Thursday, September 13

Welcome People Fleeing a Hurricane to Jacksonville

cummer art museum garden jax
If you are fleeing the devastation of a hurricane elsewhere in the South, welcome to Jacksonville, Florida. New Jax Witty would like to take this opportunity to give you some advice in order to help facilitate a pleasant stay in my new hometown. I was new to Jacksonville once myself, so I understand if you want to just hide at your hotel or family member's trailer home.

First off, if you don't have a car to use, you're not going anywhere, so just walk around the room once in a while to avoid bedsores. If you have a spare hour or two in each direction, you can take the bus. Don't be fooled by the number of locals who seem to walk places...I have no idea how they ever get anywhere. If you have a swanky hotel on the ocean or river, then you can walk around. The beaches are nice here, and they are currently not seeing hurricane-force winds. And the river isn't currently flooding downtown. However, downtown isn't terribly walkable or all that interesting, but it's OK, especially if you've never been to a big city before.

Assuming you do have a car, then you'll still spend a lot of time getting anywhere. Traffic here can be bad, but it's worse because you and other people are vacationing here while the rest of us go about our business of getting into daily traffic jams. You might think the weekends are better, but that's as long as you're not going shopping. I would say go to the shopping and tourist places during the day on a weekday. It's not the worst traffic in the country by any means, but the fact that it's so spread out means that if there's congestion, you'll be driving slowly for a long time.

There's some stuff to do here. Here are a few from Tripadvisor that we've done:

Big Talbot Island State Park - It's a nice walk. Wear sunscreen.
The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens - A decent art museum that's free once in a while.
Little Talbot Island State Park - I don't remember it being much different that Big Talbot Island.
Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens - It's a zoo. Birds and gators, etc. Get 50% off with your local pass.
Riverside/Avondale Historic District - The closest thing to an old, fancy part of town we have.
Atlantic Beach - Atlantic, Neptune, Jacksonville. All nice beaches. Restaurants and whatnot.
St Johns Town Center - A big outdoor mall.
Fort Caroline National Memorial - See where the French first tried to settle here.
Friendship Fountain - It's a fountain.
Jacksonville Arboreteum & Gardens - Some nice walks. Not as many flowers as we'd hoped.
Museum of Science and History - Decent little museum. Kids liked it.
Castaway Island Preserve - Nature walk with some markers and learning opportunities.

Keep in mind that we've only done about half the top things to do in our new hometown, so read some reviews on the others. If you're not into nature walks, that does limit you a bit. And if you do nature walks over and over, you won't be into them anymore at some point.

We've tried even fewer of the iconic restaurants here. In fact, we have yet to try any of the top 20 local joints. Sorry. What we do know is that service is slow here compared to the Midwest (where we're from). But you're probably used to that if you're coming from another Southern town, so no big deal. You've got nothing but time right now, anyhow.

If you're into people-watching, this is Florida, so feel free. Don't be creepy or anything, and don't try to approach the local wildlife. Just enjoy the show, and don't leave your car running in a gas station parking lot--it's like leaving food in your tent in the woods.

Mainly, it's a blessing that you were able to get away to avoid the hurricane where you're from. It's better to be safe in Jacksonville than in the path of the storm, and we are glad you came to stay with us. We know you're dealing with a lot right now, so most of us will be on our best behavior. We've been through hurricanes ourselves, and we know it's not any fun.

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