A wide variety of entertainment and lifestyle options appeal to residents and visitors alike. But the best part may be finding “it's easier here.”
When Grant Thornton opened its Jacksonville office in 2016, it had no problem recruiting staff from other offices of the accounting firm to relocate.
Julie Lamey, partner-in-charge of the office, says workers were attracted to the warmer climate and the natural beauty of the area.
“People were kind of surprised at how pretty it was,” she says.
Not only experienced accountants, but young graduating students also find the lifestyle appealing. Jacksonville University attracts students from all 50 states and several foreign countries, says university President Tim Cost, and 75% of them decide to remain in the area after graduation.
Lamey says Grant Thornton workers like the different “vibe” you can find in various neighborhoods of Jacksonville, from the artsy culture of districts near downtown like Five Points and Riverside to the laid-back atmosphere of the beaches.
“You can pick the culture that you like,” Lamey says. “Jacksonville’s a very easy place to live.”
Visit Jacksonville, the organization that promotes tourism, says the same thing. It recently unveiled a new slogan, “It’s Easier Here,” to describe why people love to visit.
“Unlike other major Florida cities with their overcrowded beaches, long lines and heinous traffic, Jacksonville offers visitors an easier vacation; one that’s still rich with art and culture, exciting outdoor adventures and thrilling sporting events; but at a slower, easier, more relaxed pace,” it says.
Katie Mitura, vice president for marketing and communications with Visit Jacksonville, says Florida tourists often overlook Northeast Florida when they think about the big attractions in the state.
“They don’t necessarily think of Jacksonville,” she says.
But she says Jacksonville has a lot to offer vacationers. “You don’t have to have a reservation to walk into a top restaurant. And we just have beautiful parks, amazing waterways.”
Duval County alone has 1,100 miles of shoreline along the oceanfront and other waterways, and 80,000 acres of public parks.
Travel guide book publisher Lonely Planet recently ranked Jacksonville ninth on its list of the world’s “best value destinations,” the only U.S. city to make the list.
Lonely Planet says the area’s beaches, surfing, art and live music have been overlooked by travelers. “There are long stretches of the St. Johns River, the Intracoastal Waterway and America’s largest urban park system to explore on foot, by bike or — best of all — on a guided kayak tour.
“Barbecue joints and beachside cafes offer good value and family-friendly dining, while a pint of craft beer at one of eight local breweries can be priced as low as $3.50. Not only is Jacksonville affordable for sleeping (with the lowest hotel rates in the state), but you can feel as if you’re discovering somewhere new.”
Lonely Planet is just one in a long list of travel guides that praise Jacksonville.
Expedia’s Viewfinder travel blog last year named Jacksonville as one of “21 supercool U.S. cities.”
“Don’t let it fool you: Florida isn’t all sultry, sizzling clubs and glistening, tanned beach worshippers. There’s also a more counterculture face to the state, and you’ll find it in Jacksonville,” it says.
The blog cited innovative art at places like the Cummer Museum and interesting events like the Riverside Craft Beer Festival and the Jacksonville Jazz Festival.
Jacksonville restaurants are also getting praise.Forbes Travel Guide named Jacksonville as one of “5 surprising foodie cities” to visit, citing its “melting pot of cuisines.” Forbes cited fresh seafood as an obvious attraction in an oceanfront community.
Spoon University cited Metro Diner, a homegrown restaurant with a number of locations in Northeast Florida, as the ninth best place in the country for chicken and waffles.
For wine lovers, an unexpected treat for visitors to the region is Flagler Beachfront Winery — where “great wine is made oceanside” — in Flagler Beach.