Store grand opening festivities include a free continental breakfast served Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings, March 1-3 before the store opens. They also have early shopper gifts with free gift cards inside, a free REI T-shirt for new members who signup there, and daily sweepstakes (drawings) over the weekend. More REI information is here.
REI has been my provider of choice of outdoor gear since the early 1980's. They were a family destination when we lived in Colorado where my children learned to climb in safety on their in-store climbing walls. I still buy backpacking gear there online, including some company label lightweight packs and clothing. When you go, check out the REI Flash 18 and the REI Flash 45 lightweight backpacks for day hiking or extended backpacking trips. While I have not yet tested the 2 pound, 4 ounce Flash 45, it appears to have the light weight and features I need for future through-hikes. I love my 9.7 ounce Flash 18 and use it on all of my day hikes and to carry my lunch to work. You can read about my use of the Flash 18 on my blog here.
The new REI store is located on Jacksonville's southeast side, just off Butler Boulevard. Driving from Orlando; go East on I-4 and north on I-95. Outside of Jacksonville, take the I-295 bypass east and exit onto Butler Boulevard, highway 202, going west. Turn right onto Gate Parkway North and then right onto Town Center Parkway. Turn right at the second turn and REI will be just to the left. Check the map here.
REI is also very connected to the outdoors in the markets they serve and they provide highly organized volunteer work for trail maintenance and ecological projects around the area. If you have the time and inclination to volunteer outside, I can say my experience volunteering with them in Denver was very positive. Check here for the next volunteer event at Hanna Park. They are also reported to be a great place to work. Don't forget about REI Travel and the in-store outdoor training classes. The Jacksonville area is lucky in this regard. I plan to be at the REI store at some point over the grand opening weekend to look around and to actually touch the Flash 45 backpack, something that cannot be done online. If you go, please drive safely and have a great time!