North Florida is an intriguing place to visit with a considerably closer cultural connection with the U.S. South than the rest of the Sunshine State. It possesses more of a laid-back feel while its magnolias and nature differ a bit from the flatlands and palm trees in the southern part of the state. One of the best ways to get a feel for this region is to take advantage of its cultural attractions.
Cummer Museum of Arts and Gardens
Nina Cummer was part of a family that had varied business interests in North Florida and elsewhere around 1900, and she left her art collection and gardens for the general public to enjoy after her death in 1958. The Cummer Museum of Arts and Gardens opened in Jacksonville three years later and welcomes more than 125,000 visitors on an annual basis. It also hosts revolving exhibits of art from throughout the world while a beautiful view of the St. Johns River awaits visitors as well.
This arts venue, which opened in 2004 on the Orange Park campus of St. Johns River State College, provides a variety of artistic outlets to be enjoyed by visitors. These include top-notch theatre, music and dance performances, and a premier Jacksonville art gallery, which regularly plays host to exhibits of various types. Some of the recent ones have included artwork depicting musical legends and works from artists who sold artwork from the back of their cars since the 1950s.
Another Jacksonville-based arts venue is the Florida Theatre. This historic structure opened in 1927 and was the state’s largest theatre at the time. Great music, a stage show, and the showing of the film, Let It Rain, took place on its opening night. A couple of the most famous concerts to take place in North Florida were Elvis Presley performances that occurred there in 1956. Today, it’s home to the Florida Ballet and also plays host to a number of other events.
National Naval Aviation Museum
Pensacola is home to this engaging attraction, which is a must-see for anybody interested in the history of naval aviation in this country, which encompasses the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. Some of its most popular attractions include its Blue Angels 4D Experience, Giant Screen Theater and flight simulators while its planes on display are impressive to say the least. Depending on your timing, you might even be able to watch the Blue Angels practice. Note that entrance and parking are free.
Florida Museum of Natural History
This is one of the best places to learn more about the history of people in the state as well as exhibits on Florida’s flora and wildlife. It’s located on the University of Florida campus in Gainesville, and entrance to most of its exhibits is free although there’s usually a cost for parking. There is a butterfly exhibit that requires an entrance fee be paid, but many say that doing so is worth it. Regardless, the visuals throughout the museum are impressive, and it also serves as a fun educational experience for children as well as adults.
Outside of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, the Florida Gators serve as the sporting focus for those in North Florida as well as for many elsewhere in the Sunshine State. Its football team, which won national championships in 1996, 2006 and 2008, plays at 88,548-seat Ben Hill Griffin Stadium while its men’s basketball program, which claimed back-to-back national titles in 2006 and 2007, regularly entertains fans at the 10,133-seat O’Connell Center. Also, 19 other Gator teams compete in a variety of sports throughout the year.