Awesome Things to Do in San Marco, Jacksonville
From catching a show to catching a largemouth bass, finding awesome things to do in San Marco is easier than making a wish at the Fountain of Lions.
San Marco is home to Florida’s longest running community theater, breathtaking waterfront views and exceptional culinary experiences. The neighborhood is located just minutes from Downtown Jacksonville on the Southbank of St. Johns River. This lively and quaint area offers historic sites, unique shopping experiences and a plethora of fun outdoor activities. If you’re looking for things to do in San Marco, you’ve come to the right place.
First, we’ll cover a brief history and give you some general information about the area, including what current San Marco residents have to say about their neighborhood. Then we’ll dive right in with some awesome things to do in San Marco!
Overview of the San Marco Neighborhood
Present-day San Marco dates back to 1793. The area started as a 216-acre land grant that was passed down generations and then sold as residential parcels after the Civil War. At the beginning of the 1900s, the Southbank was a ferry landing and shipyard site. The Great Jacksonville Fire of 1901 led families to travel south, and the San Marco area became incredibly popular. Once its own city, San Marco was annexed by Jacksonville in 1932, but still retains much of its original appeal.
San Marco is located south of Downtown Jacksonville and offers residents and visitors an urban atmosphere. The cost of living in San Marco is slightly higher than that of Jacksonville and the state of Florida according to AreaVibes.com, and more residents rent rather than own their homes (65% vs. 35%). San Marco’s population is about 6,076 residents, and it is considered one of Jacksonville’s most recognizable neighborhoods.
1. Explore the Outdoors
Whether you’d like to go fishing or see manatees, San Marco is a great spot to spend some time in the great outdoors. Even though it’s one of the smallest parks in Jacksonville, Riverfront Park is considered an amazing spot to watch the sunset. It’s located along the St. Johns River, and is also a popular place for picnics, fishing and watching wildlife. Other parks in the area include Alexandria Oaks Park, Largo Well Park, Colonial Manor Lake Park, Belmonte Park and more. There are also a number of camping spots and RV parks in and around San Marco to explore!
If you’re interested in getting on the water, just head over to the St. Johns River. Jacksonville is a popular boating destination with a number of marinas along the river. You can also go to Downtown Jacksonville to attend a kayak or stand-up paddleboarding yoga class. Or, try kayaking along the St. Johns River (just be aware, because of heavy boating traffic, strong currents and unpredictable weather, this kayaking journey is not for beginners). Other popular water sports in the area include surfing, jet skiing, wakeboarding and fishing. You’ll commonly find largemouth bass, crappie, bluegills and catfish in the St Johns River.
2. Embrace the Arts
The culture and arts scene in Jacksonville is one of a kind. From distinctive galleries to historic theaters to creative centers—you don’t want to miss the arts in San Marco!
Public art tours (provided by Go Tuk’n) offer an in-depth experience of the public art scene in Downtown Jacksonville, San Marco, Springfield and more. The Arts Center Cooperative is a gallery offering a number of exhibits as well as studio space, and The Vault at 1930 shows abstract and impressionist works. Head over to Painting with a Twist to create your newest masterpiece with family or friends!
The San Marco Theatre opened in 1938 with a strong Art Deco influence. It has stood the test of time, and is one of the few small, neighborhood movie theaters still around in Jacksonville. Theatre Jacksonville was founded in 1919 and is Florida’s longest running community theater. Be sure to stop by for a few laughs (or tears) and lots of applause!
3. Don't Miss out on the History
Be sure to experience everything the neighborhood has to offer and check out some historic places in San Marco. Go Tuk’n offers historical tours of San Marco, or if you’d rather explore the neighborhood’s history on your own schedule, be sure to stop at Theatre Jacksonville and San Marco Theatre, as well as Balis Park, Metro Diner and Fletcher Park. Find more historic stops on this list.
4. Wander San Marco Square
You can’t visit San Marco without stopping by San Marco Square. At the center of the square is Balis Park and the Three Lions Sculpture (inspired by the business district in Venice, Italy). It’s also a very recognizable spot to snap a selfie!
There are a variety of shopping options in San Marco—from hip boutiques to bargain thrift stores to luxury design. Spend an afternoon in the square, explore the variety of stores and enjoy the weather! If you work up an appetite, try one of the restaurants or cafés in the area to fuel your San Marco adventures. (Keep reading for some of the top restaurants in San Marco!)
5. Stop and Grab a Bite to Eat
Hungry? Not to worry, the San Marco Dining District offers extraordinary dining experiences and mouthwatering foods. Some of the top restaurants in the area include TAVERNA, Bistro AIX, The Bearded Pig, Fuji Sushi, Seafood Island Bar and Grille and BB’s.
If you have a sweet tooth, San Marco is also home to numerous dessert shops and bakeries. A must-stop is Peterbrooke Chocolatier. Some of their most popular items include chocolate covered popcorn, strawberries and even potato chips. Stop in Good Dough for delicious donuts (including a few donut sandwiches), The French Pantry for freshly made cakes, breads and desserts, or Blueberry Bakery (located in Southern Grounds & Co.).
What are You Waiting for? Go Explore San Marco!
With an outstanding arts scene, unique historical sites, outdoor fun and tasty treats—you’ll never be bored in the San Marco neighborhood. What will you do first? Let us know in the comments below!
Here’s what our San Marco itinerary might look like:
- Stop for coffee and a baked good at Southern Grounds & Co.
- Toss a coin in the fountain at San Marco Square
- Explore the Vault at 1930
- Grab a quick bite at TAVERNA
- Watch the sunset at Riverfront Park
- Catch a show at San Marco Theatre
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