more than 200 sunny days per year, and summers are sweltering and humid. The thermometer frequently hits 90 degrees, but it feels much hotter due to high humidity. If you aren’t accustomed to humid weather, be forewarned that you’ll sweat a lot and could quickly become overheated when exerting yourself outdoors. You’ll get used to it, though — just be sure to drink plenty of liquids to stay hydrated.
You may be relieved to hear that Jacksonville has four distinct seasons. Spring and fall temperatures are rather comfortable, averaging in the 70s and 80s. Although winter temperatures typically range between 40 and 60 degrees, it does drop below freezing a few times each year, especially in parts of town that are further inland. So the good news is you’ll still have the opportunity to wear your favorite winter coat on occasion.
Most of the precipitation comes in the form of rain during the summer. You’ll be lucky if you ever see snow, but there are other kinds of severe weather new residents should be prepared for — thunderstorms, hurricanes, and other tropical storms.
Here’s what you need to know about inclement weather in Jacksonville:
- Lightning: Jacksonville, Florida, happens to be 9th on the list of top U.S. cities for lightning strikes. During the hottest part of summer, high humidity, combined with the ocean breeze, creates an unstable atmosphere, leading to thunderstorms. Avoid all waterways and elevated areas during electrical storms.
- Hurricanes and Tropical Storms: Hurricane season runs from June through November, but storms do sometimes occur before and after those peak months. Storms that have affected Jacksonville in recent years include Hurricane Irma (2017), Hurricane Matthew (2016), Tropical Storm Beryl (2012), Tropical Storm Fay (2008), Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne (2004), and Hurricane Floyd (1999).
- How to Stay Informed: Even though those storms didn’t hit the city directly, some were substantial enough to cause significant damage from flooding and winds. During hurricane season, be sure to follow all local weather service instructions and track storms in the area using the National Hurricane Center website or Accuweather’s severe weather alerts page for Jacksonville. Activating weather alerts on your phone is another way to stay abreast of developing storms and get advice on how to stay safe.
Food, Arts and Entertainment
Since the “great migration” in early 1916, Jacksonville has been growing as a melting pot of cultures and unique cuisine with influences from all over the world. Over the last several years, there’s been an explosion of new destinations popping up for dining and entertainment. Many of these more recent additions are concentrated in areas such as the Beaches Town Center, St. Johns Town Center, downtown Jacksonville, and the San Marco and Five Points areas.
In a big city like Jacksonville, you’re likely to find your favorite national chain, but maybe it’s time to stop playing it safe. Get your taste buds ready for unique dining options ranging from upscale bistros to down-home Southern fish camps. The dining scene in Jacksonville is unbeatable, and this list of popular local eateries will help get you started on your quest for a new dinner spot:
- Marker 32 for time-honored menu selections with a focus on seafood
- V Pizza for fire-cooked artisan pizza
- MOJO for southern barbecue, blues, and bourbon
- Tacolu for fresh Mexican food and margaritas
- Matthew’s Restaurant for upscale fine dining
- Taverna for rustic Mediterranean fare
- Metro Diner for generous portions of breakfast, lunch, and dinner
- Ocean 60 for swanky yet casual oceanfront dining
- Salt Life Seafood Shack for poke bowls and other trendy offerings
- Clark’s Fish Camp Seafood Restaurant for Southern-fried seafood including gator tail and calamari
Jacksonville Bars and Nightlife
It’s easy to find live music and places to wet your whistle in Jacksonville at night. Visit Jacksonville provides an overview of Jax nightlife and recommends several local watering holes, including:
- Dos Gatos and Bold City Brewery, located in The Elbow, which is Jacksonville’s downtown entertainment district
- Pete’s Bar, Engine 15 Brewing Company, One Ocean, Island Girl Wine & Cigar Bar, and the Casa Marina Hotel are all perfect for unwinding after a day at one of the beaches.
- When in Riverside, stop in The Rogue, Kickbacks Gastropub, or European Street.
- On the Southside, head to Bottlenose Brewing or Cooper’s Hawk.
- Learn about Jacksonville’s craft beer scene by taking a self-guided beer tasting tour known as the Jax Ale Trail.
Fine Arts in Jacksonville
The Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville is the official Local Arts Agency for the city and provides an overview of Jacksonville’s fine arts scene. Here are some key places to visit for art, music, and entertainment:
- First Wednesday Art Walk
- Riverside Arts Market
- North Beaches Art Walk
- Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens
- MOCA Jacksonville – A Cultural Institute of UNF
- Ritz Theatre and Museum
- ABET Live Theater at the Beach
- Friday Musicale
- Ponte Vedra Concert Hall
Jacksonville Shopping Centers
Whether you prefer the simplicity of shopping at big box stores or you tend to favor browsing in small, local boutiques, Jacksonville has it all. Here are just a few of the most popular shopping centers:
- St. Johns Town Center is where you will find name brands such as Tiffany & Co, Coach, Michael Kors, and West Elm. With more than 160 stores, this upscale outdoor mall is more like its own town.
- Riverside Avondale offers a slower-paced shopping experience where you can spend the day leisurely browsing for antiques and unique artwork and perhaps break for lunch at a sidewalk table.
- Beaches Town Center is a stone’s throw from the ocean and so much more than just a shopping center. With plenty of dining and lodging, Beaches might be the perfect destination for a pre-move prospecting trip.
Important Jacksonville Links
You may find the following links useful when preparing for your move to Jacksonville and setting up your new household once you arrive:
DMV/Driver’s License: The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles requires that you notify them within 30 days of establishing residence at a new address.
Voter Registration: For information about voter registration, official election dates, and the location of your local precinct, check with the Duval County Supervisor of Elections Office.
Hurricane and Emergency Shelters: The Florida Division of Emergency Management provides a list of all public shelters in the state of Florida. This includes information on which shelters allow pets and which ones can accommodate people with special needs.
Evacuation Maps: Be sure to plan ahead by knowing your evacuation zone. Even if you aren’t living right on the coast, you may still end up in one of these zones. This is because surge flooding in low-lying areas is one of the most severe safety threats during Northeast Florida’s tropical storms.
Solid Waste and Recycling: Visit the City of Jacksonville’s FAQs on garbage and recycling collection to find out which days they pick up trash in your new neighborhood.
- Electricity is provided by the Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA). This same company also provides water and sewage in most parts of Duval County. Some of the beach communities in the area have their own water and sewer system.
- Internet and cable service is offered by AT&T, Xfinity/Comcast, DISH, and other smaller providers.
Jacksonville Moving Experts
One of the most important decisions you’ll make when planning your relocation to Jacksonville is selecting a reputable moving company. MoveDay℠ has some of the most thoroughly vetted, highly trained professional moving teams in Northeast Florida. Our move managers are ready to arrange everything, including the packing and loading, transportation, and storage of your belongings. Our Jacksonville local movers are standing by to answer all your questions and provide you with a free moving quote.
FAQs About Moving to Jacksonville
Is the cost of living high in Jacksonville?
No. At 95.5 out of a possible 100, the cost of living in Jacksonville is slightly lower than the national average. This isn’t bad at all for a major metropolis where you’ll live 45 minutes or less from the ocean. That said, real estate prices are on the rise due to Jacksonville’s increasing population and the resulting low inventories.
What is the job market like in Jacksonville?
Jacksonville has a fast-growing job market with opportunities in many different industries such as healthcare, hospitality, and the financial sector to name a few. The Naval Air Station is a massive military base that brings additional jobs to the area. As the twelfth largest city in the United States, Jacksonville offers plenty of employment options.
What are some other cities near Jacksonville?
Ponte Vedra Beach is a town just south of Jacksonville Beach, and Orange Park is just south of Jacksonville proper in nearby Clay County. Fernandina Beach and St. Augustine are cities that are a little further away but worth visiting.
What are some of the pros and cons of moving to Jacksonville, Florida?
- Warm weather
- Close to beaches
- Below average cost of living
- Hot, humid summers
- Hurricanes and tropical storms
- The expense of flood insurance in many neighborhoods
Now that you’ve read some quick facts about Jax, you may be ready to start preparing for your move. Whether you’re ready to pack up for Jacksonville or just want more information about MoveDay’s moving services, our relocation experts are ready to help. Contact our Jax team today!