Jacksonville might work like a military town, but it plays like an outdoor paradise. From national forests to beach retreats, to intracoastal waterways perfect for fishing or your favorite watersport: It's coastal living at its finest. But even if you’d rather spend your days in the mall than your tree stand, you’re in luck, because Jacksonville has it all. Whether you’re in town on short-term military orders, or you’re a new full-time local, here are eight things you have to do in one of the fastest-growing areas of North Carolina.
1. Break Things at the Smash Shack
A perfect place to visit as a family, the Smash Shack is a one-of-a-kind spot whose business model is built entirely around the idea that people like to break things. Plates, glasses, vases—if it’s glass or ceramic (and preferably makes a big noise when it shatters), you can break it here. Perfect after a long day of grunt work. They also have a military discount.
2. Shoot Something (With Paint)
The area has a couple different options for paintball, but Southwest Paintball is consistently one of the highest-rated facilities. Great for birthday parties, stress relief, or perfecting those infantry squad tactics.
3. Shoot Something (With Bullets)
It’s only open on the weekends, but if you’re military, Camp Lejeune’s gun range is worth a visit. Bring your own firearm, or rent one of theirs for pretty cheap. The facility is one of the nicer military shooting ranges you’ll find.
4. Kill Some Time at MacDaddy’s
If you hear the word “arcade” and think rickety skeeball machines, worn carpet and losing your hard-earned quarters, you’re way off here. MacDaddy’s has one of the nicest arcades you’ll ever enter, with mainly kid-focused games, but plenty to keep grownups busy too—like a killer bowling alley, and a first rate mini-golf course. Plus, one parking lot over at the Golfin’ Dolphin, you’ll find go-karts, a driving range, bumper boats, and more.
5. Get Out On the Water
If you’re military, the Marine Corps Community Services program offers everything from single kayaks to 24’ pontoon boats (for only $150 per day). For civilians, try any of the local marinas. Watersports are some of the best ways to spend a day in Jacksonville.
6. Connect with the Past at Onslow Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial
This memorial is nestled in the tall pines of the Lejeune Memorial Gardens. Some of its beauty comes from its simplicity—you won’t find anything gaudy here, or any over-ornamentation. What you will find is a place of serene reverence—an appropriate setting to connect with and honor those who have worn the uniform.
7. Step Outside Your Culinary Comfort Zone at Marrakesh
There’s a reason Marrakesh is at the top of about every list of the best restaurants in Jacksonville; and one bite into a dinner there and you’ll know why. But don’t go to the best Mediterranean restaurant around and order a cheeseburger. If you're too nervous to pick something off the menu yourself, ask your waiter what they recommend, and then have an open mind (and an open mouth). You won't be disappointed.
8. Sit in a Tree Stand
We don’t have to tell you why. You either get it or you don’t. But if you are a tree stand kind of guy or gal, Jacksonville is the perfect place for it. In fact, there are so many huntable spots in the area that the North Carolina Resources Commission created an interactive hunting map.