So you’re thinking about moving to Jacksonville? Whether you’re relocating for a job or looking for better weather, you’re probably wondering what to expect from this northeastern corner of Florida. Its reputation for hot summers, picturesque shores, and sprawling geography might precede it, but there’s so much more to this beach-blessed city than meets the eye.
Here are the answers to some of the top questions people ask about living in Jacksonville.
For a high-level look at the city you may soon call home, take a virtual tour through this aerial video.
Jacksonville at a Glance:
- Jacksonville is situated in the northeastern corner of Florida, less than an hour’s drive from Georgia and 350 miles up the coast from Miami.
- Jacksonville is 840 square miles in size, making it the largest city by area in the continental U.S.
- By population, Jacksonville is the 12th largest city in the states and the most populous in Florida, with about 911,507 residents and counting.
- The median age in Jax is 36, though 33% of the population falls into the 50+ age group.
1. The cost of living in Jacksonville is 10% below the national average
- The median sale price for a Jacksonville single-family home is $202,000, while typical homes in Miami go for $387,000, according to Zillow.
- The average rent in Jacksonville is $1,109 and the average size is 965 square feet—in Miami that goes up to $1,702 for 891 square feet, according to RentCafe. Less money for more space, anyone?
2. The price is right
When it comes to buying real estate in Jacksonville, if you’re moving from another major city, you’re likely to be pleasantly surprised by the affordability. The cost of housing is a solid 17% below the national average, and as a result more than half of residents own homes. Even though it’s one of the state’s most bustling metro areas, you can score three bedrooms and a yard within shouting distance of a beach.
3. Jacksonville rentals are easy to come by
About 44% of city dwellers opt to rent apartments in Jacksonville, so the inventory is there for newcomers looking to rent. With a median monthly rent just over $1,100, that cost is a few hundred dollars below the national average of $1,468. Like any city, prices vary from neighborhood to neighborhood. For affordable apartments, look in areas like College Gardens or Lincoln Villas. For more luxurious accommodations focus your search in enclaves such as Isle of Palms or Beach Haven. As a general rule of thumb, keep in mind that you’ll have to fork over more to live near the beach than on the outskirts.
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4. Jacksonville Beach is just one of many jewels along the Atlantic shore
Did you know Jacksonville has the most shoreline of any other city in the U.S.? And, on top of claiming 80,000 acres of green space and the largest urban park system in the country, it’s also home to 22 glorious miles of sandy beach, according to Visit Jacksonville, the official source on area travel. Here are five of its best:
- Jacksonville Beach: Paddle out to “the Poles” for adrenaline-pumping surfing, stroll along the nearly quarter-mile-long Jacksonville Beach Fishing Pier, or enjoy the salty air while dining at the waterside cafes.
- Neptune Beach: This suburban stretch speaks to the beach bum who wants to relax with a summer read all day, and catch an epic sunset at night.
- Ponte Vedra: Calling all beachcombers and golfers! Located just outside Jacksonville in St. Johns County, this coastal locale is known for its massive dunes and coveted golf courses.
- Atlantic Beach: Just north of Neptune Beach, visitors from near and far flock to this shore to bike, surf, swim, and simply soak up the sun.
- Little Talbot Island State Park: Get away from all of the touristy hubbub at this idyllic barrier island, where explorers can birdwatch, sunbathe on the white sand beach, marvel at the driftwood sculptures of Boneyard Beach, hike, and even camp overnight.
5. The best places to live in Jacksonville include Orange Park, San Marco, and Southside
- Orange Park: Forty minutes south of downtown, you’ll find a rural retreat from the city center. Home to the Naval Air Station and properties with spacious yards abutting large swaths of woods, this neighborhood is ideal for families.
- San Marco: Modeled after the Venetian locale of the same name, San Marco exudes Italian charm. Embrace the culture by popping into one of the artsy boutiques and charming bistros. Don’t forget to snap a photo with the iconic Three Lions fountain.
- Southside: Head to this residential area to settle into a starter home and take advantage of the good schools nearby. More recent development has brought plenty of entertainment and dining options, not to mention two shopping malls.
Of course, with more than 500 neighborhoods to consider, those moving to Jacksonville, Florida have more than enough options. Here are 10 other areas to check out:
- Ortega Forest
- Isle of Palms
- Secret Cove
- The Beaches: Atlantic Beach, Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach
6. You’ll find five of the state’s top high schools here
Per U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of the nation’s best schools, Jacksonville is home to five of Florida’s top institutions. The highest-ranking counties include:
- St. Johns
7. Jacksonville feels more southern than most Florida cities that are further south
Even though Jax is northeast of Orlando, Tampa, and Miami, it feels much more southern when it comes to accents and attitudes. In fact, many Floridians say it feels more like a part of Georgia, which makes sense considering it’s only 25 miles from the Georgia state line.
8. It’s nearly always sunny in the Sunshine State
Jacksonville, Florida weather is the daydream of any northerner: Long, hot summers and short, relatively warm winters. In fact, Jacksonville hasn’t seen snowfall since 1989. Winter temps typically range 40 to 60-degrees, while spring and fall average the 70s to 80s. You’ll want to make sure your air conditioner is in working order for the summertime, though. The thermometer frequently hits 90 degrees and the thick humidity makes it feel even hotter. Still, its northeastern location keeps it cooler than Florida’s other major cities.
Not sure about Jacksonville? Check out these other Florida options:
- Top Orlando Realtors Share Home Buying Secrets
- Guide to the Best Tampa Neighborhoods
- Guide to the Best Miami Neighborhoods
9. Jacksonville crime rates are above average, but there are plenty of safe places to live
Let’s cut to the chase — crime rates here are above the Florida average, and are relatively high on the national scale, too. Neighborhood Scout gives Jax a crime index of 8, meaning it’s considered to be safer than only 8% of other U.S. cities.
A closer look at the numbers shows that crime is much more heavily focused on property than on violent crime, but it’s still worth keeping in mind, staying aware of your surroundings, and taking appropriate safety precautions. As mentioned, Jacksonville is huge and many areas are perfectly safe. A few of the safest based on crime rates, per Neighborhood Scout are:
- Jacksonville Naval Air Station
10. The job market is full of opportunity
If you’re moving to Jacksonville for a new job, then you already know that opportunity is abundant, with the job market increasing by 14% over the past decade. The average annual salary is around $46,000, which is lower than the national number, but then again the cost of living is well below the U.S. average. Some major employers include financial giants like Deutsche Bank and JPMorgan Chase, a growing hospitality industry, and of course the Naval Air Station, which provides tons of jobs on the massive military base and brings in diversity, too.
11. The Jax restaurant scene may surprise you
You probably haven’t heard Jacksonville touted as the dining capital of America, and that’s just the way locals like it. The dining scene has begun to blossom in recent years and these days you’ll find eateries headed by James Beard-nominated chefs and others that can rival some of Miami’s finest cuisine. Looking for recommendations? Head over to natedoesfood, the mouth-watering Instagram of a Jacksonville-based foodie who posts local finds like fresh sashimi, roasted cauliflower tacos, and gooey cinnamon buns.
Here are seven of the top places to dine out in Jacksonville, according to Jacksonville Magazine’s 2020 ranking of the top 50 restaurants:
- Town Hall: Beloved staples with gourmet twists and local ingredients.
- Matthew’s Restaurant: Feast on French and Mediterranean cuisine at this classy mainstay.
- Kazu Japanese Restaurant: Sample expertly rolled raw fish at this Japanese eatery and sushi bar.
- The Bearded Pig: Go all in on mac and cheese and brisket at this casual southern barbeque joint.
- Orsay: French specialties with, the restaurant says, “a touch of Southern influence.”
- Flying Iguana Taqueria: Elevated Tex-Mex fare that goes perfectly with a margarita.
- Ibex Ethiopian Kitchen: You guessed it, delectable Ethiopian food to scoop up with thin flatbread.
12. You’ll need a car to get around
You tend to hear the term “sprawl” associated with Jacksonville because of how the metropolis spreads out over so many square miles. As you’d expect, having a car is nearly a necessity. The average household has two cars, and a typical commute time is 24 minutes, though that can vary based on traffic and proximity to downtown. As for public transit, you have a couple of options: There’s an extensive network of buses, but the Jacksonville Skyway, a free monorail system, spans a mere 2.5 miles. Not much help there!
13. The top 10 things to do in Jax…
Looking for something to do on a weekend day? From beach hopping and art gazing to catching a show or shopping local goods, head to these sites to entertain yourself and fall in love with the city along the way.
- Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
- Museum of Science and History (MOSH)
- MOCA Jacksonville, University of North Florida’s downtown art museum
- Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens
- Little Talbot Island State Park
- Fort Clinch State Park
- TIAA Bank Field (a.k.a. Home of the Jacksonville Jaguars)
- Riverside Arts Market
- The Ritz Theatre & Museum
- The Jax Ale Trail
14. You can get schooled in Jacksonville
If you’re looking for higher education opportunities, you’ll have plenty of options in Jax. It’s home to several state and private four-year colleges and community colleges, including Florida State College at Jacksonville, University of North Florida, St. Johns River State College, Jacksonville University, and First Coast Technical College.
Now that you’ve got some quick facts about Jax, it’s time to start planning your move. Using our detailed week-by-week moving checklist will make a big difference in avoiding hassles and reducing stress. Then when you’re getting settled, try these 5 Projects to Make Your New Home Shine.
Sofia Rivera is a Boston-based lifestyle editor and frequent contributor to the PODS Blog. Her work has appeared in Boston magazine, Apartment Therapy, and more. You can most often find her redecorating her apartment, trying out a new recipe, or trekking all over the city.