7 Reasons Why Every Runner Needs to Go to Jacksonville

They have a brewery passport.

Speaking of beer, JAX is on the cutting edge of the local brewery movement. Not only are the beers smooth and satisfying, enthusiasts take their ale trail so seriously that they even have a passport. Pick up your adorable beer booklet at participating locations, then take it to the various breweries to get stamped. The more stamps you get, the better JAX swag you win. After your long run, jump on board the brew bus, which will safely transport you to all the best local breweries. You’ll get tastes of the latest concoctions, plus beer served while on the bus. You really shouldn’t miss any of the eight tap houses on the tour, but if you can only choose one, check out Zeta in the heart of downtown. Its patio and taste combinations are exceptional.

You get a ton of bang for your buck.

The city’s tagline is, “It’s easier in JAX,” and we won’t argue with that. One of the most amazing things about this beach destination is how far your dollar will stretch. Depending when you go, you can book a five-star resort with sparkling pools and incredible service at far less than you’d pay any place else.

So where should you stay? Treat yourself right at Ponte Vedra Beach’s Sawgrass Marriott Resort and Spa. Famous for hosting the Player’s Championships (yes, bring your golf clubs), this is more than a hotel, it’s a destination to truly rest. It’s a short drive from downtown and situated in one of the most exclusive beach communities in the U.S. You’ll be just a short walk from luxury shops, delicious restaurants, the beach and, oh, the DONNA Half and Marathon start line.

Post-run, head to the spa. Wade in the mineral baths and get a massage. Finally, when you’re done running and swimming, schedule the PCA Oxygenating Red Carpet Facial. You’ll return home glowing and rejuvenated.

They have the best coffee.

For runners who value strong coffee and fine pastries, Southern Grounds in Neptune Beach will not disappoint. Stop by for a perfectly brewed beverage of your liking—then stay for avocado toast or a grilled goat cheese sandwich.

Your rest day meal will be insanely delicious.

You really can’t go wrong picking a restaurant in Jacksonville, but there is one place you can’t miss. Set right next to the ocean in Jacksonville Beach, Gilbert’s Southern Kitchen and Bar has one of the most creative and delicious menus on the eastern seaboard. It’s the brainchild of celebrity chef Kenny Gilbert who you may know from “Top Chef” season seven. He’s gracing JAX with his talent and turning his love of cooking into a culinary experience where his passion is present in every dish. Go there hungry, and try the Smoked Pork Belly Burnt Ends and Smoked Conch Dip to start. We guarantee the specials will sound too good to pass up, but if not, we recommend the Local Shrimp & Grits or 24-Hour Brined Southern Fried Chicken.

The drinks are sweet (literally).

Celebrate a run well done with some fun at Candy Apple Café and Cocktails. If you’re a kid at heart but want a buzz, the bartenders here will treat you to the craft candy cocktail of the week. Drinks like Bourbon Peanut Butter Cup or Sweet Pete’s Watermelon Sour are expertly stirred and delightfully strong.

Don’t worry, not every cocktail is candy-fied. Go to Sidecar for more craft goodies. For those with a more refined palate, order an Old Fashioned. It will be the best you’ve ever had.

Beaches. Yes, that’s a reason.

It’s almost always beach weather in JAX, so if you need to actually relax with the sounds of waves crashing onto soft sand, get your sunblock ready. There are so many different towns to explore, you’re certain to find a shoreline to match your vibe. Chill out in Neptune Beach or ride waves in Jacksonville Beach. It’s also possible to rest your feet while exploring the natural beauty of the marshlands and open waters by scheduling a kayak tour at North Guana Outpost in Ponte Vedra Beach.

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