Whether you are looking to enjoy the best of city life or wilderness adventures, retire in comfort or raise a family, these cities in the Sunshine State have a lot to offer.
With great weather year round, hundreds of miles of sandy beaches, and exciting cities like glitzy Miami and megafun Orlando (think amusement parks!), it is no wonder Florida was the number one destination for those who moved in 2022, and the third most popular state for those who are planning to move in the future.
Granted, the cost of living in Miami and Tampa has surpassed New York and San Francisco. But oh, those waterfront views, those leafy neighborhoods and abundant wildlife! Many agree that when it comes to the Sunshine State, the pluses more than outweigh the minuses. Which brings us to the question: Which cities are the best to live in the place that American novelist Budd Schulberg called “the world’s greatest amusement park?” Here are the top contenders.
With its vibrant arts scene and relaxed, beachy atmosphere, this metro area of just over 800,000 people is an instant charmer.
But don’t let its laid-back vibe fool you. Sarasota is also an exciting cultural center that is home to the annual Sarasota Film Festival, the International Ballet of Florida, and the renowned Sarasota Opera House. There’s also a burgeoning food culture, as well as a number of rooftop bars, shopping districts of all sorts… and Siesta Key Beach, a paradise of azure waters that has twice been named the nation’s best beach.
When it comes to schools, Sarasota County public schools have an average math proficiency score of 71% (versus the Florida public school average of 59%), and reading proficiency score of 66% (versus the 56% statewide average).
It’s no wonder that in 2021 LifeFamilyFun.com called Sarasota “a beautiful place to live” and one of the most desirable places to live in the country.” It’s also the perfect distance from fun cities like Orlando and Tampa, which can make for a great weekend family getaway.
With its paradisiacal weather, gorgeous beaches, a low crime rate, and a high-ranking school district, “Naples continues to be named one of the best places to live in Florida,” raves Uphomes.com. About the school district: Naples schools have an average ranking of 8/10, which is in the top 30% of Florida public schools.
The city perched on the Gulf of Mexico in Southwest Florida is famous for its world-class arts and culture and family fun. In fact, the historic downtown area boasts numerous art galleries, chic clothing boutiques and home decor shops.
And for families that love exploring nature, within an hour of Naples and Marco Island are millions of acres of federal and state parks, preserves and wildlife refuges, making this corner of Florida both a destination for ecotourism and a base for exploration of the vast Florida Everglades.
As for where to live, north of Old Naples offers various gated neighborhoods, high-rise condos and even golf club communities.
Tampa is the best place to live in Florida with kids and a great place for families to settle down, claims Budget Travel Buff. It is also ranked the 6th most attractive region of the country for job opportunities and land development. Are you sold yet? Well, there’s more.
With a culture infused with Cuban and Spanish flavors, the place boasts a fascinating mix of historic architecture and modern landmarks, vibrant business districts and beautiful waterways. You could say there’s no shortage of family fun for residents and visitors alike.
Its downtown is alive with urban parks, hip bars and innovative restaurants, shopping, and amazing restorations of turn-of-the-century buildings, while the Tampa area’s many parks and preserves, such as Hillsborough River State Park in Thonotosassa, are just what nature lovers who want to hike, bike, paddle or see wildlife, would hope for.
Ask your kids which city in Florida they’d love to live in, and anyone will bet dollars to donuts that “Orlando!” will be their number one choice. But let’s face it, what kid wouldn’t want to live in the nicknamed “Theme Park Capital of the World”?
But Disney World and all the amusement parks are not the only attraction for familias. Orlando has great schools and excellent health care, numerous high-tech companies, and more than two dozen colleges and universities, reported Livability in 2021.
The City Beautiful has great schools, low crime rates, a vibrant downtown with lots of attractions, and yes, as the kids keep reminding you, close proximity to Disney World.
However, families with school-age children might want to take note that although there are many top ranked schools in the area, according to Public School Review, schools in Orlando have an average ranking of 4/10, which is in the bottom 50% of Florida public schools. On the other hand, Biotech, information technology and health care are booming sectors in Orlando, which help make it one of the best places in Florida for young adults.
The state capital ranks No. 9 in Forbes’s 2022 list of best places to live in the Sunshine State, and there are many reasons for that.
If you or your children are college bound, for example, Tallahassee is the home of Florida State University, one of Florida’s oldest higher education sites and is ranked among the most respected research institutions in the nation. Education, health care and state government are the primary employment fields and the region is bringing tech jobs through the Innovation Park of Tallahassee technology incubator, which makes this city one of the best places in Florida for young adults.
Tallahassee also offers a great plus for those who want a tranquil life: This city in the Florida Panhandle isn’t swarming with tourists, as the nearest beach is an hour away. Although, to be fair, Saint George, Seaside, and Panama City offer some of the best Tallahassee beaches you will find.
Of course, besides museums, art galleries, shops and parks, the Capital City boasts a number of historic districts. Political junkies will enjoy a 10-block stretch that houses bars and restaurants patronized by legislators, students, and everyone in between.