Is Jacksonville Really the Biggest City in America?

City of Jacksonville
Downtown Jacksonville sits on the banks of the northern-flowing St. Johns River. Lance Asper/Unsplash

Located in the northeastern corner of Florida, Jacksonville is home to the NFL’s Jaguars, the annual “World’s Largest Cocktail Party” football clash between Florida and Georgia and is the birthplace of at least four legendary rock bands. (More on that later.)

But is Jacksonville also the biggest city in America as is often claimed? That depends on the numbers and categories used.

How Big is Jacksonville?

According to the tourism officials at Visit Jacksonville, the city has more than 840 square miles, which would make it the largest city by landmass is the continental United States.

(Four cities in Alaska – obviously not part of the continental U.S. – have larger landmasses.)

Care to guess what the second-largest city is in Florida? Stop shouting out Miami, Tampa or Orlando. It’s actually the city of Bunnell, part of the Daytona Beach metro area, with 139 square miles.

How Many People Live in Jacksonville?

In terms of population, Jacksonville is still tops with 962,000 residents, followed by Miami (435,000), Tampa (393,000) and Orlando (309,000).

Let’s throw away city limits now and consider metro area sizes. For that statistic, Miami-Fort Lauderdale is king with 6 million residents, followed by Tampa-St. Petersburg (2.7 million), Orlando (1.8 million) and Jacksonville (1.2 million).

Here are some more random notes about Jacksonville:

  • It’s named after Andrew Jackson, the first military governor of the then-territory and later the seventh president of the United States.
  • There are 23 Jacksonvilles in America. There’s even a community in Cuba named Jacksonville.
  • Because of Jacksonville’s landmass, it’s pretty easy for the city to claim a lot of distinctions including the biggest shoreline and largest urban park system.
  • Four legendary Southern rock bands were formed in Jacksonville: Lynyrd Skynyrd, 38 Special, The Allman Brothers Band and Molly Hatchet.
  • In the 1910s, before Hollywood became Tinsel Town, Jacksonville was a movie-making Mecca.
  • While Florida is often a target for storms during hurricane season, Jacksonville largely escapes the weather phenomenon. Only one major hurricane has struck the city since 1871.

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