One of the best family travel trips we’ve done was our visit to Jacksonville Beach and St Augustine. Experiencing Florida’s Historic Coast with the kids was so much fun and we did SO MANY THINGS. So, I got to do some Jacksonville solo travel and it was totally different.
Each day though after my conference, I had fun! I got to go explore a bit, enjoyed some time relaxing on Jacksonville Beach and had some really great dining experiences.
So often I read about others’ experiences with solo travel and how incredible it is, the awesome people they meet, and the adventures they go on. I’ve always been skeptical just because it’s been so long for me. Well, I can attest that all of the great aspects of solo travel are true, but there’s definitely the air of longing for me. Jacksonville was great to me though, so I’ll share what made Jacksonville solo travel good and why I’m up for a bit more kid-free roaming in the future (but not too much).
What you'll find...
Jacksonville WordCamp (#WCJAX)
If you’re curious why I did some Jacksonville solo travel it’s because I spoke at WordCamp Jacksonville. It was a great experience where I got to meet all kinds of web professionals, bloggers and developers. I attended some interesting sessions and learned a lot about web tools, social media and writing. It was wonderful to connect with like-minded folks and hear about their methods for developing their own sites and hear about their client relationships.
I spoke at WordCamp Jacksonville about branding and finding your own voice and niche. I think it was well received and it was fun to talk about my family… while I was busy missing them.
Note: this was the first year for #WCJAX and it was a really cool event. If you use WordPress and do web stuff, you should find a WordCamp to attend. It’s such a diverse, welcoming community and everybody just wants to share knowledge and learn from each other.
FYI: apparently for me solo travel means that you take a lot of work-selfies.
Relaxing at Jacksonville Beach
Do you have any of those memories that you share with people, meaning “Last time I was here it was with…”. That’s Jacksonville Beach for me. Last time I was there it was with my husband and kids. It was the first time our youngest had enjoyed a beach without sitting there putting sand into his mouth. Warm water and kids splashing. Jacksonville Beach is perfect for family travel.
This time was totally different. When I finished my day at #WCJAX I headed off to Jacksonville Beach alone. I was trying really hard to rock my solo travel self. I parked (because there’s tons of free 2 hour parking) and headed over the dunes and onto the beach. It was a windy day as it was the tail end of a nor’easter storm, but the beach was still hoppin’.
I found a nice spot on my favorite Florida beach and… laid myself down… and relaxed. I didn’t have to worry about kids running into the waves or throwing sand. I was able to do nothing and I was totally okay with it. Jacksonville solo travel was actually a pretty awesome experience. Once I got into relaxation mode the rest took care of itself. I got some sun, a little sand in my shorts, and for a brief time forgot that I was missing my family. True, there were kids playing in the surf and on the dunes, but I just zoned out and spent some time being thankful for not being needed. This all sounds terribly selfish, but in this case that was okay.
Note: something I learned about solo travel is that it isn’t necessarily more relaxing than family travel, but it’s definitely more free flowing. Getting into that zone of free flowing fun was important for me to be comfortable being a solo traveler for a weekend.
FYI: apparently for me solo travel means that you take a lot of beach-selfies.
Strolling the Jacksonville riverfront
I found the best park ever. Well, maybe not ever, but it was great. Memorial Park on the St Johns River was a great find. We’re from Seattle which has some incredible city parks, such as Volunteer Park and Green Lake… Wait: Memorial Park felt very similar… Oh yeah, the Olmstead Brothers designed it and those other parks I mentioned too… and almost every other famous and beautiful public park in the USA.
I stumbled upon Memorial Park in the morning after getting my daily Starbucks. Jacksonville solo travel earned several points in my book upon discovering Memorial Park. With walking trails, huge trees dripping with Spanish moss, an amazing bronze sculpture titled “Life” and a seawall along the St Johns River. I saw walkers, runners, people doing yoga in the shade… and family travelers. Oh well, not every discovery will keep you distracted from missing your kids, but that’s okay. I enjoyed the park and decided that it’ll be a good spot for a picnic when we’re back with the kids again.
Fun fact: if you love parks like Memorial Park, you should check out the parks of Seattle, San Francisco and Vancouver, BC, as they all mirror each other in different ways and all are great places to watch the locals and get a feel for the city.
Jacksonville solo travel: fun dining
My MisterBNB hosts were incredible for lots of reasons, but one of the great things they did was take me out into their neighborhood, Avondale. They exposed me to some great cocktails and food and made me excited to return with the husband, as he loves good food and fancy beverages.
So, I thought it was just a liquor store and immediately questioned my hosts’ choice. Yeah no. It was a really great bar with awesome bar tenders whipping up cool craft cocktails. I ordered an Old Fashioned, cuz why not, and the response I got was “did you mean a New Fashioned?” Um, sure. It was awesome and I have no idea what made it so different except that the fruit was some sort of blueberry or cherry or hybrid or something. Let’s just say that one New Fashioned was all I needed to relax in Jax.
Tip: if a bartender suggests a drink, why not try it? If you don’t like it they’ll always make you a different one. Be adventurous, especially when you’re in a new town.
As you may or may not know, I LOVE tuna dishes. My favorite of all time was the seared tuna at Echo Restaurant in St Simons Island, Georgia, but the Tuna Crudo at Il Desco was pretty awesome. It was served with fried wonton crisps, radish and hot chili oil. It was a perfect snack to make me feel like a fancy Jacksonville solo traveler.
The other thing that wowed me at Il Desco was a surprise: Spaghetti Tacos. I know, that’s the weirdest sounding thing ever, but soooo good. Again, Il Desco used the fried wonton but this time as a taco shell and then stuffed it with noodles and a really great ragu with perfectly tender beef. Serve this up with some mascarpone and it was a total winner. I really need to figure out how to make this at home.
I actually went here because there was a mixer for my conference here. It was really cool though. If you’ve read our articles about Jacksonville Beach or Leavenworth, you know that we love breweries and beers. Kickbacks has an incredible selection of beers from all over and an atmosphere to rival the best Seattle hipster/steampunk bars. While I didn’t try all of the 204 beers on tap or any of the 1000+ bottled beers, I did find a gem of an IPA (my favorite brew) and enjoyed some pretty awesome Southwestern Eggrolls and housemade hummus. When we’re in Jacksonville again, I know that I’ll be bringing Chris here, because there are some beers that he MUST try.
Tip: when there are so many beers on tap, be clear about what you like and be open to trying something totally random. Life’s too short to be narrow minded about beer.
Jacksonville solo travel accommodations
Casa Marina Hotel
For family travel we stayed at the Casa Marina Hotel in Jacksonville Beach. It’s a beautiful, vintage 1920s beachfront, Spanish influenced stucco beauty. As a family of four, we had plenty of comfortable, clean space and were right on the beach. We fell in love with Jacksonville Beach while staying at the Casa Marina and are looking forward to returning.
Tip: if you’re able to travel mid-week, the Casa Marina offers some really good deals that are more than worth it due to its prime location on the beach.
For my own Jacksonville solo travel adventure I used an awesome service called MisterBNB. MisterBNB is a home stay booking site built for gay travel and to ensure welcome, comfortable experiences. For me doing my first solo travel in 12 years, it was great because I felt at home and had built in friends to distract me from missing my family. MisterBNB was really a trip-saver for me and I loved my accommodations in the Avondale neighborhood.
Tip: using a service like MisterBNB was awesome for me because it gave me tour guides, buddies, and made my weekend more fun. It’s a great reason to book that way!
Having done Jacksonville solo travel and also visited with my family, I can confidently say that I do prefer to have the fam with me… but really appreciate how I was able to relax and enjoy some alone time for the first time in 12 years. I loved discovering great food and drinks, really appreciated relaxing on the beach without worrying about kids, and I loved my experience using MisterBNB for a place to stay.