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Best of Jacksonville

The city, state and country have had a tough row to hoe the last few years. Economic recovery takes time, and often the best way to pass that time is to live normally—to eat, drink, be merry, enjoy a concert, spend an afternoon at the beach and relish the things that make life on the First Coast great. Each year, our readers vote on their favorite subjects in a variety of categories. Rather than recognizing our Best of Jacksonville winners in our December issue, as has long been our tradition, we’re recognizing them now, in January. Our challenge to each winner? Keep doing what you’re doing. It’s working.

Nearly 2,000 Jacksonville Magazine readers cast votes in this year’s poll. Here are their selections of dozens of people, places and things we love (or love to hate) in the Bold New City of the South, including hair salon, bar eats, organic foods, dance club, pet stuff and more.

 

TV MORNING SHOW
Channel 4
Between the hours of 7-9 AM, WJXT’s The Morning Show is a local favorite for the day’s first stories. Nikki, Bruce, Staci, Richard and the rest of the crew keep their viewers entertained with just the right mix of personality, hard news and need-to-know traffic and weather.

NEWSPERSON MOST LIKELY TO ACCEPT YOUR FACEBOOK FRIEND REQUEST
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TV REPORTER WHOSE HAIR YOU WISH YOU HAD
Nikki Kimbleton
When polled on who they’d like to be connected to on social media, Channel 4’s anchor and consumer reporter Nikki Preede-Kimbleton reigns as the person our readers would most like to have on their list of friends. First order of business would be liking all of her profile pics: our readers think her blonde bob is the best hairstyle behind any news desk in town. Thumbs up, Nikki!

TV ANCHOR YOU’D LIKE TO INVITE TO YOUR NEXT BBQ
Richard Nunn
On his Facebook page, Channel 4 meteorologist Richard “The Frying” Nunn calls himself “an all-American nerd” who has turned a passion for weather into a long-lasting occupation. First Coast residents can catch his forecasts every morning on the Channel 4 morning show, and also during the noon show, but our readers would really prefer to catch up with him in the backyard over a few beers and burgers. The dude can cook, too.

TV REPORTER WHO DOES MEANINGFUL STORIES
Jeannie Blaylock
In addition to being First Coast News’ healthcare reporter, Blaylock co-anchors the 5 PM and 6 PM news and pioneered the Buddy Check 12 program, which motivates women to participate in early breast cancer detection routines. Though she reports on a variety of stories, including human interest pieces, Blaylock has serious street cred in the form of 16 Emmys, as well as multiple Associated Press awards and a Peabody.

WEBSITE TO GET THE JAX SCOOP
Jacksonville.com
The Florida Times-Union’s Jacksonville.com is the site locals turn to most often to get the local (and often national) scoop. In addition to restaurant reviews and news stories, visitors to the site can peruse blogs from T-U reporters as well as local job listings and classified ads.

MOST KNOWLEDGEABLE SPORTS-RADIO HOST
Dan Hicken
In addition to being sports director and weeknight sports anchor for First Coast News, Dan Hicken also hosts Sports Final Radio on WJXL-AM 1010 and is a voting sports journalist for the Heisman Trophy. He’s the go-to guy for info on big local events like The Players Championship, Jaguars games and anything Tim Tebow, and he won a regional Emmy for his work on a series about Jacksonville’s quest to land an NFL team.

MORNING RADIO SHOW
WOKV-AM 690
Though the station airs big names like Rush and Hannity, WOKV’s locallyproduced morning show is tops among listeners making their morning commute across one of Jacksonville’s many congested highways. With commentary from Rich Jones and segments from the WOKV news team, our readers’ dials budge little from 5-9 AM.

BEST RADIO PERSONALITY
Jeremy Ratliff
As the co-anchor of Jacksonville’s Morning News, a weekend co-host on WOKV, gameday commentator for Sirius XM during Jaguars games and co-host of the Shannon Miller Lifestyle show, Jeremy Ratliff is a pretty busy guy. He’s quick with a headline or a witty remark, and his Twitter account (@jeremyratliff) is full of his quirky thoughts (as well as breaking updates on his nap schedule).

CHEAP DATE LOCATION
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FAMILY-FRIENDLY RESTAURANT
TacoLu
1183 Beach Blvd., Jax Beach (249-TACO) If you can manage to snag a table (or, for that matter, a parking space), the ‘Lu is the place to go for an inexpensive meal that doesn’t sacrifice taste. It’s equally cool for a first date or a family dinner—the Day of the Dead décor is a good talking point for kids, and the house-made margaritas are a great way to ease first-date jitters. The grown-up tacos, such as ahi and filet mignon, keep even the most sophisticated palates happy, and kids can’t get enough of the quesadillas and bajastyle fish sticks. Plus, you don’t have to be a kid to enjoy a hands-on meal.

GIRLS NIGHT OUT
Urban Flats
9726 Touchton Rd. (642-1488); 330 A1A N., Ponte Vedra (280-5515) Though this Orlando-based chain stakes its reputation on a variety of gourmet flatbreads, its ever-popular “Winedown Wednesdays” and ladies nights have stolen the spotlight. The Southside location offers drink specials for the ladies twice a week, on Thursdays and Saturdays, while the Ponte Vedra location hosts ladies night Saturday, with women drinking free from 9 to 11 PM. We’ll drink to that.

GUYS NIGHT OUT
Mortons The Steakhouse/ No Longer Open for business in Jacksonville
1510 Riverplace Blvd., Southbank (399-3933) Located across the river from Downtown, this renowned steak house’s cozy lounge and extensive wine and cocktail list make it a great location for an after-work libation. Its USDA prime-aged beef isn’t half-bad, either. Gather the guys for a beer or a full-course meat-and-potatoes feast.

AFTER-DINNER DRINKS
Ocean 60
60 Ocean Blvd., Atlantic Beach (247-0060) Some nights just beg to last a little longer, and the Martini Room at Ocean 60 is an intimate, yet inviting place to enjoy a nightcap. Live music on weekends and a lengthy martini list keep regulars and newcomers alike coming back with their friends, loved ones and significant others.

NEW BAR/LOUNGE
BlackFinn American Grille
4840 Big Island Dr., St. Johns Town Center (345-3466) The Saloon at BlackFinn is one of the most appealing places to knock a few back at the St. Johns Town Center. A warm and dark room decorated in the style of an old-school hunting lodge, the massive bar is complemented by secluded booths on the room’s perimeter and high-top tables, making the gathering spot suitable for a casual date or a night out with friends.

HOTEL BAR
Azurea Lounge
One Ocean Resort, Atlantic Beach (249-7402) Luxury oceanfront hotel One Ocean has garnered a reputation for being one of the beach’s most chic locations. The hotel’s modern lobby and public spaces, complete with hanging stones and glass walls, is a gorgeous greeting for visitors to Azurea, the hotel’s restaurant. But for those looking for a more relaxed atmosphere, the Azurea lounge offers an extensive wine list as well as the restaurant’s full menu, and the outdoor veranda offers the perfect setting for an oceaninspired cocktail sipped by the firepit.

SPORTS BAR
Sneaker’s Sports Grille
111 Beach Blvd. (482-1000); 8133 Pointe Meadows Dr. (519-0509) Sports fans love Sneakers for its enormous television screens (some of which are a full story tall) as well as its beer selection, food and servers in cheerleader uniforms. Though it offers typical bar grub like loaded cheese fries and hot wings, prime rib and New York strip steaks are also favorites.

IRISH PUB
Fionn MacCools
333 1st St. N., Jax Beach (270-1350) Lynch’s Irish Pub 514 1st St. N., Jax Beach (249-5181) Two Jax Beach pubs tied for this year’s top pick for a place to pull up a bar stool, order a Guinness and chow down on corned beef and cabbage. Both Fionn MacCools and Lynch’s Irish Pub offer great food, cold beer and entertainment

PEOPLE-WATCHING BAR
Pete’s Bar
117 1st St. N., Neptune Beach (249-9158) Step inside Pete’s Bar, order a cold beer and sit back. Watching the crowd at this Beaches landmark is a pastime in which many generations of beachgoers have indulged. Perhaps the best day to take in the local flair is Thanksgiving, when crowds gather as early as 8 AM to party in the streets. Yeah, they do.

WINE BAR
The Grotto
2012 San Marco Blvd., San Marco (398-0726) With an ambiance mimicking that of an old wine cellar, The Grotto is a neighborhood favorite for its small plates and wine selection. The wine and tapas bar, which was transformed from a coffee shop years ago, offers more than 70 wines by the glass and more than 300 by the bottle, making it a prime place to get uncorked at the end of the day.

DANCE CLUB
SUITE
4880 Big Island Dr., St. Johns Town Center (493-9305) Few bars pack a stylish punch like SUITE. This dress-to-impress establishment prides itself on an extensive list of mixed cocktails and martinis, but the atmosphere is equally impressive with dark wood details, attentive servers and a full menu with dishes such as Cajun lobster tacos and Szechuan tuna.

HAPPY HOUR
Orsay
3630 Park St., Avondale (381-0909) Many view Orsay as a “special occasion” destination— you know, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. For those who want to enjoy Orsay’s ambiance and locally-sourced menu in between life’s grand benchmarks, though, there’s happy hour. Several of the restaurant’s appetizers are slashed to half-price from 4-7 PM daily (even on weekends), and a special wine, beer and cocktail menu follows suit.

BEER SELECTION
Kickbacks Gastropub
910 King St., Riverside (388-9551) It’s loud. It’s divey. And yes, you’ll probably see your fair share of facial piercings among both the clientele and the staff. But for beer lovers, Kickbacks is the prime spot in town. With over 600 different bottled beers and 84 varieties on tap, the gastropub has something for everyone.

CRAFT BREW PUB
Intuition Ale Works
720 King St., Riverside (683-7720) Though it only recently celebrated its oneyear anniversary, Intuition has quickly become a favorite local watering hole. The brewery keeps over a dozen of its own beers on tap in its tasting room, a rustic and warm room with large tables, board games and a TV in the corner to keep the sports fans happy. The brewery bar is a more laid-back space, with cornhole and foosball equipment open for free use. Intuition offers brewery tours by appointment Wednesday through Friday.

RESTAURANT PATIO/DECK
Nippers Beach Grille
2309 Beach Blvd., Jax Beach (247-3300) Taverna 1986 San Marco Blvd., San Marco (398-3005) On a nice day, nothing beats a cool drink in a sunny spot, and our River City readers can’t decide which one they like better: the spacious waterfront patio at Nippers Beach Grille, or the chic yet secluded outdoor seats at Taverna. Together, both represent the best part of living in Jacksonville: equal access to city-hip dining and flip-flop-friendly beach restaurants.

BAR EATS
The Brick
3585 St. Johns Ave., Avondale (387-0606) Wings and fries are tried and true, but happy hour nosh gets a serious upgrade at The Brick. Caramelized brie and bread, paella croquettes with lobster, shrimp and scallops and a wine plate piled high with cheese, olives, nuts and salami are appetizer highlights that put greasier options to shame.

INNOVATIVE EATS
Taverna
1986 San Marco Blvd., San Marco (398-3005) A seasonal menu and a kitchen reliant upon the freshest ingredients landed Taverna the top spot among Jacksonville’s innovative restaurants. The European influence is seen in dishes like the patatas bravas and the skirt steak à la plancha.

NEW RESTAURANT
Seasons 52
5096 Big Island Dr., St. Johns Town Center (645-5252) The St. Johns Town Center has been a dining hotspot since it first opened, and Seasons 52 is a recent newcomer that adds to that reputation. The menu nods toward seasonal ingredients, and each dish clocks in at 475 or fewer calories. Add a long wine list and live piano music, and its popularity is no surprise.

BRUNCH
The Reef Restaurant
4100 Coastal Hwy., St. Augustine (824-8008) On a Sunday afternoon, many a Jacksonville resident make the leisurely drive to St. Augustine for brunch at The Reef. With a carving station, fresh omelets, crab legs, fresh fruit, peel-and-eat shrimp and a wealth of other options from which to choose, plus champagne, it’s a weekend tradition that’s worth enjoying time and time again.

PIZZA
Mellow Mushroom & Al’s Pizza (tie)
Pizza fans might argue over what makes a good pie—the crust, the sauce, or the toppings. But one thing voters can agree on is that both Mellow Mushroom and Al’s Pizza nail it. Fresh ingredients, interesting toppings and beer specials make both chains some of the best pie purveyors in town.

CHEESE PIZZA
Al’s Pizza
Various locations Sometimes, when it comes to pizza, simple is not only better—it’s best. And it’s hard to beat a slice of cheese pizza from Al’s. Whether you order it as-is or extra-crispy, the local chain’s hand-tossed, New York-style crust reigns as the best for 2012.

PASTA
Enza’s Italian Restaurant
10601 San Jose Blvd., Mandarin (268-4458) Penne, fettuccine, linguini or spaghetti, you can’t go wrong with the pasta choices at Enza’s. Each dish is prepared with fresh ingredients, and owners Enza and Mike Huff go to great lengths to make sure each noodly forkful is prepared perfectly.

STEAKS
Ruth’s Chris
1201 Riverplace Blvd., Downtown (396-6200); 814 A1A North, Ponte Vedra (285-0014) It’s hard to beat the famous steaks at Ruth’s Chris. Made of prime-choice cuts of beef and seared to perfection at 1,800 degrees, the butter-topped chops sizzle from the kitchen to your table. Pricey, but delish!

CHICKEN FINGERS AND FRIES
Zaxby’s
Though it isn’t a local mom-n-pop, voters agreed that fast-food chain Zaxby’s knows how to make a plate of chicken fingers and fries. No argument here.

FRIED CHICKEN
Beach Road Chicken Dinners
4132 Atlantic Blvd. (398-7980) A Jacksonville institution, Beach Road has been serving up its signature crispy pieces of chicken since 1939. Sides like homemade mac-n-cheese and biscuits and gravy make the perfect addition to a boxed meal, which is available in 4, 8, 12, 16 and 24-piece options.

BURGERS
Five Guys Burgers and Fries & Cruisers Grill (Tie)
When it comes to burgers, it seems Jacksonville just can’t decide between a national phenomenon and a home-grown legend: both Five Guys Burgers and Fries and Cruisers Grill snagged the title for best grilled patties this year. Both chains have perfected their craft for decades, sending countless River City residents home full and happy.

FISH AND CHIPS
O’Brothers
1521 Margaret St., Five Points (854-9300) The brothers behind O’Brothers (Drew and Curt Cavins) hit the mark when it comes to a pub favorite, fish n’ chips. Their version is comprised of Icelandic cod, fried in a light batter and served with fries, tartar sauce and curry. We find that it’s best enjoyed with malt vinegar and a cold pint.

CATERER
Catering by Liz
919 King St., Riverside (387-1955) Liz Grenamyer has garnered quite the reputation on the First Coast for her catering services, which are much more elegant than a run-of-the-mill cheese spread. An experienced event staff and delicious food (like watermelon squares topped with ahi tuna tartar) make for a truly impressive corporate event, wedding or party.

BAKERY
Cinotti’s
1523 Penman Rd., Jax Beach (246-1728) Cinotti’s custom cakes, pastries and truffles have again found a place in voters’ hearts (and stomachs). A display of freshly-baked breads make the perfect canvas for a sandwich or one of Cinotti’s hand-made burgers. And the pumpkin donuts, though only available seasonally, fly off the shelves each fall.

DESSERT CASE
Biscottis
3556 St. Johns Ave., Avondale (387-2060) The dessert case at Biscottis (which greets you as soon as you walk inside) is something of legend. Desserts like bread pudding, red velvet cheesecake and French silk pie (just to name a few) are locally-made and worth every calorie-laden bite. If it makes you feel better, you can easily split a dessert with a friend or two.

ORGANIC GOODS
Grassroots Natural Market
2007 Park St., Five Points (384-4474)
Whole Foods (tie)
10601 San Jose Blvd., Mandarin (288-1100) For the discerning home cook, grocery shopping isn’t just a weekly chore; it’s an experience, one made better with the satisfaction of knowing every effort has been made to provide one’s family with healthy food. Healthconscious shoppers turn to Grassroots Natural Market and Whole Foods—two very different shopping experiences—for outstanding selections of fresh fruits, veggies, meats and products.

BODY TREATMENTS
Sole Spa
1112 Third St. S., Jax Beach (249-4577) Though they specialize in the “art” of Brazilian bikini waxing (ouch!), the aestheticians at Sole provide a multitude of treatments. From airbrush tanning to full-body salt polishes, the services provided at Sole have landed the spa its second “Best Body Treatments” title.

MANI/PEDI
Kirsten Laney
Mantra Salon, 568 Marsh Landing Pkwy., Jax Beach (285-1875) Full manicures and luxurious spa pedicures are just a few of the nail services offered at Mantra Salon, and readers especially like the way Kirsten Laney applies a coat of polish. Using OPI colors and Creative Nail Design products, Laney keeps her clients beautiful from head to toe.

MASSAGES
Muriel Hattori
Sawgrass Marriott’s Spa at Sawgrass (674-4772) Muriel Hattori has the magic touch. Her customers reap the benefits of an extensive career at the Spa at Sawgrass, which spans over 15 years. Oh, yeah, right there…

DAY SPA
Ponte Vedra Inn & Club
200 Ponte Vedra Blvd., Ponte Vedra Beach (285-1111) For the ultimate in relaxation services, locals head to the sea to indulge at the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club. Massages, body wraps and scrubs, sunless tanning and facial treatments are a few of the most popular services, and combination packages help guests make a full day out of their visits.

HAIR SALON
Hawthorn Salon
1011 Park St., Five Points (619-3092)
Ten Salon (tie)
115 Professional Dr., Ponte Vedra Beach (285-7776) Ten Salon and Hawthorn Salon have a lot in common: great stylists, loyal customers (both men and women—not something that can be said for just any salon) and racks of professional- grade hair products to help each client achieve the salon look at home. Our readers are split between the established, calming atmosphere of Ten and the modern, edgy appeal of Hawthorn.

HAIR STYLIST
Nereida Barker
Elite Sessions, 8825 Perimeter Park Blvd., Southside (997-8455) Long locks, short bobs or couture coifs—no matter the style, Jax Mag readers trust Nereida Barker to transform their tresses. Her hands create equally stunning wedding updos and everyday blowouts, proving that every client can be his or her own work of art.

HAIR COLORIST
Mindy Stamulis
Mindy Stamulis Salon, 3645 Park St., Riverside (551-3408)
Shea White (tie)
Mantra Salon, 568 Marsh Landing Pkwy., Jax Beach (285-1875) Two talented ladies snagged the title for Best Hair Colorist in Jax—Mindy Stamulis, last year’s winner, and Shea White, a newcomer to the “Best of” list. Whether you need highlights, a touch-up on your platinum blonde locks or have decided to go raven black, Mindy and Shea can make your hair shine.

YOGA STUDIO
MBody Yoga
Three area locations Holistic yoga center MBody Yoga has something for everyone, from beginners looking for a change to seasoned yogis. Their three locations in Jax—San Marco, Southside and Neptune Beach—strive to debunk the mystique surrounding yoga, teaching it in an approachable manner that has made the studio a favorite among First Coast residents.

HEALTH CLUB
Bailey’s Powerhouse Gym
Several area locations With all the locations around Jacksonville, it’s a safe bet that either you or someone you know is a member of Bailey’s. Fitness classes, free weights, personal training services and a friendly staff make it the favorite health club of Jax Mag readers. Now, drop and give me 20…

WORKOUT WEAR
Lululemon
St. Johns Town Center (645-7904) Canadian-based Lululemon Athletica again won for its vast selection of workout wear for both ladies and gentemen. The store sells tennis, yoga and running gear, and often hosts fitness events at its Town Center location.

THEATRE GROUP
Players by the Sea
106 6th St. N., Jax Beach (249-0289) A Jacksonville-Beach institution, Players by the Sea community theater has been entertaining locals for 46 years. Upcoming shows include Three Days of Rain, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Reefer Madness. Break a leg!

MUSIC VENUE
Florida Theatre
128 E Forsyth St., Downtown (355-5661) It has been recognized as one of the first concert venues in the Southeast, and the Florida Theatre is known locally as the best music venue in town. Thousands of performers have crossed its stage, including vaudeville acts, Elvis Presley and Willie Nelson, and the 1920s design makes an impressive backdrop for modern musicians.

PRINT/ONLINE REPORTER AND COLUMNIST/BLOGGER
Mark Woods
The Florida Times-Union columnist Mark Woods first came to the paper in 2001 as a sports columnist. He has since moved to the metro desk, where he writes about a variety of topics including politics and human interest pieces. Whatever the topic, one thing is clear—Jacksonville readers are interested in what he has to say.

CULTURE BLOGGER
Joey Marchy
The man behind Urban Jacksonville, Joey Marchy, is again the local favorite when it comes to blogging. Be it local politics, events or restoration efforts of some of the city’s urban neighborhoods, Marchy is an authority on all things Jax.

CULTURE BARGAIN
Cummer Museum
829 Riverside Ave., Riverside (356-6857) In addition to its “Free Tuesdays,” when admission to the museum is waived from 4-9 PM, the Cummer hosts a popular concert music series, children’s art classes and programs for adults—all at great bargains. Children and adults alike have long enjoyed perusing the museum’s vast collection of art and taking a tour of the gardens, which are located next to the St. Johns River.

MAKEUP SELLER
Sephora
St. Johns Town Center (997-1212) Few women would turn down a shopping spree at Sephora. In addition to aisles brimming with products from NARS, Clinique and YSL, Sephora also has an entire portion of the store devoted entirely to natural and organic products.

BOOKSELLER
Chamblin’s Bookmine
4551 Roosevelt Blvd., Westside (384-1685) The parking lot at Chamblin’s Bookmine may as well have a large flashing sign that says “Bibliophiles At Play.” A longtime favorite of Jacksonville residents, the sprawling warehouse tucked into a corner of Roosevelt Boulevard is packed floor-to-ceiling with new and used books arranged by genre. A second retail store on Laura Street, Chamblin’s Uptown, offers a similar experience with the added bonus of a coffee shop.

MUSEUM STORE
The Museum Shop at MOCA Jacksonville
333 N. Laura St., Downtown (366-6911) The shop nestled into the lobby of MOCA sells a nice selection of locally-made pottery, jewelry and scarves, as well as coffee table books and “Little Thinkers”—small, plush versions of the world’s best-known artists, like Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh (complete with detachable ear.) Throw in a meal from Cafe Nola and a trip through the galleries, and a short visit to the shop can easily turn into a full day.

ADULT RAINY DAY DESTINATION
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PLACE FOR BOWLING AND BEER
Latitude 30
10370 Philips Hwy. (365-5555) Looking for a place other than your couch to spend a rainy afternoon? Latitude 30 is our readers’ choice. With a luxury movie theatre where you can sip a glass of wine, an adult-approved arcade and sports bar, feel free to act like a kid in a candy store. For bowling and beer, it’s a hard place to beat—each lane comes with its own comfy leather sofas, modern lighting and a lane menu that includes brick-oven pizzas and prime rib kabobs. Those wishing to bowl on a weekend would be wise to plan ahead; reservations can’t be made, so lanes are first-come, first-serve.

PICNIC SPOT
Memorial Park
Nestled between Riverside Avenue and the St. Johns River, the 5.85-acre Memorial Park was initially dedicated on Christmas Day, 1924, as a way to honor the 1,200 Floridians who died in WWI. One of the highlights of the park, aside from the vast expanse of grass just begging for a picnic blanket, is the large bronze sculpture Life, which was created by celebrated Florida sculptor Charles Adrian Pillars. Grab takeout from a nearby restaurant and enjoy a lazy afternoon.

FAMILY RAINY DAY LOCATION
The Movies
Why let a rainy day keep you cooped up in the house when you could catch a flick at one of Jacksonville’s many movie theaters? Regal Cinemas offers $5 tickets all day on Sundays, and the IMAX at the World Golf Village offers group discounts for 10 or more (perfect for birthday parties) as well as special discounts throughout the year.

PLACE TO GET WET
Adventure Landing
1944 Beach Blvd., Jax Beach (246-4386) Adventure Landing isn’t just for the kids; the Shipwrecked-themed water park is fun for kids at heart, too. With the “Little St. Johns” lazy river, an extreme wave pool and four slippery slides, Adventure Landing is sure to cool you off without leaving any sand in all the wrong places.

PLACE TO RUN WILD
The Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens
370 Zoo Pkwy., Northside (757-4463) Few places afford the chance to unleash one’s animal instinct, but the zoo encourages its guests to let loose while learning about the creatures on its grounds. JaZoo’s KidZone, the African Loop and River Valley Aviary provide plenty of imagination fodder for both the young and young at heart.

PLACE TO MEET NEW PEOPLE
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ARTSY EVENT
ArtWalk
Downtown Jacksonville’s self-guided tour of the city’s urban core, which occurs on the first Wednesday of every month, has grown increasingly popular since its inception more than seven years ago. Within a 15-block radius of the plaza, dozens of galleries, restaurants and local businesses stay open until 9 PM or later. At any given ArtWalk, you may see a Storm Trooper, cute dogs, hipsters, artsy socialites and scads of paintings. For these reasons, Art Walk snagged two “Best of” titles this year.

PLACE TO GET CRAFTY
Doing Dishes
5619 San Jose Blvd., Mandarin (730-3729); 3568 St. Johns Ave., Avondale (388-7088) With over 300 pieces of bisque to choose from, as well as stamps, stencils and paints to perfect your design, Doing Dishes is the locals’ favorite place to get crafty. Just pick your pottery (choices include mugs, frames and vases), paint it to your liking, and Doing Dishes will dip it in a glaze and fire it in an on-site kiln. The finished piece will be ready in about a week.

VINTAGE CLOTHING
Vintage Recalled
817 Lomax St., Five Points (358-0399) Sure, you can find the occasional vintage gem at a thrift store. But why bother searching through racks of junk for a great shirt, when local shops offer hand-selected threads sure to amp up your style? A vast selection of vintage Levis, perfectly-worn-in cowboy boots and unique dresses make Vintage Recalled the best source for secondhand clothing, according to our voters.

PET STUFF AND PET GROOMING
Bark Boutique
1021 Park St., Five Points (356-4530) This pet boutique offers gifts that are so nice, the owner might get jealous. Sweaters, dog collars, leashes, beds, high-end food and toys are all offered, but it’s the bakery in the back that keeps four-legged customers dragging their owners back. For the pooch who has everything, Bark even offers individual birthday cakes—complete with dog-friendly icing. Grooming services for cats and dogs are also the cat’s meow of our readers, who turn to Bark for nail clipping, teeth cleaning, shaves and oatmeal baths for their furry friends.

STYLISH GIFTS
Things Very Special
5816 St. Augustine Rd. (733-4820) For a stylish gift, voters turn to the personalized touch of Things Very Special, a store specializing in fine stationery and invitations. While most turn to stationery stores for wedding announcements and holiday cards, Things Very Special also offers hand-milled Lafco soaps and a selection of wrapping papers and ribbons.

NEW BOUTIQUE
Jane Doe Boutique
1027 Park St., Five Points (356-0027) This gift and clothing boutique became a quick favorite on the eclectic Park Street retail strip, due largely to its selection of jewelry, perfume and brightly-colored dresses. Other finds, such as luxe fur vests, Swarovski crystal jewelry and purse-sized perfumes from Love and Toast, keep local fashionistas coming back for more.

MEN’S WEAR
Rosenblum’s
5500 San Jose Blvd., Lakewood (733-8633); 2400 S. 3rd St., Jax Beach (247-9755) Year after year, local men turn to Rosenblum’s for the finest threads. Ermenegildo Zegna ties, 7 for All Mankind jeans and shirts from the ever-preppy design house Vineyard Vines are just some of the pieces that make the store well-known among dapper First Coasters.

MATERNITY CLOTHING
A Pea in a Pod
Destination Maternity, St. Johns Town Center (997-9155) Pregnancy doesn’t have to hinder mommy’s style. A Pea in the Pod sells clothing from high-end brands like Ella Moss and Rachel Pally, plus designer denim from Citizens for Humanity and Hudson.

HANDBAGS AND PARTY DRESSES
Thérapie
1960 San Marco Blvd., San Marco (393-4945) When it’s time to find a party ensemble, no retail therapy destination can compete with Thérapie in San Marco. The boutique’s aesthetic is contemporary, hip and, according to voters, the best in the city for colored clutches, cross-body messenger bags, date night dresses and weekend frocks.

EYE WEAR
Vue Optical Boutique
3588 St. Johns Ave., Avondale (388-7767) Shopping for eyeglasses at Vue is a pleasant experience—something not often said for finding a pair of prescription sunglasses or bifocals. Dr. Dana Nolan, OD, provides exceptional eyecare at this sleek Avondale shop, which sells frames from designers like Tom Ford, Gucci and Oliver Peoples.

BATHING SUITS
Aqua East
696 Atlantic Blvd., Neptune Beach (246-2550); 1850 A1A S., St. Augustine Beach (471-8070) Local surfers have long relied on Aqua East for wetsuits and wax, but many love it for its fashionable swim trunks and bikinis, too. Lines like Roxy, Billabong and Vitamin A take up half a floor of the surf mega-store, which has been outfitting beach-goers since 1973.

JEANS AND DENIM
Crave
1018 Park St., Five Points (357-3654) Premium denim boutique Crave took top honors for its vast denim selection, which keeps fashionable ladies and gentlemen outfitted in the best-fitting cuts with all the right details. Crave carries trendy lines like William Rast, MiH and Earnest Sewn, as well as men’s jeans from top labels Genetic, Kasil and James Jeans.

HAIRCUTS FOR KIDS
Hair Cuttery
Kids have it easy when it comes to hair care; generally speaking, all it takes to keep a little client happy is a good spin in the salon chair. Moms and dads across the First Coast turn to Hair Cuttery for their kids’ snips, clips and buzz cuts.

KIDS PHOTOGRAPHER
Joseph D. Michael Photography
7537 Duclay Forest Dr. W. (504-2363) Whether parents are looking for a photographer to snap a pic of their newborn or a portfolio for a high-school senior, the most voters turned to Joseph D. Michael Photography. Congrats, Joe.

CHILDREN’S CLOTHING STORE
Kyd’s Boutique
4413 Town Center Pkwy., St. Johns Town Center (645-0712) Voters love Kyds for its selection of clothing, swimwear and accessories for infants (up to size 14) and little boys and girls. A wide selection of trendy sportswear from brands like Juicy baby, Joe’s Jeans and C & C California ensure that your tot is fashion-forward.

BABY GIFT STORE
Spotted Stork Boutique
318 1st Ave. N., Jax Beach (241-2227) Spotted Stork owner Julie Wintz opened her baby boutique to provide stylish, functional products for her “mommy” friends, who complained that many stores in Jacksonville sold the same brands and products. The little pink house in Jax Beach opened in May 2011, and its array of stylish diaper bags, nursery décor and adorable baby and toddler clothes has earned a loyal following.

BIRTHDAY PARTY LOCATION
Ollie Koala’s Backyard
11700 San Jose Blvd., Mandarin (288-7230) Those with children ages 2-12 would be wise to choose Ollie Koala’s for a birthday party because, simply put, the staff does most of the work for you. In addition to video games that will keep kids entertained for hours, Ollie’s offers a full menu of pizzas, sandwiches and salads, plus party platters.

FAMILY WEEKEND GETAWAY
AND
TACKY TOURIST STOP
St. Augustine
The shopping, restaurant options and historical activities make St. Augustine a great (and close) place to take the entire family. Plus, in addition to the many historic attractions, there are plenty of tacky tourist attractions and shops that have an appeal all their own. Take a ghost tour, camp out at Anastasia State Park and eat dinner aboard a pirate ship—the options for family bonding are plentiful. Or, mix things up by drinking from the Fountain of Youth and posing next to a two-headed rabbit at Ripley’s Believe It or Not. What’s tacky about that?

BIKE REPAIR
City Cycle
2740 Park St., Riverside (356-2453) This locally-owned shop sells bikes and gear from Cannondale, Yakima and Oakley, but the expert repair services again landed the shop a top spot on the “Best of” list. City Cycle staff members participate in weekly group rides, so their focus on excellent customer service in helping patrons find, or fix, a set of wheels is based on firsthand knowledge.

CAR REPAIRS
Herndon’s Automotive
5105 Philips Hwy., Southside (737-0001) The family-owned and operated automotive center, which prides itself on honest work, specializes in servicing Mercedes-Benz vehicles. Luxury car owners again voted Herndon’s as the city’s go-to spot for repairs and service.

CAR WASH
Beaches Car Wash
1401 Beach Blvd., Jax Beach (247-0290) With the exception of high schoolers and Rose Royce, most people don’t actually enjoy washing their cars. Our readers take their wheels to Beaches Car Wash when their ride needs to be scrubbed, waxed and detailed. Their team of car-washing pros keep those rags and machines humming, which keeps customers smiling.

COUTURE CLEANER
Oceanside Cleaners
3742 Southside Blvd., (642-6177); 298 Solano Rd., Ponte Vedra (285-2123) A full-service tailor shop and free pickup and delivery set Oceanside apart from most drycleaners. And both the Southside and Ponte Vedra locations offer general cleaning services, as well as preservation services for wedding dresses and military uniforms.

FLORIST
Liz Stewart Floral Design
1404 3rd St. S., Jax Beach (246-0016) For bouquets, centerpieces and everyday special occasions, Jacksonville residents turn to Liz Stewart Floral Design to create an arrangement worth gushing over. With over 25 years of experience, Liz and her staff have earned a sterling reputation for their ability to blend just the right colors and scents in each handmade arrangement.

TAILOR/ ALTERATIONS
Emily Ann’s Alterations
1110 S. Third St., Jax Beach (853-6052) When a zipper sticks, a button pops or a stitch needs… well, stitching, locals turn to Jax Beach’s Emily Ann’s Alterations. Whether customers need a simple hem or labor-intensive tailoring, the experts at Emily Ann’s keep First Coasters in all their favorite garments.

JEWELRY REPAIR
Espling Jewelers
Various locations Generations of Jacksonville residents have taken their broken jewelry and watches to Espling Jewelers. The family-owned operation runs four shops across town, making it easy for customers to find a location to keep their family heirlooms in pristine condition.

SHOE REPAIR
Gus & Company
225 N. Laura St., Downtown (354-9770) Gus & Co. has been repairing the shoes and luggage of locals since 1904, so it’s no wonder the shop earned a nod of approval from voters. The expert cobblers on hand will work magic on your tired old soles and heels for prices ranging from $18 to $75 (prices for cowboy boot repairs are slightly higher), and a shoe shine sets customers back just $2-$3.

REASON TO DRIVE TO AMELIA ISLAND
The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island
750 Amelia Island Pkwy. (277-1100) Though Amelia Island offers plenty of reasons to visit, many make the drive (or take the ferry, as the case may be) solely to visit The Ritz-Carlton. Arguably the nicest hotel in the greater Jacksonville area, The Ritz is home to the AAA, Five Diamond award-winning restaurant, Salt, which many voters cited as worth the trek.

REASON TO DRIVE TO ST. AUGUSTINE
The Outlets
I-95 and State Road 16 Two sprawling outlet centers, over 150 discount retail stores—everything from Coach purses to vitamins—stand ready and waiting, just off of I-95. Black Friday draws huge crowds, but deals found at the St. Augustine Outlets and St. Augustine Premium Outlets can be found every day the doors are open.

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