Situated in the northeastern corner of Florida, Jacksonville dates back to the Timicua Indians, who settled in the area over 6,000 years ago. After the arrival of the French Huguenots in 1562, the city changed hands repeatedly. Throughout the years, French, Spanish and U.S. Confederate and Union flags all flew high above the city. It was not until the 1940s, however, that Jacksonville's development took off, thanks to the establishment of three naval bases in the city.
Today, over 1.3 million people call Jacksonville's sunny shores home, making it the 3rd most populous city on the East Coast, following New York and Philadelphia. A diverse cultural mosaic, the city has the 10th largest Arab population in the United States and a number of Filipino and Hispanic and Latino residents.
Visitors can celebrate the mélange of these varied backgrounds at attractions found throughout the city and in neighboring St. Augustine. Discover the legacy of the African-American community at the Ritz Theatre and La Villa Museum, located in the neighborhood once known as "Harlem of the South." Savor authentic Cuban fare such as ropa vieja and masas de puerco at Madrid Restaurant on Beach Boulevard. Embrace the city's Asian community by exploring the popular Asian Bamboo Garden at the Jacksonville Zoo.
Equally diverse as its attractions is the cityscape they populate, a mix of over 2,500 historic buildings, seven expansive bridges, and soaring skyscrapers. Cutting through the heart of downtown, the St. Johns River defines the cityscape as much as it does the attractions. The Jacksonville Riverwalk, one of the most popular places to visit, is a 1.2-mile stretch along the river where visitors can enjoy scenic views of the water and Jacksonville skyline. Home to attractions such as the Navy Memorial and Jacksonville Maritime Museum, the Riverwalk's famous 200-foot-wide Friendship Fountain is also a great spot to picnic.
Despite its bustling urban downtown, Jacksonville offers plenty of opportunities to get outdoors and enjoy the fresh air and sunny skies. In fact, it is home to the country's largest urban park system, encompassing a stunning 111,669 acres. Enjoy the characteristic Floridian landscape with a visit to the 450-acre Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park. Offering the best of sand and shore, the park has 1.5 miles of beach coastline and a 60-acre freshwater lake, perfect for fishing, kayaking and canoeing. At Huguenot Memorial Park, guests can spend a day bird watching or a night stargazing from one of the park's 70 primitive campsites.
After an active day, guests discover that the city's nightlife shines just as brightly as the daytime sun. Colorful beachside bars dot the coast, while the Five Points district offers a number of locations for live music and spoken-word performances. Truly a star among the city's nightlife options, the riverside Jacksonville Landing is a two-level shopping and dining hub. Unwind at the chic Twisted Martini's Ultra Lounge, or let loose on the dance floor at Mavericks, the Landing's self-described rock 'n honkytonk. Whatever the setting, Jacksonville's welcoming environment and top-notch attractions will have guests thinking twice before passing over the city "where Florida begins."