Jacksonville's nice neighborhoods are generally east of the Saint Johns river. In Jax the locals think it is South of the river, but their sense of geography baffles me. Southside and San Marco are the nicer sections. I call them sections because Jax is so big and spread out that calling them neighborhoods would be an understatement. There are some ratty, but inoffensive parts in the East like Sin City which is along Atlantic Blvd. close to Regency Square Mall. There is a section right by Jacksonville University along University Blvd. in Eastern Jacksonville that is a little rough, but not too bad. But West of the river you'll find that some bad neighborhoods aren't so inoffensive anymore. Don't be surprised if you see crack dealers, pimps, hoes and a slew of beat up cars. Not all of the Westside, as it's called, is this bad. People go to that section to work, party (a lot of clubs are there) or eat good soul food.
If you're new to the city avoid exits Edgewood and anything in between to Union Street. For travelers at night I wouldn't suggest it. During the day it's no problem, at night please avoid it.
Dunn Ave and Baymeadows Rd are the best exists to use if you need gas, food and accomdations.
The worst part of Jacksonville is the area immediately to the north and northwest of downtown. There are some other small areas spread out accross the city but the previously mentioned area is the worst. The downtown area is largely deserted after 6pm but I was walking around until 8pm and it still felt pretty safe.
It seems hard to maneuver around the city, especially around downtown area. The signs are not adequate for forewarning of where to turn, or which lane to get into, and access to South Bank, or coming off it to get to downtown is a nightmare of one way streets and going under the bridge twice. Better signage and layout is advised for the city.
In Jacksonville, FL:
every three days someone is murdered
every two days someone is raped
there are 15 assaults or robberies every day
12 cars are stolen every day
Know your surroundings, watch who is watching you and your family.
Don't act like a stupid tourist and reduce your chances as being marked for a victim.
Ask at your hotel/motel desk, which areas are to be avoided.
Lock car doors, watch the kids, use caution when you are in unfamilar areas.
There are 1652 registered sex offenders in Jacksonville and who knows how many others hiding in the north side of the city.
The city of Jacksonville has recently (2007) instituted a webpage specifically to watch out for sex offenders.
The webpage about this is: http://www.watchsystems.com/fl/jacksonville/
Downtown J-ville is really nice when your closest to the St. Johns River. If you seem to stray away from that end towards 8th street around that area, be very careful b/c it is a dangerous part of the city. Use your instincts and if it seems a bit dodgy just turn around and go back the way you came. They are trying to clean up the city so it is getting better. Just know where you are going before set out.
All around the city there are vehicles coming, going, and coming again. It seems like every one is out driving. It takes about 3/4 hour in good traffic to go between north and south, and the perimeter loop of US 295 and 9A is crowded
There are vagrants, panhandlers, and homeless that hang out in the park. While we were downtown, it looked like there were at least 50 in the park; some sleeping, some strolling and some looking like blank stare in the eyes. I did not note any drinking, but maybe in spite of that, they are inebriated. It looks like a place to stay away form, and an embarrassment to the city to have this site.
Just about everyone has put down the northside. I would say you have to beware in all parts of the town. No matter what side of town you should always be alert to what is around you. There have been incidents on every side and parts of jacksonville. It is a big city with lots of people from all walks of life. The airport area of jax is very nice and is developing very fast. The new mall-Rivercity Market Place is a added feature to that side of town. The flea market is great as well as the raceways out there if you have a motorcycle. I would not bypass that area. I would encourage people to be aware if they go into the very urban areas after the Broward road exit, going into the downtown area. You do find a population that may not be as friendly. Traffic and road construction is really more of a danger than people.
Like ANY metropolis stay with where you're familier with at night and if you have never been in the ocean before ask about things like what not to touch on shore ie: jellyfish and so on. People are very nice here and are extreamly familier with tourists, which we all are, that is why we are all on this site RIGHT.
Nothing serious, just a comment about Amelia Island - It is an unusual place - it is not that large, but one of the biggest industries on the island, aside from tourism seems to be processing wood pulp, and there also appeared to be some large shipping going on. It is still a very tranquil place to visit.
Like all big cities, Jacksonville has its "good" side and its "bad" side. While crime can happen anywhere, in big cities it is important to know what side of town you are on. Jacksonville covers an enormous spread of land. Generally speaking, the city's "bad side" is the area to the north and west of Downtown. There really isn't any reason to go here, although the proud residents of Springfield (a gradually gentrifying neighborhood located at the epicenter of this "bad side") will argue truthfully that their neighborhood is an up and coming center for arts and historic restoration. That said, some blocks of Springfield have been returned to early 1900s Victorian grandeur. Of course, other blocks are still the domain of prostitutes, gangs, and the drug trade. If you want the ambiance of a lively historic neighborhood, San Marco and Avondale are much safer options.
I lived in Jacksonville for 10 years and at first it seemed like a city with potential but sadly I began to see why people in Savannah always warned me never to go there. First let me warn you that there is NO good place to go in Jacksonville! Crime is everywhere! I have never lived in a place with so many lowlifes. You can't go anywhere without running into homeless people begging. The police gather every night at Shands Hospital and plan military like assaults on the northside just to try make a dent in the crime. My best advice to you is avoid this entire city. Believe me there is absolutely nothing in Jacksonville you want to see or do that is worth your life! Plus there is nothing to see or do in the first place! When I think of Jacksonville I think of the movie Deliverance. My family and I are so happy we moved. What a dump!
Like most big cities, Jacksonville has areas that you don't want to spend too much time in....for your safety. General speaking, the Northwest area of Jax is to a avoid. There's nothing to visit in that quadrant anyways, but steer clear. That is North of I-10 and West of I-95. Also, anything North of 20th Street and South of the Trout River. That's the Northwest area of Jacksonville.
That being said, some of coolest neighborhoods to visit border these areas. Riverside and Avodale is the a really popular neighborhood for artists, young people, and eclectic types. Lots of good restaurants and nightlife, with great character. It's just Southwest of Downtown Jacksonville. Springfield is similar in character and creativity but as not yet as gentrified with fewer restaurants and entertainment options, but is still a cool little neighborhood in its own right. It's just North of Downtown. Downtown itself is "ok", but there are large areas in Downtown that are empty at night so don't get caught walking alone in one of those. Since those particular spots are empty I'm not sure why you would anyways.
Besides those, and the area right around the airport, also on the Northside but way further North of Downtown, the there's not much in the whole NW quadrant to even visit. Probably because it's mostly run down neighborhoods.
The East and South parts of Jacksonville have crime too but it's not as uniform. There are areas here and there, but there's more consitant gun play in the NW quadrant of Jacksonville especially. It is good advice to be aware of what's going around you no matter where you are, because crime does happen in all parts.