With winter break inching closer every day, every college student yearns for a vacation. COVID-19 changes the circumstances for everyone, as traveling isn’t always as socially distanced as we intend. The chances of COVID-19 disappearing out of the blue before winter break seem impossible. However, Jacksonville is full of hidden treasures and ones where students can socially distance themselves from others while still taking a mental break from school. We thought ahead of everyone else and planned out 24 hours in Jacksonville, Florida. Packing all of Jacksonville’s wonders into 24 hours can be a challenging task made only for seasoned travelers. Are you up to the challenge?
If you catch yourself in the 904 area code, don’t let COVID-19 get you down. Luckily, Jacksonville provides its visitors with plenty of nature-filled, socially distanced activities. Get ready for 24 hours full of food, culture and nature as Jacksonville offers the full package. The city sits right next to the coast and dons picturesque beaches, marshes and nature preserves. The city doesn’t shy away from accepting new cultures, art and foods either.
Read on for a flawlessly curated travel itinerary to experience Jacksonville.
6 A.M. Catch sunrise at Neptune Beach
Florida rewards residents and tourists with its remarkable sunrises. The sunrises represent nature’s way of painting as it splashes colors of red-orange and yellow on the sky’s canvas. Sunrises on Neptune Beach hit different solely because there’s no city noise. Neptune Beach houses a large surfing community, so if lucky, you can spot them as they navigate the early morning waves. Bringing sheets or a picnic blanket makes for a comfortable setting as you enjoy the morning rays.
7 A.M. Treat yourself at Metro Diner
Indeed, the most important meal of the day and begins at the best diner in town: Metro Diner. If unfamiliar with Metro Diner, the restaurant serves all-day breakfast and offers large servings for affordable prices. Truly college student budget-friendly, Metro diner offers a plethora of breakfast, lunch and dinner options. The Bissell breakfast offers toast, a stack of pancakes, two eggs, bacon and hash browns for $12.39. Metro Diner surely would satisfy an empty stomach and prepare you for the busy day ahead.
8 A.M. Bike ride along the coast
Now that you’re loaded on carbs, there’s no better time to exercise. Jacksonville Beach offers more than just the waves. The town displays countless shops and local restaurants, enough to take up a whole day of looking around. Surprisingly, the beach also allows for bike riding along the coast. Renting a bike and perusing around the beach seems like the perfect way to get your morning cardio.
9 A.M take a refreshing dip after breakfast
Don’t forget to pack your bathing suit and towel as the beach entices you, and the invite to take a dip becomes irresistible. After a breezy bike ride through the beautiful beach town, take the opportunity to hit the waves. A fan-favorite among the students on UNF’s campus, Jacksonville Beach provides the perfect blend of serenity and relaxation.
10 A.M. ride a trolley on Jacksonville beach
After some rigorous cardio and some saltwater fun, take a trip on Jacksonville Beach’s trolley to rest those legs. The trolley runs around the entire beach town throughout the whole day, so be sure to buy a fare and enjoy the ride. The trolley passes by city hall, the fishing pier, and even the South Beach Regional Shopping center. Riding in the Trolley gives you time to sightsee the beach town and perhaps take a couple of Instagram worthy pictures.
11 A.M. Head to the zoo
Time for a wild ride away from the beach. Jacksonville’s Zoo houses over 2,000 species of animals and plenty of fauna to accompany these ecosystems. Here you can witness lions, cheetahs, elephants and everything in between. Take a rowdy turn into the different ecosystems and species that Jacksonville’s zoo has to offer. The general admission for the zoo runs at about $24.
12 P.M. Shop at St. Johns Town Center
There’s no doubt that St. Johns Town center sparks the inner shopaholic in everyone. The center shops range from Louis Vuitton to the Dollar Tree. A handful of the shops at the center offer curbside pick up if you feel unsafe about shopping in stores. The town center, designed to work as an outdoor outlet, serves as an endless rabbit hole for those looking to destress via shopping. People say money can’t buy happiness, but the St. Johns Town center feels like Disney World for shopaholics.
1 P.M. Lunch at Casa Marina
Possibly the highest-rated restaurant on Jacksonville Beach, Casa Marina houses an array of delectable meals. The Spanish-style restaurant linked to a hotel sits right in front of the beach, providing a breathtaking view along with every meal. The lunch options range from shrimp tacos to Caprese flatbreads and crab cakes. If you’re lucky and come by on a Sunday, you can take advantage of their Sunday brunch, including avocado toast, French beignets and more. On Sundays, Casa Marina makes for the perfect excuse to drink so early in the day with their mimosas on the menu.
2 P.M. Live out your fantasies at the gardens in Cummer Museum
For those who aren’t art lovers, the Cummers Art Museum and Garden ignites the art passion. The historic gardens include the Italian, English and Olmsted gardens, which fully immerse you into a different world. Perhaps you can recreate the “Princess Diaries 2” fountain scene with a special someone. The art museum displays historic and captivating pieces of art that embody the beauty of Jacksonville. The Cummers Museum appears on our 24 in 24 hours guide, but it would be an injustice to remove it from our COVID-19 guide. The museum restrictions require that you reserve your tickets online, so keep that in mind before you arrive.
3 P.M. go to MOCA Jacksonville
Let’s keep the museum train going as you step into Jacksonville’s heart at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The museum began as an art society 90 years ago and slowly transitioned to the museum you see today. The museum perfectly depicts Jacksonville’s beauty and if you’re an art fanatic, it’s worth taking a trip. The MOCA Jacksonville displays over a thousand different artworks from 500 artists catching your eye at every corner.
4 P.M. Visit the King Street District
A trip to King Street District located in Jacksonville’s historic neighborhood immerses you in local art, culture and history. The street, full of vintage shops, cafes and bars, serves as the cherry on top of your cultural indulgence for the day. Be sure to check out Bold Bean Cafe and grab a locally sourced caffeinated treat.
5 P.M. Check out UNF’s campus
UNF’s campus strategically located on 13 acres of a natural preserve makes for an ideal stroll. Take advantage of the Loftin trails and ingest the serenity of the nature surrounding you. Students at the UNF can surely tell you that the campus greenery brings the campus to life.
Lashaune Brown, 20, international studies junior at UNF, loves how interconnected the small campus feels.
“Our campus is the middle of a nature preserve, so it is perfect for people with a green thumb,” Brown said.
6 P.M. Sundown at Castaway Island Preserve
Sunset watching seems like the cherry on top for your art indulging afternoon. Castaway Island Preserve, located near the intercoastal waterway, houses the marshy preserve ideally made for those picture-perfect sunsets. The wood plan bridge that marries the walkway above the marshes makes the perfect spot to watch the sunset with a significant other. Think of it as your very own Nicholas Sparks movie moment. Speaking of pictures, wind down alongside the sun by watching the sun’s final performance of the day.
7 P.M. Kim’s Korean BBQ
After a long day of walking, some kimchi, bulgogi and short ribs are among the delectable dishes that will surely fill your empty stomach. Kim’s Korean BBQ rates highly among UNF’s students like Will Gilbert. The 23-year-old philosophy UNF alumni described Kim’s Korean BBQ as one of his top three places to show his friends.
“The town center is an easy pick, lots to do there. Kim’s Korean BBQ is my favorite Korean bbq restaurant, so that be a good place for a meal and then maybe just a walk around campus and chill on the swing that is in front of the pond near the student union.” Gilbert said.
8 P.M. Southbank Riverwalk
After stuffing yourself like a turkey on Thanksgiving, you may need to walk it all off. The river walk puts Jacksonville’s skyscrapers on display. Walk alongside the river walk and see as downtown Jacksonville’s light ignites before your eyes.
9 P.M. Top Golf
Luckily, one of the gems of nightlife in Jacksonville successfully socially distances the golfing bays, following CDC guidelines. Top golf gives you the views and entertainment needed after a long day of walking. Enjoy the different games offered at the Top Golf. The hourly rates per bay range from $27 to $50, depending on the time of day and the day of the week.
10 P.M. Walk around downtown
Now that you’ve given Tiger Woods a run for his money take a walk in Jacksonville’s downtown and see how the night plays out. Surely it won’t be a Times Square experience; however, Jacksonville surprises everyone. From the nightlife to the bars and restaurants filling up every corner with music and chatter, Downtown Jacksonville makes sure you feel alive.
11 P.M. Escape room Jacksonville
After being quarantined for months, escape rooms aren’t as scary as they use to sound. It probably turns out more fun than actually being stuck in your bedroom. Escape rooms ensure that you won’t worry about social distancing and large crowds because it’s usually limited. Escape room Jacksonville, located in the St. Johns Town Center, assures CDC guidelines by sanitizing rooms and limiting the number of people per room.
12 A.M. Walk along with the sea walk pavilion and jam out
Naturally, midnight would be the marker for bedtime but not for Jacksonville. The party continues with a calming walk alongside the Sea Walk Pavilion in Jacksonville Beach. A return to the beach town in the morning, but now it’s dressed for the night. The sea walk pavilion sometimes hosts live music that blends perfectly with the sounds of waves’ crashing.
1 A.M. Eat at a highly rated gastropub
The midnight munchies come at a perfect time to head over to Kickback’s Gastropub. Plentiful meals and drinks are readily available in this quaint pub in downtown Jacksonville. In the midst of the night, a couple of wings and sliders hit differently. Get ready to feel like a Jacksonville native as the Gastropub ranks among favorites in the late-night munchies category.
2 A.M. Drive down I-95 for a cinematic experience
Feel free to recreate the Perks of Being a Wallflower scene where they drive down the highway and become eternal. Nothing beats the feeling of going down the highway like in the movies blasting music, which precisely pins down why driving down Interstate 95 makes the perfect 2 A.M. activity. Put on your favorite Spotify playlist and jam to the sound of the night and rhythm of the music as you drive through Jacksonville.
3 A.M. A night under the stars in Jacksonville Beach
Finally, the best part about having the beach readily available comes down to spending the night under the stars. Download a stargazing app and find what planets, constellations and stars the sky displays for the night—a romantic option for anyone traveling through Jacksonville with a significant other.
4 A.M. Get coffee at an early morning cafe at Dunkin’
Prepare for a sleepless night by indulging in caffeine and breakfast sandwiches. The 24-hour Dunkin’ Donuts in Jacksonville will surely be the reason you make it to the 24-hour mark.
5 A.M. Prepare for the sunrise in Jacksonville beach
Get a blanket or sheets and seek the spot to watch the sunrise. Do you know how they say no two snowflakes are the same? Well, that’s precisely the case for sunrises in Florida. No two sunrises will be the same because every day, the sky paints a new picture. Enjoy the final item on your itinerary and take loads of photos that will decorate your Instagram feed. When looking back on these memories, you will want to come back to Jacksonville for more.