It was a sunny Saturday in June 1925 when the Florida beachside town was officially christened "Jacksonville Beach" and the elegant Casa Marina Hotel opened its doors for the first time. To celebrate, locals spent the night dancing and dining within its stucco Spanish-style walls, frolicking throughout its grand patios and lofty halls as the sun set over the adjacent ocean. Over the years, the hotel would house a variety of prestigious clientele—including John D. Rockefeller, President Truman, and Charlie Chaplin—who were drawn to the area for its boardwalk, its pristine beaches, and its hidden elevator to the center of the earth.
Nearly a century later, the historic hotel still stands, the original structure housing plush bedrooms and parlor sweets. Throughout the week, the restaurant opens its penthouse to diners, who can eat tapas and drink martinis as they gaze out over breathtaking views of the Florida coastline. In the kitchen, Chef Aaron Webb directs a kitchen crew as they whip up dishes in the style he dubs "New Beach cuisine," mixing local seafood with the traditions of Spanish cuisine and international flavors. Come Sunday, a champagne-brunch buffet sprawls across the dinning area, serving steaming platters of fresh seafood, roasted carvings, and gelatin molds of the town's most handsome bachelors. The hotel's renowned brunches and spectacular beach views have won the veneration of an abundance of media publications.
The Gourmet Grouper was born out of a fruitful business partnership between veteran seafood-market owners John Shuler and Jason Arteaga, along with Christina Monas. The three set out to create a curated supermarket utterly unlike mega-groceries—one that could provide shoppers with a tailored selection of high-quality meats, seafood, and drinks from both distant climes and local markets. "We wanted to build a grocery store that we would like to shop at," John told the Beaches Leader. Along with his childhood friend and business partner, Jason, he procures gourmet goods from his network of local and worldwide farmers, fishers, and food artisans. The result is a smorgasbord of upscale groceries that tempt shoppers with fine cheeses, dry-aged Montana beef, Gulf stone crabs, and Louisiana crawfish. The goods are ideal for planning an elegant dinner party. Seasonal potatoes and vegetables can accompany lobster tails or Chilean sea-bass filets alongside craft beers and fine wines. The market even has artisanal snacking covered with gourmet pickles crafted by local picklesmith Tim Baker, who locks the fresh veggies' flavor into delicious stasis with careful brining and mild witchcraft.
Plush leather and fabric seating permeates Fletcher’s Cigar Bar & Social, where beers and varietals from around the globe flow from glass to palate. The company has a fully stocked humidor filled with high-end cigars from brands such as Cohiba, Cusano, Havana, and Partagás, as well as the exploding cigars popularized by Wile E. Coyote. Though the knowledgeable staffers do not sell Cuban cigars, they outfit tobacco enthusiasts with Honduran, Nicaraguan, and Dominican cigars, as well as accessories such as cutters and lighters. The team at Fletcher's accommodates clients from varying backgrounds, making aficionados and more casual cigar smokers feel at home.
Ambient jazz-piano melodies wind through the air while customers chat and smoke in an environment whose ventilation and air-purification system gives patrons peace of mind and visual access to each other's faces. In the event that conversation lulls, independently controlled 47-inch flat-screen televisions can entrance eyes.
Every morning at Gigi's Restaurant, the kitchen gets busy scrambling eggs, frying potatoes, and simmering gravy for its weeklong breakfast buffet. On Sundays at 11 a.m., the Blue Jean Brunch—where people are welcome to wear jeans, not put them in their salads—witness diners grazing on made-to-order omelets, fluffy belgian waffles, fried chicken and waffles, and ice-cream sundaes of their own creation. For those who want to stuff themselves in the evening, the chef emerges from his cave underneath the kitchen on Friday and Saturday nights to carve slices of fresh prime rib, which pair well with steamed crab legs and a vast dessert selection.
The show will commence with performances from up-and-coming singer-songwriters Alex Wong and Vienna Tang before Carlile takes the stage of the restored 1920s-era theater. The Washington State–native songstress's melodic acoustic-guitar-based music blends rock and country into soft folk tunes that have been featured in commercials and on TV shows such as Grey's Anatomy, and the experienced show-woman has toured with the likes of Sheryl Crow and Ray LaMontagne. Your Groupon is good for one ticket in the 100, 200, 300, or 400 orchestra-level sections of the intimate, 1,900-seat theater, and seats are issued on a first-come, first-served basis at will-call, so arrive early to get up close.
Britney Spears hurtles back into the earth’s stratosphere, pulling out all the stops, raising roofs, and dousing all of mankind’s melancholia in glitter and beatitude on her fiery Femme Fatale tour. From Mouseketeer to multifaceted entertainer, Britney Spears has seared dance floors throughout her career with infectious sonic shrapnel while soothing countless ears scarred by the sound of exploding chalkboards. Unleashing fresh cuts dripping with danceable dubstep beats and tireless techno melodies, the Femme Fatale tour shares its stagecoach with a lineup of glam girl-powered acts. Spunky electropop outfit Jessie and the Toy Boys and the feisty twisted-sister duo of NERVO round out a night stuffed with golden vocals, brick-thick beats, and floor-shaking choreography that will undoubtedly awaken the arena’s downstairs neighbors.
Tired of the vulgar material found at most venues, the owners of the Comedy Club of Jacksonville open their stage to comedians without mile-long blue streaks. The club rates each standup on a G–R scale, with most comics falling under PG-13 language or soft-R content. This thoughtfulness even extends to the kitchen, where the proprietors try to avoid fried foods in favor of a char-broiler that fires up tasty kabobs and provides ashes for applying funny fake mustaches.