Northeast Florida Arts and Culture

/Northeast Florida Arts and Culture

Northeast Florida Arts and Culture

Northeast Florida has no shortage of arts and culture destinations. From a symphony orchestra to well-regarded museums, visitors can find something for everyone.The First Coast is proud of its variety of museums, symphony orchestra, which has its own orchestral hall, Broadway Artists Series and annual Jacksonville Jazz Festival. Major attractions, such as the annual Monster Jam of big, big trucks, and the circus, take over the Veterans Memorial Arena while pop performers fill the seats at the St. Augustine Amphitheater.
The First Coast thrives with a variety of museums, a symphony orchestra, which has its own orchestral hall, a Broadway Artists Series and the annual Jacksonville Jazz Festival. Major attractions, such as the annual Monster Jam trucks and the circus, take over the Veterans Memorial Arena while pop performers fill the seats at the St. Augustine Amphitheater.
Wealthy northerners who followed Henry Flagler’s example found Flagler County the perfect retreat for fishing, hunting, boating and restful getaways. Princess Place Preserve and Washington Oaks Gardens State Park give us insights into their lives.
2014 marks the 450th year since the French and Spanish began colonizing Northeast Florida with events scheduled throughout the region, while Fernandina Beach commemorates its pirate era, commercial shrimpers and all the flags under which it has been ruled with the 51st Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival in May.

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ST. AUGUSTINE

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GREEN COVE SPRINGS

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JACKSONVILLE

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ST. JOHNS

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St. Augustine

St. Augustine

In St. Augustine, tours of places like Villa Zorayda give a glimpse into the past. The building was originally constructed in 1883 as a winter residence and was made of poured concrete and crushed coquina shell. Villa Zorayda is built to one-tenth the scale of a section of the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain. Tours of the building detail its historical significance in St. Augustine’s history and review the many unique items on display—there’s even a rug called the Sacred Cat that is more than 2,400 years old.
Nearby, Flagler College was built by railroad magnate Henry M. Flagler in the late 1880s originally as Hotel Ponce de Leon. Now a historical landmark, the stunning architecture and sights at the college include a 68-foot domed ceiling, a dining room with 79 Tiffany stained glass windows and original hotel furniture and art.
For an in-depth look at St. Augustine’s visual arts, take part in the First Friday Art Walk, which includes more than 20 art galleries opening their doors for the evening. Enjoy refreshments, receptions and live music for free. There’s complimentary parking at San Sebastian Winery on King Street, or catch a free ride on board the St. Augustine Sightseeing Trains and Old Town Trolley Tours.
If you want to take in a show, the St. Augustine Amphitheatre seats 4,100 and is considered St. Johns County’s leading multi-purpose arts facility. Some performing acts have included the Goo Goo Dolls, Widespread Panic and ZZ Top. St. Augustine’s Old City Farmers Market is also held on the grounds of the amphitheatre.
Another place to enjoy music and shows is the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall in Ponte Vedra Beach. It features performing artists from around the globe as well as activities and community gatherings. The concert hall also has convention and meeting spaces.
A free series of concerts in the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Augustine presents classical music by internationally acclaimed guest artists. Built between 1793 and 1797, the Basilica is considered America’s first parish.
With their quaint streets and rich history surrounded by natural beauty, St. Augustine and Fernandina Beach/Amelia Island have long attracted artists, galleries, writers and literary groups. Actors find outlets recreating historic characters from native Timucuas and conquistadors to pirates and captains of industry.
In the museums of the northeast coast, visitors can admire cultural treasures as well as pirate’s treasure. The St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum holds thrills for all ages, while art aficionados definitely won’t want to miss Jacksonville’s Museum of Contemporary Art and Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens.
The Northeast region’s enviable shoreline and deep-water ports created an early military heritage, with forts reinforcing the stretch from Fort Clinch State Park (floridastateparks.org/fortclinch) on Amelia Island to St. Augustine’s mammoth Castillo de San Marcos (nps.gov/casa/index.htm) together with south-lying Fort Matanzas (nps.gov/foma/index.htm). Fascinating tours of these fortresses are offered daily.
The railroad was an important driving force behind The First Coast’s development and St. Augustine reveres Henry Flagler, who not only brought the railroad to town, but also spearheaded the construction of several beautiful hotels and churches. One former hotel now houses the Lightner Museum (lightnermuseum.org) where its varied accumulation of artifacts includes a remarkable collection of Tiffany glass and Gilded Age treasures.

Green Cove Springs

Green Cove Springs

In February, the town of Green Cove Springs holds its annual Northeast Florida Scottish Highland Games & Festival. For a year-round glimpse at the region’s Scottish connection, just visit its historic and military museums.

Jacksonville

In downtown Jacksonville, the monthly First Wednesday Art Walk covers 15-plus blocks of arts and culture. Check out more than 40 galleries, museums, cultural venues and restaurants. The tour connects visitors to the dozens of artists and street performers in Hemming Plaza.
From September to May, the Jacksonville Symphony makes its home in the Robert E. Jacoby Symphony Hall, praised for its great acoustics, at the Times–Union Center for the Performing Arts, and also performs at other venues in Northeast Florida and around the state. The symphony is ranked among the country’s top regional orchestras.
Featuring three stages of live music, local food, drinks and shopping, the annual Jacksonville Jazz Festival is promoted as one of the largest jazz festivals in the US. The festival has been part of the area for more than 30 years and takes over 15 blocks of downtown.
Amelia Island welcomes its annual Chamber Music Festival in February, March and April 2017, with a concert that will feature Itzhak Perlman.
Explore Jacksonville from “Top to Bottom” on a walking tour that takes guests to the top of the city’s tallest skyscraper down to a subterranean secret underground filled with tunnels and bank vaults. Learn about Jacksonville’s history, architecture and culture along the way. The tours, presented by AdLib Luxury Tours & Transportation, depart every Tuesday and Thursday.
Downtown Jacksonville features a free monthly First Wednesday Art Walk covering more than 15 blocks and includes more than 40 galleries, museums, cultural venues, restaurants, bars and businesses. There are dozens of artists in Hemming Plaza, street performers and live music from 5 to 9 PM, rain or shine.
The Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville (MOCA), the Museum of Science & History (MOSH), and the Cummer Museum all participate in the Bank of America Museums on Us program, which provides free admission to Bank of America and Merrill Lynch cardholders during the first full weekend of every month. MOCA features contemporary art exhibits of all kinds and programs for families. Its popular on-site Café Nola is open for lunch Monday through Friday, for dinner on Thursday evenings and the first Wednesday evening of the month during Art Walk, and for Sunday brunch. The renowned Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens offers free admission from 4 to 9 PM on Tuesdays, plus the first Saturday of the month. Take time to enjoy its three beautiful gardens that overlook the St. Johns River.
Explore Jacksonville from “Top to Bottom” on a walking tour that takes guests to the top of the city’s tallest skyscraper down to a subterranean secret underground filled with tunnels and bank vaults. Learn about Jacksonville’s history, architecture and culture along the way. The tours, presented by AdLib Luxury Tours & Transportation, depart every Tuesday and Thursday.
Downtown Jacksonville features a free monthly First Wednesday Art Walk covering more than 15 blocks and includes more than 40 galleries, museums, cultural venues, restaurants, bars and businesses. There are dozens of artists in Hemming Plaza, street performers and live music from 5 to 9 PM, rain or shine.
The Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville (MOCA) and the Museum of Science & History (MOSH) both participate in the Bank of America Museums on Us program, which provides free admission to Bank of America and Merrill Lynch cardholders to the nation’s finest arts, cultural and educational institutions during the first full weekend of every month. Housed in an historic building built in 1924, the MOCA features contemporary art exhibits of all kinds, as well as a number of programs for families. Its popular on-site Café Nola is open for lunch and on Thursday evenings for dinner. Also in Jacksonville, the renowned Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens offers free admission from 4 to 9 PM on Tuesdays, as well as on the first Saturday of the month. Take time to enjoy its three beautiful Cummer Gardens that overlook the St. Johns River and its Café at the Cummer, which is open daily for lunch and on Thursday evenings for dinner.
Jacksonville, the region’s urban heart, is also the cultural center. The 64-year-old Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra is one of the few American orchestras with its own orchestral hall and the Jacksonville Jazz Festival is the second largest in the country. Three major museums—the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, the 90-year-young Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville (MOCA) and the Museum of Science & History (MOSH)—provide impetus for creativity and a lively contemporary arts scene while the Jacksonville Maritime Heritage Center showcases artifacts from the earliest French to current time.
Theater fills stages from the Times-Union Performing Arts Center to Theatre Jacksonville, the oldest continuously operating community theater in the country. Florida State College at Jacksonville’s Artist Series brings in Broadway productions. Major acts take over the Veterans Memorial Arena and the Ritz Theater spotlights African-American talents. One Spark, a crowd-sourced festival and competition, debuted in 2013, attracting creators from around the country vying for attention, recognition and a portion of $300,000.
The location of Fort Caroline remains one of Jacksonville’s mysteries, however the Spanish-built Castillo de San Marcos has protected St. Augustine since the 17th century and Fort Clinch has watched over Fernandina since the 1800s. Both fascinate today’s visitors with re-enactments and tales galore.
Towns with significant architecture and a rich history attract colonies of artists, such as those in St. Augustine and Fernandina who are inspired by the ambiance.
Jacksonville may have the University of North Florida, Jacksonville University and Florida State College, however in St. Augustine, Flagler College has taken over and restored the historic Flagler Hotel, which, with its glamorous Tiffany windows and elaborate carvings, was a magnet for well-heeled tourists who started the first Florida land boom.
Collections spanning the centuries from pharaohs to Florida Highwaymen painters, innovative programs for children, idyllic riverfront gardens—one Italian, the other English in style—make The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens a must-see in Jacksonville’s Riverside area.
The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in downtown Jacksonville focuses on the art of today. Together with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, they form the city’s cultural core. Surrounding them is a vibrant arts scene, which puts Jacksonville in AmericanStyle magazine’s top 15 big cities for art. Artists flock to cooperative spaces from CoRK in Riverside to the Art Center Cooperative and Studio 121 downtown.
Theatre Jacksonville in San Marco is the oldest continuously operating community theater and nearby MOSH, the Museum of Science and History, entertains children and parents alike. Florida State College at Jacksonville’s Artist Series brings the excitement of Broadway to the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts, and small, but no-less talented, performers take the stage at the Florida Theatre, St. Augustine’s Amphitheater and Ponte Vedra Concert Hall. Major acts regularly fill the Jacksonville Veteran’s Memorial Arena while the Alhambra Theatre and Dining mounts consistently good productions, often with nationally known performers.
The Ritz Theatre and La Villa Museum hosts traveling exhibits, the popular Amateur Night and a permanent display of African-American history in Jacksonville. The Black Heritage Trail includes nine sites in Nassau, Duval and St. Johns counties and highlights significant locations in the struggle for civil rights. Get the free ACCORD Freedom Trail Audio Tour from the Visitors Center in St. Augustine.
Football is not just part of the culture, it’s a passion on the First Coast. From the Jacksonville Jaguars of the NFL and Sharks of the Arena League through college and high school to peewee leagues, pigskins rule. Then come the Jacksonville Suns, our boys of summer.
The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens (cummer.org) in Jacksonville’s historic district and its downtown Museum of Contemporary Art (mocajacksonville.org) assure the town its place among Florida’s cultural destinations. Other assets include Theatre Jacksonville (theatrejax.com) and an abundance of dining options that help contribute to the city’s lively nightlife and arts scene.

St. Johns

St. Johns

The St. Johns River, one of the few rivers in the world that flow north instead of south, has always played an important part in the region’s development. While Clay County, situated west of the river, is primarily known for its numerous lakes and pine-forested interior, it also hosts a variety of visual and performing arts at the Thrasher-Horne Center for the Arts located on the grounds of St. Johns River State College. Special events, such as the annual Northeast Florida Scottish Highland Games & Festival held in Green Cove Springs every February, take place throughout the year and both historic and military museums document the rich history of the county.
The St. Johns River, one of the few rivers in the world that flows north instead of south, has always played an important part in the region’s development. Visit the Jacksonville Maritime Heritage Center, which showcases river artifacts from the earliest French to current times.

With so many culturally diverse spots to choose from, Northeast Florida will leave you feeling educated and amazed.

Now it’s your turn! Which places have you been? Where do you want to go? Please share your thoughts and experiences with us all!

By |2018-08-08T21:56:57+00:00July 30th, 2018|Northeast Florida|0 Comments

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