A cheap night out by the beach, perfect for weekends
On a Saturday night during the Players Championship -- the biggest weekend of the year, according to most locals -- lines stretched out from Surfer [The Bar] on Jacksonville Beach like the velvet rope queues I know in South Beach. I told my friend, a younger local, to forget it. I’m not dealing with lines.
“This?” she said. “This is nothing. We’ll be in in like ten minutes.”
I scoffed, figuring she wouldn’t get in so quickly with me in tow instead of her regular crew of girlfriends. But she was spot-on. The line actually moved and just as the humidity of the late-spring night was starting to make me sweat, we reached the door. I immediately ordered two drinks and was told to pay $8.
“I’m paying for both of them,” I told the bartender.
“Yeah,” he said. “Eight dollars.”
The low prices bring a young crowd, with students from University of North Florida and Jacksonville University mixing with young professionals. And, my friend told me on the dance floor, during a Chainsmokers remix, you’re also likely to bump into Jaguars players in their civvies.
The scene wasn’t exactly South Beach, but it still invited an attractive crowd that seemed more concerned with having a good time than with being seen. Living here it might get repetitive -- my friend ran into at least a dozen people she knew in the hour we were out -- but for a weekend trip, it’s ideal. And much more accessible than Miami.
In Jacksonville I found access to first-class everything, without the crowds, prices, or pretention. Though the rest of the state, and even the country, might see Jacksonville as Florida’s chew-spittin’, truck-drivin’ redneck little brother, one need spend only a few days here to realize its a poorly hidden gem among Florida’s great beach destinations. It might still have a few kinks to work out to get out from under the blanket of boring that’s covered it for nearly a century. But at least now it smells like the ocean.