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Quick Jacksonville Travel Guide for Fans Going to the Gator Bowl

On the Banks’ resident person from Jacksonville makes some suggestions for fans traveling to the game

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NCAA Football: Gator Bowl-North Carolina State vs Kentucky Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Holidays, all.

As On the Banks’ resident person who hails from Jacksonville (I grew up there prior to moving to New Jersey, and roughly half my family still lives in the area, so I travel there frequently), I wanted to share a few thoughts for those who are making the trip down for the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl.

Work and family obligations here in New Jersey unfortunately don’t allow me to make the trip this year, but for those who are traveling, there are some fun things to consider/do in the Jacksonville area. Here is a short list, which is completely biased based on my personal interests and perspectives:

  • Where to stay: In my not-quite-professional opinion, downtown Jacksonville is not the perfect place to stay (unless you really value being close to the stadium itself). It’s kind of quiet and lots of stuff tends to shut down early. I’d recommend instead you rent a car from the airport, or barring that, it’s potentially worth the (not cheap) ride share service to/from downtown to stay in the Beaches area instead. There are plenty of oceanfront hotels in Jacksonville’s three satellite beach communities (Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach, and Atlantic Beach) to choose from, adjacent to a (free! really nice!) beach and decent-to-good beachside restaurants and nightlife. In Jax Beach in particular, there should be several bars/restaurants with indoor, as well as outdoor seating as long as the temperatures remain above 70 — Jacksonville locals tend to think anything under 70 is frigid.
  • Spend some time beachside: Earlier, I mentioned the beach is free and really nice. I can’t emphasize this enough, and with high temperatures projected in the upper 70s to around 80 the day before and day of the Gator Bowl, I’d expect locals and visitors alike to want to catch some sun. (For Jacksonville, these temperatures are seasonably warm; I’ve visited Jacksonville in winter time before when low temperatures drop to 20-25 degrees at night, and the whole place seemingly shuts down.) Pack sunscreen, though, if you do hit the beach. I’ve been burned (literally) by unseasonably warm winter days in Jacksonville before.
  • Or be active: If you happen to be into golf, there are few better places to visit than the Jacksonville area. Just pick a local muni and you can play a reasonably priced round with rental clubs on a really nice track. Or, if you prefer, you won’t be too far from the World Golf Village, with the World Golf Hall of Fame, awesome restaurants, and a replica of the 17th green at TPC Sawgrass where you pay something like $10 and get two attempts to hit the green with a rental club. If I recall correctly, a hole in one wins a large cash prize. (Humble brag alert: I’m terrible at golf, but I’m 2-for-2 in my life hitting the green.) Jacksonville is also a world-class running city, hosting the national 15k championship (the River Run) each March. If you extend your stay a day, you won’t have to search hard for a New Year’s Day fun run near your hotel.

I’d be lying if I said Jacksonville is the world’s most exciting city to visit. But with unseasonably nice weather predicted, for those who plan to make the trip, there is a way to make the non-football part of your trip interesting and enjoyable.

For those interested in buying tickets, the best way to do it at this late time is through StubHub here.

If folks who are traveling have any specific questions, leave them in the comments and (time permitting) I’ll answer if I can. Safe travels!