Visit Jacksonville recently hosted six members of the media for a familiarization tour from “Fish Camps to Four Diamond” highlighting our city’s culinary and cultural features.  It  has already begun to give valuable exposure to our great city.   Below is an article written in the Chicago Sun Times. 

It is always beneficial to see an outsiders perspective and how much we have going for our City.  Now, let’s work on making sure our residents also see us in such a positive light.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Kathy Collins wasn’t sure what she’d gotten herself into — except better weather — when she moved from Chicago to Jacksonville a dozen years ago.

“I remember walking around downtown on a Sunday and there was nothing going on,” Collins said. “There were a lot of chain restaurants. It was a much different scene than Chicago.”

Twelve years later, no one is going to mistake Jacksonville for Chicago. But this sprawling city on Florida’s First Coast has done plenty of growing up.

“Downtown has gotten so much better,” Collins said. “So has the food scene.”

Collins can take a little credit for that last part. She’s executive chef at the sleek Cafe Nola in Jacksonville’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Like many of Jacksonville’s top toques, Collins relies heavily on locally sourced ingredients. During a lunch last month at Nola, the pea tendrils on my plate came from the museum’s roof top garden. Collins plucked the carrots that morning from her own backyard.

Jacksonville’s recent improvements aren’t just of the culinary kind. The city has been working hard to change its less-than-flattering image of an industrial port along I-95, sandwiched between a couple of Florida’s tourism darlings: Amelia Island to the north and St. Augustine to the south.

Revitalization efforts are rippling through Jacksonville’s downtown and across the city’s historic neighborhoods, from the hipster haven of Riverside to Springfield, dubbed one of the South’s top comeback ’hoods by Southern Living magazine.
Springfield is worth a stop if for no other reason than to visit Sweet Pete’s, a Willy Wonka-worthy candy shop — 20 flavors of organic cotton candy! — that opened last year in an old Victorian home.

In downtown Jacksonville, “ambassadors” dressed in orange shirts and pith helmets patrol the urban center’s streets, pointing people to the nearest parking lot, pressure washing the sidewalks and getting rid of graffiti. A new program called “Off the Grid” makes the most of vacant storefronts by turning them into exhibition space for artists, who get a sizeable break on the rent.

“People used to complain that there wasn’t anything going on in the city,” said Cabeth Cornelius, who grew up here. “Things were happening — you just didn’t know where because Jacksonville is so spread out. That’s where social media has really helped.”

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