Here's a look at the gay nightlife scene in the largest city in northern Florida, Jacksonville. Bars listed below are in alphabetical order. You'll find some recommendations of great places to stay in the Jacksonville Gay Hotels Guide.
One of the two biggest and most popular gay dance clubs in Jacksonville (with The Metro being the other), InCahoots (711 Edison Ave., 904-353-6316) is more centrally located than its rival, just on the western edge of downtown and close to the uber-queer shopping and dining of Historic Five Points in Riverside. It also tends to draw a somewhat younger crowd (18-and-up on Thursdays and Saturdays), although both places cater to the gay clubbing set and are each plenty of fun in their own ways. This rambling, multi-room space occupies one floor and comprises a decent-size dance floor with a central bar, a mid-size bar with pool tables, a VIP bar, and a mellow side bar that's better for chatting with friends.
InCahoots pretty much always draws a mix of mostly gay men and some lesbians, again tending skewing toward the under-35 set. A very fun, low-attitude gay club, all in all.
Right beside the train tracks at the northern end of the historic Riverside neighborhood, The Metro (859 Willow Branch Ave., 904-388-7192) claims the rightful title as Jacksonville's biggest and most popular gay nightclub (it's actually one of the largest gay venues in Florida). The Metro is a spacious and attractive club with several different bars and dance areas, and it draws a cross-section of local GLBT'ers, from hunky club kids to chic lesbians. The crowd is slightly more age-varied, in general, than the one at the smaller but also very popular InCahoots club downtown.
Among the spaces you'll find inside this multilevel club are Club Shadows (a drag cabaret), the Boom Boom Room disco, Sappho's Lounge lesbian bar, the Game Room (think of a big ol' gay arcade and pool hall), the very cruisy Boiler Room, and the mellow Rainbow Room piano bar. Oh, and Metro has a festive outdoor space, the Tiki Bar. The entire complex pulses into the wee hours on Friday and Saturday nights, and the rest of the week, different bars at the club open on different nights, depending on what's on. This place is pretty much a must-see if you're a big fan of clubbing.
Jacksonville's definitive guys-who-cruise-guys bar, the bearish and leather-popular New Boot Rack Saloon (4751 Lenox Ave., 904-384-7090) is a couple of miles northwest of Riverside, just off of I-10 at the Cassatt Avenue exit. Attributes include a dark bar that's ideal for serious cruising, a good-size patio, and some of the best drink specials among the city's gay bars - especially worthwhile and well-attended is the Saturday Beer Bust, from 8 pm until midnight. Although it caters to a rugged bunch, it's welcoming of all guys, and not strictly a leather bar.
Low-keyed and catering to a mostly local bunch of gay guys, plus a fair share of women and allied heteros, Park Place (931 King St., 904-389-6616) is in Riverside, just a few blocks from Historic Five Points. It's a good spot to drink attractively priced booze, and watch sports and videos on the monitors.
Tom Gray is one of the hottest culinary names in the Southeast, and his Jacksonville restaurant, Bistro Aix (1440 San Marco Blvd., 904-398-1949), is a must for visiting foodies. The spacious, elegant eatery in the city's historic San Marco neighborhood - just across the St. John River from Riverside - has two snazzy yet surprisingly casual dining rooms plus a romantic outdoor patio. For some of the most superbly prepared Mediterranean-inspired food in Florida, the prices at Bistro Aix are quite reasonable, and the service is A-one. There's a long and impressive wine list with a nice mix of spendy and affordable vintages, and the menu mixes small plates, wood-fired pizzas (there's a nice one with sausage, caramelized onions, tomatoes, and spicy harissa sauce), pastas, creative grills (such as oak-fired fish of the day over basil potatoes with olives and a tomatoe-artichoke beurre blanc). Consider the excellent cheese plate, either as a starter or a final note to your meal. The restaurant is open late, until 10 most nights and 11 pm on Fridays and Saturdays; lunch and dinner are served. If you and your partner are looking for the ultimate romantic gay-date spot in Jacksonville, look no further.
One of the more prominent buildings in Jacksonville's San Marco Historic Distric the elegant 1938 San Marco Theatre (1996 San Marco Blvd., 904-396-4845) is one of the city's finest examples of Art Deco. It shows popular movies, including a number of artsy, indepedent features, as well as hosting different events.