Despite being the most populous city of Florida, Jacksonville often loses out to its more famous counterparts. Yet, if you are looking for one of the best-value destinations in USA that offers you a vacation which is both relaxing and fun, you should head right away to Jacksonville. From its extensive park system, beaches spread across 22 miles, and historic neighborhoods to lively street arts scene, innovative coastal cuisine, delectable craft beer, and pulsating nightlife, you’ll get them all and much more in Jacksonville (or Jax as locals prefer to call it). If you plan to explore this beautiful city with your family as part of a roadtrip, make sure to check RV Rental Jacksonville before beginning your journey. Here are eight unbelievable things you might have never known about Jacksonville.
- It boasts of the nation’s biggest urban park system: Jacksonville has the country’s largest urban park system with over 80,000 designated acres including 7 state parks, 400 city parks, and 2 national parks along with a dozens of arboretums and gardens. Spread across 46,000 acres, the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve deserve a special mention for being one of Atlantic Coast’s last unspoiled coastal wetlands where you can experience the magnificence of coastal dunes, salt marshes, and hardwood hammocks apart from discovering 6,000 years of human history.
- It was called Cow Ford once: Jacksonville’s original name was Cow Ford since back in those days, all the cattle gathered at an intersection between a British road that extended from St. Augustine to Georgia, and the St. Johns River. In 1822, the crossing was renamed Jacksonville after General Andrew Jackson, who was Florida’s military commissioner the preceding year, and later became the seventh U.S. president.
- Friendship Fountain is one of the most recognizable landmarks of the city: This fountain was the tallest and largest fountain of the world when the park opened in 1965, which was capable of spraying a whopping 17,000 gallons of water per minute to 120 feet. The fountain was named as the Fountain of Friendship based on the suggestion of a Rotary Club member since friendship was one of the cardinal principles of the Club. Thanks to it being decorated by multiple colored lights at night, this fountain soon became a local recreation site and an admired tourist destination. Today, you can get a magnificent view of downtown Jacksonville from the park, which also offers you access to the Southbank Riverwalk that was thrown open for the public in 1985. When you visit the Friendship Fountain, you can also set a date with the Jacksonville Maritime Museum (situated on the Riverwalk) and the Museum of Science and History, which occupies part of the original park property.
- Ostrich farms of Jacksonville were a big tourist draw once: During the late 1800s and early 1900s, ostrich parks and farms were a big draw in Jacksonville. You could watch the big birds’ race, or enjoy a ride in an ostrich-drawn small wagon or cart. The ostriches were harnessed singly as well as in pairs occasionally. Back in the day, you could even buy these birds’ feathers or plumes, and articles made of them like, hats, fans, boas, and other souvenirs. The birds’ fluffy, large, and pricey plumes were highly sought after for creating women’s hats, dusters etc. Since it was dangerous to get within striking distance of an ostrich’s long legs (since just one powerful kick could be fatal), employees who plucked the plumes earned a hefty weekly wage of $75.
- The Jacksonville Farmers Market dates back to 1938: Founded in 1938, this market is North Florida’s oldest and largest farmers market with over 100 farmers/vendors selling wholesale and retail items. From organic, and seasonal, to specialty, ethnic, and unique products, you’ll always find them arriving fresh in the market daily. Occasionally, you can even find flowers and plants, seafood, syrups, honey, boiled peanuts, gourmet dressings, and much more here throughout the year. Admission to this market is free, and it’s visited by over 25,000 people from all over the Southeast every week. From visitors and locals to families, kids, and grandparents alike, a visit to this market is sure to be great fun.
- Jacksonville was once the silent movies capital: From about 1908 to 1918, several silent movie companies took up residence in and operated from Jacksonville. However, the staged events (from false fire alarms to bank robberies and more) irritated Jacksonville residents and they made their feeling known in a 1917 mayoral contest by electing an anti-film industry candidate. This together with some other factors made the movie companies move out of Jacksonville.Today, the Norman Studios (that dates back to 1916) is the solitary surviving silent film studio complex in Jacksonville.
- The ancient octopus-like Treaty Oak is believed to be more than two centuries old: The ancient Live Oak tree, which is over 70 feet tall, sits pretty in Treaty Oak Park, and has a trunk that’s more than 25 feet in circumference. Its thick branches sprout off at all angles like an enormous wooden cephalopod. This ancient tree almost became a victim of urban sprawl but some clever tactics by its fans is believed to have saved it.
- The first Jacksonville River Run was held in 1978: Today, the Gate River Run (which was earlier called the Jacksonville River Run) in Jacksonville is a popular 15 kilometer annual road running event, which attracts both recreational and competitive runners. However, not many know that it was on April 1, 1978 when the first River Run took place in which more than 13,000 runners participated but only 2204 completed the 9.3-mile course. The fastest man was Bill Rodgers (who clocked up 44:46), while fastest woman was Kim Merritt (who clocked up 55:46).
Tips for visitors from VWP countries
If all these unbelievable things about Jacksonville make you eager to visit the city, make sure to apply for an ESTA if you’re from the VWP (Visa Waiver Program) countries and plan to stay for not more than 90 days in the US for business or vacation/medical purposes. Since you’ll need an approved ESTA to enter the USA, don’t forget to receive ESTA status before you board your flight or cruise ship.