Jacksonville might not be the first place that comes to mind for seekers of Florida’s best shopping — but it could be. Move over, West Palm Beach: two historic Jacksonville neighborhoods, Riverside and Avondale, are ripe for the credit card swipe.
While you’re at it, venture out to the soon-to-be minted “Railroad District” and spend a few hours sipping craft brews and browsing vast antique stores for singular finds.
This neighborhood literally abuts the St. John’s River, Florida’s major inland waterway, running 310 miles from the Atlantic to the Gulf of Mexico. Recently voted one of America’s Top 10 Great Neighborhoods, Riverside lays claim to a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.
But just because it’s steeped in old-school history doesn’t mean you won’t find some of the coolest shops in Jax. Head to the Riverside Arts Market on Saturdays underneath the I-95 overpass along the river. There you’ll find vendors selling everything from locally grown Florida datil-pepper hot sauce to artisan-made stained glass, local jewelry and beauty products, and plenty of food from Jacksonville food trucks and farms.
A little further inland you’ll find King Street, the main shopping district in this bohemian barrio. Park the car (for free!) and take to the streets. The thoroughfare is lined with antique shops filled with curios and one-of-a-kind home decor items.
Duck into Sweet Theory for one of their A-plus donuts or cupcakes. If you’re into craft beer, King Street has breweries and watering holes galore. Don’t miss Bold City Brewery, Dahlia’s Pour House and Intuition Brewery. Leave the car; you can take the Riverside Trolley for free to your next stop. Refuel at MShack Riverside with gourmet burgers and spiked milkshakes like the Bananas Foster laced with Ron Carlos rum.
Spend an afternoon and a few Benjamins at the Shoppes of Avondale, which literally could not get cuter. Before slipping into a parking spot on St. John’s Avenue, take a turn around some of the surrounding streets.
Ogle the gingerbread-style Victorian homes with wraparound porches and dreamy gables and garrets. Then hop out and start your stroll through the 1920s art deco historic district with a stop at the Florida Creamery. The tables outside are primed for people watching.
Avondale Gift Boutique, J. Ashley and Hope Jewelers (full of estate gems) are must-stops. Don’t miss the European Imports & Polish Pottery storefront. It’s chock full of Eastern European artifacts and home decor you won’t find anywhere besides Krakow or Budapest.
It’s not an official neighborhood yet, but the area, anchored by mega-antique market Eco Relics, is an up-and-coming district for Jacksonville’s artisans and collectors. Eco Relics was founded four years ago by husband-and-wife team Annie and Michael Murphy who bought and renovated 106 Stockton Street, originally built by the Baker & Homes Company in 1927.
Michael owned a woodworking business, and Annie’s passion is for the environment. Together they began a salvage and antiques market to keep artifacts, hardware and home construction materials out of landfills. It’s easy to spend several hours in the aisles with the thousands of items they keep in inventory.
From Hammond B3 organs to 1970s Sunbeam mixers to model airplanes from the 1940s, it’ll be tough not to walk out with more than a few treasures tucked under your arms.
The Jacksonville Farmers Market, in operation since 1939, is just a few blocks down Beaver Street and takes place every day from dawn to dusk. Ready to unwind? Whet your whistle at the 20-barrel Engine 15 Brewing Co. taproom on Myrtle Street.