Best Places to Live in Florida
Choosing a place to live or retire in Florida can be challenging because there are many. Just as most beaches within the state are created equal, many towns or cities are, too. While there is no magic way to decide where to live or retire, there are some key things to consider:
- Convenience. Do the services you use frequently exist in the area where your home is? Is your work?
- Traffic. Is the amount of traffic within the radius of where you live tolerable?
- Medical. Are hospitals and other medical needs also within a short distance from your home and in the area?
- Big box stores. Are Walmart, Costco, Home Depot, grocery, and clothing stores within a few miles?
- Beaches. Are they within 5 miles of your home?
- Recreation. Does what is actually offered within the town meet your desire?
- Nightclubs. If you frequent them, are they around your area and do they appeal to your age group?
- Culture. Does your town offer the arts, drama, and music on a frequent basis?
- Nearby areas. Is your town near a much larger town or city that is within 30-45 minutes that does have the missing elements you seek?
The Top 5 of the 10
The top cities or towns to live or retire in Florida based on the criteria noted above are:
- Palm Beach, located on the Atlantic side and north of Miami.
- Venice, located on the Gulf coast, just south of Sarasota.
- Ft. Myers, located on the Gulf coast, about 1 hour south of Venice.
- Sarasota, located on the Gulf coast, about 1 hour south of Tampa.
- Jacksonville, much further north on the Atlantic side.
In one of the studies that looked at over 250 towns and cities in Florida, Venice, was selected as the second best place, just behind Palm Beach. While any of the cities in the Top 5 are fine to live or retire in, another consideration is the cost of living and real estate prices.
As for Sarasota and Venice, these offer a great combination. If you want a larger, more diverse population, Sarasota does provide this and has all the points noted above, depending where you live. Sarasota is quite congested from November to March with traffic due to snowbirds (those who come down for the winter). The population swells to over 50,000. Homes are reasonably priced and it has some of the best medical services south of Tampa. If you seek real urban life, Tampa, a city of millions, is just one hour away and so is St. Petersburg. This allows for a day excursion quite easily.
Venice is just 15 minutes south of Sarasota. Its population of 23,000 provides much less traffic during the winter and has many of the items listed above. About 50% of its population is over 55, so it is a favorite retirement area. The area has great beaches and homes range from $200-350K for a decent place just five miles from a beach. Venice has most of the items listed above except for the last; if you are young or not-so-young person who likes the nightclub scene, it is not really present here. Venice has little nightlife, and Sarasota is only a little better.
Venice offers convenience. Most of the shopping you may need is within a few miles of most homes. The quality of life is laid-back and casual. A very popular place is Sharky's, which is on the beach. It is a pier, with a restaurant and bar that becomes a nightclub at night.
The downside of Sarasota or Venice (or any place really) is that life can also be boring, depending on your personal interests. Neither place offers the high energy of Tampa, or its diverse offerings in food, places to see, things to do. But, like all places, sooner or later, you tend to do the same things or visit the same places. It's just one thing.
For those under 30, there is way more opportunity in Tampa- St. Pete area, which is a urban setting. It really depends on what makes your happy and content. That said, any place you choose is what you make it. So, some readers may not agree with any study about the best places to live.
These Top 5 places are worth checking out online and in person. Do your due diligence!
Sources: Chamberofcommerce.org, U.S. News and Report (annual report), Kiplinger.com.