Jacksonville Introduction Walking Tour, Jacksonville

Jacksonville Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Jacksonville

Gracefully adorning the northeastern part of Florida along the banks of the St Johns River and the Atlantic Ocean, Jacksonville is a resplendent gem in the sun-kissed landscape of the Sunshine State.

Founded in 1822, Jacksonville, Florida, boasts a rich history as a major port and a vital military and industrial hub. The name "Jacksonville" was chosen to honor Andrew Jackson, a military hero and the seventh President of the United States.

The city played a significant role during the Civil War, changing hands multiple times due to its strategic location. Reconstruction saw its resurgence, thanks to railroad expansion and the timber industry. The Great Fire of 1901 devastated the city but led to a comprehensive urban rebuilding effort.

Throughout the 20th century, Jacksonville developed into a prominent center for finance, trade, and culture. It played a role in the civil rights movement and hosted important events like the Consolidation of 1968, uniting the city and county governments. Today, Jacksonville stands as Florida's largest city by area, offering a blend of historical significance, natural beauty, and modern amenities.

Embarking on a journey through Jacksonville's avenues, one is bound to encounter a wealth of attractions. The Friendship Fountain, a picturesque spot for locals and tourists, is an iconic landmark located in St Johns River Park.

The massive Treaty Oak tree, estimated to be over 250 years old, once served as a symbol of peace between Native Americans and early settlers. Today, the surrounding Treaty Oak Park is a peaceful place for picnics and relaxation.

The scenic pedestrian Southbank Riverwalk offers stunning views of the St Johns River and the city skyline, while the iconic Main Street drawbridge that links the north and south banks of the river is more than just a functional transportation route but also an architectural landmark.

In the heart of this vibrant tapestry lies Jacksonville Landing, a convergence of commerce and community that pulses with life. A nexus of leisure, entertainment, and revelry, it serves as a testament to Jacksonville's propensity to celebrate life's myriad facets.

Ensconced in its cradle of history and adorned with attractions that shimmer like gems, Jacksonville invites travelers to partake in its narrative, traverse its avenues, and become intertwined in its living chronicle. Seize the opportunity to create your own memories within its embrace and unveil the layers of the city's captivating story with every step you take.
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Jacksonville Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Jacksonville Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Jacksonville (See other walking tours in Jacksonville)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.6 Km or 2.2 Miles
Author: Maia
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Museum of Science & History
  • Friendship Fountain
  • Treaty Oak Park
  • Southbank Riverwalk
  • Main Street Bridge
  • Florida Theatre
  • Saint John's Cathedral
  • First Presbyterian Church
  • Jacksonville Landing
Museum of Science & History

1) Museum of Science & History (must see)

Nestled along the scenic Southbank Riverwalk in Jacksonville, stands a beacon of knowledge, wonder, and exploration—the Museum of Science and History (MOSH). This private, non-profit institution has solidified its place as the city's most visited museum, captivating the minds and hearts of visitors with its engaging blend of science and local history exhibits. It offers a diverse range of experiences, including a main exhibit that changes quarterly, three floors of permanent exhibits that delve into the realms of discovery, and the awe-inspiring Bryan Gooding Planetarium.

The museum's roots can be traced back to 1941 when the Jacksonville Children's Museum was first chartered. The journey began modestly, finding its first home within a charming Victorian mansion in Riverside. However, the yearning to expand its horizons and deepen its impact led to the establishment of its current location in downtown Jacksonville. Construction commenced in 1965, and the doors to the MOSH facility swung open in 1969, marking the beginning of a new chapter in Jacksonville's pursuit of knowledge and understanding.

In 1977, the Jacksonville Children's Museum evolved into the Jacksonville Museum of Arts and Sciences, and in recognition of its dedication to excellence, it gained accreditation from the esteemed American Association of Museums. The name underwent a transformation once again in 1988, and the Museum of Science and History emerged, encapsulating the essence of its purpose.

As the years passed, MOSH expanded its physical and intellectual boundaries. The addition of 37,500 square feet (3,480 square meters) of space, including the planetarium that was once known as the Alexander Brest Planetarium, breathed new life into its offerings. In 1994, the museum underwent its most recent building renovation, resulting in a total space of 82,200 square feet (7,640 square meters)—a testament to the institution's dedication to growth and evolution.

In 2010, the planetarium experienced a significant upgrade, complete with a new projector, sound system, and interior work. The result was the awe-inspiring Bryan Gooding Planetarium, a place where visitors could not only gaze upon the stars but also be transported to the far reaches of the cosmos.
Friendship Fountain

2) Friendship Fountain

Gracing the serene landscape of St. Johns River Park, also affectionately known as Friendship Fountain Park, the Friendship Fountain has captured the hearts of locals and visitors alike, etching its presence as an iconic and beloved attraction.

When it first welcomed the world, it proudly held the title of the world's largest and tallest fountain—a dazzling display of engineering marvel. This distinction, coupled with its captivating design, has made it a symbol of Jacksonville's charm and a place of shared joy for generations.

Designed in 1963 by the skilled hands of Jacksonville architect Taylor Hardwick, the fountain and the park were destined to become a testament to human creativity and artistry. In 1965, the fountain's cascading waters were set free, inviting visitors to witness a spectacle that seamlessly marries nature and human ingenuity.

Standing as a testament to the power of water, Friendship Fountain's three pumps are capable of propelling an astonishing 17,000 US gallons (64,000 L) of water per minute to a remarkable height of ten stories. This symphony of water and light captures the imagination, leaving a lasting impression on all who encounter its awe-inspiring display.

In 2011, a renaissance dawned upon Friendship Fountain and the surrounding park. The restoration was not just about preserving a structure; it was about preserving a legacy—a legacy of laughter, shared moments, and the magic of water and light.
Treaty Oak Park

3) Treaty Oak Park

The majestic Treaty Oak, with its octopus-like branches that reach out like embracing arms, has gracefully stood the test of time for an estimated 250 years. In fact, it may very well be the single oldest living entity in the city of Jacksonville, predating even the city's founding by Isaiah Hart in the 1820s.

The name "Treaty Oak" carries with it an air of mystery and history, intertwined with local legends and the city's narrative. The origins of the name are often linked to tales of peace accords signed beneath its sprawling branches between Native Americans, Spanish settlers, or American pioneers. However, the true genesis of the name is a bit more unconventional.

In reality, the name "Treaty Oak" was coined by Pat Moran, a journalist for the Florida Times-Union, in a valiant attempt to safeguard the tree from the encroachment of developers in the early 1930s. Recognizing the significance of this ancient giant, Moran penned an article claiming that a historic treaty had been signed beneath its limbs by native Floridians and early settlers. This act of creative preservation transformed the tree's name from the simple moniker "Giant Oak" to the evocative and captivating "Treaty Oak."

This venerable tree is more than just a name; it's a living monument to endurance and natural wonder. Its mighty trunk boasts a circumference of over 25 feet, while its branches rise to reach a height of 70 feet. These sprawling limbs extend over a staggering 145 feet, creating a captivating crown that appears to bow to the ground before gracefully curling back upwards.
Southbank Riverwalk

4) Southbank Riverwalk

Southbank Riverwalk is a delightful riverside destination that offers a unique blend of dining, entertainment, and scenic beauty. This charming boardwalk has become a beloved gathering place for both locals and tourists.

One of the main draws of the Southbank Riverwalk is its wide array of restaurants, bars, and shops. From casual eateries to fine dining establishments, there is something to suit every palate. Visitors can indulge in delicious cuisine while enjoying breathtaking views of the St. Johns River. Whether it's savoring fresh seafood, trying international flavors, or simply enjoying a refreshing beverage, the Riverwalk provides a diverse culinary experience.

In addition to its dining options, the Southbank Riverwalk is also home to several museums and cultural attractions. Visitors can explore the Museum of Science and History (MOSH), which offers interactive exhibits and educational programs for all ages. Art enthusiasts can visit the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville (MOCA), featuring thought-provoking contemporary artworks. These cultural institutions add a touch of intellectual stimulation to the lively atmosphere of the Riverwalk.

For those seeking outdoor activities, the Riverwalk features a marina where boating enthusiasts can dock their vessels. The marina offers convenient access to the river, allowing visitors to embark on relaxing boat rides or enjoy various water sports. The scenic views of the downtown skyline, as seen from the Riverwalk, provide a picturesque backdrop for these aquatic adventures.

The vibrant atmosphere of the Southbank Riverwalk creates a captivating experience that is both serene and exhilarating. Visitors can immerse themselves in the lively energy of the boardwalk, surrounded by the scenic beauty of the river and the cityscape.
Main Street Bridge

5) Main Street Bridge

The Main Street Bridge, also known as the John T. Alsop Jr. Bridge, gracefully spans the majestic St. Johns River in Jacksonville, leaving an indelible mark on the city's landscape and history. As the second bridge to connect the city across the river, it embodies the essence of progress and connectivity that has come to define the area. Carrying the weight of four lanes of traffic and designated as US 1/US 90 (SR 5/SR 10), the Main Street Bridge stands as a testament to engineering ingenuity and functional beauty.

Although officially named after Mayor John T. Alsop Jr. in 1957, the bridge continues to be affectionately referred to as the Main Street Bridge, a name that resonates with both locals and visitors. It has etched itself as one of the most iconic features of Jacksonville's Downtown skyline, commanding attention and admiration.

Construction of the Main Street Bridge commenced in 1938 under the skilled hands of the Mount Vernon Bridge Company. War Department approval granted in 1936, prior to the outbreak of World War II, paved the way for this marvel of engineering. The bridge took three years to come to life, culminating in a dedication ceremony on July 17, 1941. With a vertical lift design incorporating trusses, the bridge was equipped to elegantly rise and make way for passing ships, perfectly marrying form and function.

As the only movable bridge for vehicular traffic across the St. Johns River in the Jacksonville area, the Main Street Bridge carries the torch of tradition and innovation. While other neighboring bridges transitioned to fixed spans by the close of the 20th century, this bridge continues to elevate its essence through its functional design and historical significance.
Florida Theatre

6) Florida Theatre

The Florida Theatre is a historic movie theater that holds a significant place in American cinema history. Opening its doors in April 1927, the theater has captivated audiences for nearly a century with its grandeur and architectural beauty. Its historical significance was recognized when it was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places on November 4, 1982.

During the 1920s, Florida experienced a Mediterranean Revival architectural boom, and the Florida Theatre stands as one of the four remaining high-style movie palaces from that era in the state. The other three theaters are the Saenger Theatre in Pensacola, the Polk Theatre in Lakeland, and the Tampa Theatre in Tampa. These theaters share a common architectural style characterized by ornate detailing, lavish interiors, and a sense of opulence.

The Florida Theatre exemplifies the Mediterranean Revival style with its stunning facade and intricately designed interiors. The theater's exterior features decorative elements such as ornamental sculptures, intricate carvings, and a prominent marquee that still lights up the streets of Jacksonville. The grand entrance beckons visitors with its elegant arched doors and ornate detailing, transporting them to a bygone era of classic cinema.

Inside, the theater continues to awe guests with its lavish interiors. The ornamental details, including the hand-painted ceilings, intricate moldings, and majestic chandeliers, create an atmosphere of elegance and grandeur. The auditorium itself is designed with a sloping floor, ensuring excellent sightlines for all patrons. With a seating capacity of over 1,900, the Florida Theatre has hosted countless movie premieres, live performances, and cultural events throughout its rich history.
Saint John's Cathedral

7) Saint John's Cathedral

The origins of St. John's Cathedral trace back to a small, all-wooden church that was erected in 1842. However, the winds of change swept through the land during the tumultuous times of the Civil War, and the original structure was consumed by flames, leaving behind only memories and ashes.

From the ashes of loss emerged a vision of grandeur. The construction of the new St. John's Cathedral became a labor of dedication and devotion, stretching across four years until its completion in 1877. Under the watchful eye of architect Edward Potter, a new beacon of faith took shape—a place where the community could come together, find solace, and share in the beauty of worship.

The Great Fire of 1901, a historic disaster that swept through Jacksonville, dealt a blow to the cathedral's physical form. Despite the destruction, the spirit of resilience prevailed, leading to a reconstruction and redesign that breathed new life into the cathedral's architecture and purpose.

In 1951 St. John's Church received a new mantle, gaining the prestigious status of the Cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of Florida. This milestone solidified its role as a spiritual center not just for the faithful within its walls, but for the entire diocese it served.
First Presbyterian Church

8) First Presbyterian Church

Founded in 1840, the First Presbyterian Church holds the distinction of being the oldest religious body in the city—an institution that has weathered the tests of time and embraced the community with open arms for generations.

In 1844, the journey took a significant step forward with the generosity of retired sea captain O. Conger. Through his assistance, a new sanctuary at Newnan Street was acquired. This new spiritual home stood as a testament to the vision of a community coming together to create a space that would stand as a cornerstone of faith for years to come.

As time flowed forward, the church's evolution continued. In 1847, with additional support from Conger, the foundations of a new structure were laid. However, it was in 1855 that Miss Phoebe Swart's patronage paved the way for the church's remodeling and enlargement.

During the tumultuous times of the American Civil War, the church's walls bore witness to a different kind of struggle. Repurposed as a hospital, it transformed from a place of worship into a sanctuary of a different sort—a space where healing, compassion, and resilience converged.

Today, the First Presbyterian Church stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of community. Its beautiful Gothic architecture serves as a visual anchor, a landmark that pays homage to the past while welcoming the present and future.
Jacksonville Landing

9) Jacksonville Landing (must see)

The Jacksonville Landing stands as a testament to the city's unwavering commitment to entertainment and enjoyment. Since its inception in 1987, this sprawling entertainment complex has beckoned both locals and visitors to partake in a myriad of attractions that promise endless fun and unforgettable experiences.

At its heart, the Jacksonville Landing is a captivating blend of excitement and relaxation, offering an array of activities that cater to diverse tastes. As you step into its welcoming embrace, you're greeted by a world of possibilities that unfold before you. The complex is thoughtfully divided into distinct areas, each designed to satisfy a particular craving for enjoyment.

The dining area, a culinary haven that tantalizes the taste buds, beckons you to explore a diverse spectrum of flavors. Whether you're seeking a quick bite or an indulgent meal, the Jacksonville Landing offers a variety of dining options that cater to every palate.

The shopping area transforms the complex into a haven for retail therapy. Meandering through its corridors, you'll discover an array of shops, each offering unique treasures that range from trendy clothing to one-of-a-kind keepsakes. The experience is not just about shopping—it's about immersing yourself in a world of discovery and exploration.

As the sun dips below the horizon, the Jacksonville Landing comes alive with the rhythmic beats of the night. Among its myriad attractions, Mavericks Rock N' Honky Tonk stands as a prime example of the complex's commitment to vibrant nightlife. Perched in the upper echelons of the complex, Mavericks beckons lovers of country music to its doors. This expansive club is more than just a venue—it's an experience.

The Jacksonville Landing's commitment to delighting its guests is evident in its hours of operation, extending until 2 AM, ensuring that the fun never has to end. It's a place where memories are created, bonds are strengthened, and laughter echoes through the night.

Walking Tours in Jacksonville, Florida

Create Your Own Walk in Jacksonville

Create Your Own Walk in Jacksonville

Creating your own self-guided walk in Jacksonville is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Downtown Historical Buildings Walking Tour

Downtown Historical Buildings Walking Tour

In the wake of The Great Fire of 1901, the largest-ever inferno in the Southeast, Downtown Jacksonville had be to rebuilt anew. Some of America's most creative and innovative architects of the day, looking to make a name for themselves, like New York City’s Henry John Klutho and Melvin Henry Hubbard, flocked to Jacksonville for the opportunity to rebuild its Downtown area. Guided by their...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.9 Km or 1.8 Miles