Labor Day Weekend is upon us, and with it the opening game of the Boise State football season. This year’s opener is on the road against Florida State. They were supposed to play in Jacksonville, Florida at the home of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars. Technically, it was a game being played on a neutral field. In reality, it’s a short drive from Tallahassee and two thousand miles from Boise. Is the drive worth it? Patricia Winters of VisitJacksonville.com says yes. She says the plane tickets are worth it, too. I think that’s her job, but she seems trustworthy. Patricia says you can’t visit Jacksonville properly without planning enough time to explore their waterways, nightlife, food scene and fun attractions. Here’s her suggested itinerary:
Friday, August 30th. Arrive in town on one of more than 100 daily flights to Jacksonville International Airport and rent a car to take you to your hotel. Jacksonville hotels have the lowest rates in the state of Florida, and the rates are especially low in August and September. If either of those statements makes you nervous, you may have a point. Jacksonville hotels are cheaper because it’s one of the few places in the state that’s known as a city first and resort second. And August and September is hurricane season. Brochures for many destinations in Florida could read, “This might be the best vacation of your life if there isn’t a hurricane.” According to Patricia, the two most fun things to do in Jacksonville on a Friday night are eat and drink. First, explore the historic neighborhoods near downtown, one of which is called “Downtown”. One of the interesting restaurants in the Downtown area is called the Burrito Gallery. It specializes in Jax-Mex food, which apparently is Mexican food that tastes like it was cooked in Jacksonville. You’ll know you’ve arrived in the San Marco neighborhood when you see a large fountain made from statues of lions. The Brooklyn neighborhood has a place called Corkscrew Park that could be for skateboarding, wine drinking or dating, and a “state-of-the-art YMCA”. The Springfield neighborhood is filled with “restored mansions and bungalows” and local clothing shops like Best Dressed Dame and Classic Maven. The Rail Yard District, despite containing a railyard, also has brewpubs and a dawn-to-dusk farmers’ market open every day of the year except Christmas and Thanksgiving. When you reach Riverside, Avondale, Murray Hill and Five Points, you’ll realize just how many neighborhoods in Jacksonville are named after neighborhoods in New York. Grab a Jax Ale Trail passport at any microbrewery and drink your way through it and 19 other microbreweries. By the time you get to the one called Strings in Springfield, you’ll think drinking beer while playing basketball is a good idea, which will work out because that’s what they do there. There are also many rooftop bars and restaurants because it’s not cold in Florida.
Saturday, August 31st. You’ll probably need coffee for your hangover, so stop at Social Grounds, Southern Roots or Southern Grounds. There isn’t a Social Roots. Then it’s off to tailgate. There’s an official Boise State tailgate party, and those are usually pretty exciting. Or there’s a nondenominational tailgate party at the Jacksonville Fairgrounds for $25 which advertises itself as “27,000 square feet of air-conditioned awesomeness”. This could be advantageous because of the famous southern humidity. The Ultimate Tailgate Party is in parking lot P at TIAA Bank Field, where the game is going to be played. It’s $39.95, which might be worth it when someone asks, “Aren’t all tailgate parties sort of in parking lot P?” And somewhere near the stadium is the 5th Quarter/36 Degrees/Doak Boyz tailgate party, which doesn’t have a lot of information written about it but appears to be hip hop in nature and feature DJ’s James and Danielle. For some reason, tickets to it are “20 to 40 dollars”. Game time is 7pm, and when it’s over, either repeat what you did Friday night or take an all-new route amidst the rooftops and breweries.
Sunday, September 1st. Although most of you will be flying home on Sunday, Patricia says you shouldn’t. Save that for Tuesday. Spend Sunday sobering up again by eating brunch at one of 43 downtown Jacksonville restaurants that serve it, then head to the River Walk. It’s like the famous River Walk in San Antonio, minus the colors. Or it’s like the Boise Greenbelt if it were grey. But on this day they’ll be holding the Bold City Beer Fest, featuring 40 different local and regional craft beers and 15 food trucks. Admission is free, but beer and food is regularly priced.
Monday, September 2nd. Take aspirin, then make this a beach day. Jacksonville has 22 miles of Atlantic Ocean beaches. Have fun, spash around and get a tan, unless there’s a hurricane. If there is, head for Beaches Town Center and many more places to eat and drink. Some of the more interesting ones include The Flying Iguana, The North Beach Fish Camp and The Ragtime Tavern, which is named for the music and not meant to be a place to complain.
Tuesday, September 3rd. Sober up again, fly home, and reflect on your time in Jacksonville, a city with seven major bridges that not only lead you out of town, but also back in, a city named for a president who never bothered to visit it, and a city where the official slogan, “It’s easier here”, despite rumors to the contrary, doesn’t mean high school. Seriously, though, it’s nice, and doesn’t deserve the jokes they tell about it on the TV show “The Good Place”, except maybe the ones about excessive drinking.