One day while researching fun and free things to do around Florida, I stumbled upon RAM, or better known as the Jacksonville Arts Market. I checked out their website and was pleased to discover that this is an every weekend event and that it changes constantly. In many cases the Riverside Arts Market has a theme or plays host to special events. No matter when you decide to go though, you’ll be treated to what we found to be a totally unique experience! Because they change constantly, it’s a bit difficult to describe the RAM, other than a great cross between a farmers market, a flea market, and an art show. The best part of all: It’s completely FREE! No parking charges, no admissions fees.
As with most of our adventures, we used my iPhone for directions, and let me tell you getting to this location couldn’t be easier. Just don’t use your iphone…. It may have been fine if we were going southbound on I-95, but since we were headed north, we just followed the exit signs to Riverside Avenue. One thing that certainly makes this venue unique is it’s location. It’s located directly under one of the huge overpasses in Jacksonville. I’m not totally sure, but I believe the Riverside Arts Market is shaded by at least a 6 lane highway above. This area could have detracted from the city, as some underpasses seem to bring a seedy element to towns, but we found this to be an awesome and creative use of space.
So when we got there, we didn’t really know where to park. I suppose we should have followed the directions on the Riverside Arts Market website a bit better, but we were on an adventure so we were just wingin’ it. We wound up turning down a side street and parking at a local church. There were quit a few parking lots closer but they all seemed to be tow away zones with no other cars, so I figured the locals knew something we didn’t and decided to steer clear. We unloaded the little guy and all his gear and after a few of my paranoia prevention steps were taken care of, we started walking twords the bridge. (If y0u have ever had your car towed in a big city, you too may want to double check that there aren’t any “No Parking” signs and what not before leaving.)
It was only a few blocks to the Riverside Arts Market, but this particular Saturday was turning out to be a scorcher! We thought we would be in for a rough morning but once we stepped into the shade under the bridge not only did we get the awesome river breeze, but the temperature was about 10 to 15 degrees cooler under the bridge. Once we got there, we found all sorts of local artisans had booths setup. These included wood workers, arts and crafts, farmers, and even some local food producers. There were tons of food vendors setup with every type of culinary creation you could ever imagine. Ethnic foods from every part of the world were available and all were fairly reasonably priced. We made the mistake of eating before we went, so please don’t follow in our footsteps. The food at the Riverside Arts Market smelled so delicious! This is a place you really don’t want to pack a lunch for.
While strolling by the Riverside Arts Market booths and vendors, we made our way to the riverside. After all it is the “Riverside” Arts Market so we went to check it out. Right twords the river we were pleased to find the river stage, complete with a local band playing. It is setup sorta like an amphitheater, and the acoustics under the bridge were amazing! The music wasn’t too loud or distracting, but instead really added to the experience. We made a pit stop at the free standing restroom facilities which also include diaper changing stations. Thank you RAM for putting them in both the men’s and women’s room!
One thing that really surprised me about the Riverside Arts Market were the vendors and their willingness to talk about their craft. So often times when you see a beautiful piece of part or craftsmanship, the creator tends to hide their secrets and tips for duplicating an item. I had a quite lengthy discussion with one vendor about how he created a piece, and he gave me step by step instructions on how to make my own! You can tell these are people who really love what they do, and love talking about the processes and art behind what they do. It’s really impressive to feel more like a guest than a customer.
Something of mention is that the Riverside Arts market is also pet friendly! In fact they encourage well behaved pets to join with their human counterparts, and even have a few community dog bowls set out for our four legged friends to get a drink from. There were a handful of dogs with their owners, and it seemed like a perfect setting for them.
On our way out we were pleased to find some of the performing arts were even represented! We were impressed by Molotov Cocktail Party. This amazing group of folks specialize in fire performance. They had a high tech, high energy performance set to music that was simply amazing. My favorite part was when one performer actually lit a whip on fire and cracked it. It was a fireball like no other! Don’t worry they are family friendly, and they are professionals. This isn’t you uncle just playing with gasoline at a camp fire. We had never seen anything quite like it, so I would encourage you to check them out when you get a chance. They also perform at other local Jacksonville establishments that might not be so family friendly, but would make a perfect date night out on the town.
When we got back to the car, we were pleased to find that it hadn’t been towed, and that it was right where we left it. If you’re looking for a unique outing with an ever changing theme, then look no further than the Riverside Arts Market in Jacksonville, you won’t be disappointed!
Riverside Arts Market Details:
Hours: Jan & Feb 10am to 1pm – All other Months 10am to 4pm
Address: 715 Riverside Avenue Jacksonville Fl
FREE Admission – FREE Parking
Riverside Arts Market Open From Early march through Late December (Check Their Website)