In the mood for family fun? Foodie finds? History? Northeast Florida has a little of all of those things. Learn about Florida’s rural past with a stop at the Florida Agricultural Museum in Palm Coast. The pioneer homestead gives folks a taste of the bygone era. Take a wagon ride, shell corn, pump water and meet farm animals.
More than 75 years old, Flagler’s Marineland Dolphin Adventure remains the world’s first oceanarium. Today the research facility continues to study dolphin behavior and visitors can view these charming creatures up close. Learn about Florida’s rural past with a stop at the Florida Agricultural Museum in Palm Coast. The pioneer homestead gives folks a taste of the bygone era. Take a wagon ride, shell corn, pump water and meet farm animals.
More than 75 years old, Flagler’s Marineland Dolphin Adventure remains the world’s first oceanarium. Today the research facility continues to study dolphin behavior and visitors can view these charming creatures up close. Make reservations ahead for special dolphin encounters. The First Coast is rapidly becoming the Foodie Coast. Fresh, local and organic are the current bywords. When in doubt, ask the locals.
Foodies will rejoice at St. Augustine’s The Floridian Restaurant where they can enjoy farm-to-table meals with a Southern vibe. The restaurant’s carefully crafted dishes are sure to please meat and non-meat eaters alike.
The big talk in town right now is the St. Augustine Distillery. The distillery opened in 2014 in a former ice plant and uses Florida-grown ingredients to make spirits like vodka, rum and gin. Take advantage of its free tours and complimentary samples. San Sebastian Winery, not far from St. Augustine Distillery, also conducts free tours and tastings.
If you’re all about the food—and let’s face it, who isn’t?—then sign up for the tour at St. Augustine’s Whetstone Chocolates. Of course, you’ll get more free mouthwatering samples. At Kernel Popper’s Gourmet Popcorn on St. George Street, try samples of caramel sea salt, Dr. Pepper or dill pickle popcorn, among its cornucopia of flavors, before settling on your fave.
Golfers and nostalgia lovers will want to dine at The Murray Brothers Caddy Shack Restaurant. It’s a favorite in the World Golf Village with plenty of memorabilia from the classic movie, starring Bill Murray.
In Ponte Vedra, Barbara Jean’s Restaurant and Bar has a great view of the Intracoastal Waterway and outdoor seating. Go for seafood specials like fried shrimp or catfish, or try Southern comfort food such as meatloaf or chicken fried steak.
The St. Augustine Colonial Quarter brings the city’s Spanish and British heritage to life through authentic exhibits including a leatherworking shop, a blacksmith shop and an 18th-century Spanish home. Around the corner, the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum pleases swashbucklers with one of the world’s largest collections of genuine pirate artifacts. There are plenty of enjoyable interactive exhibits as well. A combined ticket saves money. Or join a pirate crew on the Black Raven for daytime family outings or evening cruises.
Teens won’t complain about the frightful experience of a ghost tour, especially popular around Halloween. Explore the darker side of the nation’s oldest city including the town’s most haunted building, the “Old Jail,” for an up-close-and-personal encounter.
Kids of all ages like to ride the antique J&S Carousel at Davenport Park, just north of the historic district. And you don’t want to miss three stories of odd and unusual exhibits collected from around the world at the interactive and educational Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium.
St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park’s Crocodile Crossing features a zip-line course with an aerial view of crocodiles, alligators, birds and other animals.
Narrated horse-drawn carriage rides in St. Augustine offer an idyllic romantic or memorable family outing. Many carriages can accommodate up to 12 comfortably.
There are no chain restaurants in St. Augustine’s Old Town—only independent establishments serving local seafood and produce.
On the last Saturday of each month, St. Augustine’s Uptown Saturday Night brings locals and tourists together for live music, refreshments, book signings, antique stores and shops between Ripley’s Museum and the Mission Nombre de Dios, the latter of which provides free parking.
Walter’s Reef Café, operated by First Coast Technical College’s award-winning School of Culinary Arts, is one of St. Augustine’s hidden culinary gems. The café prepares students for careers as culinary professionals while providing a dining experience for the public. Located on campus, the café is open to all for lunch from 11 AM to 1 PM, Tuesday to Thursday, when classes are in session.
Are you a hot shot? See if you can make it onto the Wall of Flame at the Hot Shot Bakery n’ Café by tasting a chocolate-dipped locally grown datil pepper treasured by the Minorcan community.
Cool down with an Elvis popsicle made with peanut butter, banana and honey at The Hyppo Gourmet Ice Pops.
Whetstone Chocolates on King Street offers free tours and tastings.
Stop in at the Spice & Tea Exchange in St. Augustine’s historic district. Following the framework of an 18th-century trading post, displays of teas and spices evoke a sense of yesteryear.
Next, tour the handcrafted operations at the St. Augustine Distillery. Be sure to check out the Ice Plant cocktail bar and restaurant.
The Murray Brothers Caddy Shack Restaurant ranks as a casual dining favorite at World Golf Village with plenty of memorabilia from the pop movie.
Cap’s on the Water and Aunt Kate’s are two popular waterfront eateries in nearby Vilano Beach. St. Augustine’s quirky Lightner Museum showcases American Victorian-era pieces, housed within the former historic Hotel Alcazar.
Narrated horse-drawn carriage rides offer an idyllic romantic or memorable family outing. Many carriages can accommodate up to 12 comfortably.
The shrimping industry originated in Fernandina but the “best fried shrimp” debate is hottest between Singleton’s Seafood Shack in Atlantic Beach and St. Augustine’s Barnacle Bill’s and O’Steen’s.
Kicking back and watching boats go by is a favorite pastime. Creative combinations and a comfortable adult atmosphere are behind Marker 32’s success.
Gather the family for reliably good fried seafood and a parade of boats from runabouts to yachts at Lulu’s Waterfront Grille in Ponte Vedra Beach or Cap’s and Salt Water Cowboy’s in St. Augustine. Ethnic picks: For Thai, Indochine downtown. Asian fusion?Definitely Blue Bamboo. French cuisine stars at Orsay in Avondale, JJ’s in Jacksonville and Ponte Vedra Beach and Bistro de Leon in St. Augustine. Shoes and shirts of almost any kind will get you in for seafood at Singleton’s in Mayport, Lulu’s Waterfront Grille in Palm Valley or Salt Water Cowboy’s in St. Augustine. Azurea at One Ocean Resort & Spa in Atlantic Beach and 95 Cordova Restaurant at the Casa Monica Hotel in St. Augustine serve food to match their white linen settings. What Ragtime Tavern & Seafood Grill in Atlantic Beach started with its brewpub almost 30 years ago has grown like yeast, filling the area with microbreweries and brewpubs: A1A Aleworks in St. Augustine
Jacksonville’s nightlife is filled with bars, pubs and live music venues. Bar hop, dance the night away or buy that happy-hour cocktail—it’s all ready for the taking in vibrant neighborhoods like Riverside, downtown, Avondale and San Marco.
At Jacksonville Landing in the downtown area, attend a show or a festival, view fireworks or simply people watch. There are more than a dozen dining choices as well as an eclectic array of retail shops. The Landing also hosts special events, such as free live music on Friday nights.
Jacksonville is a leader in Florida’s booming craft beer scene. One way to experience all it has to offer is on the Jax Ale Trail, a self-guided tour of the city’s award-winning craft breweries. Grab a Jax Ale Trail Craft Beer Passport and get a stamp at each of the local stops, which include Bold City, Green Room, Pinglehead and Zeta Brewing.
In downtown Fernandina Beach, The Patio Place provides a comfortable backdrop to indulge in sweet or savory crepes and sit outside after a long day on the beach.
The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is home to more than 2,000 rare and exotic animals and 1,000 varieties of plants. Guests can walk along a 1,400-foot-long boardwalk and observe the herds in a large, open environment called the Plains of East Africa and the Land of the Tiger, which opened in 2014 and features five tigers. The zoo recently introduced RiverQuest Airboat and Kayak Ecotours. Visitors can explore the Trout River via an exciting airboat ride and learn about the native wildlife of the region or opt for a more relaxing self-guided ecotour via kayak.
East of Jacksonville International Airport, Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary provides a safe, loving, forever home for endangered big cats. Tours on select days educate the public about the plight of big cats in the wild and captivity. Visit at feeding times for memorable images of tigers, lions, cougars, leopards, bobcats and foxes.
A family outing to the ballpark doesn’t need to break the bank. Sports enthusiasts can cheer for the Jacksonville Suns, a double-A minor league baseball team on Bragan Field at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. Tickets to the NFL Jacksonville Jaguars games at EverBank Field come at a heftier price tag.
Near Jacksonville, Royal Palm Village Wine & Tapas in Atlantic Beach serves wine and beer in its retail shop; there’s also a restaurant. Choose from 1,200 bottles of fine wine and 14 rotating drafts to pair with creative tapas made from farm-to-table seasonal fresh ingredients.
In Jacksonville, the Riverside Arts Market, open every Saturday from March through December, includes live entertainment, a farmers market and artists selling their wares. See Jacksonville from the water aboard the Foxy Ladywhile noshing on brunch, lunch or dinner menu items. Hungry for sushi and Japanese? Try Tomo. Peruvian calls for Ceviche Jax at the corner of Atlantic Boulevard and Seminole Road. The San Marco Dining District features some of the best chefs in the city; try Matthew’s, Taverna or Bistro AIX. In Riverside and Five Points, climb the stairs at Black Sheep Restaurant for one of the hottest rooftop bars in the city or make it a progressive dinner with stops at The Mossfire Grill & Lounge and O’Brothers Irish Pub.
Tree Hill Nature Center, 50 acres in the center of Jacksonville, is the perfect place for kids and adults to connect with nature. The hands-on Children’s Museum, on Beach Boulevard in Jacksonville, has managed to fit an entire town into its 8,500-square-foot space. Servers pour pretend milkshakes at a 1950s-themed café, tellers work at the Kids Mini Bank and all sorts of townsfolk shop at the Winn-Dixie Lil’ Grocery. Twenty exhibits encourage kids to take on the roles of grown-up workers or use costumes and puppets to enter a world of complete fantasy.
The parking lot is always full at Latitude 30 thanks to its mix of upscale bowling, live music, food, bar, banks of TVs and arcade games. Freebird Live in Jacksonville Beach keeps the Lynyrd Skynyrd vibe humming with live performances in a variety of genres. On Wednesday nights, join the locals at the Casa Marina Hotel for good bar noshes, live music and a great view.
For breakfast, try to snag a table at Metro Diner in San Marco or dine with the politicos at The Fox in Avondale. Meet the neighborhood at The Brick in Avondale, Taverna or The Grotto in San Marco, Burrito Gallery in downtown Jacksonville, Uptown Market in Springfield, Pele’s Wood Fire in Five Points, Ragtime in Atlantic Beach and Slider’s in Neptune Beach.
Chefs are growing their own herbs and vegetables. Chef Joshua Agan at b.b.’s in Jacksonville grows his on the rooftop (don’t miss the duck wontons). Although most fine-dining establishments are stand-alones such as Matthew’s in Jacksonville and David’s in Fernandina, hotels have become competition.
Café Karibo and Karibrew Brew Pub in Fernandina Beach, Pinglehead Brewing in Orange Park, Green Room and Engine 15 Brewing in Jacksonville Beach and River City Brewing Co., Intuition Ale Works and Bold City Brewery in Jacksonville are some of the great breweries in the Jacksonville area.
For a family-friendly evening, head to Jacksonville Beach for moonlight movies and concerts at the oceanfront Sea Walk Pavilion.
On Amelia Island, stop in at the Elizabeth Pointe Lodge, an award-winning bed and breakfast, which is now open to the public for breakfast and lunch. The Verandah Restaurant at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation upholds a reputation for outstanding fresh seafood. Try an after-dinner drink at the state’s oldest bar and popular watering hole, the Palace Saloon in Fernandina Beach. Chefs at The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island plant theirs, too, and harvest honey from their own hive. Salt in the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, even throws in an education on its namesake.
Even St. Johns Town Center, home of major chain restaurants from quick burgers to elegant dining, now has a local. Chef Tom Gray, who brought Bistro Aix to multi-star status, has opened Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails.St. Johns Town Center has the monopoly on major chain restaurants from upscale to family budget.
Northeast Florida is overflowing with excellent restaurants and activites—which ones will you enjoy?
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!