A Black Travel Guide to Jacksonville
Black travelers who are looking for a Florida getaway that will be memorable and adventurous yet laid-back, you can count on Jacksonville to deliver!
In the words of D.J. Easy E, welcome to Duuuuvalllll! Affectionately known as “Jax,” not only is Jacksonville the largest city in Florida but the largest in the United States. The “River City” is known for its gorgeous skyline, beautiful waterways, beaches, vibrant culinary scene, artsy vibes and a deep-rooted history.
Any Historical Sites?
If this is your first-time visiting Jacksonville and you would like to delve into the Black historical sites of the city first, downtown would be a great place to start! With the Black population in Jacksonville, FL being a little over 30 percent of the total population, the area is rich in African American and Black history, landmarks and heritage.
Once a historic Black neighborhood known as the “Harlem of The South,” LaVilla is now a part of Downtown Jacksonville and is a landing site for historical black culture and heritage. In 1929 the Ritz Theatre was built and from then until the 1960’s it served as the movie house and entertainment central for the thriving Black residents of LaVilla. In 1999 it was reconstructed and became the Ritz Theatre and Museum that now seats 400 and still serves as a Black entertainment mecca with a focus on the arts. As a part of the Ritz’s mission, preservation of artifacts and the culture of African American life as well as others from the African diaspora, is presented here in the form of education or artistic expression. To find a schedule of events, including but not limited to concerts and musicals and to learn more about the initiatives being put forth to preserve and protect our complex and rich Black heritage, click here.
Did you know that James Weldon Johnson, author, lawyer, educator and poet who wrote “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” is from Jacksonville? Amongst his many talents and accolades, James Weldon Johnson made a lot of contributions to his birth home. Not only did he play an intricate role in establishing Stanton High School, the first public black school in town, but he also served as the principal. The first time his poem Lift Ev’ry voice and Sing was performed as a song was at Stanton High School in 1900. It has since been coined as the “Black National Anthem”. In honor of James Weldon Johnson’s contributions to the city of Jacksonville, a school has been named after him, there is a memorial at his birthplace in LaVilla, and there is a park downtown that has recently been named after him as well. The James Weldon Johnson Park is the oldest park in the city and from Monday-Friday there, you can find food trucks, a kid’s zone, and lush greenery. It is also the site for several performances like the annual festivals and the Art Walk, held the first Wednesday of each month.
Here are some other Black historical sites worth a visit:
American Beach Museum - First black beach in Florida.
Kingsley Plantation - Florida’s last remaining plantation.
Edward Waters University - The first historically black college in the state of Florida.
J.P. Small Memorial Stadium - first municipal recreation field in Jacksonville.
Brewster’s Hospital - the the first Black hospital in Jacksonville.
Ax Handle Saturday Mural - This wall commemorates the historical 1960’s sit-in, a dark past in black history but a part of Jacksonville black history nonetheless.
What’s Else Is There to SEE?
If the art scene is more “your thing,” you are going to want to see some of the creative gems from local and emerging artists around Jacksonville! There are plenty of Instagram-worthy murals to behold! The city is full of them with several focusing on black culture and imagery. The College Park Mural in Arlington would be a great place to start. It is located on the side of the old Town & Country (now College Park) Shopping Center -903 University Blvd. and spells out the word “Arlington.” It can be seen from the highway but there is plenty of space to park and take some amazing pictures
Here is a list of other “must-do” ideas if you are a Black traveler visiting Jacksonville for the first time:
- Stop by and take-a-look at the TIAA Bank Stadium where the Jacksonville Jaguars play.
- Seeing the Jacksonville skyline at night is a must. The vibrant blue Main Street Bridge is absolutely stunning at night.
- For a perfect nighttime view of the skyline, consider visiting River & Post rooftop or Cowford Chophouse rooftop. While you're there, enjoy a cocktail or two and small bites.
- Throw on some sneakers or a pair of roller skates to take a stroll down the Riverwalk. There are beautiful views of the St. John’s River and if you are lucky you may see a dolphin or two.
- Of course, you must visit the beach while in Jax. There are several for you to choose from including Atlantic, Neptune and Jacksonville Beach. While there are plenty of eateries and shopping as well.
- If you have the kids with you, consider Adventure Landing, Jacksonville Zoo & Garden, and Autobahn Jax- an indoor high speed go-karting with axe throwing and an arcade.
So What About the Shopping?
If shopping is your thing, you can find just about anything you want! The St. Johns Town Center is the city’s mecca for all things retail but if you are looking to support Black-owned retail while in town consider supporting the following:
- Pretty Pieces Boutique
- Meow and Barks Boutique
- Talk of The Town Boutique
- Tea Posh Naturals Herbal Tea Company
- Auntie Peaches Apothecary
- Jones and Rose Skincare
- Apple Rose Beauty
- Just Schoolin’ Life Boutique
What’s There to Eat?
The Jacksonville culinary scene has been on the up and up for years and there is a plethora of “Black-owned” restaurants serving up some of the most drool-worthy cuisine you can find! As a local food blogger, it is incredibly challenging to choose a favorite Black-owned restaurant in town. So here are a few of many you can choose from:
Cool Moose Café
Austin’s Soul Food
Pink Salt Restaurant
Jazzy’s Restaurant Shut Em’ Down Asr
Celestia Coastal Cuisine
Trap House Chicken
The Potter’s House Soul Food Bistro
Spices Caribbean Restaurant
Hanger Bay Café
The Cookbook Restaurant
Farmhouse Chicken & Donuts
Silkies Chicken & Champagne Bar
Mr. Potato Spread
Team Love Seafood
San Marco Chz Fry Co.
Munchies Food For the Soul
Island Dream Italian Ice
My Season Chicken & Ribs
The Gumbo Man CrabGod LLC
Bawk-Bawk Chicken Latin Soul Grille
CK on Wheels
Best Burgers Jax
Desserts & Coffee:
Mixed Fillings Pie
Jax Bread Co.
Simply Erika Chocolates
Social House Coffee
Icecapade Frozen Treats
Tough Guy’s Cookies
Where Should I Stay?
Because Jacksonville is such a large city and is super spread out, a good recommendation would be to choose a hotel based on where you plan to spend the most time. There are great hotels to all over town, however and there is no need to worry about heavy traffic. Here are a couple of hotels, unique to Jacksonville!
Hotel Palms: Modern, boutique hotel located minutes away from Neptune Beach and the Beaches Town Center.
One Ocean Resort & Spa: ocean-front views, located directly on Atlantic Beach and in walking distance of the Beaches Town Center.
What About the Night Life?
Whether you want a good laugh, a great view, or a night of dancing, there is always something going on that you can get into. Here are some suggestions:
- The Comedy Zone - This is Jacksonville’s premier comedy club! They have a rotating schedule of some of your favorite comedians. The setting is intimate with a full bar and bar bites. If you get there early enough, you can enjoy a dinner from Gigi’s Prime Rib & Crab Leg Buffet before the show starts.
- The Daq Shack - Whether you want a table inside or out, The Daq Shack can accommodate. In addition to serving up the best daiquiris you will find in town, they have a full bar and food menu, great R&B and hip-hop with a dance floor.
- De Real Ting - Not only does this restaurant serve Jamaican food but it doubles as a night club as well playing the best in Reggae and Caribbean vibes.
- Cuba Libre Ultra Lounge - This bar and nightclub is the hot spot of town! The music ranges from different genres of Latin to R&B and hip-hop and you will be sure to burn several calories dancing the night away.
- River & Post - The roof top at River & Post is a perfect spot for Ladies night or a romantic rendezvous. Downstairs you will find a full seafood restaurant, but the rooftop is where the party happens. Enjoy small bites, cocktails, live music, and some of the best views of Jacksonville’s beautiful skyline.
- Adult Late Skate -a fun adventure for adult roller skaters! Enjoy a 25 and up crowd while skating to the latest hits!
- Breezy Jazz House - Classy establishment with live music from Jazz musicians. Great ambiance, great food, and great music.
From history to food, Jacksonville is a proven destination for a laid back and relaxing get away. After all, “It’s Easier Here”! If you are planning a trip to Jacksonville, be sure to add these Black-owned gems and hot spots to your itinerary. There is a little something-something for every Black traveler to enjoy.
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