10 Best Places to Live in Florida
Thinking about moving to Florida?
The sunshine state is a great place to call home — amazing weather year round, no state income tax, great job opportunities (the state is leading the country in job growth and unemployment is at a 10-year low), and you’re never far from a beach. In a state with so much to offer, how do you decide where to live? Do you like the idea of big city life, or is a place with more of a small town feel more appealing? Are you searching for somewhere to kick back and relax, or is a growing city with employment opportunities important? Florida offers a little something for everyone.
Florida Cities You Don’t Want to Miss
We’ve compiled a list of some of the best cities in the state based on factors that people tend to look for when they’re deciding where to move: (We’ve included some bonus places on the list, too!)
Best Large Cities in Florida
If it’s employment opportunity and more entertainment you’re looking for, one of these places may be a good fit:
1. Orlando – Locals love the lower than average housing costs, the area lakes and of course, the famous theme parks (most theme parks give discounted tickets for locals). Because there are a plethora of games including soccer (Orlando City SC and Orlando Pride), basketball (Orlando Magic), ice hockey (Orlando Solar Bears), baseball (Florida Fire Frogs) and women’s football (Orlando Anarchy), you can find a team to cheer on year-round. Unemployment rates are lower than the national average (4.3% compared to the 4.7% nationally) — top industries include education, hospitality and transportation.
2. Tampa – Tampa is a big city with plenty to do and plenty of job opportunity. According to one news report, the city added more than 41,000 new jobs in the last year and led the state in job growth for several industries. And when you’re not working, you can have fun at one of the area’s 185 parks, visit a theme park, take a stroll down the Tampa Riverwalk or enjoy a festival on Harbor Island. The weather is perfect here — it doesn’t get over 100 degrees!
3. Jacksonville – As the largest city in Florida, Jacksonville offers everything from a great downtown and beautiful wildlife areas to interesting museums to fabulous restaurants. The downtown area is the urban core, housing professionals by day and great nightlife after hours. The central Florida location also makes it easier to explore more of this great state in your free time. As far as employment opportunities, there are ample jobs in manufacturing, finance, education and health as all of those industries are experiencing growth.
4. Pensacola – While not as densely populated, Pensacola is still a great option for those looking for a larger Florida city. Located on the beautiful white-sand beaches of the Gulf of Mexico, there’s opportunity for work and fun! If you’re moving to Florida with kids, you find great schools here (over 40 primary and secondary schools in the area). And, with the Naval Air Station Pensacola located there, civilian jobs are often available in government, hospitality and construction.
Best small towns in Florida
Though they may be more quiet and quaint, these small towns are far from boring.
5. St. Augustine – This family-friendly community is the nation’s oldest city. Along with historic sites like the Castillo de San Marcos, you can enjoy festivals, concerts on the beach and fishing. Because of the booming tourism, there are plenty of fun things to do. From local museums (don’t miss the Pirate and Treasure Museum!) to state parks, there are endless opportunities to explore.
6. Apalachicola – As part of the “Forgotten Coast” on the panhandle, this area is full of quiet, small coastal cities. Apalachicola is the county seat and provides residents with a little more of the old-fashioned life. It’s a fishing village and a walkable town that’s known for great-tasting oysters (due to the mix of fresh and saltwater here) — several local hangouts celebrate the salty delicacy. If you prefer fishing for your own catch of the day, it’s a fishing haven. Many residents also enjoy local spas, dolphin or whale watching, and shows at the historic Dixie Theater.
7. Venice – In 2015, Venice was named as one of the Happiest Seaside Towns in America (number 2 on the list!). Spend some time outside birdwatching at the Audubon Rookery, which is known for amazing bird photography. Or for a little more culture, check out the Venice Symphony or performances at the Venice Performing Arts Center. Residents also love the white-sand beaches, great golfing and friendly community. If you crave a night out on the town, it’s close to bigger towns like Sarasota for even more to do.
Best Gulf Coast Cities
The Gulf Coast waters are known for being warm, calm and perfect for families.
8. St. Petersburg – St. Pete is nicknamed the Sunshine City because it averages 361 days of sunshine a year. It’s also known for acclaimed museums, active arts districts, theater companies and year-round festivals and events. Or you can just relax on the beach and enjoy the gorgeous sunsets. There are ample arts opportunities in St. Pete — check out art at the Dali Museum, which has the largest collection of Salvador Dali’s works, the Museum of Fine Arts with over 14,000 pieces, or the Morean Arts Center which hosts educational programs for adults and children.
9. Naples – Naples was named as the Happiest and Healthiest City by Gallup-Healthways. Residents enjoy peaceful white sand beaches, an active community (both in physical fitness and community involvement) and a lower-than-average crime rate (lower than both state and national averages). Spend some time on the Naples Pier to fish, watch the sunset or spot dolphins. Take the kids to the Naples Zoo where you can take a catamaran to monkey island and see primates in a more natural habitat.
10. Bradenton – Known as The Friendly City, you’ll love life in Bradenton. The City is known for its beautiful downtown, botanical gardens and local markets. Since Bradenton is surrounded by water, you can find plenty to do from fishing, boating, scuba diving or snorkeling. Or if you prefer staying on land, you can catch a Bradenton Marauders baseball game or explore Manatee Village Historical Park and see what pioneer life was like in Florida.
Even more great places to live in Florida
Looking for something a little different in a new hometown? Here are six bonus places that would make a great place to live.
Best beach cities in Florida
Instead of just visiting the beach, many people want to live right on the water in a beach town.
1. Siesta Key – Living “on the key” means enjoying a fun island life! This quaint village is full of leisure activities in the middle of a resort-style community. Enjoy water sports, kayaking, fishing, paddle boarding and more! Recent job growth is another perk to this beach town.
2. Cocoa Beach – This barrier island grew thanks to the space program in nearby Cape Canaveral. Sitting on the “Space Coast,” Cocoa Beach provides you with a mix of activities from residential to tourism. Locals love surfing — Cocoa Beach is home to the famous Ron Jon Surf Shop! You'll also find the local crowd at restaurants like Rock the Guac (try their hot sauces) and Dixie Crossroads (try the corn fritters!)
3. Seaside – As a master planned community, Seaside is made to be communal. From the bicycle-friendly streets to the walkable retail and entertainment district, it's easy to get to know your neighbors. Enjoy beautiful beaches by day and take advantage of the arts and culture including local theater performances and poetry readings at night.
Best places to retire in Florida
Florida may be known for “snow birds,” (retirees who spend the winter months in the sunshine state) but many people live here full time when they retire.
4. Clearwater – Your family will love visiting you in Clearwater! They can watch minor league baseball, enjoy the beach, or stroll down the beach walk. The beautiful weather and active community often put Clearwater on “best places to retire” lists.
5. Port St. Lucie – Port St. Lucie makes a great place to retire because of a low crime rate, wonderful outdoor trails, and lots of housing in walking distance to retail, dining and entertainment options. It's a great place for a laid-back retirement.
6. Gainesville – If you want a bigger city, Gainesville is the place. It may be known as a college town, but it gives you plenty of things to do in retirement! From frequenting museums to volunteering with local organizations, there are plenty of options for an active retirement. You can also visit the university to take classes as a non-traditional student.
You’ll love living in Florida
It’s a great vacation destination, but an even better place to call home. Is your favorite Florida spot not on our list? Leave us a comment below and tell us which town you consider the best place to live in Florida.