For a town of its size, Jacksonville ’s nightlife scene is fairly limited. A clutch of bars and dance clubs downtown provides predictable after-hours debauchery, but most of the unique propositions unfortunately require taking your car.
Karaoke is a love-it-or-hate-it proposition, but those who enjoy it could do a whole lot worse than Austin Karaoke (5161 Beach Blvd., Suite 4, 904/399-1757, www.myspace.com/austinkaraoke , 5 p.m.–2 a.m. Sun.–Thurs., 5 p.m.–4 a.m. Fri.–Sat., $5 per hour per person). The rent-a-room setup is a bit more authentic than the style that many Americans are used to in which you give your slip to the DJ, but it also is a little less cordial, as you’ll only be interacting with the group in your room rather than with a crowd of drunken singers. Beer and wine are available, as well as a nifty selection of Asian snack food. Reservations are recommended on the weekend.
If watching people with actual talent sing is more your style, Jack Rabbits (1528 Hendricks Ave., 904/398-7496, www.jackrabbitsonline.com , hours vary by performance) is the best place in town to catch live bands. Local, regional, and touring bands of the alternative and indie persuasion are onstage almost every night.
The cavernous Fuel Coffeehouse (1037 Park St., 904/425-3835, www.fuelin5pts.com , 8 p.m.–1 a.m. daily) is also a great place to catch punk, metal, and hip-hop shows.
The concept of self-serve wine bars took a while to get to Jacksonville , but The Wine Bar (20 Wharfside Way, 904/346-0605, 3–11 p.m. Sun.–Thurs., 3 p.m.–1 a.m. Fri.–Sat.) does the concept right. With 64 Enomatic dispensers allowing patrons to check out wine by the glass, half-glass, or just by the taste, all at varying prices, it is wine without commitment. The selection emphasizes California wines, which account for nearly half the selections here. There’s also a very limited beer selection, as well as a noshing menu with cheese plates, pizzas, and salads.
There’s a long tradition of dog track races in Florida , but as the treatment of greyhounds has gotten more and more attention and race attendance has fallen off, track owners have looked to the poker trend as a way to bolster attendance. The Poker Room at St. Johns Greyhound Park (6322 Race Track Rd., 904/646-0002, ww.jaxpokerroom.com, 1 p.m.–1 a.m. daily) is one of several card rooms in the state that are attached to dog tracks, and like many of the others, the Poker Room also offers pari-mutuel betting on dog races, horse races, and jai alai matches. While they lack the glamour of casino gambling, these nonsmoking facilities are clean and well-kept. However, due to Florida’s Byzantine restrictions on gambling, table limits are kept low, which means that along with regular serious card players looking to hone their chops, there are nearly as many casual inexperienced gamblers looking to kill time.
Much of the nightlife activity in Jacksonville Beach  is of the beach-bar-and-grill variety, but there are a few notable exceptions. Freebird Live (200 N. 1st St., Jacksonville Beach, 904/246-2473, www.freebirdlive.com , hours vary by performance) is named in honor of Jacksonville ’s own Lynyrd Skynyrd. It is an excellent nonsmoking live-music venue owned by Ronnie Van Zant’s widow, but it’s not a Southern rock museum. With a capacity of 700, the two-story setup at Freebird makes it feel like a cozier House of Blues, with much better sightlines; touring acts like Blues Traveler, 30 Seconds to Mars, Gregg Allman, Ziggy Marley, and others grace the stage.
For high-energy dancing and higher-energy drinking, the crowds head for Ocean Club (401 N. 1st St., Jacksonville Beach, 904/242-8884, www.oceanclubjax.com , 1 p.m.–2 a.m.), but this club is actually three clubs in one: The main room is dedicated to dance music, while a waterfront tiki bar and an indoor sports bar/music venue give nonrhythmic patrons a choice of oases.
Beer connoisseurs can get their fill from any of the 32 taps at Brix (300 2nd St. N., Jacksonville Beach, 4 p.m.–2 a.m. daily). The bar specializes in microbrews and imports, yet unlike many beer-centric bars, Brix also offers a decent selection of top-shelf liquors. There’s live music on Tuesday and Wednesday; on the weekends, the focus is on sports on Brix’s multiple big-screen TVs.