Northeast Florida

The Watson Blog Home
August
3

Jacksonville is quickly becoming a popular destination for locals and tourists alike and it's easy to see why. "The River City" packs a lot of fun with an eclectic mix of neighborhoods, miles of sandy beaches, vibrant museums, a wide-spread artist's community, and glorious state parks – there's truly something for everyone!

Jacksonville also happens to be ideally located in terms of its proximity to the various neighboring gems, including everything from national seashore beaches populated by wild horses to ancient natural springs. There are so many different places to visit within a short drive, which makes day trips a marvelous idea in your staycation or weekend itinerary. You'll find that it's easier (and cheaper) than ever to enjoy Northern Florida's stunning attractions within the space of a day.

Here are eight great daytrip excursions: all you have to do is pick a day, pack a small bag, and go!

1. Blue Springs State Park

One of the most beautiful stretches of the St. John's River, the turquoise waters of Blue Springs State Park span an impressive 2600-acres of sparkling, tranquil landscape. The springs are also home to West Indian manatees that are visible during manatee season. While the ocean waters turn cold in the winter, the springs maintain a steady 72° all year long, so as the air turns cold, hundreds of manatees seek the warm spring waters. So, if you want to see the manatees, wintertime is a great time to come. But no matter the season, Blue Springs is a great place to spend a day swimming or kayaking, walking the boardwalk, or embarking on a guided tour throughout the area.

Find more information here: Blue Springs State Park

2. Amelia Island | Fernandina Beach

A quick hop, skip, and a jump away from Jacksonville (more specifically, about 30 miles) lies the serenely beautiful Amelia Island – an Atlantic barrier island with white sand beaches and a lush, vibrant interior sprinkled with marshlands. The Fernandina Historic District area of the island offers art galleries, historic saloons, and a mellow, small-town atmosphere. The island also boasts a collection of beaches, upscale resorts, and great golf. You'll find popular festivals ranging from music to foodie throughout the year.

For more information, visit Amelia Island

3. Palatka

For a fascinating insight into a historic Floridian settlement, make the one-hour journey to the city of Palatka, where you'll find old-town charm coupled with beautifully preserved and restored historic homes and churches dating back to the 1800's. A visit to Palatka feels like you've stepped back in time, and boasts a thriving art scene with galleries and street vendors alike. Enjoy a nice lunch followed by the Palatka Mural Tour or, for a more nature-focused outing, venture out to the Ravine Gardens State Park, home to two ravines and lush gardens galore!

For more information, visit City of Palatka

4. Silver Glen Springs Recreation Area, Ocala

Another pristinely beautiful escape from metropolitan life comes in the form of the sun-drenched region of Ocala, featuring mile after mile of untouched natural reserve – the most attractive of which is the Ocala National Forest. Here, you'll find a mixture of narrow valleys adorned by weeping willows, and tranquil springs of clear waters. Juniper Run and Silver Glen Springs are particularly popular for swimming and tubing routes, while the Silver Springs State Park offers land activities such as horseback riding and picnicking.

For more information, visit Explore Ocala

5. St. Augustine

We would be sorely remiss if we didn't include the infamous St. Augustine in the list as this is a major bucket-list Floridian destination. The oldest city in the United States, let alone Florida, is a delight for those with an interest in history, architecture, good food, interesting museums, or simply just appreciating a unique, old town. Spend hours walking the cobblestone streets, shopping in the cool boutiques and kitschy tourist shops, dining in some fabulous farm-to-table restaurants or visiting some of the tourist landmarks like the Alligator Farm, Ripley's Believe it or Not! Museum, the Fountain of Youth, or the centuries-old Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest still-standing masonry fort in the United States. Take in some breath-taking views of the town, then climb atop the St. Augustine Lighthouse, where you'll take in a breathtaking view of the city in all its glory. But whatever you do, wear some comfy walking shoes, make sure you allot a good amount of time, and, most of all – enjoy!

For more information, visit City of St. Augustine

6. Ginnie Springs

Dubbing themselves "A Slice of Pure Florida," Ginnie Springs is known for the clarity of their waters, making them particularly popular with snorkelers and divers alike. From inner-tubing, kayaking, paddleboarding, or simply swimming, there are so many ways to enjoy these glorious springs. And just like Blue Springs, their crystal-clear water stays at a perfect 72° year-round, so come and dip your feet in January or February while wearing a cozy sweatshirt. Ginnie Springs also offers a large network of subterranean caverns under the surface that are exhilarating to explore… so grab your bathing suit and some towels and get ready to have a swimmingly good time!

For more information, visit Ginnie Springs Outdoors

7. Cumberland Island, South Georgia

Yes, you read that correctly: South Georgia! Jacksonville is 30 miles from the Georgia state line, so this excursion does indeed fall into the day-trip category and is a beautiful attraction. Board a ferry at St. Marys, GA to get to the island and be sure to have your phone or camera ready to capture Cumberland Island's most intriguing feature: its herds of wild horses roaming free along the beaches and tree-lined paths. Enjoy biking, take a guided tour, or simply hang out on the beach, but whatever you decide to do, don't forget to pack a water bottle, food, bug-spray, sunscreen, and an extra layer of clothing!

For more information, visit Cumberland Island

8. Big Talbot Island State Park | Blackrock Beach

On the Northeastern edge of Jacksonville, you'll find a surreal setting, one that features marshlands populated by wild birds and a boneyard of sorts full of sun-drenched, bleached tree "bones" that have been preserved by nature, aptly named Boneyard Beach. Enjoy a picnic in one of the pavilions on the water or avoid the crowds and come early to catch the sunrise and hike the half-mile trail through hammock forest and coastal scrub. Be sure and keep an eye out for turtles, beautiful birds, and bald eagles along your way and make the most out of your visit by packing plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, bug-spray, beach gear, towels, and $3.00 (cash only) for parking.

For more information, visit Florida State Parks Blackrock Beach

Well, there you have it! A list of some amazing daytrips that are a quick stones-throw away! So, whether you're in the mood for a tranquil getaway, a beautiful beach experience, or more of a shopping and dining excursion, you can't go wrong with any of these trips. Just remember to do a little research, pack accordingly, and most of all enjoy fun close to home!

February
21

Florida Chowder

Rich, flavorful Minorcan chowder kicks it up a notch with the addition of zippy datil peppers and hearty fresh clams. Our real estate agents indulge their cravings for one of Florida's famous foods at these wonderful restaurants right near the coast.

Click Here to Read More...

February
8

Titusville

Located on Florida's Atlantic coast with a pleasant tropical climate and home to a diverse collection of outdoor activities that locals love, the Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville metro area is one key real estate market to keep an eye on throughout 2022. In fact, REALTOR® Magazine ranked the Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville area as one of its top 10 hidden gems for 2022. Our real estate agents have the inside scoop on why you'll definitely want to watch Brevard County in 2022.

Click Here to Read More...

July
28

Lighthouses Florida

Lighthouses have played an important role in the history and development of communities on Florida's East Coast, so this is a great place to celebrate National Lighthouse Day which is coming up on August 7th. National Lighthouse Day was established to celebrate the history of lighthouses, along with their importance to maritime trade, the protection of sailors, and their role in helping coastal communities throughout the country prosper.

There are three historic lighthouses located on Florida's Northeast Coast, all built in the 1800s and preserved beautifully to the present day. We've got all the details you need on the historic lighthouses that you'll spot during your travels along Florida's East Coast.

Click Here to Read More...

July
20

Splash Pads

Summer is here, and there are few things that kids love more than spending a hot day cooling off at the local splash pad. From the piers near St. Augustine to the parks of Green Cove Springs, there are plenty of local splash pads throughout Northeast Florida that the kids will enjoy. Many of the region's best splash pads are also part of larger attractions, making it easy to plan a full day of family fun. We've got the details on five Northeast Florida splash pads where you can plan a fun family outing this summer.

Click Here to Read More...

April
14

Dog-Friendly Beaches

Does your dog cast longing looks when the two of you pass by the ocean or a lake? Make your precious pet's beachfront dreams come true. We've got the scoop on the best dog-friendly beaches along Florida's East Coast. 

Click Here to Read More...

March
5

The 90s were a simpler time. Clothes were baggier, music came on cassette tapes, Blockbuster still existed. If you're anything like the rest of us, you likely spend at least a few hours a day pining nostalgically for all things 1990s. Especially if you lived in Jacksonville, FL during the 90s. Because we can't help but revisit what feels like better days, join us as we tour things only 90s Jacksonville, FL residents will remember.

Sinking Quarters/Tokens into Games at Aladdin's Castle & Tilt

Thanks to barcades like Keg & Coin – an arcade bar in Jacksonville's Riverside neighborhood – and entertainment hotspots like Dave and Busters and Adventure Landing, there are still places you can get your arcade cabinet fix.

But there's nothing like the originals. Bereft of the other distractions – Keg & Coin is a bar first, arcade second, while Dave and Busters and Adventure Landing prominently feature an entire restaurant and a water park, respectively – these classic arcades existed purely for the endless joy of arcade games.

Many of us lost countless hours in Aladdin's Castle in the Orange Park mall. Parents shopping for boring stuff? Give us $5 and we'll be content basked in the warm glow of arcade cabinets for at least an hour. The same goes for Tilt at the Jacksonville Landing (itself an icon of the 90s that no longer exists). A few rounds of Street Fighter with friends at Tilt would be enough to make anyone's weekend.

Playing Mini-Golf with Rex at Goony Golf

DINOmite!! | Jacksonville beach, Jacksonville florida, Jacksonville fl

Before he became the orange sentinel of Beach Boulevard as we know him today, Rex, Jacksonville's famous T-Rex statue, presided over innumerable mini-golf games at Goony Golf. He was one of several, um, interesting obstacles and characters for which Goony Golf was known. For all its kitschy charm, Goony Golf felt like a staple of a fun Saturday afternoon.

And while the chain's Jacksonville location went extinct early in the 2000s, we still thankfully have Rex's beautiful mug to remind us of just how great things used to be.

Going to a Drive-In Movie

Playtime 3 Drive-In in Jacksonville, FL - Cinema Treasures

Going to a movie in a normal theater is a treat in itself, to be sure. But there was just something special about rolling down the windows, audio pouring out your radio, and watching a movie in the crisp night air.

In the 90s, Jax residents had a few options. They could pull up to the Playtime Drive-In off Blanding Boulevard or the Beaches Drive-In. These excellent and unique date destinations from the 90s sadly no longer exist. Playtime had its screens shut down for good in 2008, while Beaches Drive-In had its proverbial windows shuttered in 2003.

The Eats!

Feasting on the Wagon Wheel at Famous Amos. Ordering a Camel Rider on-the-go from The Sheik. A full chicken platter from Beach Road Chicken Dinners. Sipping on a Slush Puppie from the local Little Champ gas station. Barbecue from the short-lived Rumboggies (or maybe you just bought the sauce?).  Eating Chinese buffet in a dimly lit indoor dining area surrounded by koi ponds and bridges at Garden of Tiki.

We could go on, but we're making ourselves hungry.

The Malls!

What were you doing for fun in the 90s if you weren't at the mall? Maybe your commerce hub of choice was the Regency Square Mall, with its bustling storefronts and unique eateries at the food court. Or maybe you favored the newer atmosphere of the Avenues mall, which opened its doors in 1990.

If you lived in Orange Park, though, we know you loved the Orange Park Mall. Dozens of storefronts, a thriving food court, the aforementioned Aladdin's Castle, and, of course, the classic carousel.

The Sports!

jacksonville lizard kings - Google Search | Hockey logos, Kings hockey,  Football team logos

With no major league sports teams calling Jacksonville home in the early 90s, the city still had plenty of sports to get excited for. Baseball was never hotter than when the Jacksonville Suns lit up minor league ballparks (of course they still persist today, though rebranded as the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp).

Meanwhile, possibly the coolest local sports team in terms of uniforms, colors, logo, and name: The Jacksonville Lizard Kings. Sure, hockey doesn't have a strong foothold in Florida, but the Lizard Kings captured the hearts of many Jax residents on sheer coolness alone. Just look at that logo above! 

Then, of course, the big daddy arrives in 1993: Jacksonville gets its very own NFL franchise. The Jaguars were born, and a city fell in love with its team in teal. The 90s seasons were special for the Jags, too, as the team found immense success within its first three seasons playing in the formerly named Alltel Stadium.

Keep Max in Jax

Call Box: Maxwell House sign has been dripping since 1955 - News - The  Florida Times-Union - Jacksonville, FL

The intoxicating smell of coffee beans is familiar to anyone from Jacksonville thanks to the Maxwell House coffee plant located downtown. However, in the early 90s, the plant was nearly shutdown. The city launched a "Keep Max in Jax" campaign to convince Maxwell House to keep the plant open. It turned out to be wildly successful, not only saving the plant but motivating the company to double down in Jax with a multi-million-dollar expansion.

Classic Jax Radio Stations

The 90s had some outstanding radio stations for Jax residents. We spent many an afternoon cranking up the dial on all our favorite modern hits on 97.9 KISS FM. There was 93.3 Planet Radio for crunching new rock, while 104.5 pumped out all the classic rock your heart could desire. Then, of course, we had Cool 96.9, showering us all with "good times, great oldies."

November
27

For most of us, October is noteworthy because it signifies a change to cooler weather, changing leaves (well, maybe not in Florida), and of course, Halloween. But there's another major reason to celebrate the coming of October, and it involves three of the greatest things on the planet: bread, tomato sauce, and cheese. That's right. October is National Pizza Month all across America. Luckily for all residents of Jacksonville's trendiest neighborhood, Riverside is home to some of the city's best pizza places. The next time you're in the mood for a good pie, head on down to one of these pizza havens for a tasty slice. Or maybe try all three and decide for yourself who has the best pizza in Riverside! 

V Pizza 1406 Hendricks Avenue, Jacksonville, FL 32207

The "V" in V Pizza stands for Veloci or "quick" in Italian, but don't confuse quick for a lack of quality. With its towering ovens that reach 900 degrees, V Pizza strives to bring the authentic taste of true Italian pizza to Jacksonville. And they succeed. Try the house staple Pizza Bolognese and enjoy the succulent garlic and all-natural meatballs or go with a classic Pizza Margherita, made with fresh mozzarella and basil. Pizza isn't the only thing V excels at; grab an order of the oven-roasted chicken wings (pizza's greatest natural companion) and find out for yourself why V Pizza is so often lauded as having Jacksonville's best wings.

Carmines Pie House 2677 Forbes Street, Jacksonville, FL 32204

It's a debate as old as pizza itself: New York or Chicago style? Do you like a thin, cheese-dripping slice of New York pizza, or do you favor a hearty helping of Chicago pie, packed full of toppings and cheese? If your answer is the former, well, you certainly won't be upset eating at Carmines. But if Chicago style holds the key to your pizza-loving heart, then Carmines is heaven on earth. You can order any of their specialty pies – with classics like the Margherita alongside unique creations like a cheeseburger pizza – as deep dish mountains of dough, cheese, and robust toppings. Just like any true Chicagoan would have it.

Moon River Pizza 1176 Edgewood Avenue S, Jacksonville, FL 32205

Sometimes you just want a small slice of pizza or two like the ones you'd get from any of the well-known delivery chains. But sometimes, you just need a titanic slice that strikes fear in the hearts of flimsy paper plates everywhere. When that time comes, get yourself to Moon River Pizza. Try house specials like the T-Rex, which comes piled with enough meat to earn its prehistoric name, or build your own from their extensive list of toppings. No matter your choice, it'll only take a couple slices to leave you full and satisfied. But go ahead and order a full pie anyway. Besides, pizza's better the next day.     

October
17

Halloween is almost among us, which means time is running out to get your spook on. If you aren't in the scary spirit yet, don't fret! There are still a few frightful attractions in Jacksonville that will fill you with fear just in time for All Hallows' Eve.

Haunt Nights at Adventure Landing Beaches - 1944 Beach Blvd. Thursdays-Sundays through Halloween

Adventure Landing's annual Haunt Nights boasts four chilling haunted houses for intrepid explorers to investigate, including an ancient mental asylum and a research facility that's overrun with zombies. If you need to shake off some of the fear, there's even a ticket package that includes a go-kart race or a game of mini-golf. Tickets can be purchased here.\

The Old Spanish Trail Westside – 13535 West Beaver St. Thursday - Sunday Nights through October 28

Take a trip out to The Old Spanish Trail for a journey into madness you won't soon forget. This sprawling two acre trail features three distinct themes for you to creep through. At the center of it all is a haunted building from the 18th century. Tickets can be purchased at the gate or online here.

Warehouse 31 Unleashed Southside - 11262 Beach Blvd. Thursday-Sunday through November 3; Additional dates include 10/29, 10/30, & 10/31

Face off against deranged clowns in a twisted circus or investigate a formerly popular meat factory that was mysteriously shut down over night more than a hundred years ago. These are only two of the four terrifying haunted houses available for brave visitors willing to face their fears at Warehouse 31 Unleashed. If you think you've got what it takes to make it through each horrifying setting, grab your ticket here.

The Haunted Brewery Northside - 111 Busch Drive October 19, 20, 26, & 27

Jacksonville's Anheuser-Busch brewery has been overrun by all manner of foul creatures that go bump in the night! Gather up your squad and lead the hunt against the zombie horde that's descended upon the brewery. Once you've done some damage to the zombies, head to the haunted putt 'n crawl or the Creepy Clown CarnEVIL for some relaxation. For more details on these attractions and more, head here  

Login to My Homefinder

Login to My Homefinder