Escape the cold with this kitschy, Floridian winter getaway to Jacksonville Beach

Palms Retro in Atlantic Beach

Travelers: Cass and Andrew

Budget: Midrange ($1000-$5000)

Where did you go? I ended up in the Jacksonville Beaches area to attend a wedding. Coming from Michigan to Florida in December seemed like a good time to turn the trip into a nice vacation. I took this trip with my husband, although with my husband's academics, he spent his time at coffee shops studying, so I did most activities by myself.

The location is beautiful and I wanted to prioritize taking as much time to relax as possible. Jacksonville Beach in December is warm, and the pace of life is relaxed. Many of the residents spend their free time biking, running, or skating along the ocean shoreline.

The Divas room

What did you do? The hotel we stayed at is the very cool Palms Retro in Atlantic Beach. It is a 1950s rock-and-roll theme hotel. Each room is themed around a particular genre, like the Rat Pack, vintage TV shows, and Divas. We stayed in "The Divas" room, with a large mural of Marilyn Monroe and photos of other great divas such as Bridget Bardot and Audrey Hepburn. They offer free breakfast featuring famous foods from the era, like Moon Pies.

divas room

I also rented a car for the trip, because of the wedding activities. But if I was just going for relaxation and bumming around the beach, I wouldn't have needed a car. Almost all the of hotels offer bike rentals for getting around town. But most of the attractions, and restaurants are within reasonable walking distance. Without the rental car, this trip would have set us back less than $1000.

On one day, I spent a few hours with a group of four other girls at the Picasso Salon getting mani-pedis and massages. We drank champagne and had a lot of fun hanging with the girls. Since I was focusing on relaxation on this trip, the spa day really fit the bill. Afterward we went to lunch at Salt Life, a funky seafood restaurant. Fish and seafood is the popular local fare, with its proximity to the ocean and great fishing.

Atlantic Beach Seafoam

On the hottest day of the trip I walked from my hotel right to the ocean to walk around and soak up some sun. Since I took the trip in December, the boardwalk was all set up for Christmas. Some of the city decorations included surf boards painted with Christmas scenes, and deck chairs covered in string lights and tinsel.

Atlantic Beach

What would you have done differently? This area is host to some great yoga studios. If you are looking to take it slow and get in as much relaxation as possible, you may want to take a class. While I didn't have time to do it on my own trip, I really wish I had.

Sandy Andrew kiss on the cheek

What's your best travel advice for other offbeat vacationers? Take a nice long walk down the boardwalk. There are funky little independent shops and restaurants. If you're interested in buying souvenirs from locally owned businesses, this is the place to do your shopping.

If you're looking for something funky, there are some great bars along the boardwalk. One popular one is Poe's Tavern, that is Edgar Allen Poe-themed, and has a large selection of craft beers. This is definitely an area that loves its craft beers, so be on the lookout for something new to try.

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  1. This makes me so jealous. Dawdling before I have to shower in my cold apartment in New England. I want sun too, dangit!

    2 agree
  2. My in-laws live north of Jacksonville, on Amelia Island. I heartily recommend this area for anyone looking to soak up some Florida sunshine! Especially for people on the east coast who like to road-trip, Jacksonville and related areas are right off I-95 and a short drive over the Florida/Georgia border. We live in Pittsburgh right now and it's about 13.5 hours to get to my husband's family. Lots of great people, good food and a great atmosphere.

  3. Haha. Sunny? That is hilarious. The first winter here in Jax, I turned to my husband and said, "I did not move to FLORIDA to endure the cold." We are drinking hot cocoa on this New Years Eve because it is 40°!
    Then again, if you are from up north, I guess fourty is better than below zero 🙂

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