Dating in Jacksonville is certainly a challenge these days, and it doesn't get any easier out in the suburbs either. As single men, we are spoiled for choice here when it comes to finding attractive singles - however, meeting new people and having successful dates is still pretty tough in the post-pandemic dating scene.
Is there good news? Yes, with just a little effort on your part, finding a date in Jacksonville is actually much easier than in most cities. The catch is that you just might need to leave your neighborhood, explore the Jacksonville dating scene, and make it happen. Taking a bus to an unfamiliar bar doesn't exactly sound like the start of a great romance but you would be surprised at the results!
In this in-depth guide, we'll provide some of the most proven suggestions on where to meet Jacksonville singles, great date ideas to help you find your bearings, and some of our favorite date spots around Jacksonville that have been the setting of some pretty successful dates.
Table of Contents
What Dating in Jacksonville Is Like Right Now
First, let's set some expectations about what the Jacksonville dating scene is actually like:
In all honesty, the dating scene in Jacksonville has always been pretty turbulent but the pandemic made things worse. Many young singles choose Jacksonville for its proximity to great beaches, a diverse set of industries that makes the city a great way to start a career, and a cost of living that’s below comparable cities in Florida, like Orlando or Tampa. With so many big business and governmental entities here like the Naval Air Station, Bank of America, CSX, and plenty of healthcare providers, new people are constantly moving to Jacksonville for its opportunities.
There is also quite a bit of diversity in the type of partners you can find here, especially for Florida, which makes finding exactly what you are looking for more attainable - that is, if you’re willing to put in the effort.
If you look at the total number of singles out there right now in the Jacksonville dating scene, you might be surprised to realize just how much opportunity is out there. Currently, Jacksonville has 150,000 single women and 142,000 single men, accounting for nearly 33% of the total population. That's a LOT of singles out there, and you only need to find the right one to get the ball rolling.
Now, we know what you’re thinking: If there are so many singles out there, why am I single? Sadly, the truth is that having tons of dating options doesn't mean that dating in Jacksonville is going to be easy, but a realistic outlook should be encouraging. In other words, there are plenty of options, but you just need to be looking in the right places.
Where to Meet Someone to Date in Jacksonville
To be completely frank, it's nearly impossible to make a list of the best places to find someone to date in Jacksonville that covers all of the possibilities out there. Depending on the type of person you're looking for and where you usually go looking, your search will take you to different neighborhoods, venues, and especially different times of the day.
Instead, I'll share some of the best places that make it much simpler to meet Jacksonville singles that are looking for just a one-night stand (we have a comprehensive list of suggestions on where to find Jacksonville hookups if you’re into that sort of thing). These are places that tend to have the following criteria for finding serious relationships:
- Lots of singles
- Fun atmosphere
- Easy to mix and mingle with new people
- Quiet enough to actually have a conversation
- Alcohol is a plus
- Relatively inexpensive
In my honest opinion, those six (6) characteristics are very useful when meeting up with other available Jacksonville singles.
Now, before we get into some specific recommendations, let's quickly turn our attention to apps:
Why you should be using at least one app
If you're not on at least one app right now then you're really at a disadvantage in today’s competitive dating scene. With all the social distancing that's happened over the past few years, more and more people are using apps - and a lot are ONLY using apps to meet people! Can you still find success without them? Sure, but it can be a real struggle if you have a busy life and value your free time.
If you've struggled in the past with choosing which app works for you, check out our rankings of the best dating apps in Jacksonville to get a sense of what apps are the best fit. From professional women, religious women, and women looking for the most compatible option, there are a lot of options that have their own unique user base. That’s why it’s understandable if you’ve been frustrated - and who isn’t these days? If you're too lazy to read the full article, generally speaking, these apps are the best first choice:
- eHarmony (which you can try free) is the best option for relationships (they have the best track record of all apps)
- AFF is best for more casual fun (unless you are incredibly attractive) - free trial, too!
After trying out 100s of dating apps, we've got a pretty decent idea of what's working out in the “real” world. Check out our full rankings above for more info. Now, let's talk about our favorite spots around town.
The best singles bars in Jacksonville
Using the six criteria above, we've narrowed down our shortlist of the best bars in Jacksonville for singles. These best-of-the-best bars offer the best chances for men and women to meet up, have a refreshing drink (or three), and enjoy the ambiance.
This isn't a complete list of all the bars in Jacksonville, just the ones worth trying first:
- The Lantern Bar in Five Points - 1028 Oak St, Jacksonville, FL 32204
- Shanty Town Pub in Duval - 22 W 6th St, Jacksonville, FL 32206
- Tradewinds in Murray Hill - 955 Edgewood Ave S, Jacksonville, FL 32205
- The Garage in Riverside - 2692 Post St, Jacksonville, FL 32204
- Sidecar in Southbank - 1406 Hendricks Ave, Jacksonville, FL 32207
- The Volstead in Downtown Jacksonville if you want to meet a Jacksonville cougar - 115 W Adams St, Jacksonville, FL 32202
Give these a try. We tried to get different options from different neighborhoods but there are plenty of bars that work depending on the time of day, whether they have popular live events, or simply are the preferred choice for attractive social cliques. If you have any suggestions leave them in the comments below.
A few other great places to find a date in Jacksonville
Not everyone loves going out to the local watering hole. Bars can be a great place to meet other Jacksonville singles, but there are plenty of other places that don’t focus on the booze so much. While Jacksonville has a reputation for going out for drinks, you can still get great results outside of a bar - even during the hot summers and the brief-but-chilly winter frost.
Take a look at a few more options that have helped men and women in Jacksonville get to know each other that are looking for dates. As with anything dating-related, being open-minded gives you a competitive advantage. After all, if the tried-and-true actually worked as it did in the past, you wouldn’t be reading this article! Above all, don't take things too seriously. Having fun and spending time in these places dramatically shifts the odds of you finding someone you might not find elsewhere:
- Jazzy's Restaurant & Lounge in Riverside - 901 King St, Jacksonville, FL 32204
- Odessa Slava Ukrainian Cafe in Five Points - 3901 813 Lomax St, Riverside, FL 32204
- Obscura Social House in Riverside - 915 King St, Jacksonville, FL 32204
- Southern Grounds & Co. in San Marco - 1671 Atlantic Blvd, Jacksonville, FL 32207
- Social Grounds Coffee Company in Springfield - 1712 N Main St, Jacksonville, FL 32206
- Whole Foods, The Fresh Market, or Trader Joe’s in JAX beach - Trust us, attractive people shop upscale and organic!
- Meetup groups - There are tons of groups that are full of eager singles looking to share their interests, including music, tech, sports, and even singles mixers
- Again, apps and sites are a good option for just about anyone (check out the best dating sites in Jacksonville here)
What about speed dating in Jacksonville?
If you thought speed dating was just a fad, think again! Speed dating has become more and more popular ever since the beginning of the pandemic - especially for virtual speed dating. If you're busy and have some spare cash (events usually cost about $40 - $80 to attend, more so for exclusivity), speed dating can be a very effective way to meet between 15 to 20 other singles in the space of an hour or so.
Most speed dating events follow the same pattern. First, you show up and go on a bunch of "mini-dates" where you talk to another single participant for about 5 minutes. Once the five minutes are up, the men usually get up and move to the next table where a woman is seated. The idea is that first impressions tend to be a good indicator of whether you have any chemistry. As the night progresses, you make a list of the people you want to see again. If both people want to see each other again, the speed dating organizer gives you the other match’s contact info.
Pretty simple, no? If this sounds like a fun and efficient way to meet new singles, the following are the best Jacksonville speed dating groups worth checking out:
All of the suggestions we’ve covered above should give you a great start for finding someone interesting and available to date. Now that we’ve covered the essentials, let's jump into how to have a great date!
Our Best Date Ideas in Jacksonville - and Why They’re Great
Once you've met someone that you're interested in, it is now time to plan a great date to get to know them better. Many people default to the “classic dinner and a movie” and that's usually a big mistake! A dinner date between two people who just met often turns into some kind of pseudo-interview where you are just blasting questions back and forth - and no one wants to work during their free time, do they?
Instead, we have a few ground rules that all of our date ideas generally follow that you can also use as a benchmark to come up with some new ideas for yourself - or at least avoid boring dates. A great date idea tends to be one that:
- Has a fun and upbeat energy
- Things are going on around you that you can talk about
- Doesn't involve you sitting face-to-face for long periods of time
- Has you both moving around a bit
- Isn't too expensive
- Doesn't last for hours and hours so you can cut it short if there isn't any chemistry
- Allows both of you to feel comfortable
- Has a little friendly competition
It helps to know what your date likes beforehand or what you show some competency in. For example, if you’re studying at a university and there’s a great art exhibit, you can take your date on a budget. Or, if you know that your date enjoys physical activity, choosing something where you can build up a little sweat and show off your physical prowess is always a guarantee of success.
Even for activities that you’ve both never experienced but want to try, it’s best to keep an open mind and do things that would create a memorable experience that you both share (even if it goes poorly). To get you started, here are a few dating ideas in Jacksonville for you to try.
- Ice skating
- Take a dance class together
- Shoot some arrows at an archery range
- Go to the driving range
- Hit up the zoo or wildlife refuge
- Check out a street fair (Jacksonville has tons)
- Going to a farmer’s market
- Axe throwing
- Escape rooms
- Take a walk with your dog somewhere fun (if you have one)
- Painting class (preferably with some adult beverages)
- Botanical garden
This is a pretty short list, but this gives you an idea of where to start. All of these are somewhat active, and fun and usually don't involve any significant amount of skills to enjoy. And always remember to set the expectations beforehand that you're just going to have fun and fool around. Who doesn’t love fun?
The first date idea that we always recommend
The ideas above can be great first dates but we have a better idea. When people ask our team what the best first date in Jacksonville is we always tell them the same thing, meet up at a laid-back lounge or coffee shop and get to know each other a bit.
A full-blown date is a lot of pressure and isn't cheap. It takes time to plan and might involve you taking a bus around town to get there. Before you make that kind of investment you want to know that you and your interest have at least some level of compatibility. The last thing you want is to get stuck for hours on a date that you knew 10 minutes in, wasn't going anywhere.
Instead, tell them that you're really busy but would love to meet up for a drink to get to know each other a bit. If things go well you can always extend the date to one of the activities above. If it doesn't, you haven't lost much. This also takes a lot of pressure off both of you so you can both relax and be yourselves.
Best Date Bars in Jacksonville (Especially for Fun First Dates)
Going out to bars is a great way for people to drop their inhibitions and relax. With a generally “neutral” atmosphere, bars serve as the backdrop to some chill conversations.
Finding a great date bar in and around Jacksonville is pretty easy when you consider how many options you have to choose from. Whether you’re looking for a comfy dive bar or a refined atmosphere with attention to detail, Jacksonville has no shortage of great settings for your next date.
To help you find these bars, I’ll give you a mix of bars that have great drink specials, feature a fun crowd, and won’t put a dent in your wallet. After all, who wants to spend $20 on cocktails for two when you’re not even sure if you like your date just yet.
Here are a handful of the best date bars around Jacksonville:
- Keg & Coin in Riverside - 1271 King St, Jacksonville, FL 32204
- Casbah Cafe in Avondale - 3628 St Johns Ave, Jacksonville, FL 32205
- One Bar & Lounge in Riverside - 2665 Park St, Jacksonville, FL 32204
- RiverHouse Pub in Arlington Hills - 2800 University Blvd N, Jacksonville, FL 32211
- Broken Spoke in Arlington Hills - 1529 University Blvd N, Jacksonville, FL 32211
- The New Neighborhood Tavern in Woodland Acres - 15 Century St, Jacksonville, FL 32211
- The Pour House in Murray Hill - 3325 Plymouth St, Jacksonville, FL 32205
- The Phoenix Bar in Lakeshore-2600 Blanding Blvd, Jacksonville, FL 32210
Okay, this should be a great starter list to set the scene for a date to remember. Remember that each neighborhood in Jacksonville has its share of hidden gems and popular hangouts. Don’t be afraid to go bar hopping if the vibe isn’t right or you think another bar makes a better impression on your date.
Best Date Night Restaurants in Jacksonville that Should Be Your First Choice
When it comes to the first few dates, we tend to recommend avoiding a traditional dinner date until you’re well-acquainted with your date. Dinner dates tend to be pretty boring and difficult to establish a real connection with a relative stranger. Plus, you're locked in a face-to-face conversation for two hours that’s interrupted by chewing food and sipping drinks in a usually loud setting - plenty of opportunity for something to go wrong! Even if you're a great conversationalist, dinner dates can get a bit stale (pun intended).
However, if you’ve become acquainted with your date or just want a date night restaurant in Jacksonville to eat at (and are up to the challenge) before doing something more conducive to fun, we've got some solid choices for you that won't cost you an arm and a leg. After all, there are plenty of expensive restaurants that are easy enough to find on your own!
Let’s look at date night restaurants in Jacksonville that offer delicious food and an inviting atmosphere that’s the perfect backdrop for a new romance:
- The French Pantry in Bowdon - 6301 Powers Ave, Jacksonville, FL 32217
- The Mossfire Grill in Five Points - 1537 Margaret St, Jacksonville, FL 32204
- El Jefe in Murray Hill - 947 Edgewood Ave S, Jacksonville, FL 32205
- bellwether in Downtown Jacksonville - 117 W Forsyth St, Jacksonville, FL 32202
- Pink Salt Restaurant and Wine Bar in San Marco - 1430 San Marco Blvd, Jacksonville, FL 32207
- Flavors of Thai in Southbank - 1004 Hendricks Ave, Jacksonville, FL 32207
- 1928 Cuban Bistro in Goodby’s Creek - 3928 Baymeadows Rd #9, Jacksonville, FL 32217
- 13 Gypsies in Riverside - 887 Stockton St, Jacksonville, FL 32204
More Date Spots in Jacksonville We Love
The quality of your date comes down to more than just eating and drinking. With all that Jacksonville has to offer, there’s no shortage of activities to build rapport and create memories with your date. Plenty of people have great dates at these places and we're confident you can do the same.
Bear in mind that the time of year will make a difference with some of these recommendations (being outside for hours in the summer heat doesn't always make for a great date), so you've been warned!
- Go ice skating at Community First Igloo
- Watch the Jaguars play at TIAA Bank Field
- The Museum of Science and History (MOSH) and Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) offer day and night events for adults (drinks, too!)
- Check out some fascinating wildlife at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
- Try a group dance lesson together at Monarch Ballroom and Dance Studio
- Shoot some targets together at North Florida Archers (located within the Tillie K. Fowler Regional Park)
- Stroll through vendor booths at the many art fairs throughout Jacksonville
- Shop for fresh groceries and taste homemade food at the Jacksonville Farmers Market
- Solve a puzzle at The Escape Game
- Catch live music, ballet, and more at The Florida Theatre