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September
19

The Retiree's Guide to Moving to Florida

Florida Retiree

Florida has become one of the most popular places for people to retire. This state has a lot to offer to people of all ages, but retirees, in particular, enjoy the year-round warm weather and planned communities. Our real estate agents have helped many clients find their dream home in Florida. Here are some tips and tricks they've picked up along the way. 

  • Consider Golf Communities
    Golf communities are not for everyone. However, they are a popular option for retirees moving to Florida. In communities like these, you not only have easy access to a golf course but also to recreational centers and community activities.

    These communities can make life social and enjoyable. On the other hand, if you'd like a more secluded spot with less socialization, you may want to avoid these planned communities. When working with one of our agents, be sure to mention if this type of community interests you! 

  • Look Into Tax Differences
    One reason why Florida is so great for retirement has to do with the taxes. Florida does not have any state income tax. They do not tax retirement income or Social Security benefits. So, your money will go further in Florida than in most other states. Take these tax differences into account when planning your budget and browsing properties. You may be able to afford "more house" in Florida.

  • Move Close to a Beach Town
    Florida's beaches are some of the most beautiful in the country. If you love the beach, you may want to move into a beachside town like Daytona Beach. However, you can often find plenty of affordable houses a mile or two in from the beach. In towns like these, you get a beachy feel, and the beach is just a short drive away, but you won't be as surrounded by tourists.

  • Take Advantage of Good Healthcare
    When deciding where in Florida to move, look into the medical practitioners in the immediate area. Florida has some of the best geriatric specialists, and they offer excellent care for older adults. Plan on transferring to a primary care physician and other doctors in Florida as soon as you move.

  • Consider Airport Proximity
    When you move to Florida, your family members are going to want to plan a visit! They'll have an easier time if you move into a community a reasonable distance from an airport. In the areas surrounding Orlando, Sarasota, and Tampa, there are plenty of retirement communities within 20 minutes or so of the airport. At that distance, you can easily pick up and drop off visitors.

  • Look Into Smaller Cities
    While many people retire to the larger areas of Florida, there are plenty of other lovely Florida cities to consider. Jacksonville is one option. Its population is growing, but it's still a bit quieter. There are several scenic golf courses overlooking the ocean and river, and the white sand beaches are stunning.

    Another option for those who prefer a quieter setting is New Smyrna Beach. It represents a slow, beachy lifestyle, but there are still plenty of wonderful restaurants and smaller businesses to enjoy.

Moving to Florida is certainly a wise choice if you want to spend time in a warmer climate near lovely beaches and golf courses. Contact us to learn more about our real estate services. We'd love to help you find your perfect retirement home.

July
18

What to Expect During the Closing Process

Closing Process

You're ready to start the process of searching for your next home, but you're a little apprehensive about all the steps associated with the process. One stage that our real estate agents suggest you learn about is the closing process.

The closing process is the last major stage of buying a home before you're officially a homeowner. Here's what you should know.

  • It Takes a While to Reach the Closing Phase
    From the point that the home seller accepts your offer, it usually takes between 40 and 60 days to close on the property officially. There are often a lot of documents that you need to turn in for your mortgage application to officially be processed. Even if you're obtained mortgage pre-approval, you still need to submit documentation to verify your income and assets. Depending on how busy your lender is, it might take a few weeks to process your loan. You also need to schedule any inspections that are required or recommended to buy the home, like a home appraisal, home inspection, or property inspection, during this period. It's possible to potentially extend the closing date if the home seller and buyer agree to do so. Sometimes, one party might need an extended period to sell a property, find a new home, or handle other personal matters. 
  • Your Closing Date Could Be Delayed
    It's possible for items to pop up that delay your official closing date. For example, if your home inspection shows that the property needs some repairs and the seller agrees to fix them, these repairs can delay the closing date. Or, if you take out a new loan or credit card while you're waiting to close on the home, your credit might be impacted. This means that your mortgage lender may need to review the specifics of your loan to confirm that you still qualify. To prevent your closing from being delayed, avoid making any changes to your financial situation. Don't apply for or take on new debt. Keep the balance in your savings accounts consistent; if you do make a large deposit to your bank account, make sure that you have documentation that proves where the funds came from (your lender will want to confirm that the money isn't from a loan or credit cards). Changing jobs is usually okay if you otherwise have a stable employment history. Just make sure that your income doesn't significantly change, or this can affect your loan approval. 
  • There Are Certain Things You Need to Bring to Your Home Closing
    To close on your new home, you'll need to make sure you have the necessary items to ensure everything goes smoothly. You'll need some kind of government-issued identification, like a passport or driver's license. A certified check may be used to pay your portion of your down payment and closing costs, or if permitted by your lender, you may use a wire transfer to transfer the money. If this money will be coming from different investment or bank accounts, make sure that you give yourself enough time to transfer the funds. You also need to bring proof of your homeowner's insurance on your new home. 

Ready to find your next home? Our team is ready to help every step of the way. Contact us today to start your search!

June
21

7 Tips for Navigating a Hot Market

Florida Real Estate

Record home prices, rising interest rates, and low inventory have created an incredibly tough environment for buyers. It's still entirely possible to land a property despite the current market conditions. Buying a home in a hot seller's market just requires some extra work, time, and a lot of patience. 

Our real estate agents have been working closely with buyers to navigate the complexities of this unprecedented market. Here are 7 tips we frequently share with our clients:

  1. Choose The Right Agent
    Working with a good real estate agent is the best way to navigate this current market. An agent can notify you about property matches as soon as they hit the market. Winning a bidding war means crafting a competitive offer, and a good agent can provide advice on the right offer price, contingencies, and offer terms. Bottom line -- pick an agent with a lot of experience and who has a track record of helping buyers land homes, especially in a competitive market.

  2. Limit Your Inspections
    Waiving inspection contingencies is one way to create a compelling offer, but you'll want to be sure to balance the risk. You might feel comfortable enough to waive pest infestation, sewer, or radon inspections -- but remember, waiving the standard home inspection can have significant consequences. 

  3. Get Pre-Approved
    In a hot market, most homes don't sit on the market for very long, so you need to be prepared to act fast. If you're planning to finance your home purchase, work through the process of getting pre-approved through a lender before you start your home search. You'll need to include your pre-approval letter with any offer you make so the seller knows you're able to secure financing if needed.

  4. Temper Your Expectations
    When buying a home in a hot market, it may help to set your expectations. While you never want to settle on a home that isn't right for you, you might need to prepare to forgo certain amenities. If you can live without a third bathroom or a walk-in closet, you might want to make the sacrifices if you can. With a record low inventory and lots of buyers on the market, finding a house that checks all the boxes can be a challenge.

  5. Tell Everyone You're Shopping For A Home
    Bidding wars are an unfortunate reality for buyers today, with multiple offers being the norm instead of the exception. You might be able to get a leg up on the competition if you can express interest in a home before it even hits the market. By letting your friends, family, and coworkers know about your home search, you might get lucky enough to hear about their upcoming plans to list. 

  6. Skip The Extras and Demands
    When competing with multiple bids, you don't have much leverage to negotiate. At the end of the day, you want your offer as clean as possible. Try to avoid making additional demands or requests, such as furniture or additional appliances in the deal.

  7. Be Patient
    While it can be difficult to navigate, it's not impossible. However, patience is key. Be prepared for the home buying process to take time, and expect to lose a few bidding wars.

Hot seller's markets don't last forever, and with rising rates and home prices, you can expect things to cool off eventually. We can help you navigate the market. Contact us today.

June
6

Florida Famous Foods: Order Ceviche at These Spots

Ceviche

Ceviche is a Latin dish that highlights two ingredients Florida has in abundance. Citric acids in lemons, limes, and oranges "cook" raw fish and seafood for a bright, refreshing flavor. Our real estate agents find Florida's famous food at these amazing local restaurants.

  • El Buzo Peruvian Cuisine - 5675 N. Atlantic Ave., #110, Cocoa Beach, FL 32931
    As a championship diver and longtime spearfisher, Chef Bruno developed an incredible knowledge of seafood. After operating a successful restaurant in Lima for many years, Bruno brought El Buzo Peruvian Cuisine to the area near Cocoa Beach homes for sale. The menu includes five types of ceviche, served with sweet potato, lettuce, and corn nuts. Hours are 11 a.m. - 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

  • PeruRican Ceviche - 1119 S. 14th St., Leesburg, FL 34748
    PeruRican Ceviche
    creates such spectacular versions of Florida's famous food that they put it right up front in their name. Turn up the heat with the spicy option for an extra kick. In addition to ceviche, the restaurant features Peruvian-Puerto Rican fusion dishes such as mofongo, stuffed fried plantains, and pumpkin cream soup. PeruRican Ceviche is carryout only, so place an order online for pickup after viewing Leesburg homes for sale. Hours are 3 p.m. - 8 p.m. Monday through Wednesday.

  • Ceviche Mix - 426 Plant St., Winter Garden, FL 34787
    Ceviche Mix is the only cevicheria near Winter Garden homes for sale. Their unique ceviche is a delicious blend of Peruvian, Guatemalan, and Mexican flavors. Choose from shrimp, tilapia, mahi-mahi, octopus, or a mix. All you need is a side of chips, guacamole, and salsa to complement your meal. Ceviche Mix is open 11 a.m. - 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. Sunday.

  • Aji Ceviche Bar - 1436 FL-436, #1024, Casselberry, FL 32707
    How authentic is the food at Aji Ceviche Bar? It gets glowing reviews on social media from Peruvians who praise this restaurant, just minutes from Casselberry homes for sale. More than a dozen types of ceviche on the menu provide a wide range of variety. Customers rave about the olive sauce that adds a welcome touch of salty creaminess. Aji Ceviche Bar also gets high marks for its friendly and helpful servers, who are happy to explain the details of each dish. Hours are noon - 9 p.m. daily except Friday and Saturday when closing time is 10 p.m.

  • El Rinconcito de Lima - 7300 Beach Blvd., Jacksonville, FL 32216
    When you're touring Jacksonville homes for sale, be sure to make time for lunch at El Rinconcito de Lima. This unassuming food truck is serving up generous portions of top-quality Peruvian dishes for inexpensive prices. Get a different perspective on ceviche with an order of Leche de Tigre, a soup with bits of raw tilapia in a citrus-based broth served with onions and boiled corn. Place an order to go or enjoy your meal in the adjacent air-conditioned dining room. El Rinconcito de Lima is open from noon - 9 p.m. every day but Monday.

The eclectic dining scene is only one of the benefits of living in Central Florida. Learn more when you contact us at Watson Realty Corp.

May
2

Florida Famous Foods: Florida BBQ Spots

Florida BBQ

BBQ may be popular from coast to coast, but this beloved cuisine is embedded in the DNA of the South as one of Florida's famous foods. When our real estate agents are craving BBQ, slow-cooked meats and tangy sauces are just minutes away at these top restaurants.

  • Keller's Bar-B-Q - 280 S. State Rd. 434 #1047, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714
    Keller's Bar-B-Q is just down the street from Altamonte Springs homes for sale, but the recipes and techniques were created over 130 years ago, deep in the Everglades. Each day, fresh meats are trimmed and basted with Andy Keller's secret sauce before cooking. Try the trademark Brunswick stew, made with pork, beef, and chicken in a rich tomato sauce. Keller's is open 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. - 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11:30 a.m. - 9 p.m. Sunday.

  • OakWood Smokehouse & Grill - 230 Citrus Tower Blvd., Clermont, FL 34711
    At OakWood Smokehouse & Grill, not far from Clermont homes for sale, the star of the show is their award-winning ribs. Described by customers as "fall-off-the-bone delicious," rib combos are on special every day of the week. If you have a seafood lover in your group, OakWood also gets high marks for their fried fish. Hours are 11 a.m. - 8 p.m. daily except Sunday when doors close at 3 p.m.

  • Bubbalou's Bodacious Bar-B-Que - 5818 Conroy Rd., Orlando, FL 32835
    Bubbalou's Bodacious Bar-B-Que may be near Orlando homes for sale, but their reputation extends far and wide. National sources such as Food Network, the New York Times, and Southern Living have recognized Bubbalou's for their tasty food and warm hospitality. Can't decide? Go with Bubbalou's Special, a combo of ribs, chicken, beef, and pork with three sides and garlic bread. Bubbalou's is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. - 9 p.m.

  • BubbaQue's - 1306 N. Young Blvd., Chiefland, FL 32626
    From the tongue-in-cheek name to the traditional recipes, BubbaQue's is designed as a tribute to the joys of this uniquely Southern cuisine. Enjoy flavorful brisket, pulled pork, chicken, or turkey as a sandwich, dinner, or topping for salads and nachos. Dress up your choice of meat with one of ten different sauces, including Bubba's signature Tractor Grease. Dine in or take out after a day of viewing Chiefland homes for sale. Hours are 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. Monday and Wednesday through Saturday and 11 a.m. - 8 p.m. Sunday. 

  • 4 Rivers Smokehouse - 9220 Baymeadows Rd., Jacksonville, FL 32256
    John Rivers, founder and namesake of 4 Rivers Smokehouse is a Jacksonville native. It's only fitting that his family-owned restaurant should have a location within a convenient distance from Jacksonville homes for sale. In addition to classic sandwiches and platters, their BBQ meats are showcased in south-of-the-border favorites, including burritos, tacos, and barbacoa bowls. Give your taste buds a new treat with one of the John Rivers Originals, such as the aptly-named Texas Destroyer, featuring their signature Angus brisket on a brioche bun topped with onion rings, jalapeños, melted provolone, and 4R sauce. Hours are 11 a.m. - 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Fabulous food is only one of the things to love about living in Central Florida. Find out more when you contact us at Watson Realty Corp.

April
4

National Wildlife Week: Visit These Florida Nature Preserves

Florida Nature

National Wildlife Week is celebrated every year in April. This year, it'll be observed from Tuesday, April 5, through Saturday, April 9. As an initiative of the National Wildlife Foundation, it has connected nature lovers of all ages and backgrounds since 1938 – and that includes our real estate agents.

In the United States, there's virtually no place better to be for National Wildlife Week than right here in Florida. 

Throughout the Sunshine State, you have the opportunity to meet animals the likes of which you'll find nowhere else. Wildlife ranges from the prehistoric alligator to the Florida flamingo, which has a niche distinct from any other bird on Earth. These and more can be encountered on public preserved land.

Let's take a look at some of the best nature preserve lands throughout Florida:

  • Timucuan Ecological & Historical Preserve – 12713 Fort Caroline Road, Jacksonville, FL 32225
    Jacksonville homes for sale aren't far from Timucuan Ecological & Historical Preserve, which bills itself as one of the last truly pristine coastal wetlands on the Atlantic coast. More than 60 centuries of human history can be glimpsed among the salt marshes, coastal dunes, and native hardwood.
     
  • Long Creek Nature Preserve – 1050 Palm Harbor Parkway, Palm Coast, FL 32164
    Near Palm Coast homes for sale, you'll find Long Creek Nature Preserve. It isn't the biggest preserve at nine acres, but the natural treasures it safeguards are just as precious. As the newest addition to the Palm Coast park system, it is popular for water sports, including kayaking and fishing. It's directly connected to the 225 acres of Long Creek Basin and the saltwater canal system beyond.

  • Lake Apopka North Shore – 24600 County Road 448A, Mt. Dora, FL 32757
    If you're considering Apopka homes for sale, don't forget Lake Apopka North Shore. A 20,000 reclaimed paradise of beauty and wonder is the end result of many years of work restoring former muck farms. The entire area used to be part of Lake Apopka itself before being separated off by a levee in 1941. Now, hiking and biking opportunities are abundant around the Lake Apopka Loop Trail.

  • Sherwood L. Stokes Preserve– 7598 Lake Marion Creek Road, Haines City, FL 33844
    Located near Haines City homes for sale, Sherwood L. Stokes Preserve is a nature spot that bird lovers will want to visit again and again. Make sure to bring your birdwatching binoculars! Birdwatchers have the chance to spot roughly 70 different species of birds on this 225-acre preserve. Other animals you might spot during your visit include deer, turkey, and even wild hogs.

  • Tibet-Butler Preserve – 8777 Winter Garden Vineland Road, Orlando, FL 32836
    There's more to Orlando than theme parks! Did you know that there's a nature preserve not too far from Orlando homes for sale? Tibet-Butler Preserve is a part of the Orange County Parks and Recreation program and offers plenty of ways for all ages to learn about nature. Stop by their nature exhibits or take a hike on one of their many trails!

Ready to experience all the natural beauty Florida has to offer? Contact us to find out more about Florida real estate today.

January
5

Florida Orchestras: Catch a Performance in 2022

Florida Orchestras

Are you ready for another amazing year of music and culture in Florida in 2022? Florida is home to a vibrant collection of orchestras, featuring both experienced performers and youth groups honing their craft. Tickets sell quickly for the biggest shows, so now is the perfect time to start planning your concert schedule for the year. We've got the details you need to find the best performances throughout the area.

Ocala Symphony Orchestra – 500 NE 9th St., Ocala, FL 34470
Performing out of the Reilly Arts Center, the Ocala Symphony Orchestra is your destination for amazing music in Ocala. The 2021-2022 concert season is already in full swing for the Ocala Symphony Orchestra, with upcoming performances including The Four Temperaments, 90 Years of John Williams, Symphony Under the Lights, and Symphony Under the Stars. Before each major show, you can attend Coffee with the Conductor events, where you'll learn all about the upcoming performance.

Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra – 445 S. Magnolia Ave., Orlando, FL 32801
With performances all year long in Orlando at the beautiful Steinmetz Hall, the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra will have tons to see throughout 2022. In addition to the usual schedule of highly anticipated concerts, the Orlando Philharmonic is welcoming its first artist-in-residence, pianist Stewart Goodyear, this year. He will be performing in a special series of concerts, including at the annual Resonate Festival.

Metropolitan Area Youth Symphony – P.O. Box 2055, Goldenrod, FL 32733
Made up of 8 youth orchestras spread around the Orlando and Lake County area, the Metropolitan Area Youth Symphony is dedicated to helping young people thrive through music education. There are more than 10 concerts and recitals every concert season throughout the metropolitan area, along with an extensive series of masterclasses where young musicians can hone their craft with expert instruction.

Brevard Symphony Orchestra – 3865 N. Wickham Rd., Melbourne, FL 32935
The outstanding Brevard Symphony Orchestra performs primarily at the King Center, located in Melbourne. With a busy schedule of concerts starting in January, this is one orchestra that you definitely won't want to miss in 2022. Some of the exciting shows on the schedule include Clash of the Titans, Letters from Home, The Wondrous World of John Williams, and Roman Holiday.

Jacksonville Symphony – 300 Water St., Ste. 200, Jacksonville, FL 32202
The Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts is where you'll find the excellent Jacksonville Symphony, with an extensive selection of 2022 shows in Jacksonville. The Jacksonville Symphony has tons of concerts to enjoy this year, like the Florida Blue Classical Series, Concert Organ Series, Mozart Piano Series, Pops Series, and even a Symphonic Night at the Movies Series.

Jacksonville Youth Symphony Orchestra – 300 Water St., Ste. 200, Jacksonville, FL 32202
The Jacksonville Symphony isn't the only group that you'll find performing at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts. The Jacksonville Youth Symphony Orchestra (JYSO) also performs there regularly, and their performances are more than worth the trip. They perform primarily during the September through May concert season and also have one annual performance with the main Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra. The JYSO serves more than 350 young musicians annually, from age 7 through 21.

Searching for a home close to all of the art, culture, and live entertainment that Florida has to offer? Our team is here to help. Contact us to buy and sell homes in Florida.

November
23

Plan a Hiking Trip on the Florida Trail - Northern Region

Do you love exploring the diverse, unique natural beauty that you can only find in Florida? This is the perfect time of year to plan your next hiking trip on the Florida Trail, which stretches for more than 1,500 miles from the Gulf Islands National Seashore to the Big Cypress National Preserve. The Northern Region of the trail is the perfect place to start your next adventure. We've got all the exciting details on what you'll find on the Northern Region of the Florida Trail.

Northern Region Overview
The Northern Region of the Florida Trail features something for every interest, from sprawling, gorgeous natural forests to trails that will take you through the sites of historic battlefields. Before you head out on your trip, be sure to check out the Trail Safety guide, which provides plenty of helpful tips that will help you enjoy your experience and practice good safety habits while you explore the Florida Trail.

Lake Butler Forest
Take a trip southwest from Jacksonville to link up with the Lake Butler Forest portion of the Florida Trail, which runs for 23 miles from the City of Lake Butler to the historic Olustee Battlefield. The forests here feature a mix of old hardwood and planted pines, with beautiful natural vistas throughout. 

Camp Blanding
Just a short drive from Gainesville, you will find the Camp Blanding section of the trail, which features some of the most diverse terrain that the Florida Trail has to offer. This part of the trail stretches for nearly 36 miles, featuring sandy hills, forests, lakes, and even desert-like terrain. Take a break along the beautiful waterfront areas, navigate your way through dense forests, and spot various local wildlife throughout your exploration. If you're hungry for more hiking, this trail also connects with the Palatka Lake Butler State Trail.

Osceola National Forest
On the northernmost section of the Florida Trail's Northern Region, you will find the Osceola National Forest trail, which runs for 24.2 miles through old-growth forests before wrapping up along quiet country back roads. If you love hiking through thick, beautiful, ancient forests, then this part of the trail should be near the top of your destination list. After you exit the forest, you will travel toward the scenic Suwanee River before heading into the town of White Springs, where you can enjoy a rest and resupply.

Rice Creek/Etoniah/Gold Head
The Rice Creek/Etoniah/Gold Head portion of the trail, just north of Ocala, will take you on a journey that lasts just over 34 miles and features more elevation than other parts of the Florida Trail. There are multiple bluffs that provide incredible views of the floodplains, forests, creeks, and swamps below. This part of the trail features ancient cypress trees, along with a variety of Appalachian trees that you won't find in other parts of Florida. Stop for a picnic in the designated picnic areas along Little Lake Johnson, then keep traveling through Gold Head Branch State Park, which features its own scenic, three-mile-long trail.

Searching for a home that makes it easy to enjoy all of the amazing natural attractions that Florida has to offer? Our team is here to help. Contact us to buy and sell homes in Northeast, North Central, and Central Florida communities.

November
10

How to Get in the Holiday Spirit in Sunny Florida

Holiday season is a magical time of year. Warmth and holiday movies and family and a general, pervading sense of mirth make for a potion that can rejuvenate even the darkest spirits. But let's face it – capturing that holiday spirit can be tricky when you're in a place like sunny Florida, where the temperatures rarely dip below 50 degrees and snow seems more like something from a book rather than an actual meteorological event.

Don't fret, though. There are still plenty of ways to kindle your holiday spirit even in a state that's more at home in summer than winter, and we're here to share them.

Break Out the Decorations

Hang Christmas lights, decorate a tree, dress up your mantles with garlands, adorn your door with a brightly lit wreath, and tackle any of your other favorite holiday decorating traditions to create a space conducive to a festive mood. If you want to really ratchet up the wintry feelings, add some spray-on snow to your windows to create a frosted look.

Crank the Holiday Music

Chances are, if you're a fan of Christmas music, you've been jamming to your favorite holiday hits since at least November 1. If you haven't yet, find your favorite playlist or turn on a Christmas music station on Pandora and vibe to your favorite holiday hits.

Visit Local Celebrations

Florida doesn't let warm weather stop it from celebrating the holidays with various events throughout the state. If you're in Jacksonville, check out the annual Gingerbread Extravaganza and marvel at the breathtaking gingerbread homes on display.

St. Augustine will be hosting its traditional Night of Lights festival, one of the world's best holiday light displays according to National Geographic. In Daytona Beach, you can meet the Grinch and citizens of Whoville at Kickoff to Winter Wonderland, as well as more fun characters in the weekends following the initial event. And if you're in New Smyrna Beach, you have to attend Christmas on Canal Street to see downtown transform into a holiday haven.

Check your town's event calendar to see what's going on this holiday season!

Turn Down the AC

It may be 75 degrees outside, but it doesn't have to in your house. Crank that temperature as low as you can take it – or are willing to pay for – then stir up a mug of hot chocolate and enjoy your own personal North Pole.

Stimulate Your Holiday Senses

For us, the holidays don't start until we break out our pine candles and peppermint candies. Fill your home with your favorite yuletide scent and make your favorite holiday dishes to stoke your festive spirit.

Spend Time with Your Friends & Family

What are the holidays about if not spending them with your loved ones? No amount of chilly air, decorations, or festive events can measure up to a holiday spent with your dearest friends and family.

Happy holidays!

September
30

Top Florida Cities People Are Moving To

Florida Cities

2020 saw some major shifts in housing markets around the country. With so many people working from home, many chose to leave more expensive and densely populated areas to find new places to call home. According to the National Association of REALTORS®, Jacksonville, Deltona, and Port Saint Lucie ranked as three of the top 15 cities in the country for inbound migration. We've got all the details on why so many people are choosing to move to these popular Florida cities.

Jacksonville

The largest city on our list, Jacksonville ranked seventh overall on the list from the NAR. Jacksonville homes for sale are popular in part because the city offers an affordable cost of living compared to other major metro areas while still providing all of the amenities that you'd expect from a big city. Jacksonville is the largest city by landmass in the United States and also boasts the largest park system of any city in the country.

New residents love the fact that Jacksonville has about 270 days of sunny weather every year, with a temperate climate year-round that makes it easy to enjoy the city's 1,100 miles of shoreline and 22 miles of pristine, sandy beaches. You'll find plenty to do close to home, whether you're attending a Jaguars game, watching some college sports, visiting a museum, watching a live show, or dining at one of the city's many outstanding restaurants.

Deltona

Deltona checked in just behind Jacksonville at number nine on the list of cities that people are moving to, thanks to a prime, central location that offers a mix of big-city amenities and small-town charm. By population, Deltona is about 10 percent the size of Jacksonville, with a population of just over 90,000 residents. The city is bordered by beautiful Lake Monroe on its south side, while Deltona homes for sale offer a location about equally distant from both Orlando and Daytona Beach.

The close proximity to popular attractions makes Deltona a great city for families, and you'll also find plenty to do close to home. Like Jacksonville, Deltona has one of Florida's best park systems, including some fantastic playgrounds for the little ones and plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities for adults. There's always another performance to see at the Deltona Arts Center, while the Deltona Club golf course has long been a local favorite.

Port Saint Lucie

Port Saint Lucie was the top-ranked Florida city on the list at number six, and it's no surprise that Port Saint Lucie homes for sale are so popular. Built around the Saint Lucie River with a warm climate and extensive park system, Port Saint Lucie is a paradise for nature lovers. Local environmental preserves provide endless opportunities for exploration, while the city's growing arts and performance community means that there are plenty of great events to enjoy all year long.

The city's population of just over 200,000 people makes it one of the largest in South Florida, but there's plenty of open space and nature to enjoy. It's also a great place to start a business, with a supportive local government and all of the modern infrastructure to help your business thrive.

Ready to find out first-hand why so many people are flocking to Florida? Let our team help you find the perfect home in your new favorite city. Contact us to buy and sell homes throughout the area.

August
23

What to Know When Buying a Vacation Home

Vacation Home Florida

Do you wish you had a place you can go to relax and have a good time? A place all your own, by a beautiful beach, where you can get away for a few weeks or months each year and swim, sail, surf, and bask in the Florida sunshine.

Our real estate agents have helped turn that dream into a reality for many families.

But before you buy that vacation home you've been dreaming about, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.

Know What You're Looking For
You know you're looking to buy a vacation home, but what, specifically, does that mean to you? How much of the year do you plan on using it? During what seasons will you be there? Is there a possibility of eventually using it as your primary home? All of these things have an impact on what kind of home you get and how much you should spend.

You should also take a look at the surrounding area. Where are the good restaurants and entertainment nearby? Will they be enough to hold your interest over multiple stays, or will they get old quickly? What about more practical needs, like grocery stores? Talk to the locals and get their perspective on what it's like living there and what you need to know about the neighborhood.

Look at Expenses
When budgeting for a second home, did you consider all the costs? It's more than just a down payment and mortgage. There are also property taxes, which are 0.98% in Florida, or an average of $1,750 per year.

You need to pay for maintenance as well, to keep the property in good shape while you're away and ensure it's ready for when you arrive. Consider hiring a caretaker or property manager. They can clean the place periodically, make sure the yard looks presentable, and make any necessary repairs throughout the year.

On average, you can expect to spend around 2% of your home's value per year on maintenance. However, certain vacation homes can be a bit more than that. If your house is right by the beach, it may also need regular repainting every couple of years, as salt, sand, and wind are corrosive.

Finally, look at travel expenses. How will you get to your vacation home, and how much will it cost? Will you drive? Take a plane? Make a couple of trips back and forth before you buy the house and note the costs. Then, multiply it by the number of times you plan on going there per year.

Research Rental Options
One way to offset your vacation home's costs is to rent it out to other people when you're not using it. This takes a bit of research and preparation too. Check Watson Property Management and other rental sites to see what similar properties in the area go for. Then see if the community has any rules about rentals. Some homeowners' associations frown on vacation rentals by the week and only allow them by the month.

You should also know what the area is like throughout the rest of the year. The weather may be great in winter when you stay there, but what about in summer? How appealing will this house be in the off-season, and will it be able to draw enough renters to make it worthwhile?

These are just a few of the things to consider before buying a vacation home. Ultimately, having an experienced real estate team by your side helps make the vacation home buying process as smooth as possible.

July
20

Northeast Florida Splash Pads the Kids Will Love

Splash Pads

Summer is here, and there are few things that kids love more than spending a hot day cooling off at the local splash pad. From the piers near St. Augustine to the parks of Green Cove Springs, there are plenty of local splash pads throughout Northeast Florida that the kids will enjoy. Many of the region's best splash pads are also part of larger attractions, making it easy to plan a full day of family fun. We've got the details on five Northeast Florida splash pads where you can plan a fun family outing this summer.

Splash Park at the Pier – 350 Beach Blvd., St. Augustine Beach, FL 32080
The Splash Park at the Pier is conveniently located by the water near St. Augustine Beach, next to the popular St. Johns County Ocean & Fishing Pier. Enjoy views of the water while the kids play in the large, open splash park framed by palm trees. Just next door, you will find all of the attractions the pier has to offer, like a playground, picnic areas, beach access, a gift shop, and a full-service tackle shop with gear rentals for fishing from the pier.

Shipwreck Island Water Park – 1944 Beach Blvd., Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250
A shipwreck-themed water park with a splash pad and so much more, Shipwreck Island is your destination for cool summer fun near Jacksonville Beach. This is a great place to plan a group outing, with an arcade, go-karts, mini-golf, and laser tag to go with all of the fun rides at the water park.

Jacksonville Zoo Splash Pad – 370 Zoo Pkwy., Jacksonville, FL 32218
The Jacksonville Zoo has long been a favorite family attraction close to Jacksonville, and it features a splash pad that adds an extra dimension to summertime visits. Kids love splashing around before seeing all of the animals and shows at the zoo, while parents love the many fun and educational programs the zoo offers for young visitors.

Nocatee Splash Water Park – 245 Nocatee Center Way, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL 32081
There are many reasons to check out Ponte Vedra Beach, and access to this exclusive water park is certainly one of them. The Nocatee Splash Water Park offers countless ways to cool off in the summer heat. This is a private resort-style water park for residents to enjoy. Features include a lazy river, two slides, Splash Cove for the kids, and a shallow-access pool. 

Spring Park – 106 St. Johns Ave., Green Cove Springs, FL 32043
Head over to Spring Park near Duval County for some fun in the sun. Nestled on the St. Johns River, the park is open from sunrise to sunset and is a perfect option for families to visit. Kids will love the splash pad and other playground equipment for them to burn off some energy and cool off simultaneously. Plus, don't forget a picnic basket to enjoy lunch in one of the covered picnic shelters!

Oakleaf Village and Plantation Oaks – 370 Oakleaf Village Pkwy., Orange Park, FL 32065
Oakleaf Plantation residents have multiple amenities to enjoy, and during the hot summer months, it's safe to assume most residents love having access to two water parks. At these parks near Orange Park, residents will have access to water slides, spray grounds, and pools. Be sure to check out their website for pool hours

Ready to find the perfect home close to all of the amazing attractions in Northeast Florida? Our local real estate team is here to help. Contact us to buy and sell homes throughout Northeast Florida communities.

May
26

How to Start Your First Compost Pile

Composting Tips

If you're looking for a new home, one thing you may be thinking about is gardening and landscaping. Many homes have plenty of yard space for growing plants. You may want a home with room for something else, too: a compost pile. If you've never had one before, they're a great tool for anyone with a green thumb. Here's how to start your first compost pile.

How Does Composting Work?

An estimated 30-40% of the food supply in this country becomes food waste. Composting takes those leftover scraps, breaks them down, and turns them into a nutrient-rich substance that, when added to soil, facilitates plant growth, from flowers to trees to vegetables and more.

Turning organic matter into compost requires water, air, and microorganisms. Microorganisms can take the form of bacteria and fungi, as well as earthworms and certain bugs. You also need organic matter that's rich in carbon (brown materials) and organic matter that's rich in nitrogen (green materials). The water and air help the microorganisms to decompose carbon and nitrogen in the plant matter. Those elements then act as nutrients to help future plants grow.

What Can and Can't Be Composted

Food waste isn't the only thing that can go into a compost pile. You can also use twigs and leaves that come from raking the yard and the clippings from mowing the lawn.

However, some things shouldn't be composted. Meat, dairy, oils, and fats can attract local wildlife. Don't compost animal waste either. You can compost wood ash, but not coal ash or charcoal. Finally, don't compost weeds, or plants with diseases, as they can cause problems for whatever you try to grow next.

Building Your Compost Pile

Find a large, open area in your yard that's level and allows for good water drainage. If water pools up, it can ruin your compost. Next, build a wooden enclosure around the area - four sides, but no floor. Clear out any grass in that area as well, so the pile sits directly on the dirt. Build a door or panel into one side that can be opened, allowing access to your compost.

Once you've built the enclosure, it's time to add your scraps. This requires a bit of planning. Your compost pile should consist of even layers of alternating brown and green materials, starting with brown.

Brown materials are "dry" items, such as dry leaves, branches, wood chips, and pine needles. Green is the "wet" materials - food scraps, grass clippings, green leaves, etc. Your pile should be approximately 2/3 brown to 1/3 green.

Maintaining Your Compost Pile

Your compost pile should be watered and turned regularly. Give it light water every day or two as needed to keep the pile damp but not saturated. If you squeeze the dirt and water flows out, it's too wet.

Turning the pile keeps it aerated, so it decomposes better. Stick a shovel or pitchfork into the pile and turn it over, mixing up the various materials. Do this every two weeks or so.

Once it's ready, take the compost from the bottom of the pile and add it to the dirt of whatever you're growing.

We can help you find the perfect house to create your compost pile and grow beautiful gardens and landscaping that any homeowner would be proud of. Contact us to learn more!

April
1

7 Things to Avoid When Getting Ready to List Your Home

Watson List Your Home

Listing your home for sale can be overwhelming, especially if it's your first time. One of the best ways to sell your home quickly and increase your sale price is through proper home staging. Home staging is both an art and a science and often takes a good bit of experience to pull it off just right. Our real estate agents are experts at home staging and are always willing to offer tips to help you through the process.

If you're planning to put your home on the market in the near future, you'll want to make sure to avoid these mistakes.

Personalization
When it comes to getting your home ready for the market, the goal is to create an environment that enables potential buyers to see themselves living in the home. This means keeping things as neutral as possible. Remove pictures, abstract art, bright colors, knick-knacks, or anything that reminds your potential buyer that you're currently living in the space.

Keeping Pets Around 
Who doesn't love pets? Many potential homebuyers don't. Whether it's allergies or just personal preference, pets aren't for everyone, so be sure to keep their presence to a minimum during showings or open houses. Be sure to vacuum up any fur and keep all bowls and toys out of sight. 

Forgetting To Clean
An essential part of the home staging process is deep cleaning. This type of cleaning goes far beyond sweeping the floors and dusting. You'll need to make every corner of your home ready to impress! This includes the ceiling, windows, baseboards, blinds, carpets, and furniture. First impressions are everything, so you want to be sure potential buyers are walking into a spotless home. 

Dark Spaces
The golden rule of home staging: let there be light! Light exposure makes rooms look bigger and brighter. If a particular room doesn't have a lot of windows or doesn't receive much sunlight, buy extra lamps or artificial lighting. You want every room of your house to be bright and welcoming. 

Ignoring The Bedrooms
Many sellers make kitchens, living rooms, and bathrooms a priority during the home-selling process, but it's important not to forget about the bedrooms. The bedroom is where homeowners spend a lot of their time, so it's important to create a clean, relaxing look. Make sure bedding is fresh and clean. Adding some decorative pillows and throw blankets doesn't hurt either. 

Stuffing Your Closets
Cramming everything into your closets might make rooms look less cluttered, but this strategy can actually backfire. Jam-packed closets can actually make your storage space appear smaller. The key to making closet space appear larger is to keep them about half full.

Outdated Appliances
If your kitchen is living in the past, you may want to consider upgrading your appliances. Replacing an old refrigerator or dishwasher will not only help make your kitchen stand out among other Jacksonville homes for sale, but it will also be a major selling point for potential buyers. Because the kitchen is the most important room of the house, you may even be able to recoup your costs at the sale price.

Selling a home can be a challenge, which is why you need an experienced real estate agent in your corner. Contact us today for more tips!

March
5

Things Only 90s Jacksonville, FL Residents Will Remember

The 90s were a simpler time. Clothes were baggier, music came on cassette tapes, Blockbuster still existed. If you're anything like the rest of us, you likely spend at least a few hours a day pining nostalgically for all things 1990s. Especially if you lived in Jacksonville, FL during the 90s. Because we can't help but revisit what feels like better days, join us as we tour things only 90s Jacksonville, FL residents will remember.

Sinking Quarters/Tokens into Games at Aladdin's Castle & Tilt

Thanks to barcades like Keg & Coin – an arcade bar in Jacksonville's Riverside neighborhood – and entertainment hotspots like Dave and Busters and Adventure Landing, there are still places you can get your arcade cabinet fix.

But there's nothing like the originals. Bereft of the other distractions – Keg & Coin is a bar first, arcade second, while Dave and Busters and Adventure Landing prominently feature an entire restaurant and a water park, respectively – these classic arcades existed purely for the endless joy of arcade games.

Many of us lost countless hours in Aladdin's Castle in the Orange Park mall. Parents shopping for boring stuff? Give us $5 and we'll be content basked in the warm glow of arcade cabinets for at least an hour. The same goes for Tilt at the Jacksonville Landing (itself an icon of the 90s that no longer exists). A few rounds of Street Fighter with friends at Tilt would be enough to make anyone's weekend.

Playing Mini-Golf with Rex at Goony Golf

DINOmite!! | Jacksonville beach, Jacksonville florida, Jacksonville fl

Before he became the orange sentinel of Beach Boulevard as we know him today, Rex, Jacksonville's famous T-Rex statue, presided over innumerable mini-golf games at Goony Golf. He was one of several, um, interesting obstacles and characters for which Goony Golf was known. For all its kitschy charm, Goony Golf felt like a staple of a fun Saturday afternoon.

And while the chain's Jacksonville location went extinct early in the 2000s, we still thankfully have Rex's beautiful mug to remind us of just how great things used to be.

Going to a Drive-In Movie

Playtime 3 Drive-In in Jacksonville, FL - Cinema Treasures

Going to a movie in a normal theater is a treat in itself, to be sure. But there was just something special about rolling down the windows, audio pouring out your radio, and watching a movie in the crisp night air.

In the 90s, Jax residents had a few options. They could pull up to the Playtime Drive-In off Blanding Boulevard or the Beaches Drive-In. These excellent and unique date destinations from the 90s sadly no longer exist. Playtime had its screens shut down for good in 2008, while Beaches Drive-In had its proverbial windows shuttered in 2003.

The Eats!

Feasting on the Wagon Wheel at Famous Amos. Ordering a Camel Rider on-the-go from The Sheik. A full chicken platter from Beach Road Chicken Dinners. Sipping on a Slush Puppie from the local Little Champ gas station. Barbecue from the short-lived Rumboggies (or maybe you just bought the sauce?).  Eating Chinese buffet in a dimly lit indoor dining area surrounded by koi ponds and bridges at Garden of Tiki.

We could go on, but we're making ourselves hungry.

The Malls!

What were you doing for fun in the 90s if you weren't at the mall? Maybe your commerce hub of choice was the Regency Square Mall, with its bustling storefronts and unique eateries at the food court. Or maybe you favored the newer atmosphere of the Avenues mall, which opened its doors in 1990.

If you lived in Orange Park, though, we know you loved the Orange Park Mall. Dozens of storefronts, a thriving food court, the aforementioned Aladdin's Castle, and, of course, the classic carousel.

The Sports!

jacksonville lizard kings - Google Search | Hockey logos, Kings hockey,  Football team logos

With no major league sports teams calling Jacksonville home in the early 90s, the city still had plenty of sports to get excited for. Baseball was never hotter than when the Jacksonville Suns lit up minor league ballparks (of course they still persist today, though rebranded as the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp).

Meanwhile, possibly the coolest local sports team in terms of uniforms, colors, logo, and name: The Jacksonville Lizard Kings. Sure, hockey doesn't have a strong foothold in Florida, but the Lizard Kings captured the hearts of many Jax residents on sheer coolness alone. Just look at that logo above! 

Then, of course, the big daddy arrives in 1993: Jacksonville gets its very own NFL franchise. The Jaguars were born, and a city fell in love with its team in teal. The 90s seasons were special for the Jags, too, as the team found immense success within its first three seasons playing in the formerly named Alltel Stadium.

Keep Max in Jax

Call Box: Maxwell House sign has been dripping since 1955 - News - The  Florida Times-Union - Jacksonville, FL

The intoxicating smell of coffee beans is familiar to anyone from Jacksonville thanks to the Maxwell House coffee plant located downtown. However, in the early 90s, the plant was nearly shutdown. The city launched a "Keep Max in Jax" campaign to convince Maxwell House to keep the plant open. It turned out to be wildly successful, not only saving the plant but motivating the company to double down in Jax with a multi-million-dollar expansion.

Classic Jax Radio Stations

The 90s had some outstanding radio stations for Jax residents. We spent many an afternoon cranking up the dial on all our favorite modern hits on 97.9 KISS FM. There was 93.3 Planet Radio for crunching new rock, while 104.5 pumped out all the classic rock your heart could desire. Then, of course, we had Cool 96.9, showering us all with "good times, great oldies."

August
27

Famous People You Didn't Know Were from Florida

There's an interesting feeling of civic pride you feel when you discover a celebrity you know and love is from your hometown. But for every well-known celeb from the Sunshine State, there's another handful of famous people from Florida you didn't know were from here.

The Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, & More | Jacksonville, FL

Jacksonville may as well one of the capitals of Southern Rock given the number of legendary bands from the genre it's produced. Lynyrd Skynyrd of Freebird fame, The Allman Brothers Band, Blackfoot, Molly Hatchet, and .38 Special all hail from the Bold City. Rock bands continued to emerge from Jacksonville during the 90s and 2000s as well. You probably know Limp Bizkit hails from the First Coast, but so do Cold, Yellowcard, Evergreen Terrace, Shinedown, and The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus.

Maya Rudolph | Gainesville, FL

Gainesville was home to a famous rocker of its own (the late, great Tom Petty), but a well-known comedian also hails from Gator Country. Maya Rudolph was born in Gainesville in 1972. The famous actress was a prominent cast member on Saturday Night Live and has starred in several feature films, including Bridesmaids, Inherent Vice, and Big Hero 6.

Bob Ross | Daytona Beach, FL

America's favorite televised painter just so happens to be one of the most famous people from Daytona Beach, FL. That's right, Bob Ross was born in the city in 1942. He served 20 years in the Air Force before eventually becoming the honey-voiced master of zen with a paintbrush we all knew and loved.

Chipper Jones | DeLand, FL

The popular Atlanta Braves slugger hails from DeLand, FL. Chipper Jones also fits as a famous person from Daytona Beach, FL, too; he was raised in the Daytona Beach metro area. That being said, he got his start in baseball playing little league in the DeLand area.

Wayne Brady | Orlando, FL

Despite being born in Georgia, Wayne Brady is still one of the most famous people from Orlando, FL as he spent the majority of his young life in the Central Florida city. The likable improv comedian got his start with Orlando improv troupe SAK Comedy Club, where he developed skills that would catapult him into the national spotlight on TV shows like Whose Line Is It Anyway?.

Mandy Moore | Longwood, FL

Mandy Moore is one of the few famous people from Longwood, FL. Her family moved there when she was two years old, and it's where she spent the majority of her formative years. Mandy Moore got her start as a singer with a handful of chart-topping hits to her name before taking on roles as an actor later in her career.

Kate Upton | Melbourne, FL

The eye-catching model moved to Melbourne, FL as a kid in 1999, where she attended Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy and even competed nationally as a young equestrian. She later built her career as a head-turning model and actress.

Jim Morrison | Melbourne, FL

Jim Morrison is, without question, one of the most famous people from Florida. Hailing from Melbourne, FL, Morrison made his name as the front man for rock band The Doors. His vocals, lyrics, and memorable live performances have left a lasting impression not just on his fans, but on the entire rock genre for decades after his untimely passing.

October
30

The Anti-Football Fan's Guide to Jacksonville During Florida/Georgia Weekend

Every year around the end of October/beginning of November, thousands of college football fans descend upon Jacksonville, FL for the showdown between the Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs. If you're not a football fan, this is at best a minor inconvenience and at worst a weekend-destroying excuse to stay inside. But if you refuse to let a football game neutralize your weekend, follow this guide for non-football things to do in Jacksonville, FL.

Go See Real Gators at the Jacksonville Zoo

Despite their nickname, the closest thing to real alligators the Florida Gators travel with are made of fabric and wear sweaters. For the real thing, head to the Jacksonville Zoo! In addition to spying these armor-plated beasts, you can feed giraffes, stare at lions in awe, and share the sidewalk with exotic birds. The Jacksonville Zoo is a must-stop.

Explore Fine Art at the Museum of Contemporary Art

Some argue that football is an art form. They may be right, but if you're craving a more classic art experience, check out Jacksonville's Museum of Contemporary Art. Exhibitions regularly rotate, so you're sure to fall in love with new pieces with every visit.

Play Mini-Golf at Adventure Landing

Is mini-golf a sport? Does it matter? Not when it's this much fun. Both Adventure Landing locations offer challenging courses full of hazards and obstacles to overcome. And if you get tired of your golf ball bouncing off wooden blocks, you can race go-karts, play arcade games, or hit the batting cages.

Satisfy Your Need for Speed at the Autobahn Motor Speedway

The closest you can get to Germany's famous Autobahn highway without leaving Jacksonville is the indoor go-kart course named in its honor. Rip asphalt at speeds up to 50 MPH across multiple tracks for some of the best competitive racing this side of Daytona.

Embrace Tranquility at the Cummer Museum

The Cummer Museum is home to a curated selection of art spanning centuries, a collection that's easily worth a visit on its own. But the gardens make their own argument for star of the show. After sustaining significant damage from Hurricane Irma in 2017, the gardens were reopened earlier in 2019 with restored versions of its historic garden stylings from the early 20th century.

Get in Touch with Nature at the Jacksonville Arboretum

A little more than a half dozen trails await eager hikers at the Jacksonville Arboretum. Each trail is a little different in both scenery and difficulty, making it easy to select a trail that's not too taxing for the younger members of your family.

Hang Out in One of Jacksonville's Many Parks

Jacksonville has the largest urban park system in the nation, so you've got lots of options for where to spend your Saturday far away from TIAA Bank Field. There's gorgeous Memorial Park in Riverside and beachside destinations like Jarboe Park and Hanna Park. Or you can visit a 250-year-old oak tree at Jesse Ball duPont Park. If Jacksonville's park system were an iceberg, this list would be just the tip.

Devour a Steak Dinner at Cowford Chophouse

Instead of dining on overpriced stadium fare, you could feast on steak at Jacksonville's own Cowford Chophouse. Whether you're craving a rich filet mignon or the mighty 40 oz. porterhouse, all your steak dreams will be realized at Cowford.

Indulge Your Sweet Tooth at Sweet Pete's

Would you honestly choose a football game over a trip to a real-life version of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory? We didn't think so. Step inside Sweet Pete's and be transported to a fantastical world of candy, chocolate, and confections that taste too good to be true. The catch is there is no catch; feast to your sweet tooth's content.

September
6

The Ultimate Jaguars Gameday Experience

Don't listen to the naysayers; gameday in Jacksonville is a special experience. For years, fans of the Teal and Gold have gathered on Thursdays, Sundays, and Mondays to cheer on the Jaguars. And if you've been to an NFL game before, you know it's an all-day event. So whether it's your first time supporting the home team in person or you're a fan of a visiting team, here's your guide to the ultimate Jaguars gameday experience.

The Morning Of

Rise and shine! Kickoff may not be until 1:00 p.m. (for most home games), but gamedays start early here. And since you'll be going all day, you need some fuel to get you going. If you're staying near TIAA Bank Field, you'll have a few tasty breakfast options. The chicken biscuits at Maple Street Biscuit Company are life-changing. Seriously, take one bite of The Squawking Goat – fried chicken breast, fried goat cheese medallion, and house-made pepper jelly on a flaky biscuit – and try not to fall in love. Other nearby breakfast and brunch spots include Metro Diner and First Watch.

To the Stadium

Now that you're fueled up for the big day ahead, it's time to head to the stadium. You'll find an abundance of parking in the lots surrounding the stadium, though many spots here require passes. Venture just a little farther outside those lots and more parking awaits, especially along the St. Johns River banks. Don't want to pay for parking? Many side streets about a mile outside the stadium offer ample free parking for the trade-off of a brief walk to the game. Or you could park on an opposite river bank and pay $10 for a water taxi ride to the stadium. Tailgaters rejoice: you'll have plenty of room to bust out the grills, coolers, tents, chairs, and any other essentials pretty much wherever you park.

Pregame Fun

TIAA Bank Field opens up three hours prior to kickoff for all ticket holders, allowing access to the many fun experiences inside the stadium. There's the Lycamobile Fan Entertainment Zone, which serves as a premiere pregame party area with food, fun, and football activities. You can also check out The Bud Light Zone in the south endzone. This social hotspot opens two hours prior to kickoff and offers food, drinks, and the ultimate place to chill before the game. Need a new Jaguars shirt or looking for a fun souvenir to bring home with you? Visit one of the multiple Jags Pro Shops in the stadium for a huge selection of Jaguars merchandise.

Game Time!

TIAA Bank Field is full of unique ways to watch the hometown team take the field. Upgrade your Jaguars gameday experience with climate-controlled lounges at midfield or take in incredible views of all the action behind the endzone in The Bud Light [Fri]End Zone. If the Jacksonville heat is beating you down, grab a suite ticket or splurge for the NFL's most unique way to watch a football game: poolside in the Axalta Spa Cabana. Whether you're on the sideline or in the nosebleeds, you can watch the on-field action on the massive video screens at each end of the stadium. These behemoths are 62 feet tall and 362 feet wide, providing a canvas of 22,000 square feet to broadcast a live feed of the game, replays, and more.

Post-Game Hangs

After (hopefully) witnessing the Jaguars conquer their opponents, it's time to celebrate! Feel free to stick around your tailgate where post-game parties will continue for a few hours (plus it gives traffic time to die down). Once you're ready to eat, you'll discover tons of great restaurants near the stadium. BBs makes a mean steak, while The Bearded Pig serves up some of the city's finest barbecue. Foodies will love Black Sheep's unique take on Southern classics or the casually upscale menu at Bellwether. The two outdoor patios at Jacksonville Sports Tavern provide a great spot to watch the rest of the afternoon's games and grab a bite to eat. And, in the unfortunate event of a Jags loss, redeem the night with friends and fun at Bold City, Intuition, or Hyperion. Now go out and have the ultimate Jaguars gameday experience this season!

January
22

14 Instagram-Worthy Backdrops in Jacksonville, FL

It may not get as much recognition as other popular cities in Florida, but Jacksonville is rich with beauty and culture. If you need convincing, simply look around: there's the towering skyline, peaceful beaches, thriving cultural hotspots, and countless local art displays dispersed across town. And guess what? All that beauty is going to look great on your Instagram. Up your photo game with shots at these gorgeous Instagram-worthy backdrops in Jacksonville, FL.

Memorial Park 1620 Riverside Avenue

[caption id="attachment_83" align="alignnone" width="599"] Memorial Park | Photo credit: @tucker.shoots[/caption]

Snap a photo of a sunset over the St. Johns River or the iconic bronze sculpture, Life, standing proudly in the center of the park; Memorial Park has so many great spots for stunning pictures.

Jacksonville Landing 2 W Independent Drive

While it may not be the hotbed of activity it used to be, the Landing still offers opportunities for some incredible photos of the Jacksonville skyline, especially at night.

The Dunes at Ponte Vedra Beach Ponte Vedra Beach

Though not technically part of Jacksonville, Ponte Vedra Beach is close enough to count it. Plus, it's hard to find a better spot for all your #beachlife photos than the towering sand dunes found here.

Black Rock Beach Big Talbot Island

[caption id="attachment_84" align="alignnone" width="599"] Black Rock Beach | Photo Credit: @artnovakjr[/caption]

One of Jacksonville's most unique destinations is also one of its best-kept secrets. Dark rocks, saw palmettos, and the bleached driftwood give this beach an otherworldly quality that make it the perfect backdrop for gorgeous photos.

Rex the Beach Boulevard Dinosaur 10150 Beach Boulevard

[caption id="attachment_85" align="alignnone" width="598"] Rex the Beach Boulevard Dinosaur | Photo credit: @rex_the_beach_blvd_dino[/caption] Here's a true #onlyinduval.

Rex the Beach Boulevard Dinosaur is a Jacksonville icon who originally stood tall as a prop at an old miniature golf course. Now he presides over a shopping center on Beach Boulevard, welcoming Instagrammers from all over.

Friendship Fountain 1015 Museum Circle

Who doesn't love a fountain? Friendship Fountain was renovated just a few years ago, ensuring it'll be a staple of photos for a long time.

Treaty Oak Park 1123 Prudential Drive

Add some history to your Instagram with a picture in front of the 200+ year old oak tree that gives this park its name.

Mirrored River Southbank Riverwalk

Local mosaic art company Roux Art, Inc. created this stunning mosaic meant to celebrate and evoke the inimitable beauty of the St. Johns River.

The Dance of the Seven Sins Muses 927 W Forsyth Street

Artist Okuda created this colorful mural as part of Art Republic 2017. Inspired by the important roles women have played in Jacksonville's history, this mural is a great backsplash of color for your next selfie.

Pillars by Andrew Reid West Bay Street

These dazzling murals adorn pillars in what used to be less traveled areas of downtown Jacksonville. Their presence has certainly helped alleviate that.

Earth Gods by Shaun Thurston 100 E Adams Street

[caption id="attachment_87" align="alignnone" width="750"] Earth Gods | Photo Credit: Shaun Thurston[/caption]

Earth Gods presents a visually arresting commentary on a topic as old as the earth itself: mankind's relationship with nature. Larger-than-life art and a potent message? Leave your followers with something to chew on with this one.

Floating Land by Shaun Thurston 215 N Laura Street

Floating Land, just like the local treasure upon which it sits, is easy to get lost in. Grab a pic of the awe-inspiring memorial before heading inside to Chamblin Uptown and venturing into other worlds with shelves upon shelves of literary adventures.

Detroit Moves by Kenor 325 West Forsyth Street

Energetic, frantic, and fragmented – all these words describe the lively Detroit Moves mural. Does it remind you of techno? That's no coincidence; artist Kenor was inspired by the electronic scene in Detroit.

Untitled by Martin Ron 810 W Adams Street

[caption id="attachment_88" align="alignnone" width="602"] Untitled | Photo Credit: @ronmuralist[/caption]

Would people really believe you traveled to Jacksonville if you didn't show them a picture of a bunch of people sitting on a giant alligator as proof?

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