Where can you find entertainment, beaches, jobs, low cost of living and more? Here are some of the best places to live in Florida.

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It’s called the Sunshine State for a reason — endless sunny days and warm weather make Florida an attractive destination no matter your stage in life. With a population of nearly 22 million, Florida is the third most populous state in the country. 

Most of the state is located on a peninsula between the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean and the Straits of Florida, meaning no part of the state is very far from the water and its 600 miles of beautiful beaches. 

This slice of paradise has a thriving economy, no state income tax, low insurance rates, a top-notch education system and many of the nation’s leading educational institutions, a wealth of family-friendly attractions and a relatively low cost of living, which also makes it attractive for retirees and those who enjoy a healthy and active lifestyle. Here’s a look at some of Florida’s best places to live.

Plus: Want an ‘average’ retirement lifestyle? You’ll need more than $1 million — sometimes a lot more — in these cities.

Daytona Beach

Located on the east coast in Central Florida, Daytona Beach offers warm weather and a beachfront lifestyle with 23 miles of Atlantic shoreline. Like other Florida cities, the city doesn’t have a state individual income tax, which translates into a lower cost of living for places like Daytona Beach. Known for its racing history, Daytona Beach also affords year-round outdoor activities such as biking, hiking, golf and water sports.

The Daytona Beach Boardwalk and Pier is a fun place to while away the hours with its arcade and gift shops. As if you need any other reasons to call Daytona Beach home, Daytona Beach has an excellent school system that prepares students for the future and excellent healthcare facilities.

Why is racing important to Daytona Beach?

Known as a mecca for racing enthusiasts and the site of the Daytona 500 — the most prestigious race on the Nascar circuit — this city stages some of the largest motor sports events in the world. The Daytona International Speedway alone brings in over $800 million to Florida’s coffers annually. The city also has several attractions that center on racing, including the Motorsports Hall of Fame and area car shows.

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Gainesville

Gainesville is enjoying a creative renaissance that influences how this college town’s residents work and play. With a student population of more than 60,000, it’s no wonder that the city is centered on the University of Florida and Santa Fe College. Gainesville is the largest city in north Central Florida, with easy access to the beach — about 73 miles away from the Atlantic Coast.

Gainesville is a quirky town that combines creativity and innovation at places like the Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention, a modern space filled with fascinating science and tech exhibits. (It’s named for Dr. James Robert Cade, the lead inventor of Gatorade, a piece of local trivia every new resident should know.)

This college town has an affordable cost of living and numerous bars and restaurants, many of which cater to students. Playing outdoors is also a big draw to living in Gainesville, with access to nature parks, hiking and biking trails and plenty of golf. 

What makes education so important in Gainesville?

The University of Florida, home of the Gators, is the state’s oldest and largest university and a center of education, with more than 300 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in 16 academic colleges, not to mention numerous cultural and sporting events. According to U.S. News & World Report, the university was ranked fifth nationally among all public universities in the nation in 2022. Interestingly, the school is integrated with a local retirement community, where students can find mentors, work and do internships.

See: Duke up, UChicago down: Here’s the 2024 college rankings list from U.S. News

Jacksonville

Similar to other Florida cities, Jacksonville, or JAX, offers both sea and sand with its beautiful Atlantic Coast beaches, scenic coastline and plenty of outdoor activities. Home to Florida’s youngest population, this hip, northeastern Florida city has many amenities built in, like the country’s most extensive urban park system with more than 80,000 acres to explore. With a population of more than 950,000, this city provides a small-town vibe with big-city amenities.

The low cost of living draws families to its many neighborhoods, and Jacksonville’s job market is one of the nation’s best, especially for entrepreneurs. There’s a diverse number of restaurants and a lively nightlife scene, with some places offering ocean views. Music also takes center stage here with festivals like JAX River Jams along the St. Johns River.

Why is the job market so strong in Jacksonville?

Jacksonville was the third hottest job market in the country in 2023, according to a study by The Wall Street Journal, moving up from the sixth spot in 2022’s ranking. The city is known for both Fortune 500 companies and innovative startups. Dun & Bradstreet
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Vision and Redwire Space
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all have offices here. Major industries include financial services, life sciences, technology, logistics and advanced manufacturing. And, if you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, Jacksonville is an unexpectedly awesome place to start your business. 

Check out: 6 cities where women earn more

Fort Lauderdale

Water, water everywhere, is no joke in Fort Lauderdale. This Florida city is known as the Venice of America (yes, you can ride on a gondola here) thanks to its enormous waterways. This South Florida city boasts 165 miles of inland waterways, a historic riverfront on the New River and 24 miles of some of the state’s finest beaches. And, thanks to its location in the Sunshine State, Fort Lauderdale residents can enjoy fun in the sun all year long.

The laid-back vibe in Fort Lauderdale includes world-class dining spots, nightclubs and a variety of fun attractions. Plus, the city was named one of Livability’s Best Places to Live in the U.S. for 2023—hard to beat that. Retail, finance, insurance, technology, education, healthcare, marine, manufacturing, and film and television production all add to the city’s diversified economy.

Why is Fort Lauderdale such a popular vacation spot?

More than 13 million visitors enjoy all the wonders this fun Florida city offers. Besides parking it on one of the many beaches, travelers can book a stay at a luxury hotel, reserve a deep-sea fishing excursion or arrive via cruise ship — all of which add a significant bump to the city’s tourism base. In fact, the hospitality industry accounts for 11.5% of the workforce.

The wealth of outdoor activities visitors can partake in ranges from bird-watching to paddleboarding and much more. The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, the largest in-water boat show in the world, brings in more than 100,000 visitors.

Read: We want to live in a medium-sized city close to the beach but without much traffic. Where should we retire?

Fort Walton Beach

Located in the Panhandle, this small city of nearly 21,0000 draws both young professionals, retirees and, of course, tourists. Fort Walton Beach is known for its lovely white sand beaches along the Gulf of Mexico, drawing visitors who enjoy an abundance of outdoor activities, delicious seafood and unforgettable sunsets. In addition to the enticing weather and beautiful beaches, Fort Walton Beach is a military town with both Eglin Air Force Base and Hurlburt Field. Companies such as Boeing Company
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TYBRIN Corporation, Payroll Management, Inc., and Precision Measurement Inc. also have a strong presence in Fort Walton Beach. This beach town is known for its artsy vibe and active community, and there are countless reasons why people are moving to this Okaloosa County community. 

Why is the military so important to Fort Walton Beach?

While hospitality and tourism may take top billing, Fort Walton Beach is a hotbed of research and development, thanks to Eglin Air Force Base and Hurlburt Field, both important U.S. military facilities. In fact, Eglin is the largest U.S. Air Force installation in the world, with more than 700 acres and over 36,000 residents. With an estimated $9 million annual economic impact, Eglin also feeds talent back into Fort Walton Beach, as many service members stay in the area to launch their own businesses. And, thanks to the military industry, Fort Walton and Okaloosa County are drawing in droves of defense jobs to the area. 

Also see: Hurricane Idalia: Florida storm is 2023’s costliest U.S. disaster so far

Miami Beach

Miami Beach conjures up images of palm trees, gorgeous golf clubs, cool architecture, waterfront homes and delicious dining. This island city, which is connected by bridges to the mainland, is an urban wonderland and a tourist mecca.

The city is well-known for its incredible shopping, famous nightlife, world-class restaurants and an expansive cultural scene. Famous streets such as Collins Avenue and Lincoln Road have an array of international hotels and dining spots.

There are plenty of well-known spots to visit, but if you’re looking to go off the beaten path and have an adventure, there are plenty of road trips and restaurants waiting. The city also has a strong Cuban influence, adding an interesting international flair to the area.

Why is Miami Beach a destination for arts and culture?

This city of 80,000 is known worldwide for its multicultural arts scene, with both visual and performing arts on tap. Art Basel Miami Beach takes place every December, attracting thousands of art collectors and artists to the city. The city’s dynamic galleries feature emerging and mainstream artists in neighborhoods such as South Beach, Miami Design District, Wynwood Arts District and Little Haiti. Ballet, opera and the symphony also add to Miami Beach’s cachet.

Be sure to read: The fastest-growing American cities are also some of the places with the worst climate-change effects

Orlando

This central Florida city, with a population of a little more than 308,000, is ranked as one of Livability’s 2023 Best Places to Live in the U.S. That’s because of its warm weather, awesome amenities and thriving economy. In addition to its many world-class attractions, Orlando provides exceptional healthcare facilities, good schools — including 35 colleges, universities and technical schools — as well as premier arts and culture offerings. Orlando also emphasizes locally-grown food, urban farms and has a great vegan dining scene. 

See: The best affordable little cities to live in America

What is Orland best known for?

Orlando is known, of course, for Mickey, Minnie and Donald, who reside at the Walt Disney
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World Resort, but also for Universal Orlando, SeaWorld Orlando, Legoland and many other theme parks. These tourist attractions are critical to the city’s economy, contributing about $31 billion annually. In fact, Orlando was named the largest U.S. travel and tourism city destination for 2022 by the World Travel & Tourism Council.

Other attractions include Gatorland, the Crayola Experience, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Orlando, the Museum of Illusions Orlando, airboat and zip line tours and many fun destinations.

St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg is a coastal city is known for its warm weather, attractive beaches and wealth of ways to enjoy the great outdoors. Nicknamed ‘The Sunshine City’ because it averages 361 days of sunshine a year, St. Pete holds a Guinness World Record for the most consecutive days of sunshine. (For the record, it was a 768-day stretch that started in 1967.)

There is also a plethora of exciting art museums and galleries, including the famous Salvador Dali Museum, the Chihuly Collection and the Museum of Fine Arts, to name just a few. Financial services is the largest employment sector in the city, with the notable Raymond James based here. The city is also a magnet for startups in places like the Skyway Marina and the Warehouse Arts District. This Florida city is a great place for families and pet owners. 

Why should I move to St. Petersburg?

Besides the phenomenal weather, St. Pete offers beautiful scenery, 35 miles of beaches, good schools and high-quality medical care for residents. There’s also a unique downtown waterfront with restaurants and bars and a free Looper Trolley that connects to the city’s major attractions. The city’s cost of living is 6% lower than the national average, so it’s hard to go wrong with breathtaking coastal living at an affordable price. 

Tallahassee

Believe it or not, the state capital of Florida is the hilliest spot in the state, with its highest peak about 200 feet above sea level. Located in the northern part of the Panhandle, Tallahassee is located about halfway between Pensacola and Jacksonville. Government is the primary focus of the city’s economy, but there are also large employers in healthcare, technology and higher education.

Schools such as Florida State University, Florida A&M and a handful of smaller schools bring the total student population to about 70,000. The city is known for outdoor recreation, fun events and great restaurants, making it an easy place to settle down and raise a family or start a career. And if you’re looking for a fresh start in a place with endless opportunities, Tallahassee is the place to be.

What’s the job market like in Tallahassee?

Government reigns supreme in Tallahassee, with a large majority of people working for state government. Similar to other capital cities, Tallahassee has a large number of lobbying groups, professional and trade associations and law firms. Increasingly, more graduates are choosing to stay and start small businesses here, partly because the city has one of the fastest-growing economies in Florida.

Related: Florida is still tops, as retirees flock to warm weather and tax-free locales

Tampa

Sunny skies, convenient beach access and a variety of living options make a move to Tampa an easy decision. With a population of nearly 400,000, Tampa is an economic engine for the state’s West Coast, powered by a diverse mix of industries. Unlike other major metros, Tampa is an affordable place to live, with a low cost of living and an excellent place to build a business. Sports enthusiasts will enjoy pro teams, college ball and ample outdoor recreational opportunities. The city is diverse, a melting pot of cultures, which gives the food and art scene some additional pizazz.

Why is Tampa such a melting pot?

It all started when cigar makers from Cuba began hand-rolling cigars in Ybor City, a trade that started in 1886. Soon, other immigrants from Spain, Italy, Germany and other countries moved there, bringing their own customs, food and culture to the area. Today, Ybor City is one of only three National Historic Landmark Districts in Florida. The neighborhood is a great place to grab some Cuban fare and learn more about this city within a city’s history at the Ybor City Museum State Park.

Read: We are a diverse couple looking for the stars and good libraries in Florida. Where should we retire?

West Palm Beach

As you might expect, West Palm Beach is known for its palm-lined streets, but it also has made a name for itself due to its distinct architecture, luxury shopping and beautiful beaches on the Atlantic Coast.

The waters here are known as the “fish superhighway,” affording anglers an excellent opportunity to reel in a big one. Besides a booming tourism industry, the city is known for healthcare, finance, insurance and construction. Lake Worth Lagoon separates West Palm Beach from the affluent Palm Beach.

Plus: (July 2023) South Florida ocean waters reach hot-tub temperatures, setting possible record high

There’s a vibrant downtown district with plenty of shops and restaurants to enjoy, and compared with neighboring Palm Beach, WBP is known as a much more affordable option.

Why is West Palm Beach a popular place for retirees?

It’s easy to understand why WPB draws those looking for the good life when they are ready to retire. There are a lot of living options for seniors, as well as a lively urban city center. Pleasant year-round temperatures, golf clubs, fishing and boating all draw residents to its shores. Plus, West Palm Beach has a small-town feeling but with every amenity at your fingertips.

Read the original article on Livability.

  • The 100 best places to live in the U.S. in 2023

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