A Beach Town Escape
Jacksonville combines the best of a cosmopolitan city with the laid-back attitude of a village on the coast.
Saturday--From River Rides to Chocolate Pretzels
Early risers can watch the sunrise, then take a short stroll over to Shelby's Coffee Shoppe, which opens at 7. Shelby's menu features a long list of java drinks, as well as muffins and bagels. The adjoining Crabapple Tree is a lively gift shop full of souvenirs. Instead of standard postcards, pick up a couple of hand-painted watercolor cards (only $2.50 to $3 each) by local artists.
Spend a while exploring this area, known to locals simply as The Beaches. The Book Mark, a local bookstore, sells paperbacks if you forgot your dime-store romance novel. A newcomer to the beach, Patina, sells home accents and furnishings that have a comfortable vintage feel. If you aren't interested in shopping, head to the beach, and bond with the Atlantic.
Once you're shopped out and waterlogged, drive to downtown's River City Brewing Company, near the St. Johns, for lunch. If you're lucky, you might get to fill up on the delicious sea bass special. But skip dessert at lunch to save room for later.
After you eat, take a quick taxi across the river. Yes, taxi. The S.S. Marine Taxi runs from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and is $3 one way. Take a ride to The Jacksonville Landing, a shopping marketplace across the river. Don't dilly dally, though. The shopping here isn't the best in town, and there's plenty more fun in store.
Ready for dessert now? Take a trip to the sweetest place around. Peterbrooke Chocolatier (pictured) is a local favorite. Stop in the San Marco location at 2024 San Marco Blvd. The store doesn't close until 9 p.m., so you'll have plenty of time to load up on chocolate-dipped pretzels and golf ball-size strawberries covered with chocolate. While you are in the San Marco area, enjoy the Mediterranean-style architecture and quaint boutiques. The district boasts many fine-dining options, including Bistro Aix. Reservations are not available, but preferred seating is (call when you are on your way to the restaurant to be put on the waiting list).
If you'd prefer to head back to the hotel and then take in a laid-back dinner at a local hangout, choose Sliders Seafood Grill & Oyster Bar. This somewhat gritty dive is perfect for flip-flops and cover-ups and offers some of the freshest oysters and seafood in town.
For the party animals, swing by Harmonious Monks on Old St. Augustine Road for an evening nightcap. This bar/restaurant is animated, thanks to the singing waitstaff.