Moving to Jacksonville, FL? Read Our Ultimate Moving Guide
Jacksonville just may be Florida's best-kept secret and most residents would rather it stay that way. If word got out about the great beaches, beautiful river, diverse neighborhoods, healthy job market, and growing arts and food scene, Jacksonville might become just another coastal Florida destination with people packed along the sand. If you're wondering whether a move to Jacksonville is right for you, read on for a snapshot of the city. If you've already made the decision to make this your next address, get in touch with Suddath to find out how our Jacksonville moving services can make the trip a breeze.
It's Florida. It's Georgia. It's Both.
If Jacksonville is your first-ever stop in Florida, you're probably going to find it's different from what you imagined "Florida" to be. Yes, there are miles of beaches, but you won't be swimming in December here. Yes, there are palm trees, but there are also dense pine forests. And yes, there are a few enclaves for the wealthy, but it's nothing like Miami Beach. Instead, it's something of a combination of South Georgia, which is just a few miles away, and central Florida, except it's on the coast. Jacksonville's climate, demographics and main industries are very different than almost any other part of the state.
It's also a challenge to generalize about Jacksonville, because it's really a very large city comprised of several areas that look and feel like distinct towns of their own. With its 900 square miles—which makes it the largest U.S. city by landmass—it's not uncommon for residents to avoid visiting other parts of Jacksonville for months, whether by choice or necessity. The bottom line? You can probably find a neighborhood that fits your lifestyle if you're planning a residential move to Jacksonville!
Making Your Way Around Jacksonville
Here are the most important things to know:
- Because of its size, you'll need a car to get around unless you're going to be able to live very close to where you work or go to school.
- It seems like major thoroughfares are in a perpetual state of construction. Check the Florida Department of Transportation's Northeast Florida Roads web page to see just how many projects are underway in Duval County at any given time.
- According to a study from EducatedDriver.org, Jacksonville's average commute time is 52.6 minutes. If one of the aforementioned road construction projects is in your path, you may have more than an hour's drive.
Regardless of which part of Jacksonville you call home, you're bound to encounter a bridge (or two or three) as you travel around the city. With the St. Johns River and its tributaries, other smaller rivers, and the Intracoastal Waterway cutting through Jacksonville, bridges are everywhere. There are nine major bridges, most of which are part of main arteries.
Public transportation is provided by the Jacksonville Transit Authority (JTA), which offers a rather diverse set of services, including:
- Regular and express bus service
- The Skyway monorail downtown
- The St. Johns River ferry
- Community shuttles in some neighborhoods
- A Gameday Xpress service for sporting events at the TIAA Bank Field downtown
- Paratransit for the elderly and people with disabilities
- Ride Request on-demand service
What's your style? Being able to park a boat in your backyard, taking nightly walks on the beach after dinner, having a few acres and a few horses, living in a planned suburban community, or living in a high-rise ... it's all here. We'd need a separate moving guide just to cover the diversity of the all of the neighborhoods in and adjacent to Jacksonville, so we'll just give you a few highlights:
The Westside: "Westside" covers several neighborhoods, and even includes Clay County's city of Orange Park which is right next door. This part of town has more reasonable home prices than most other areas and more open spaces. This is where you'll find room to have some acreage and plenty of family-friendly places to go and things to do.
The Northside: This area was mostly rural until just a couple of decades ago. It's been "discovered" now, though, and has become popular with families or those who just want to feel a bit away from it all.
The Beaches: Jacksonville Beach is the largest of the three beach communities and has some of the more affordable housing. Neptune Beach is the smallest, and is almost entirely residential with very little commercial property. Atlantic Beach is a particularly desirable town, and housing is priced accordingly. No matter which beach city you're interested in, keep in mind that the closer you are to the ocean, the higher the real estate values are, but you don't have to pay top dollar to be within easy biking distance. All three beach cities offer a great quality of life, with the distinctly laid-back vibe typical of most north Florida beach towns. Note that shorts and flip-flops are acceptable attire in even the better restaurants.
The Southside: This is one of the fastest-growing areas of Jacksonville with new housing developments and apartment communities being built every day. Homebuyers can choose from a wide range of housing, from affordable single-family homes to gated, upscale communities. Plenty of good schools are here, but be prepared to share crowded roads with the burgeoning population!
Arlington: The neighborhoods known collectively as Arlington experienced rapid growth in the 1960s and 1970s as an influx of new Jacksonville residents sought a bedroom community close to downtown. Today, it's one of the most affordable areas of the city, even along the St. Johns River waterfront, and it's an easy trip east to the beaches from here.
Springfield: The oldest neighborhood in Jacksonville (established in the 1860s) is now a blend of history and the hip. After decades of being out of the local limelight, new generations have made Springfield a destination as historic homes are restored and formerly vacant storefronts are now home to unique shops and restaurants. Beautiful old parks and ancient oaks wind through the neighborhood, which is adjacent to downtown.
San Marco: Mediterranean architecture, a sunny central square surrounded by shops and restaurants, and close proximity to downtown Jacksonville make this a very popular neighborhood. The dining scene attracts people from all over the city, as does some of the area's best art galleries.
Riverside/Avondale: The Cummer Museum, the riverfront, the shaded parks and charming shopping district make this area one of the most distinctive in town. Big, four-square homes, red brick duplexes and some modern lofts provide plenty of choices in housing in this very walkable, tree-lined neighborhood.
Jacksonville is a Family Town
With so many diverse neighborhoods, there are plenty of family-friendly places to live. No matter which neighborhood you choose to move to, the city and surrounding area offers all of the family activities you could ever want. Here are some of the top things to do, both indoors and out:
Water fun: Rivers, the waterway, lakes and the ocean—the Jacksonville area is a water lover's paradise. Let the kids run loose on miles of beaches, fish from thousands of spots, kayak and jet ski, or just float the day away.
The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens: See more than 2,000 animals and 1,000 different varieties of plants at the zoo, plus exciting exhibits recently opened, including the Range of the Jaguar, Giraffe Overlook, and Savanna Blooms garden.
The Museum of Science and History (MOSH): Its interactive exhibits and event schedule is always changing, so you'll want to return to the MOSH again and again. Don't miss the Bryan-Gooding Planetarium, one of the largest single-lens planetariums in the country. Shows at the planetarium include something for everyone, such as a Sesame Street-themed show in the morning and a Cosmic Concert at night.
City, state and national parks: Jacksonville has some serious bragging rights on parks, with more than 80,000 acres of parkland in the largest urban park system in North America. Your choices in settings are highly diverse, including woods, marshes, wetlands, gardens, urban parks, an arboretum and more. Popular park destinations include Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve, Fort George Island Cultural State Park, Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve State Park, Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park, and Castaway Island Preserve.
Education in Jacksonville
Quality schools can be found throughout the area, including public, private, magnet, and charter schools. The Duval County Public Schools system is as large as the city it serves, with more than 53,000 students in elementary school, 30,000 at the high school level, and even 15,000 in charter schools. Check the schools page for information on registration and enrollment, district data reports, bus routes, and much more.
Higher learning institutions in Jacksonville and surrounding areas include:
- The University of North Florida (UNF): Part of the State University System of Florida, UNF offers baccalaureate, masters and doctorate degree programs and has a 1,300-acre campus.
- Florida State College at Jacksonville: This is part of the Florida College System and offers four-year bachelor's degrees. Four major campuses are located throughout the area.
- Edward Waters College: Edward Waters was the first historically black college in the state. This private college was founded in 1866 and offers bachelor's degrees in eight academic programs.
- Jacksonville University: This private four-year university draws students from around the world to its more than 100 undergraduate programs and 23 masters and doctorate degree programs.
- Flagler College: This private four-year liberal arts college is housed in the historic former Ponce de Leon Hotel built by Henry Flagler in St. Augustine. It offers 33 majors, 41 minors and one master’s program.
It's Always Game Time
Looking for a pro team in your new town? Love college sports? Want to get in on some fishing tournament prizes? Whether you're a spectator or participant, you'll be in the right place here.
Professional sports teams:
Annual sporting events:
Sun, Wind and Rain
Jacksonville is one of those places where if you don't like the weather, wait a few minutes and it will change.
Generally, it's sunny, with more than 200 days of sunshine a year. Summers can be very hot, and it's definitely not a dry heat. If you're new to a humid climate, be vigilant about not getting overheated outdoors, which can happen fast.
Winters are mild, but not nearly as warm as they are in southern parts of Florida, and Jacksonville does get a few freezes each year, especially away from the beaches. Jacksonville has four distinct seasons, so if you want to wear that favorite knitted hat, you'll have a chance to do that.
Although there's only a trace of snow every great once in a while, Jacksonville has other types of weather new residents should be prepared for: thunderstorms, tropical storms, and hurricanes. Here are a few things to know before you move in:
- Watch out for lightning. Out of the top U.S. 30 cities for lightning strikes, Florida has 17 cities on the list, including Jacksonville, which is 9th on the national list. During the height of summer, the combination of a sea breeze, high heat and moisture makes the atmosphere unstable and perfect for quickly forming thunderstorms.
- Hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30 each year, but storms have been known to form before and after those dates. The storms that affected Jacksonville in recent years include Hurricane Irma in 2017, Hurricane Matthew in 2016, Tropical Storm Beryl in 2012, Tropical Storm Fay in 2008, Hurricanes Jeanne and Frances in 2004 and Hurricane Floyd in 1999. Although none of these were a direct hit on the city, several were large and strong enough to cause major damage from inland flooding, storm surge and winds. During hurricane season, follow local weather service instructions and track storms on the National Hurricane Center website, where you can also get information on how to prepare for severe tropical weather.
Dining, Arts and Entertainment
In addition to old standbys, there's been a serious surge of new destinations for food, drink, culture and fun in the last few years. Some are concentrated in areas such as St. Johns Town Center, the Beaches Town Center, downtown Jacksonville, and the neighborhoods of Five Points and San Marco. Here's a look at some of the most popular choices.
Jacksonville Magazine has a long list of the best restaurants in Jacksonville that will get you started on exploring the local food scene:
Jacksonville bars and breweries:
Visit Jacksonville offers a good capsule of Jacksonville nightlife and local watering holes, including:
- The Elbow, a downtown district that includes Dos Gatos and the Bold City Brewery.
- Pete's Bar, the lounge at Azurea, Island Girl Wine & Cigar Bar, Engine 15 Brewing Company, Atlantic Beach Brewing Company, and the Casa Marina Hotel, all at the beaches.
- Kickbacks Gastropub, The Rogue, and European Street in Riverside.
- Head to the Southside for Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails, Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurant, and Bottlenose Brewing.
Arts and culture in Jacksonville:
The Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville, the official Local Arts Agency (LAA) for the city, provides a comprehensive overview of Jacksonville's art scene, including performing, visual, and literary arts venues and events throughout town:
Shopping in Jacksonville
Whether you favor the biggest names in retail or would rather stroll through districts with small, local shops, it's all here. These are just a few shopping destinations around Jacksonville:
- St. Johns Town Center is where you'll find those just-mentioned big names. This upscale outdoor shopping spot is practically a town unto itself, with more than 160 stores, including Michael Kors, Coach, West Elm, and Tiffany & Co.
- Beaches Town Center is just a block from the ocean, and has shopping, dining and lodging so you can make an entire weekend of it.
- Riverside and its adjacent neighborhood, Avondale, offer a slower pace where you can spend the day at a sidewalk table for lunch or dinner and shop for everything from antiques to avant-garde artworks. Don't miss funky Five Points and the Shoppes of Avondale.
Important City Links
Use these links to help plan your move to Jacksonville and get settled once you're here:
DMV/Driver's License: You need to apply for your Florida driver's license within one month of establishing residency. Check the website of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to learn how and where to obtain a license, plus motor vehicle tag and title information.
Voting Registration: Check with the Duval County Supervisor of Elections Office for information on registration, election dates, and where your voting precincts are.
Hurricane and Emergency Shelters: The Florida Division of Emergency Management lists all of the public shelters throughout the state, including those that accept pets and those that can accommodate residents with special needs.
Evacuation Maps: You don't necessarily have to live right on the coast to be in an evacuation zone, because surge flooding in low-lying areas is often the most serious threat. Make sure you know your evacuation zone.
Utility, Cable and Internet Service Companies:
- The Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA) provides electricity, as well as water and sewage for most areas of Duval County. Other areas, such as some of the beach communities, have their own water and sewer service.
- Cable and internet service is provided by DIRECTV, xfinity, U-verse, DISH and other retailers.
Garbage and Recycling: The City of Jacksonville has helpful FAQ on solid waste and recycling collection.
Call the Experts for Your Move to Jacksonville
Suddath® offers comprehensive moving services, whether you're making a local, international or long-distance residential move to Jacksonville. Our professional moving coordinators are ready to take care of everything from packing, loading, storage and transportation. Get a free, no-obligation moving quote today.
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