A southern suburb of Jacksonville, Orange Park is a half-hour commute to downtown Jax. The town sits next to a wide stretch of the St. Johns River, and it’s well worth pulling off US 17 to take a real look.
Here on River Road, things feel a lot like Old Florida, with majestic live oaks, personal piers, and historic houses. The view is a treat, and there’s a long paved path that leads south to an overlook next to the downtown area.
Orange Park has won a lot of admiration for its public events. Aside from the summer months there’s a flourishing farmers’ and arts & crafts market. Then in October, I’d recommend a visit for the award-winning fall festival at the same location downtown.
1. The Orange Park Farmers’ & Arts Market
Held from September to June, Orange Park has a farmers’ market recently voted as the best in Northeast Florida. This is a true community event for all the family, taking place at Town Hall Park on Sundays, 10 am to 3 pm.
I think I would need a separate article to do justice to this market. But for a small summary you’ve got at least ten vendors selling fresh produce and plants.
Added to that are many more specialty food vendors, selling spices, baked treats, nuts, artisanal candy, and sauces. Then you’ve got a trove of arts & crafts, with everything from handcrafted soaps to candles, upcycled items, pet fashion, and furniture.
Finally, there’s a food court’s worth of food trucks, with Filipino bites, gyros, hot dogs, churros, Southern specialties and more.
2. River Road, Orange Park
To my mind, the loveliest thing about Orange Park is the waterfront on the St. Johns River. This can be enjoyed from Kingsley Avenue in the south to just shy of I-295 in the north.
Hugging the water is River Road, with some rather grand riverfront homes facing east across the water, all with private docks. Looming over the road are some stately old trees, including a lot of live oaks, laden with Spanish moss.
It’s no shock that River Road is a much-loved strolling and jogging location, especially for early birds. Towards the south, at the junction with Stiles Avenue there’s a small historic district, with ten residences.
3. The Thrasher-Horne Center for the Arts
You don’t even need to leave this corner of the Jacksonville suburbs for high-quality live entertainment. The Thrasher-Horne Center For The Arts is an impressive venue, on the campus of St. Johns River State College.
Seating more than 1,700, the mainstage theater has something going on most weeks. I’m talking, shows by major recording artists, Broadway theater, ballet, lectures by key cultural figures, family shows, expos, and more.
To illustrate, Billy Ocean, Three Dog Night, and Warrant were all playing within a two-week period when I was in town. There’s also the smaller Studio Theatre, and a pair of galleries with contemporary art exhibitions worth checking out.
4. Town of Orange Park Fall Festival
Town Hall Park sets the stage for the longest-running arts and crafts festival in Clay County. This event began in 1982, with little more than a dozen booths and a couple of musicians.
I think it’s safe to say that the festival has come a long way since then. It was recently named among the two 20 events by the Southeast Tourism Society, and won the SunSational Award from the Florida Festivals & Events Association.
Happening every October, the festival boasts more than 200 artists and makers, curated to be as diverse as possible.
So you’ll find everything from woodwork to painting, candles, skincare, clothing, embroidery, garden creations, pottery, fashion accessories and even pet products.
To go with that are two stages loaded with live entertainment across two days, and more than 30 food and drink vendors.
5. The Clarke House Park
West of the downtown area on Kingsley Avenue, there’s a community park with some history thrown into the mix.
Clarke House Park is home to the eponymous residence Clarke House, part of a farm established at the start of the 1900s by early resident William Clarke. This building serves as a meeting place for the Orange Park Historical Society.
The surrounding landscape is commanded by stately oak trees, with shaded trails through the woods.
The playground, bedded with soft mulch, had just been rebuilt when I went to press, while there’s also manicured gardens, a lake, a sand volleyball court, restrooms, and three large picnic pavilions.
6. Orange Park Mall
A great option for extremely hot or rainy days, this mall just off I-295 has more than 120 stores. Orange Park Mall is the largest mall west of the St. Johns River in the Jacksonville area.
Like most malls, this place hit a rough patch during Covid, but looked in good shape at the time of writing.
When I dropped by, a few of the stores in the directory were Dillard’s, JCPenney, Victoria’s Secret, Belk, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Kay Jewelers, Hot Topic, Old Navy, Vans, and Perfume World.
There’s a 24-screen AMC multiplex, which I’ll cover later, as well as plentiful food court choices, with Sarku Japan, Pei Wei Express, Sbarro, Karam’s Gourmet, and Ruby Thai Kitchen, to name a handful.
7. Kingsley East River Overlook
Very small, this public space at the eastern end of Kingsley Avenue is all about the view. This overlook is at the southern end of the paved trail/sidewalk tracing River Road.
The view is something to behold, especially if you cast your gaze north where you can see for miles upstream. There’s a little group of palms here, as well as four benches lined up along the river.
First thing or late in the day, the panoramas are glorious. There’s also an historical marker here, describing the mine warfare that took place on this stretch of the St. Johns River in the Civil War.
8. Orange Park Community Theatre
The town takes pride in its thriving community theater, which has offered residents a creative outlet since 1969.
Since 1987, the group has been based at an intimate venue on pine-shaded grounds at 2900 Moody Avenue.
Completely non-profit, the theater has a season that runs from August June. In a normal year there are five shows, and each season is designed to appeal to as wide an audience as possible.
This means musicals, dramas, comedies, and children’s entertainment. I caught a wonderful performance of Agatha Christie’s murder mystery, The Mousetrap, and was not ready for the plot twist.
If you live locally, keep an eye out for regular workshops, including improv courses for teens or adults.
9. Black Creek Trail
Eight miles long, this paved bicycle path follows US 17 from Holly Point Road south to Black Creek Park at the southern tip of Fleming Island.
The Black Creek Trail is a good way to get some exercise and see more of the area without a car. The trail passes through a commercial corridor in Fleming Island, so you could do some shopping or pick up lunch for a picnic at the beautiful trailhead park.
Mostly undeveloped this space is a delight, with towering cypress trees and views of Black Creek where it flows into the St. Johns River. Another part of the trail I adore is the bridge crossing Doctors Inlet, with fantastic vistas over Doctors Lake.
10. Eagle Harbor Golf Club
This upscale semi-private course is right on the other side of Doctors Lake in Fleming Island. Something I have to mention right away about Eagle Harbor Golf Club is the breathtaking scenery.
This course rightfully has a reputation for its scenery thanks to a majestic backdrop of pines rising to 60 feet.
The course was designed by acclaimed architect Clyde Johnston, and has undulating Bermuda grass fairways, flawless contoured greens, and bunkers with sugar-white sands.
Water poses a constant challenge at Eagle Harbor, most memorably on the par-4 18th, with a lake on three sides of the green, which is also ringed by a wraparound bunker.
11. The Natural Healing Day Spa
Right next to Town Hall Park is a high-regarded day spa, treating people from all over the Jacksonville area.
The Natural Healing Day Spa offers a range of services, including facials and massages, while there’s also a Vichy shower and salt room.
After a long drive or flight to your final destination in Orange Park, a day at the spa might be the natural thing to do.
You can sink into a state of inner peace, relaxation, and clarity while you are pampered from top to bottom. I love the couples package here, which comes with champagne and strawberries.
12. Eagle Landing Golf Club
Also designed by Clyde Johnston, Eagle Landing Golf Club in Orange Park at the west-lying Oakleaf Plantation.
This is another essential course, woven into a natural landscape, and imbued with Johnston’s design philosophy. Along those lines, each 9 starts off relatively forgiving and gets progressively harder as you get into your swing.
What makes the course extra special for me is the appearance of classic hole templates like the Redan Hole, the Eden, and the Cardinal, all in a lush subtropical environment.
After a long day in the hot sun, visitors can enjoy snacks and cold beverages at The Landing Bar and Grill.
13. AMC Orange Park 24
At the Orange Park Mall there’s a multiplex that opened just after the mall, in 1976. This facility was expanded to its present 24 screens in the 1990s, and features all the things you want from a modern theater.
That means you’ve got a premium IMAX auditorium, with unprecedented picture quality and precision sound. When I was here this screen didn’t have those luxury reclining seats, but they can be found in the rest of the building.
Aside from that, be sure to look out for specials. At the time of writing there was 30% off all matinees, every day of the week.
14. bestbet Orange Park
This chain of casinos/card rooms has three locations in Northeast Florida. Bestbet Orange Park is a former greyhound racing track, dating back to the 1940s.
In the 2000s the company introduced poker here, while greyhound racing continued until 2020, when the statewide ban came into effect. What you get now are dozens of card tables at all limits, with everything from Seven Card Stud to Texas Hold’em.
There’s also simulcast racing from across the country, as well as a large food and drink menu. This spot stays open 24 hours on weekends, and features daily promotions and weekly tournaments.