Best Places to Live in Florida – Our Picks!

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Florida is known as the Sunshine State and that sunny appeal is certainly broad as it consistently ranks among the most popular states to move to every year. But Florida is large and offers diverse lifestyle options to residents. So, what are some of the top places to live for those who are thinking of relocating somewhere in Florida? Well, read on below to learn about some of our favorite spots in the Citrus State, a little about each one, what makes these places special and three reasons why the people who live there love calling their city home. There are many pros and cons to living in Florida and in each of these cities.  This is not an official ranking, but rather, our informed opinions of each city after taking into account official data and combining it with our own experiences living & traveling to these places and knowing people who live there. So here are our top picks for some of the best places to live in Florida!

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1. Venice

Located just south of Sarasota, Venice is often ranked as one of the best beach towns in the country. It’s is one of the few cities in Florida that actually does not have any barrier islands offshore of the downtown area. This historic town was one of the first “master-planned” cities created and showcases Italian architecture with picturesque palm tree-lined streets. Residents here enjoy a vibrant downtown with charming shops and restaurants, many of which have al fresco dining.  Numerous pristine beaches are located just minutes from downtown, and the area is known as the “shark tooth capital of the world” due to the fossilized teeth that can be found everywhere along the beaches!

> Quick Facts:

Population: 22,000 (2020)

Median Single-Family Home Price: $285,000 (January 2020)*

Major Employers:

The healthcare industry is one of the biggest employers in the area, such as Sarasota Memorial Hospital, as well as tourism and even real estate. 

Arts & Culture:

Venice is quite similar to Sarasota in that it has a vibrant arts and culture scene. The Venice Theater is one of the largest and most active community theaters in the country, this relatively small town also has a performing arts center as well as the Venice history museum and archives. The town hosts numerous festivals throughout the year and regular concerts and events downtown.

> What People Love About Living Here:

  • The small-town community feel that’s affordable, safe, and access to big-city amenities just 15 miles north in Sarasota
  • The beaches! Venice is really all about beach life and being on the water in some way. Whether it’s boating, fishing on the Venice Pier, or enjoying the views of dolphins, manatees and boaters from Jetty. You will also find surfers off Venice Beach too!
  • Laidback beach town with friendly people, and a family-oriented atmosphere with lots to do to help keep you living healthy and happy!

For more details, check out our complete Moving to Venice page

2. Sarasota

Founded as Sarasota in 1902, the city sits on Florida’s Gulf Coast on the southern tip of the Tampa Bay Metropolitan Area. The city has a humid subtropical climate, it averages less than a full day of frost a year. This makes its plentiful beaches and parks spread over its 26 neighborhoods a welcome respite for residents and visitors alike. Those who call Sarasota home enjoy its miles of fine sandy beaches, its small-town feel with city-sized cultural amenities.

view from the sky of siesta key and sarasota florida

> Quick Facts:

Population: 56,919 (2019)

Median Single-Family Home Sold Price: $351,900 (December 2020)*

Major Employers:

Tourism is a major industry in Sarasota. Boar’s Head Provision Company and Roper Technologies are both based in Sarasota and other large employers include APAC Customer Services, Sarasota Memorial Hospital and The Zenith.

Arts & Culture:

Sarasota was the wintertime home of the Ringling Bros. Circus and as such was the primary home of their proprietor John Ringling and his wife Mable. The couple chose Sarasota as the site for their Venetian Gothic revival-inspired palazzo Ca’ d’Zan and the city is also home to their art collection as a part of a separate museum.

> What People Love About Living Here:

  • An average temperature that rarely dips below 52 degrees Fahrenheit, even in the winter.
  • Vibrant culture highlighted by several historic theaters, such as the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center, and several world-class art museums.
  • The Sarasota Chalk Festival is the first street art festival in the world, and produces some truly amazing works of art.

For more details, check out our complete Moving to Sarasota page

3. North Port

North Port is an up-and-coming community that most people haven’t heard of, yet it’s one of the hottest destinations to move in all of Florida! The combination of affordability, top schools, and convenient access to pristine beaches and larger towns makes it a great place to live – especially for young families. The population can be misleading because the town actually spans over 100 square miles of land (making it actually one of the largest city areas in Florida).

North port florida welcome sign as entering the town

> Quick Facts:

Population: 75,000 (2021)

Median Single-Family Home Sold Price: $175,000 (January 2020)*

Major Employers:

Manufacturing, healthcare, small businesses and entrepreneurial ventures are big in this developing community. It’s likely that corporate employers will start to move into the area soon. While there are larger corporate employers in nearby Sarasota, Venice, and Port Charlotte. 

Arts & Culture:

North Port is a young community that is rapidly growing! It’s home to the new Atlanta Braves Spring Training facility which includes a large development dubbed the “West Villages” that will include entertainment, shopping, outdoor recreation and venues for music and arts.

> What People Love About Living Here:

  • New family homes are very affordable here for a fraction of what you will pay in nearby cities, and across Florida
  • The town offers a great lifestyle that is family-friendly with good schools and only a short drive to many nearby beaches and towns including Venice, Sarasota, Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda which are all great for boating and fishing too.
  • The new Atlanta Braves facility which is set among the “West Villages” area is going to be a premier entertainment area with a ton of exciting things to do. The stadium is already open as are the marketplace shops and restaurants, although the larger Wellen Park developments with the recreational lake and “Downtown Disney-Like” entertainment and shopping complex is set to open in 2022.

For more information, visit our Moving to North Port page!

4. Tampa

For those in the know, Tampa has by far the warmest people and weather on Florida’s west coast. Located on Tampa Bay, Tampa is known for its beautiful natural setting that is complemented by its many parks and gardens, most famously Busch Gardens. The city also reflects its traditional nature as a port city and as a melting pot in the historic Ybor City which retains its roots as a vibrant and diverse neighborhood built up originally by Cuban and Spanish cigar factory workers.

View of Tampa florida with city skyline in background and neighborhood island with boats

> Quick Facts:

Population: 387,916 (2019)

Median Single-Family Home Price: $279,450 (January 2020)*

Major Employers:

Finance, healthcare, retail, insurance and tourism are the largest industries in Tampa. A few of the largest individual companies are Publix, BayCare Health System, Citi and Wal-Mart.

Arts & Culture:

Tampa has many popular nightlife districts that attract tourists and locals alike including Channelside, SoHo and Bay Street. It also is home to many professional sports teams such as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the city is also the host of the annual Outback Bowl game.

> What People Love About Living Here:

  • A diverse and vibrant city that contains many fun and unique neighborhoods to explore.
  • A lush and green city with more than 165 parks and beaches within its city limits alone.
  • Annual Fiesta Day celebrates the city’s long history of immigration and its German, Cuban, Spanish, Irish, Jewish and English roots.

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5. Orlando

Orlando has long been known for its theme park reputation, but the city has so much more to offer than Micky Mouse and Harry Potter rides. But to experience Orlando you have to first think like a local and ditch the theme parks to instead focus on the city’s many diverse neighborhoods and even suburbs, such as the charming area of Winter Park.

view of swans on lake eola in downtown orlando florida

> Quick Facts:

Population: 280,832 (2019)

Median Single-Family Home Price: $275,000 (2020)*

Major Employers:

Tourism is a major employer in the Orlando area for sure, but it actually boasts a diverse economy that has been among the U.S.’s fastest growing in the last decade. The largest employers besides Disney include Lockhead Martin, Darden Restaurants and the Central Florida Research Park which is one of the largest research centers in the country.

Arts & Culture:

The Orlando area is home to 7 of the 10 most visited theme parks in North America and half of the top ten in the entire world. But besides theme parks the city also boasts a diverse group of restaurants and cuisines thanks to its large immigrant population.

> What People Love About Living Here:

  • The Orlando area is home to some of Florida’s best malls including Mall at Millenia and The Florida Mall, the largest mall in Central Florida.
  • Orlando is a hotbed of teen Emo, Punk and Goth culture and has produced many popular metal bands including From First to Last, Skrape and alternative band Matchbox Twenty.
  • Home to many popular sports teams including the Orlando Predators, the Orlando SeaWolves and the NBA’s Orlando Magic.

6. Naples

Naples was incorporated in 1925 on the southwest corner of Florida’s Gulf of Mexico. Often thought of as a luxurious getaway destination known for its high-end shopping and multiple world-class golf courses, Naples is also a natural heaven with copious amounts of fine white-sand beaches that are perfect for relaxing and fishing.

downtown naples with old classic car parked and downtown high-end shops and restaurants

> Quick Facts:

Population: 21,182 (2019)

Median Single-Family Home List Price: $382,500 (2020)*

Major Employers:

The economy of Naples has historically been based on real estate development, agriculture and tourism. Today major employers include ACI Worldwide, Beasley Broadcast Group, Health Management Associates and NewsBank.

Arts & Culture:

Best known for its natural attractions such as the world-famous Everglades National Park and Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. The latter is home to the critically endangered Florida Panther, one of the only big cats native to North America.

> What People Love About Living Here:

  • Natural beauty is minutes away, be it beaches or fauna you can find almost nowhere else.
  • Fantastic shopping in downtown Naples, including the famed Gallery Row of luxury shops.
  • Naples has held the U.S. Open Pickleball Championships annually since 2016.

7. St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg is known as the Sunshine City and is thus famous for its agreeable weather nearly year-round. Hugging the southern tip of Tampa Bay itself, St. Petersburg is a part of the larger Tampa Bay area but is a worthwhile and popular city in its own right. Famous for its good fishing, nightlife, beaches and culture, St. Petersburg is definitely one of the top places to live in Florida.

view of st pete pier near downtown with stage for live music and tables and chairs for eating and drinking

> Quick Facts:

Population: 261,338 (2019)

Median Single-Family Home Sale Price: $275,000 (December 2020)*

Major Employers:

St. Petersburg has a large and diverse economy that is home to several Fortune 500 companies. Retail, professional services and health care are the region’s largest industries and Raymond James and the Home Shopping Network are a couple of its largest employers.

Arts & Culture:

St. Petersburg is famous for its responsive government, which includes the regular sending of e-newsletters on a variety of subjects impacted by local governance by Mayor Rick Kriseman.

> What People Love About Living Here:

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8. Fort Myers

Fort Myers has long been thought of as a retirement destination. But for those that only see Fort Myers as a good place for senior citizens, it is time to look again. This is because Fort Myers is the commercial center and county seat of Lee County, Florida and one of the most beautiful parts of Southwest Florida in its own right.

looking down fort myers beach florida with white sand and no people

> Quick Facts:

Population: 87,103 (2019)

Median Single-Family Home Price: $250,000 (December 2020)*

Major Employers:

Major employment sectors in Fort Myers include retail, construction, health care and social services. Job growth continues to pace with the growth of the city, which is one of the fastest growing places in the U.S.

Arts & Culture:

Fort Myers was the winter home for two great American industrialists, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, whose homes have been turned into museums that are popular with families and history fans alike.

> What People Love About Living Here:

  • Fort Myers is known for its large and diverse community that includes sizable Black, Hispanic, Latino and Asian populations, this gives it a unique and welcoming culture for a city in Southwest Florida
  • Comfortable subtropical climate that rarely passes 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and averages 56 degrees in December.
  • Serviced by the Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) which is the 45th busiest airport in the country.

9. Lakeland, Polk County

Lakeland is a city in Polk County that lies just east of downtown Tampa. Lakeland is known for its historic downtown that is filled with early 20th century architecture and antiques shops. The city also has many lakes including the famed Lake Mirror.

> Quick Facts:

Population: 107,922 (2019)

Median Single-Family Home Price: $218,800 (December 2020)*

Major Employers:

Lakeland is a major transportation hub between the economic centers of Orlando and Tampa. Publix is the largest employer in Lakeland, with over 6,500 employees between its headquarters and warehouses. Phosphate mining is also still a large part of local industry along with shipping outfits such as FedEx and Amazon.

Arts & Culture:

The Lakeland area is home to several buildings designed by famed American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Florida Southern College has a visitors’ center that offers tours that highlight the many prominent local examples of the architect’s work.

> What People Love About Living Here:

  • A rich history of architecture and public space with several well-preserved historic districts.
  • Lakeland has been the sight of many popular Hollywood films such as The Waterboy and Edward Scissorhands.
  • Dry and mild winters that hover around the high 70s during the day to low 50s at night and seldom devolve into cold snaps.

10. Tallahassee

Tallahassee is the state capital of Florida and the largest city in the state’s famous panhandle where Southwest Georgia and Florida meet. The city is a transportation and agricultural hub of the state as well as being home to Florida State University.

outside looking at the florida state university seminoles stadium for college football in tallahassee florida

> Quick Facts:

Population: 194,500 (2019)

Median Single-Family Home Sold Price: $128,500 (December 2020)*

Major Employers:

As the state capital, Tallahassee has many jobs in both state government and education. Major employers include the State of Florida, Florida State University and Citizens Property Insurance Corporation.

Arts & Culture:

The major arts and entertainment district of Tallahassee is the Railroad Square Art Park, which holds many events throughout the year and was founded on the site of a now defunct rail depot.

> What People Love About Living Here:

  • There is always something to do, with several high-quality museums and festivals scheduled throughout the year such as the Downtown Getdown and the city’s annual Greek Food Festival.
  • Attending Florida State Seminole sporting events is an always popular past-time with locals.
  • Tallahassee is home to the Challenger Center which is dedicated to those lost during the 1986 spaceship accident.

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11. Niceville, Okaloosa County

Located in Okaloosa County, Florida on Choctawhatchee Bay, Niceville is home to the Eglin Air Force Base. Originally known as Boggy when mail service to the area began in 1868, the towns current moniker is clear improvement that was suggested by the then postmaster’s daughter. The town is just over the bridge from Destin, a popular vacation and beach town famous for fishing. The town of Fort Walton Beach is nearby as well, which is also a charming town to live!

> Quick Facts:

Population: 11,684 (2019)

Median Single-Family Home Price: $382,000 (December 2020)*

Major Employers:

Thanks to its proximity to the neighboring Eglin Air Force Base, the military is a large employer in Niceville. Some of the largest individual employers are the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and the University of West Florida.

Arts & Culture:

Locals love being minutes away from the beaches of South Walton County and Destin, Florida along with a vibrant local business community to patronize.

> What People Love About Living Here:

  • Niceville is a twin city with Valparaiso, Florida which sits on the city’s west side. Residents in this area love having such close access to some of the state’s most pristine beaches and popular vacation towns such as Destin. 
  • One of the best places in Northwest Florida’s panhandle for fishing.
  • Good schools and a relaxed family-oriented lifestyle with easy access to the ocean and fun things to do.

12. Daytona Beach

With the word beach in its name Daytona Beach is obviously one of the most famous destinations for sand and surf in the United States. But this Atlantic coast city is more than just a beach town as it also is famous for its own long history with motorsports that has culminated in the construction of the city’s own NASCAR International Speedway.

daytona beach dunes looking out from promanade

> Quick Facts:

Population: 67,604 (2019)

Median Single-Family Home Sold Price: $182,000 (December 2020)*

Major Employers:

Tourism is a major employer for Daytona Beach, with much of it focused on the city’s many beaches. The city is also a major transportation and business hub with Brown & Brown, Halifax Health, NASCAR and the LPGA all being major employers.

Arts & Culture:

Daytona Beach is famous for the Daytona International Speedway home to its annual NASCAR race, the Daytona 500, which draws spectators from around the world.

> What People Love About Living Here:

  • Miles and miles of immaculate beaches, some of which have been hard-packed to allow for recreational driving.
  • Lots of shopping around Daytona Beach, including the Volusia Mall which is anchored by Sears, JCPenney and Dillard’s.
  • The city has many charming historic districts including Seabreeze which has over 596 historic buildings and the city’s original Ocean Blvd.

13. Gainesville

Best known as the home of the University of Florida, Gainesville is consistently ranked among the best college towns in America. Located in Alachula County, Gainesville is the largest city in the county and in North Central Florida. It is so much more than a vibrant college town, however, as the city offers a good quality of life and has a diversified economy that includes many industries besides higher education.

> Quick Facts:

Population: 133,997 (2019)

Median Single-Family Home Sold Price: $225,000 (December 2020)*

Major Employers:

The major employer for Gainesville is the University of Florida which serves as the state’s flagship campus. It is also home to a burgeoning tech start-up scene.

Arts & Culture:

Gainesville is known for its visual arts scene thanks to its association with and creativity from University of Florida students.

> What People Love About Living Here:

  • The Gainesville Community Playhouse claims to be the oldest community theatre in the state of Florida.
  • Residents enjoy cheering for the University of Florida’s athletic program year-round which fields teams in a variety of men’s and women’s sports at the D-I level as the Florida Gators.
  • Gainesville has a well-known sketch comedy scene since the founding of an improv group on Florida’s campus in 1989.

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14. Fort Lauderdale

Located just 25 miles north up the coast from Miami, Fort Lauderdale has long been one of the most desirable places to live in Florida thanks to its golden beaches and plentiful shopping.

man paddle boarding with dogs along canal in fort lauderdale florida

> Quick Facts:

Population: 182,437 (2019)

Median Single-Family Home Sold Price: $430,000 (December 2020)*

Major Employers:

Originally known as a spring break destination, Fort Lauderdale has diversified its economy over the years. The city now is a financial and telecom center with Motorola and American Express being a couple of the larger employers locally.

Arts & Culture:

Originally known as a spring break destination, Fort Lauderdale retains a vibrant nightlife and boardwalk year-round.

> What People Love About Living Here:

  • Golden sand beaches with weather to match most of the year.
  • A bustling Riverwalk and entertainment district in downtown Fort Lauderdale boasts many fine restaurants and a 3D IMAX screen.
  • The Fort Lauderdale Swap Shop is a large indoor/outdoor flea market that also is the world’s largest drive-in movie theatre with 13 screens available!

15. St. Augustine

St. Augustine is a city on the Atlantic coast of northeastern Florida and has the distinction of being the oldest settlement on the continental United States that was settled by a European. St. Augustine was founded by a Spanish admiral in 1565.

walking down old cobble stone streets in historic st augustine florida old town

> Quick Facts:

Population: 15,415 (2019)

Median Single-Family Home Sale Price: $323,000 (December 2020)*

Major Employers:

St. Augustine’s primary industry is tourism that surrounds its rich colonial history. Much of this takes place in the service sector in historic bed and breakfasts, hotels and restaurants.

Arts & Culture:

The city of St. Augustine leans into its historical past and offers a wealth of resources when it comes to its colonial history and its Spanish architecture in particular.

> What People Love About Living Here:

  • As the oldest city in America, it is also one of the most beautiful with Spanish architecture that is hundreds of years old.
  • The city offers a variety of festivals from food to music throughout the year that attract both locals and tourists.
  • History buffs will enjoy touring the many sites where Spain repelled its enemies, such as pirates or the British, from St. Augustine.

16. Palm Bay

Palm Bay was originally settled by the Ais people who were attracted to the area for its bountiful fresh water. Later European populations would prize the location for much the same reasons and would settle in the area for decades before naming the area Palm Bay in the 1920s

> Quick Facts:

Population: 115,552 (2019)

Median Single-Family Home Price: $184,900 (December 2020)*

Major Employers:

Tourism is the main economic driver of Palm Bay. Large employers in Palm Bay include Bombardier Recreational Products, Palm Bay Hospital and Intersil.

Arts & Culture:

The area is known for its unique natural splendor which can be enjoyed at local parks such as the Fred Poppe Regional Park and the Turkey Creek Sanctuary.

> What People Love About Living Here:

  • Part of the famed “Space Coast” that helped NASA put a man on the moon, the region is full of high-tech jobs.
  • The Brevard Country School District serves Palm Bay and the surrounding localities.
  • In 2008 US News & World Report named Palm Bay as the nation’s second drunkest city after Reno, Nevada.

17. Melbourne

Melbourne Florida is a part of the larger Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville Florida Metropolitan Area and is roughly 72 miles southeast of Orlando. The city expanded in 1969 by joining with its former neighbor, Eau Gallie.

Melbourne florida view from grass out toward docks in the calm water of the intercoastal

> Quick Facts:

Population: 81,486 (2019)

Median Single-Family Home List Price: $283,000 (December 2020)*

Major Employers:

The city contains a variety of defense and technology companies with many of its citizens choosing to work in these two industries. Major employers in Melbourne include Rockwell Collins, DRS Technologies, Embraer and Northrop Grumman

Arts & Culture:

Melbourne holds an annual arts festival in April that attracts forty to fifty thousand visitors a year.

> What People Love About Living Here:

  • The historic districts of Melbourne are beautiful, especially in the former town of Eau Gallie.
  • Melbourne is home to the Brevard Symphony Orchestra.
  • The area is astride the Indian River Lagoon which provides natural beauty and serves as a breakwater from the Atlantic Ocean.

18. Pensacola

Pensacola is the westernmost city on Florida’s panhandle and is known for its Spanish history and its famously white sand beaches. Pensacola is known as the city of five flags, which refers to the five countries that have flown their flags over the city, the US, the Confederacy, the Spanish, the British and the French.

bicycle statue in downtown historic pensacola florida

> Quick Facts:

Population: 52,642 (2019)

Median Single-Family Home Sold Price: $165,000 (December 2020)*

Major Employers:

The majority of Pensacola’s jobs are in either the tourism, defense or hospital sectors. Some of the city’s largest employers are Navy Federal Credit Union and Baptist Health Care.

Arts & Culture:

The Pensacola Bay Center is the city’s premier venue for live music and events and has a capacity of just over 8,000 for hockey games.

> What People Love About Living Here:

  • Downtown Pensacola has over 500 historic buildings which lend the city an old-world flair.
  • Pensacola is known for its white sand beaches which are supposed to be some of the whitest in the world.
  • West Florida University has its home in Pensacola and competes in D-II athletics as the West Florida Argonauts.

19. Dunedin

Dunedin, Florida is a city located on the state’s Gulf Coast and is known for its pine forests and the Honeymoon Island State Park. The city gets its unique name from its Scottish founders who named it after their former capital Dun Eideann, or Edinburgh.

dunedin florida wharf at sunset with amazing reds and blues and boats in the water off the docks

> Quick Facts:

Population: 36,381 (2019)

Median Single-Family Home Price: $279,000 (December 2020)*

Major Employers:

Dunedin has a diverse economy that includes tourism, manufacturing and retail. The city saw its largest growth recently in the electricity and gas supply sector.

Arts & Culture:

Dunedin has a rich history as a port city and at one time had the largest fleet of vessels in the state in its own harbor. Any history buff will enjoy exploring this history in the local Dunedin History Museum.

> What People Love About Living Here:

  • The city holds one of the region’s most extensive Mardi Gras celebrations which attracts thousands of revelers each year.
  • Dunedin has many historic buildings such as the Fenway Hotel, which has had many famous guests over the years such as Clarence Darrow.
  • The city embraces its Scottish roots by holding an annual Dunedin Highland Games each year.

Which of These Places in Florida Fits Your Lifestyle?

Everyone has their own lifestyle preferences and budget. Many of you might be drawn to live in one of these cities over another, or have lived in a few of them already (like we have). Or perhaps you have a different place in Florida where you like living more. Feel free to share in the comments whether you agree with our picks of the best cities to live in Florida and share your recommendations too!

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