With great places comes great spaces and in North Florida we have tons of them. According to the American Planning Association a public space may be a gathering spot or part of a neighborhood, downtown, special district, waterfront or other area within the public realm that helps promote social interaction and a sense of community. Public spaces are a representation of where a city is and provides a snapshot of its past, present and future, therefore defining how a city behaves. They bring people together and their design allows for perfect public precedents.

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Hemming Plaza

Recently dubbed with a new executive director, Hemming Plaza holds everything from local gatherings to lunch gatherings. This 1.54-acre park was deemed a public plaza in 1857 and since that time has transformed into the central open space in downtown Jacksonville. What makes it a unique spot is its central location to the surrounding business district, so next time you’re downtown whether for Art Walk or a casual lunch, go ahead and check it out.

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Memorial Park

Besides being one of the best picnic spots in Jacksonville, this scenic park looks Jacksonville square in the eye and makes you remember why you fell in love with this city. This dog friendly, 5.85-acre park is home to everything from Oktoberfest to baby photo shoots. The park is within walking distance of Riverside’s finest and is the perfect place to watch the sun set.

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Friendship Park

Every great city needs an iconic fountain and that is exactly what you will find at Friendship Park: Friendship Fountain. The fountain pumps out a mere 17,000 gallons of water per minute and sets the perfect background to spotting downtown Jacksonville. So if you are planning to visit MOSH or want to sit on one of the seven benches then go ahead and head on over.

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Oceanfront Park

For the days when you need a little bit of saltwater in your face and possibly spot a dolphin or two, consider checking out Oceanfront Park in Jacksonville Beach. This public space is the perfect spot for a pre-beach volleyball game or just a little sightseeing. Feel free to roam around because you have a whole two acres.

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Fort Marion

The home to the Castillo de San Marcos national monument makes for not only an extremely picturesque scene capturing the city of St. Augustine in all of its glory, but also holds a significant amount of historical value. Next time you visit St. Augustine take a walk over to the fort and enjoy this wonderful public space.

North Florida is home to many public spaces that make it the unique city that it is, but the power to protect them is in our hands. Without public spaces, cities lack the necessary gathering grounds that are the foundational glue to greatness. So the next time that you are thinking about exploring the 904 consider making your rounds to some of the wonderful public spaces that we have because you will not regret it.

Information courtesy of the City of Jacksonville (coj.net) and the National Park Service (nps.org).