Today, as a blizzard hammers Chicago, I’m sitting with the windows open and a warm breeze blowing in down here in Jacksonville, Florida. I’m not gloating. I grew up in the Chicago area and have so many wonderful memories of my time there. I went to high school on the North Shore, where much of the John Hughes cannon was created. I met my husband in Chicago. And my daughter was born in the western suburbs. I even have fond memories of the last great snow event, the Blizzard of ’79. Though that phrase doesn’t pack a fraction of the apocalyptic appeal of “Snowmageddon”.
Again, my point isn’t to gloat about our great weather here in Florida. Rather, I’m thinking about how easy it can be to let nostalgia cloud our vision of the here and now. Because right now, here in Ponte Vedra near Jacksonville, things are pretty good.
I’ll always miss Chicago. But let me tell about a few of the places and things I’m finding here in northeast Florida that make living here great. You know, besides no snow and lots of sunny weather…
Riverside, Avondale & San Marco
Neighborhoods are what make Chicago great. The same is true here in Jacksonville. So whenever I’m homesick for Chicago, a trip downtown is always the cure. Some of my favorite neighborhood spots include:
– The Riverside Arts Market on Saturdays for a farmer’s market vibe in an urban setting
– The Cummer Museum for a healthy dose of culture
– Kickbacks Gastropub for lunch and my choice from hundreds of beers
– Bistro AIX for a great meal, often made with local ingredients
– The Florida Theatre for a steady stream of entertainment, whether it’s a big name comedian or a great band
Ponte Vedra and the Beaches (Ponte Vedra Beach, Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach, Atlantic Beach)
Oak Street Beach in Chicago is great from the end of June to the beginning of September. But it ain’t got nothin’ on the miles of Atlantic shoreline here on Florida’s First Coast. For year-round fun in the sun, dining, entertainment and more, the beaches are the place to be.
– If live music is your thing, Freebird Live hosts both established and up-and-coming acts, from Daughtry to Yo La Tengo and Dinosaur Jr.—and don’t miss the annual New Year’s shows from local swamp funk favorite J.J. Grey and Mofro
– In May, The Player’s Championship golf tournament comes to Ponte Vedra Beach and the beautiful Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass
The oldest continually occupied city in the U.S., St. Augustine has much to offer beyond the St. George Street shopping area. From historical sites to dining and nightlife, St. Augustine truly has something for everyone.
– Start with some historic sites, such as the Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in the U.S., and the oldest wooden schoolhouse
– Check out the shopping and restaurants on St. George Street
– Check out Victorian antiquities at the Lightner Museum
– And, speaking of antiques, check out the many, many antique shops along King Street and Ponce de Leon Blvd.
– Lastly, on your way back north, stop in at the King’s Head Pub for a pint of lager and authentic British pub atmosphere—just look for the double decker bus out front
Yes, I miss Chicago…even the snow, to a point. But while my friends up north are digging out, I’ll be happy with my memories and start digging in to some more of the great experiences that await me here, in Jacksonville.
What are some of your favorite places and things to do in northeast Florida? Tell me about them in the comments.