Jacksonville is the largest city in the U.S. state of Florida by population and the largest city by area in the contiguous United States. It is the county seat of Duval County, with which the city government consolidated in 1968. Consolidation gave Jacksonville its great size and placed most of its metropolitan population within the city limits; with an estimated population in 2012 of 836,507, it is the most populous city proper in Florida and the Southeast, and the 12th most populous in the United States. Jacksonville is the principal city in the Jacksonville metropolitan area, with a population of 1,345,596 in 2010.
Jacksonville is in the First Coast region of northeast Florida and is centered on the banks of the St. Johns River, about 25 miles (40 km) south of the Georgia state line and about 340 miles (550 km) north of Miami. The Jacksonville Beaches communities are along the adjacent Atlantic coast. The area was originally inhabited by the Timucua people, and in 1564 was the site of the French colony of Fort Caroline, one of the earliest European settlements in what is now the continental United States. Under British rule, settlement grew at the narrow point in the river where cattle crossed, known as Wacca Pilatka to the Seminole and Cowford to the British. A platted town was established there in 1822, a year after the United States gained Florida from Spain; it was named after Andrew Jackson, the first military governor of the Florida Territory and seventh President of the United States.
Harbor improvements since the late 19th century have made Jacksonville a major military and civilian deep-water port. Its riverine location facilitates two U.S. Navy bases and the Port of Jacksonville, Florida's third largest seaport. Significant factors in the local economy include services such as banking, insurance, healthcare and logistics. As with much of Florida, tourism is also important to the Jacksonville area, particularly tourism related to golf. In 2010, Jacksonville was listed as a "high sufficiency" World city in the World Cities Study Group’s inventory, ranking alongside cities such as Liverpool and Las Vegas. People from Jacksonville are known as "Jacksonvillians" or "Jaxons".
The area of the modern city of Jacksonville has been inhabited for thousands of years. On Black Hammock Island in the national Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, a University of North Florida team discovered some of the oldest remnants of pottery in the United States, dating to 2500 BC. In the 16th century, the beginning of the historical era, the region was inhabited by the Mocama, a coastal subgroup of the Timucua people. At the time of contact with Europeans, all Mocama villages in present-day Jacksonville were part of the powerful chiefdom known as the Saturiwa, centered around the mouth of the St. Johns River. One early map shows a village called Ossachite at the site of what is now downtown Jacksonville; this may be the earliest recorded name for that area.
The tallest building in Downtown Jacksonville's skyline is the Bank of America Tower, constructed in 1990 as the Barnett Center. It has a height of 617 ft (188 m) and includes 42 floors. Other notable structures include the 37-story Wells Fargo Center (with its distinctive flared base making it the defining building in the Jacksonville skyline), originally built in 1972-74 by the Independent Life and Accident Insurance Company, and the 28 floor Riverplace Tower which, when completed in 1967, was the tallest precast, post-tensioned concrete structure in the world.
A number of cultural events are also held in Jacksonville. The Jacksonville Jazz Festival, held downtown, is the second-largest jazz festival in the nation, while Springing the Blues, one of the oldest and largest blues festivals, has been held in Jacksonville Beach since 1990. The World of Nations Celebration has been held in Metropolitan Park since 1993, and features a number of events, food and souvenirs from various countries. The Jacksonville Film Festival, held at seven historic venues in the city, has been held since 2003 and has featured a variety of independent films, documentaries and shorts.
Throughout the year, many annual events of various types are held in Jacksonville. In sports, the annual Gate River Run has been held annually since March 1977. It has been the US National 15-kilometre (9.3 mi) road race Championship since 1994 and is the largest race of its distance in the country with over 13,000 runners, spectators, and volunteers, making it Jacksonville's largest participation sporting event. In college football, the Gator Bowl is held on January 1. It has been continuously held since 1946. Also, the Florida–Georgia game (also known as the "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party"), the annual college football game between the rival Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs has been held in Jacksonville almost yearly since 1933. For six days in July the Jacksonville Kingfish Tournament is held for fishermen of all skills. With $500,000 of prizes up for grabs, up to 1000 boats participate with almost 30,000 spectators watching.
Other events include the Blessing of the Fleet held in March since 1985 and the Greater Jacksonville Agricultural Fair in November at the Jacksonville Fairgrounds and Exposition Center featuring games, rides, food, entertainment and livestock exhibition. Holiday celebrations include the Freedom, Fanfare & Fireworks celebration on July 4, the lighting of Jacksonville's official Christmas tree at the Jacksonville Landing on the day after Thanksgiving and the Jacksonville Light Parade of boats the following day.
The city center includes the Jacksonville Landing and the Jacksonville Riverwalks. The Landing is a popular riverfront dining and shopping venue, accessible by River Taxi from the Southbank Riverwalk. The Northbank Riverwalk runs 2.0 miles (3.2 km) along the St. Johns from Berkman Plaza to I-95 at the Fuller Warren Bridge while the Southbank Riverwalk stretches 1.2 miles (1.9 km) from the Radisson Hotel to Museum Circle. Adjacent to Museum Circle is St. Johns River Park, also known as Friendship Park. It is the location of Friendship Fountain, one of the most recognizable and popular attractions for locals as well as tourists in Jacksonville. This landmark was built in 1965 and promoted as the “World’s Tallest and Largest” fountain at the time.
Parks and gardens
Jacksonville operates the largest urban park system in the United States, providing facilities and services at more than 337 locations on more than 80,000 acres (320 km2) located throughout the city. Jacksonville enjoys natural beauty from the St. Johns River and Atlantic Ocean. Many parks provide access for people to boat, swim, fish, sail, jetski, surf and waterski. Several parks around the city have received international recognition.
Hemming Plaza is Jacksonville's first and oldest park. It is downtown and surrounded by government buildings. Riverside Park and Memorial Park are the city's second and third oldest parks (respectively), and located in the historic Riverside area. Tree Hill Nature Center is a nature preserve and environmental education center located five minutes from Downtown Jacksonville. The Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens broke ground on a new center in April, 2007 and held their grand opening on November 15, 2008.
The Veterans Memorial Wall is a tribute to local servicemen and women killed while serving in US armed forces. A ceremony is held each Memorial Day recognizing any service woman or man from Jacksonville who died in the previous year. The Treaty Oak is a massive, 250 year-old tree at Jessie Ball DuPont Park in downtown. Office workers from nearby buildings sit on benches to eat lunch or read a book in the shade of its canopy. The Friendship Fountain has been one of Jacksonville's most recognizable and popular attractions, it features a light show and music each evening. The Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail is a linear city park which runs 14.5 miles (23.3 km) from Imeson Road to a point past Baldwin, Florida.