When the Jacksonville Zoo first opened in 1914, it had only one attraction––a red fawn. Today, nearly a century later, it’s home to more than 2,000 rare and exotic animals and 1,000 plant species, and welcomes an ever-changing lineup of visiting exhibits. Guests stroll along the boardwalk in a large, open environment called the Plains of East Africa, where cheetah, antelope, and warthogs roam in environs that simulate their native habitat. The African loop also includes Elephant Plaza, where elephants stir up tidal waves playing marco polo in a 275,000-gallon pool. Visitors can also pet and feed stingrays, stand eye-to-eye with a giraffe, and head to the award-winning Range of the Jaguar exhibit to roam a replica of an abandoned Mayan temple. During summer months, kids get wet at the Play Park and Splash Ground, where they can climb into a treehouse or peer through an underwater window to see penguins swimming overhead.
After guests explore the wildlife, rest and relaxation await within botanical gardens such as the Asian Bamboo garden, where patrons cross a traditional moon gate to see a tranquil waterfall, komodo dragons, and an interactive bamboo mist forest. The zoo also features a carousel, train rides, and several restaurants where humans can tap into their own wild instincts by hunting their natural prey—the sandwich.
By subtly tweaking flavors and adding unorthodox seasonal and local ingredients, Chef Albert Scazafave puts his signature stamp on pub food at Twisted Elm. Sriracha BBQ sauce is used to spice up the smoked St. Louis-style ribs, there's a hint of cognac in the french onion soup, and brie and cheddar fondue get mixed in with pieces of lobster in the grilled cheese. His innovations continue at brunch, which features almond-crusted french toast and hand-tossed pizza with housemade sausage and scrambled eggs.
Twisted Elm's American and imported craft beers complement Chef Albert's artfully plated dishes; naturally made wines are also available. Every Tuesday night, the gastropub hosts live acoustic music and the popular opening act "Musicians Stringing Their Instruments: Live!"
Three Wise Monks first threw open the doors of its welcoming, renovated saloon in spring of 2012, unveiling gleaming pint glasses and the malty scent of freshly crafted brews. Barkeeps rotate more than 14 craft beers through the tap lines, supplementing suds with bottles from breweries such as Founders, Flying Dog, Rogue, and Smuttynose. Three Wise Monks updates visitors online on the daily contents of its hop rocket, a Randallizer that infuses beer with basic hops or flavors such as coffee beans, fruit, and Clydesdales' tears.
((Boom)) Burger's staff angle to put their restaurant on the map in a variety of ways. First, they put a twist on the classic burger, infusing Angus beef patties with cheesy fillings that burst open with each bite. Next, their bartenders make like mad scientists and mix beakers full of brightly colored, fruit-flavored drinks known as Boomerangs that come in giant servings of up to 38 ounces. Between all of the barstools and tabletops the eatery can host up to 300 people all set aglow by 40 high-definition televisions. This means that even at maximum capacity, there’s one screen for every seven and a half people, so you can always catch your game of choice, be it baseball, soccer, or commercial judging.
ReBar celebrates one of the grandest trinities in the American tradition: burgers, beer, and live music. Starting with 10-ounce Angus beef patties, cooks customize burgers to diners' specifications, or whip up one of their own from a succinct list of specialty burgers. Of course, a dish doesn't have to be a slab of beef between bread to make their menu. Cooks also branch out with Southern-style pulled pork and eight-ounce ribeyes, and roasted pork sandwiches with broccoli rabe and sharp provolone. To wash it all down, they turn things over to bartenders, who pour drafts of everything from a selection of 20 craft brews such as Brooklyn Lager and Magic Hat #9 to good ol' Pabst Blue Ribbon. Although ReBar's patio is open for both lunch and dinner, evening meals are often punctuated by musical performances from local bands who enhance the bar's all-American eats with the sounds of wailing electric guitars and rhythms synced to the hoofbeats of Paul Revere's ride.