Where is the best place to live in Florida?
I’m sure I can answer this question much quicker, but I wanted to expand on this topic since I know this may help others.
I get asked this question a lot. Not only because I live in Florida myself, but because I am a Real Estate Agent in Florida. It’s a great question and one that I would assume anyone having an interest in moving to Florida would ask. It is also a loaded question and one that has no perfect answer. For those who give a quick answer to the question, the answer can be subjective, or it can be based on statistical data but either way, the answer doesn’t always apply to everyone.
Best can be different for everyone. If your dream is to watch the sunset over the ocean from your balcony every night, then living on the Gulf Coast of Florida is best. If you are a big fan of sunrises over the ocean, then living on the east coast of Florida is best. Age also comes into play. If you are retired and want a very active lifestyle along with other retirees, then The Villages may be best for you. The best place for your family with school age children can be in a Florida town that has a great school system. That would be best for your family regardless if you get to see an ocean sunrise or sunset every day. The best place to live in Florida is not an easy question to answer. The Florida Keys are pretty amazing but if your budget doesn’t allow for it, it won’t be best for you.
So how do you choose the best place in Florida for you and your family? I can give you some info on how my family came to our decision. It may help you make your choice. First let me give you a little of my background because that played a bit into my thought process.
I am originally from Connecticut. I have been visiting Florida since I was a kid. My grandparents had a home here and some of my aunts, uncles, and cousins moved to Florida when I was young. They lived for a while in St. Pete on the Gulf Coast before moving to Hollywood on the east coast. My first trip to Florida I was under a year old and certainly don’t remember it, but we did go to Disney so that has always was stuck in my mind. The first trip I remember taking to Florida, we landed in Fort Lauderdale in February. Coming from the Connecticut gray and cold, it was like stepping into a fairy tale. In that moment, I fell in love with Fort Lauderdale and Florida. When I was 21 I moved to Florida briefly with my best friend. We moved to Orlando and lived right near Universal Studios. We would spend a lot of time in the parks, had season passes to Pleasure Island at Disney, and would hit up the nightlife at Church Street Station in Downtown Orlando. Needless to say, I fell in love with the greater Orlando area.
I ended moving back to Connecticut, finished college, got married, and started a family. We would visit Florida as often as we could and would dream about the day we could retire there. On a cold day in January, my family and I decided that we no longer wanted to wait until we retired to start enjoying everything Florida had to offer. But where is the best place to live in Florida we asked ourselves? My mind immediately went to what I was familiar with. After living in Orlando for a bit when I was 21 and then visiting Disney with my wife and kids many times over the years, to me the Orlando area was an obvious choice. For my wife, she certainly loves Disney but always remembers our first trip when we were dating. We went to Fort Lauderdale for vacation and also to visit my family in Hollywood. This was her first trip to Florida and for her it was also like stepping into a fairytale. For her, if not Fort Lauderdale, we certainly needed to live near the ocean. But where is the best place? The Atlantic Coast or The Gulf Coast? Go online and do a search and you will be blown away on that topic. Again it is near impossible to answer which one is best. They both have their pros and cons. Before my wife was able to get too far into her search for Florida beach towns, I mentioned about possibly moving to the Orlando area. Wait a minute, there are no beaches there!
Initially my wife and I didn’t agree where we wanted to move to in Florida. Her mind was still thinking like a tourist and the best place for her was based on the perfect ocean views. Most people who dream of moving to Florida have a similar picture in their mind. It makes sense. This got me thinking though. What was best for us and our family? We are not retired so we needed to live in an area with an active business community. We also have four children. One was starting college the year we moved, two were still in high school, and our youngest was in elementary school. There were plenty of places people recommended to us, anywhere from Fort Myers, to Tampa, to Boca Raton. Everyone had an opinion of where was best but we needed to consider the business community, the school systems, and proximity to Florida Colleges. As you can see, if you are retired or don’t have children then your best place can differ drastically from our best place.
Of course budget also comes into play. We wanted a brand new home and wanted it to be of a certain size. There are places that are amazing in Florida that anyone would love to live, but would they be affordable for our wants and needs? It would be nice to live on an intracoastal waterway in Fort Lauderdale or have an ocean view condo in Clearwater Beach, but would it fit into our budget. Also living by the coast brings along some other things to consider. Higher home prices, storms and higher insurance rates are a factor. If you are of a certain wealth and these things are not a factor, then of course the answer to Where Is The Best Place To Live In Florida, may be different for you.
Searching online has a wealth of info. Maybe that is how you found this blog post. It also comes with a lot of thoughts and opinions that can make it very challenging to choose a place to call home. When I mentioned to people that I was moving to Florida, I was told that the schools in Florida are not good and that I shouldn’t move there. Truth is, there are a lot of schools in Florida that may not be up to the level that they should be but there are other A-Rated schools all across Florida. Whether it is schools or the hot weather someone is referring to in Florida, understand that Florida is a big state and there can be a big difference in a lot of things depending on where in Florida you are referring to. Being from CT, most people I know are looking at Florida from a Connecticut perspective. I can get from the southern border in CT to the northern border in CT, in 1 hour. It can take 6 hrs to get to Miami from Jacksonville. During that drive you go from a sub-tropical climate to a tropical climate. You also travel through a lot of rural areas. When you hear stories from Florida they are usually all true but what you hear may never apply to the town that you choose to move to. Some of Florida is crowded and moves at a fast place but a lot of Florida is quiet and moves at a slower pace. Florida is ocean views. Florida is retirees. Florida is big cities. Florida is tourists and theme parks. But….. Florida is also young families. Florida is also rural and farmland. Florida is also pine trees and oak trees. Florida is lakes and springs. Florida is diverse. The best place to move to Florida comes down to what your likes, wants and needs are. I can’t guess what someone actually means when they ask – What is the Best Place to Move to in Florida. I do think they are usually thinking about what place is the safest and what place is the most picturesque but there is a lot more to your decision.
Back to the topic of where my family ended up moving to in Florida. When we thought of our family’s needs and wants and the best place to merge them all together, we ultimately choose the greater Orlando area. Close to family fun (Disney), close to colleges (UCF & UF), close to active work community (The Orlando area goes way beyond theme parks these days – high tech, medical, defense industry, etc). Sure there are no beaches here but we didn’t have to worry as much about storms or high insurance rates. Truth is, with us still in our working years and our kids in school, we can’t always be at the beach. However, in Central Florida we are only 1.25hrs from Daytona Beach on the east coast and 1.75hrs way from Clearwater Beach on the west coast. On a weekend it gives us options to take a drive and spend the day on either coast.
So for us Central Florida was the answer… but were? My wife went online and searched for the best towns near Orlando. She also searched for lowest crime rates and was a bit scared of some of the Orlando data. This is where general searches don’t tell the whole story. There is a difference in crime from living in any city in America to living a half-hour away in the suburbs. I hear too many blanket statements about Florida when it comes to crime, weather, schools, gators, bugs, etc.. Like I mentioned above, what you hear may be true but it is definitely not true in every area of Florida. Florida is a large state that varies greatly in every way depending on what part of the state you are in. It is also a new Florida. So much different than years past. I am confident you will find the best place to live in Florida for you and your family.
We ultimately chose Winter Garden, in Horizon West area of Central Florida. It is just a few miles from Disney but on the north/west side where there is no tourist traffic. Everything is new here as it used to be orange groves in the recent past. There are beautiful new A-Rated Schools and a range of new homes for most budgets. It has a great hometown feel but we are also only 25 minutes from Downtown Orlando, so there are a lot of employment options in the area that extend way beyond tourism jobs. We are far enough away from the city that we still get to drive by a lot of open space and farmland. Plenty of hiking and biking trails and the whole area is dotted with lakes. Believe it or not, there are a lot of nights in the winter we can sit outside by a fire here in Central Florida. An hour north of us is Ocala, which is horse county and also has a large state forest and lots of beautiful fresh water springs. So different from what you would think of if you had only been to Fort Lauderdale, Miami, or Disney.
In conclusion, the best place to live in Florida is the place that checks off the most boxes in your list of wants and needs and also fits your budget. Great to seek advice but be sure the person who recommends the best place in Florida is also doing so with similar wants and needs your family has. While there are certainly areas to avoid, there are so many great small towns to choose from and 3 big cities if that is your style. Bonus is, whichever you choose you are still in Florida and can spend time traveling to all the other great parts of the state that you always wanted to see.
I am a real estate agent in Horizon West Florida covering the towns of Winter Garden & Windermere. I have spent time all over the State of Florida and I am happy to answer any questions you may have. If you are looking for a home in Horizon West area of Central Florida, I would love to work with you. If you are looking in other parts of Florida, please reach out to me also. I can still help and point you in the best direction.