2019 barely started and I was already on my way to my first adventure of the year with my girlfriend Kelly Hill (@kellyyhill) on a fun girlfriend getaway to North Florida visiting Jacksonville, Tallahassee and Tampa for a week-long road trip!
This year I set off to do things a bit different and wanted to incorporate more trips with friends but of course still, do my solo travel thing. Kelly and I have been “Instagram friends” for almost 3 years who spoke daily and finally agreed we need to go on the road together, so we did and it was a ridiculously entertaining adventure. If you missed the fun, funny and amazing adventure, you can always catch up with it on my Instagram highlights “Florida”.
I never really knew what to expect from visiting North Florida but as it turns out there is so much to see and do, so much beauty, amazing hotels, restaurants, nature and life-changing experiences! Yup! I mean that! We learned to make candy from scratch at Sweet Pete’s, hung out with Penguins, went zip lining over alligators water, saw manatees in the wild and so much more!
I’ve summed up the best of from our trips — where to stay, what to do and where to dine to create the perfect girlfriend getaway! We spent about 2-3 days in each city, rented a car and packed our adventurous selves.
So let’s get started!
Jacksonville was a surprisingly beachy surfer town from all the vibes we got. Reminded me of Ocean City in Maryland but wayyy more classy. Jacksonville is right off of the coast of North East Florida where you find amazing restaurants, cafe and shops right on the beach and if you stay at the Hotel Palms as we did, it’s literally walking distance to the beach and they even have bikes that you can borrow and ride there as well. They have completely gorgeous sunrises that light up the sky in purple and pink tones and an area we truly love was also Downtown Jacksonville with so many cute spots to check out! But before I get ahead of myself, here is our itinerary and must visit places! Starting off where from we stayed…
Where We Stayed:
The Hotel Palms
The Hotel Palms (Atlantic Beach, FL) is your perfectly dreamy boutique hotel located less than a mile away from the beach. Its a brand new hotel only opened for a few months which who doesn’t love! It gives off a very Palm Springs, Coachella, laid back vibe with their palm trees and decor, which as it turns out was the inspiration for this hotel. Each room has a completely different design and is so chic, retro and gorgeous, I wouldn’t mind moving into one of those rooms (for reals). There is cute hangout spot in the middle of the hotel that allows you to tan, lounge around while reading a book, outdoor shower, cute fireplace that you can light up and enjoy a glass of wine next to, which is also a cute added feature to the hotel. They have an espresso bar that’s opened during the day and in the afternoon serves cocktails and wine. Also like I mentioned earlier you can take one of their beach curser bikes for a ride whenever you want. I would highly highly recommend this place for anyone and if I ever go back to Jacksonville, I’m for sure be staying here. Plus the staff was extremely sweet which is always a plus in my book.
Check it out: The Hotel Palms
28 Sherry Drive, Atlantic Beach, FL 32233
Other Awesome Hotels:
One Ocean Resort & Spa – Atlantic Beach
Aloft Jacksonville Tapestry Park
Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront
Things To See & Do:
*Sunrise – Early wake-up call for sunrise sighting at the beach! (epic and totally worth it!) Photo above!
*Standup Paddleboarding, kayaking and cruiser biking at Dutton Island Preserves with Beach Life Rentals. We seriously had a blast doing it and the owner of the company is great and super flexible on what you want to do, plus Dutton Island Preserve was just beautiful, like something out of a movie!
*Explore Five Points neighborhood – The neighborhood is called Five Points and in recent years attracted a young urban crowd, thanks to its bohemian vibe and unique mix of historic and modern outposts, from hip eateries and bars, to funky galleries, vintage shops and tattoo parlors.
*Candy Making Class at Sweet Pete’s – This was literally the highlight of our day! We had sooo much fun making candy with Pete (the owner), who is such a sweetheart, so passionate about candy and is the real Willy Wonka! This place is a masterpiece. Sweet Pete’s manufactures handcrafted quality chocolates and sells over a thousand different types of candies. Sweet Pete’s boasts a fully functioning factory with an interactive gallery, large retail areas, a full restaurant and bar, rooftop patio and dessert bar.
*Visit Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens – Escape to the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens for the only walking safari in Northeast Florida. Discover the earth’s wildlife through interactive and educational experiences. A true family adventure, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is growing and changing daily and is dedicated to consistently improving. We had such an amazing and unique experience at the Jacksonville Zoo, we got to feed the giraffes and got to learn and hang out with penguins in their exhibit! So amazing!
*Tour the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Jacksonville – I was seriously so impressed by this gorgeous museum! It’s just beautiful! Doesn’t take that long to explore and completely worth every second. Below was my favorite pieces from the museum. MOCA had such beautiful pieces and color use.
Where To Dine:
The Bread & The Board Address: 1030 Oak St, Jacksonville, FL 32204
Completely obsessed with the food here (literally everything we tried was to die for! sooo good), the decor, the retro vibe. This is located in the Five Point area and after lunch, I highly recommend exploring the streets nearby because there are so many cute spots to check out!
Surfer (the Bar) Address: 200 1st St N, Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250
Cute spot, on the beach, one of the most popular bars in Jacksonville and has a cute indoor trailer dining expierence Mexican food style.
Salt Life Food Shack – 1018 Third Street North, Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250
M Shack – 299 Atlantic Blvd. Atlantic Beach, FL 32233
Ragtime Tavern & Seafood Grill – 207 Atlantic Blvd. Atlantic Beach, FL 32233
Tallahassee is known for being a college town but what most people don’t know is how diverse Tallahassee really is. To start Tallahassee is just gorgeous since it’s basically 20 miles away from Georgia, you can find beautiful oak trees with Spanish Moss everywhere which was seriously my highlight of this location, (that and our amazing zip lining expierence). They were just so enchanting, magical and mystical. Tallahassee also has so many beautiful street art, cute trendy boutiques and amazing and diverse cafes, restaurants and bars and yet at the same time has a beautiful nature vibe with amazing wildlife.
When we arrived to Tallahassee, we were so mesmerized by the oak trees with the Spanish Moss so we made sure to take some beautiful photos during the sunset while the light was shining perfectly into the trees.
Where We Stayed:
Hampton Inn & Suites Tallahassee Capitol-University Hotel
Hampton Inn & Suites Tallahassee Capitol-University is literally located in the perfect location. It was beautiful, luxury and brand new which I loved and every room is a suite which is wonderful. The decor is beautiful and modern, there are alot of lounge and hang out areas, gym, pool and more. We loved staying here.
For some reason the online photos for this hotel aren’t the greatest but TRUST ME, this place is the dream. I’m probably guessing that its because it’s new there aren’t the best of photos online but these were the best I can find.
Check out the Hampton Inn & Suites Tallahassee Capitol-University
It’s seriously the best hotel we came across in Tallahassee.
Things To See & Do:
*Zip Line & Tree-to-Tree Adventure at Tallahassee Museum – Explore Tallahassee 62 feet off the ground. Zip through the tree-tops, soar through the cypress swamp and conquer aerial games and obstacles on one of our Tallahassee Tree to Tree Adventures courses at the Tallahassee Museum. Literally the coolest thing EVER! Had such a blast blast blast doing this! It was an amazing zip lining and obstacle course over beautiful animals, lakes and in between trees. We got to do this around sunset time to the sunset reflection in the water and trees was amazing!
*Wakulla Springs Cruise – Home of the world’s largest and deepest freshwater springs, the sapphire water of Wakulla Springs boasts manatees, alligators and a host of diverse wildlife that can be viewed from a riverboat or the diving platform.
*Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park – A masterpiece of floral architecture, the gardens feature a picturesque brick walkway, secret garden, reflection pool, walled garden and hundreds of camellias and azaleas.
Where To Dine:
Madison Social – 705 S Woodward Ave #101, Tallahassee, FL 32304
Gastropub at Florida State University offering New American small plates, sandwiches, creative cocktails in a lively environment in the heart of CollegeTown. We totally loved this place, good vibe, great food and cocktails and their iced tea was the perfect southern iced tea.
The Edison (for happy hour) – 470 Suwannee St, Tallahassee, FL 32301
Vale Food Co – 815 W Madison St #106, Tallahassee, FL 32304
Loved this place! They have awesome food, good for people who like to eat healthily, they also have vegan options and they also have a bowl bar.
Backwoods Crossing – 6725 Mahan Dr, Tallahassee, FL 32308
This restaurant takes the term “from farm to table” seriously… especially since the farm is on-site. Creative Florida cuisine made with the freshest ingredients from right here in Tallahassee.
Tampa was surprisingly surprising lol. I never really knew what to expect from Tampa but totalllly fell in love with it. The downtown area is just gorgeous with a fun Water Taxi on the river to help you get around (totally loved this feature). The city itself is so colorful, so hip, modern, with so many amazing hang out spots which by far my favorite was Heights Public Market at Armature Works. It a remodeled warehouse with a bunch of amazing places to dine, kind of like a European indoor food market and the nightlife on a Friday night there was amazing, such good vibes, busy, live music, bars are packed, food is amazing, everything felt safe, clean and hip. Tampa has so many new buildings being built, so many cute hang out spots for just lounging all over the city. We were seriously obsessed with the architecture here. The city is packed with young professionals, young families and almost has a hipster vibe to it. Plus you’re only a 40min drive from Clear Water which is listed as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Did I also mention they have gorgeous sunrises and sunsets? Check it out for yourself in these photos!
Where We Stayed:
Aloft – Tampa Downtown
Aloft – Tampa Downtown is a great hotel we stayed out with a modern and color vibe and located in the best part of town, downtown by the river where you can easily catch a water taxi from, explore the boardwalk and more. The best part was this amazing vibe of the sunset and this pool! So loved it! We also loved their breakfast and it was super excusable to everywhere we needed to go.
Check out the Aloft – Tampa Downtown
Other Hotel Options:
Le Méridien Tampa
Epicurean Hotel, Autograph Collection
Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tampa
Things To See & Do:
*Take Pirate Water Taxi– Downtown’s bright yellow water taxis ferry visitors to destinations all along the Hillsborough River and Garrison Channel, providing a fun way to explore Tampa Bay from the water. A day pass lets visitors hop on and off as they wish and there are so many amazing places to see at different stops.
*Visit Heights Public Market at Armature Works during Friday or Saturday night – Housed in a carefully restored former trolley barn, Heights Public Market brings together more than a dozen local restaurants in a carefully curated waterfront food hall. Get your favorite and take it to go for al fresco dining by the sparkling Hillsborough River. After, rent a paddleboard or hop the Pirate Water Taxi for a trip into downtown. Armature Works is a key component of the rebirth of Tampa Heights, the historic neighborhood that surrounds it.
*Do Visit Sparkman Wharf – This place was also one of our favorites! Such good vibes, love the way this place is designed. You can rent bikes here too and explore the city, perfect for a Saturday or Sunday morning vibe. Situated along Garrison Channel in downtown Tampa, Sparkman Wharf celebrates the best of Tampa – good weather, waterfront views, music, craft beer, and exceptional dining.
Where to Dine:
Oxford Exchange – is housed in a historic building near the University of Tampa. In the years since it opened, the combination of restaurant, coffee bar, bookstore and home décor shop has become a popular place for breakfast, brunch and lunch.
Osteria Bar + Kitchen – Osteria Italian Bar & Kitchen’s 4,700 square foot space with a 1,500 square foot outdoor patio embodies a hybrid of a rustic Italian market, a fine dining restaurant, and a refined, late-night bar. The chef-driven menu includes over a dozen fresh homemade pastas, slow-roasted meats, wild fish and seafood, a generous pizza selection, and a hearty wine and craft cocktail collection. In one, harmonizing space, Italian classics are both elevated and celebrated.
Rico’s Acai – we totally loved this spot, perfect for breakfast to feed your Acai bowl or fruit bowl craving!
I HOPE YOU ENJOYED THIS NORTH FLORIDA GUIDE AND HAVE LOTS OF FUN EXPLORING!
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