Make no mistake, Jacksonville isn't exactly New York when it comes to mass quantities of relationship-minded singles. But that doesn't mean that a love connection in the River City is impossible. It just might call for a more targeted approach. So if you're single and searching, here are eight ways to find love in Jacksonville.
Join the Club
Dozens of clubs and organizations around Jacksonville are rife with singles looking to meet others with similar interests. New to Jacksonville or looking to network with other young professionals? ImpactJax, a division of the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce, holds regular meetings and events designed to get you connected with career and volunteer opportunities as well as new friends. Environmentally minded? The Sierra Club's Northeast Florida Group brings together fellow greenfreaks for outdoor adventures, educational programs and even opportunities to help lobby for pro-environmental legislation.
There are numerous college alumni clubs, sports and outdoors clubs, clubs for dog, cat, horse and reptile lovers, quilters, shell collectors, Ford Mustang enthusiasts - you name it, there's a guy or gal who shares your interest in it.
Learn Something New
Take a step out of your comfort zone and learn a new skill. Got an artistic itch? Throw some clay, blow some glass or sling some paint with Jacksonville University's Art for Art's Sake program, a non-credit continuing education program for all ages and experience levels. Want to expand your cultural horizons? Learn a new language with Florida Community College at Jacksonville's Open Campus Continuing Education program. Spanish, French and Italian courses are favorites - and you just might find yourself speaking the language of love with an attractive classmate.
Want to cook up some romance and tasty grub too? Publix Apron's Cooking School offers classes on dozens of cooking techniques, plus wine and food pairings and special courses with visiting celebrity chefs. After all, Grandma always said that the way to the heart is through the stomach. The best bet to connect? Take up dancing. Isaiah Meders, owner of Pharcyde Dance Center in Jacksonville's Arlington neighborhood says many of his classmates have coupled up after meeting in his classes. Something about that salsa beat quickens the heartbeat, apparently.
Go Back to School
Many a happy couple connected while in college. And there are a number of public, private and specialized colleges and universities in Northeast Florida to choose from. But college isn't only for the just-out-of-high-school set. Students of all ages head back to school for all sorts of reasons: to finish that degree they got started on and got sidetracked, to boost their career competitiveness, or just to broaden their horizons. Local colleges offer hundreds of credit and non-credit curriculums from poetry to politics.
Plus, if you find a marriage match in Chemistry 101, there's good news. Marriage success rates among college-educated couples are higher than those of marriages where one or both spouses did not attend college.
Find an "after five" romance via one of the dozens of business networking groups and events offered weekly throughout Jacksonville. The Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce offers monthly mixers in various parts of town, plus a quarterly Business After Hours event. Its ImpactJax division focuses on young professionals, though all ages are welcome. Downtown Vision, Inc. produces and promotes all sorts of downtown events. And if you want to do a little good while looking for love, several regular networking events, like the Thursday Night Drinking Club benefit local charities.
Speaking of good causes, pick your favorite and lend a hand. You're bound to bump into a cutie who shares your philanthropic passion. And there are literally hundreds of volunteer opportunities going on at any given time - just ask the folks at HandsOn Jacksonville (formerly called Volunteer Jacksonville). Environmental cleanups, tutoring at-risk children, counseling victims of health or circumstantial crises, disaster relief, neighborhood rehab projects - if there's a good cause, there's an opportunity for you to help and, in the process, find a special someone who shares your generous spirit.
Hire a Professional Matchmaker
Since the day God connected Adam and Eve, matchmakers have gone about the business of love (or at least economic security in the not-so-distant days of dowries). Despite the conventional thinking that the advent of online dating would render the love broker's business obsolete, professional matchmakers instead are busier than ever. That's because thousands of singles have come to realize the sometimes frustrating foibles of self-managed searches for love. Statistics show that a whopping 93 percent of online daters misrepresent something about themselves, exaggerating their good points, hiding their bad ones, even Photoshopping their profile pics.
Though it will cost you a few bucks, professional matchmakers, like Jacksonville Introductions and It's Just Lunch-Jacksonville can help you hone in on a likely match sans all the self-appreciating clutter. Plus, the fact that your potential match also is putting down some cash means that he or she is more serious about finding a relationship than your average online dater, even the honest ones. Also, reputable matchmakers conduct criminal background checks on clients, helping to ensure your safety.
Though there are never any written-in-stone guarantees, the difference between a professional matchmaker and your average online dating search is like the difference between an educated guess and a crapshoot.
Throw a Party
One good way to attract a match is to celebrate one's singleness. Let the world (or at least your general vicinity) know you're single and fabulous by throwing a party and asking all your friends to invite their single friends. Now, bear in mind that statistics show the chances of your actually liking someone with whom a friend sets you up is just 17 percent - not a promising prospect. But a party a little different. Think of it as a mass setup without the pressure of the awkward, one-on-one blind date.
If you're not feeling the connection with your neighbor's friend, no worries - the next prospect is just across your living room having a cocktail with your college buddy.
Get in the Game
If you're the active type, you're in luck. Jacksonville's mostly year-round mild climate lends itself beautifully to outdoor sports. And there are plenty of indoor options as well. Numerous local athletic associations and the City of Jacksonville's adult athletics program offers coed softball, baseball, kickball, soccer, tennis, even ultimate frisbee. Several sports organizations combine athletics with charitable causes. First Coast Surfrider and Sisters of the Sea organize regular beach cleanups and environmental education programs.
Sports fan but not a player? Stats show 74 percent of single women say a baseball game is a great place to meet single men. So get in the game, or just get a ticket to watch the game, and find your match.