Moving to Jacksonville? Here’s What You Need to Know
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Moving to Jacksonville? Here’s What You Need to Know

by Team NextBurb 29 January 2021

Moving Guides By City

Why Move to Jacksonville?

If you're looking for sunshine, surf, and a reasonable cost of living, look to Jacksonville, Florida. Located on the state's northeast coast, Jacksonville appeals to people at every stage of their life. The area comes with miles of beaches, ample parks, good schools, and a rich artistic tradition. Explore what Jacksonville has to offer for its residents.

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What is Jacksonville Known for?

Florida has a reputation for an aging population, but at a median age of 36, Northeast Florida is much younger than other major metropolitan areas. It attracts a diverse demographic, making Jacksonville (Jax) one of the state's most active cities.

The largest city by geographical size in the continental US, Jacksonville wields a natural beauty and distinct neighborhoods. Thanks to the St. Johns River, the city boasts 22 miles of shoreline. The accessibility to Florida's interior waterways and the Atlantic Ocean is one reason Jax is home to two vital US Navy facilities.

But Jacksonville is more than water. Dozens of silent film studios were based in the city during the industry's peak. Today's performing arts venues continue fostering the artistic culture. The oldest continuously operating community theater and the longest-running professional dinner theater in the United States are here. Musicians Limp Bizkit, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and The Allman Brothers each originated in Jacksonville.

Jacksonville has a sporting tradition. It is the home of the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Jacksonville Suns, and the World Golf Hall of Fame. The city also hosts "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party," the nickname for the annual college football rivalry game between the University of Florida Gators and the University of Georgia Bulldogs. The River Run attracts over 13,000 runners across its 15-kilometer course each year. Kona State Park is the oldest skatepark in the US.

The city is also home to the nation's most extensive urban public park system, managing over 80,000 acres of land and 335 locations.

8 Reasons Why People Move to the Jacksonville Metro

#1- Weather

You can't talk about living in Florida without mentioning the weather. January highs average a mild 66F. Temperatures peak in July at 92F. As for hurricanes, despite its Atlantic Ocean location, as of 2020, Jacksonville has only experienced a direct hurricane hit once in recorded history.

#2- Beaches

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Image: https://unsplash.com/photos/woDxDNvpmdk

Incredible beaches await minutes from downtown Jacksonville. Select from the white sands of Neptune, Atlantic, or Jacksonville Beach. If those beaches don't suit your taste, don't worry. Visit historic Amelia Island, Fernandina Beach, or the Talbot Islands' wildlife refuges, all a short drive from the Jacksonville metropolitan area.

Make a road trip to other stellar Atlantic Beaches. Cumberland Island National Seashore, where wild horses play in the surf, is just over Georgia's border. You're also not far from the renowned beaches at St. Augustine or Daytona.

#3- Water

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Image: https://unsplash.com/photos/d9Cs-9I1fPo

Life in Jacksonville is all about the water. Find plenty of boating access thanks to the St. Johns River and the Atlantic Ocean. Easily find launch points or rentals for motorized craft, canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards–heck, there's even rowing!

Prefer to be under the water? There is an extensive reef system, making Jacksonville one of the best diving locales on Florida's east coast. The area mixes natural reefs with the artificial ones made from sunken planes and boats. With over 100 dive sites to choose from, you're guaranteed to have a memorable dive experience.

Having that many reefs nearby means the area is a paradise for fishermen. Not only do you get convenient access, but you have options! Fish freshwater or saltwater species. Deepwater fishing is just 30 minutes from downtown.

#4- Employment

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Image: https://pixabay.com/photos/jacksonville-florida-landscape-1647050/

Wondering about the job prospects in the Jacksonville metro? There are excellent opportunities in every sector. According to US News and World, the area's unemployment rate is trending lower than the national average. Before the pandemic, the job market was reporting 14.1 percent growth over the last decade.

The military is a significant employer, with over 30,000 active-duty personnel and nearly 20,000 civilians in the Jacksonville area. Other top employers include Baptist Health, with more than 10,000 workers, plus Bank of America, Mayo Clinic, and Southeastern Grocers.

Logistics and transportation are top employers, such as CSX, Crowley, and Fanatics, who have headquarters in the metro. Companies like Florida Blue, GATE Petroleum, Black Knight Financial, and McKesson also call the metro home.

Naturally, hospitality is a big draw, with the hotel, restaurant, and retail industry catering to tourists and locals.

For educators, the Duval, Nassau, and St. Johns School Districts are some of the top-ranked in the state. Several accredited colleges are available to work or to further your education.

#5- The Arts and Culture

Meet Hollywood before Hollywood. Back at the turn of the century, Jax was home to numerous silent film studios. Unfortunately, residents pushed the industry westward.

Nonetheless, a rich artistic tradition persists. It's one reason why American Style Magazine often ranked Jax as a Top 25 Arts Destination in the US. A sample of what JAX offers:

  • Jacksonville Jazz Festival, one of the largest jazz festivals in the country. It spans 15 blocks downtown every Memorial Day weekend. Best of all, it's free to enjoy.
  • Riverside Arts Market, a gathering of local artisans, entertainers, and farmers every Saturday.
  • Jacksonville Art Walk, a free tour through downtown Jacksonville with food trucks, music, and pop-up galleries. It happens on the first Wednesday of every month except January.
  • Alhambra Theater & Dining, the nation's longest-running professional dinner theater
  • Over 12 museums with interactive exhibits and world-class art including the Museums of Science & History (MOSH) and one of only nine Karpeles Manuscript Libraries.

#6- Golfing

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Besides access to the water, golfing is probably the second thing people associate with Florida activities. The PGA Tour headquarters is in the Jax suburb of Ponte Vedra Beach at TPC Sawgrass.

Naturally, the greater metropolitan area has some incredible championship golf courses. In sum, golfers have over 70 courses across greater Jacksonville, ranging from the historical to the resort courses. Top picks include Panther Creek Golf Club, Hyde Park Golf Club, or Bent Creek golf courses. A short drive on the A1A will lead golfers to other top golfing destinations at Amelia Island, Savannah, and Hilton Head.

#7- Year-round Entertainment

Jacksonville has you covered with fun for the family all year! Visit the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens to see rare and far-flung species. Check out any of the indoor parks, like TopGolf, or trampoline venues like Bravoz Entertainment Center. Get up to speed on the Autobahn Speedway. The numerous destinations in the surrounding area for retail and entertainment are too many to list here.

#8- Food and Dining

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Jax earned a spot on Forbes' list of five surprising foodie cities to visit. The city's melting pot demographics means diners get flavors from around the world mixed with seafood fresh off the boat. And, it's being served up to you by world-class chefs. The city is home to Kevin Sbraga, a Bravo's Top Chef winner, and Chef Tom Gray, a two-time James Beard award nominee.

#8- Proximity to popular destinations

Jacksonville residents live where other people vacation. Living here puts you close to the significant destinations of the South. Orlando and its entertainment centers await a two-hour drive away. Reach the golf courses at Hilton Head within a few hours. Atlanta and Charleston are accessible within a day's drive.

What it's Like Living in Jacksonville

Jacksonville offers variety. Live the Salt Life right on the beach, or find a rural acreage a half-hour's drive out of downtown. Or be in the heart of the city and near amenities.

Most of Jacksonville offers a dense suburban feel with access to numerous amenities. Jacksonville has received top marks for its access to public transit, schools, and lifestyle amenities.

The Commute

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Image: https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/view-image.php?image=88003&picture=jacksonville-florida

Some Jacksonville area neighborhoods are highly walkable, like the beach communities and near downtown. Jacksonville does have a public transit system, mostly with bus transport. If you do live near the city's heart, you can take advantage of the Jacksonville Skyway. This elevated monorail offers free transportation around downtown Jacksonville and stops at points of interest.

Riverside and Avondale community residents also have the Riverside Avondale night trolley that runs on specific Friday and Saturdays.

Residents of Mayport Village and Fort George Island can shortcut their commute on the St. Johns River Ferry. The ferry connects the northern stretch of State Road A1A.

However, the best way to get around the greater Jacksonville metropolitan area is by car. I-10 and I-95 intersect in the city's heart while I-295 rings Jacksonville. Several other main roads help connect the metro area.

The Schools

The Duval County Public School District services Jacksonville. The metropolitan area has four of the 25 best-rated schools in the state, according to US News & World Report. These include Stanton College Preparatory School, which also ranked #47 in the nation, the Paxon School for Advanced Studies, Darnell Cookman Middle-High School, and Douglas Anderson School of the Arts.

To Jacksonville's south is St. Johns County School District, which consistently rates as the state's best public school district. To take advantage of the public system here, look to live in the suburbs like St. Augustine Beach, Ponte Vedra Beach, Nocatee, and Sawgrass.

Higher education is offered through institutions like the University of North Florida, Jacksonville University, and the Art Institute of Jacksonville. Florida State College, St. Johns River State College, and Concorde Career Institute offer two-year degrees.

The Cost of Living

Jacksonville ranked 51 of 75 on Bizjournal's analysis of the cost of living for major metropolitan areas. The cost-of-living index has the area's total expenses 10 percent less than the US average. If you are interested in living in Florida, compare Jacksonville to other Florida cities; it has one of the lowest living costs in the state.

The tax situation is excellent, too. Florida residents don't pay state income tax, estate tax, or inheritance tax, while property and state sales taxes are on par with national averages.

Housing is the main reason Jacksonville's living is more affordable than in other Florida cities. The median home value of $188,700 is 24 percent lower than the US average. Even rents, which as of fall 2020 were on the rise, are relatively reasonable. One source reported the average rent for an apartment in Jacksonville was $1283.

Where to Live for…

Retirement

US News and World ranked Jacksonville no. 13 on its list for the best places to retire in 2021. While many of these neighborhoods have much to offer retirees, a few stand out.

Orange Park

This suburb of Jacksonville offers a close-knit community and a retirement hotspot. It offers proximity to beaches, golf courses, parks, and shopping. The town hosts events throughout the year, so there's always something to do. It's also near the Naval Air Station.

Commute to downtown: 28 minutes

Butler Beach

Butler Beach ranks as one of the best suburbs in the Jacksonville area. Over the border in St. Johns County, it's a conservation area with an urban-suburban feel. Enjoy parks, restaurants, and the beach.

Commute to downtown: 56 minutes

Sawgrass

If you love golfing, why not live close to the PGA headquarters? Near Ponte Vedra Beach, Sawgrass offers a relaxed suburban feel.

Commute to downtown: 33 minutes

Working from home

San Marco

Popular with creatives and single professionals, San Marco resembles Italy's Piazza San Marco. Find trendy restaurants, boutique stores, eclectic art galleries, and diverse characters along the Atlantic and San Marco Boulevard intersections.

Commute to downtown: 9 minutes

Riverside & Avondale

This bustling suburb is one of the most popular in Jacksonville and was ranked a top neighborhood in the US for its unique charm. It's close to cultural attractions and recreation, like the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens. There is a local art market on Saturdays. The area offers a thriving urban community, making it easier to enjoy a work-live-play lifestyle.

Commute to downtown: 14 minutes

Jacksonville Beach

A popular destination for young professionals, Jacksonville Beach offers an active and balanced lifestyle with an Atlantic Ocean backdrop. Enjoy local restaurants and shops, plus art and cultural attractions.

Commute to downtown: 28 minutes

Family-oriented

Mandarin & Southside

With its towering oak trees veiled in Spanish moss and incredible views of the St. Johns River, Mandarin and Southside blend relaxed living and amenities. While it is the southernmost portion of Jacksonville, residents are close to historical and natural sites. The crime rate is low and well-rated schools service the area.

Commute to downtown: 25 minutes

Deerwood

Enjoy the lakes and the scenery in desirable Deerwood. The neighborhood is close to well-rated public schools, restaurants, and parks.

Commute to downtown: 20 minutes

Fleming Island

Across the St. Johns River in Clay County, this Jacksonville suburb offers a relaxed suburban feel. The island offers lots of restaurants and parks, plus proximity to the St. Johns.

Commute to downtown: 40 minutes

First-time home buyers

Northside

This up-and-coming residential area is near the airport and minutes from downtown Jacksonville. Residents are close to attractions like the Jacksonville Zoo and Huguenot Park. Lots can be spacious, and the area still feels more rural than other Jacksonville neighborhoods.

Commute to downtown: 13 minutes

Callahan

Enjoy the small-town charm and affordable living just a half-hour from Jacksonville's city center. The housing here is more affordable, and the family-friendly town offers community events.

Commute to downtown: 34 minutes

Beach Life

Atlantic, Neptune, and Jacksonville Beach

The waterfront suburbs of Jacksonville are one of the more pedestrian-friendly places to live. First Street connects the three communities. Live like a local and spend your weekends biking, surging, running, or rollerblading. Enjoy the popular Wednesday market, walk to the beach, or check out Shakespeare in the Park.

Commute to downtown: 31 minutes from Atlantic Beach

The Jacksonville "Bucket List"

Every city has attractions or events that capture the area's culture and traditions. They are the must-do things every resident does at least once, if not every year. A few items key to Jacksonville's culture:

#1- The Florida Theater. This historic venue dates to the 1920s and hosted one of Elvis Presley's first concerts. Today it continues to host performing arts events.

#2-Alhambra Theater. The longest-running professional dinner theater in the United States is one of the best places in town for dinner and a show. You are sure to be entertained.

#3- Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park. This oceanfront park in Atlantic Beach has a 60-acre freshwater lake, over 20 miles of hiking and biking trails, a dedicated camping area, 1 1/2 miles of sandy beach, and one of the best year-round surfing spots in northeast Florida. The surfing venue is known as the Mayport Poles or The Poles.

#4- Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve. There are two reasons this is a must-visit. At Fort Caroline National Memorial, you can learn about colonial history at the replica of Fort Caroline. The French settled the area in 1564, but the Spanish destroyed the original fort. Still, it's a fascinating glimpse into early United States history.

Also inside the preserve is the Kingsley Plantation, with the 1814 plantation house and outbuildings serving to educate all about slavery and the plantation system. It is the oldest surviving plantation house in the state of Florida.

#5- Friendship Fountain. Jumping into or taking a picture at Southbank's Friendship Fountain is one of the Jacksonville must-dos. It was once the world's biggest fountain. While it no longer holds that title, it's still a Jacksonville landmark. It's next to the Museum of Science and History, making this an easy two-for-one attraction.

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#6- Big and Little Talbot Island. Jacksonville residents love to debate which Talbot Island State Park is better. Little Talbot Island has the longest undeveloped beach. Big Talbot Island State Park's most famous attraction is the Boneyard Beach and its tangled driftwood trees. The islands' diverse habitats are popular with nature photographers.

#7- Cummer Museum of Arts and Gardens. Browse a dynamic and diverse collection of fine art at this museum. It has European-inspired gardens and a children's exhibit, plus stellar views of the St. Johns River.

#8- Riverside Arts Market

Browse fresh produce and artisan creations under the Fuller Warren Bridge every Saturday. Market attendees enjoy free yoga and stunning river views, live music and unique entertainment, and food trucks.

#9- Jacksonville Jaguars

Even if you're not a football fan, the stadium is worth a visit on its own. Where else can you watch a live NFL game in person from a swimming pool or under a cabana? The Bank offers guided tours every Saturday.

Why move to Jacksonville

Who doesn't enjoy the sunshine and balmy weather? Or being close to the beach whenever they want? A move to Jacksonville puts you in the front seat of the action. This is a city that has a lot to offer everyone, whether you're looking for a new place to work from home, a safe place to raise a family or to retire.

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