15 Best Places to Live in Florida

Written by Darren Griffiths
Updated on
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Florida is gorgeous. That much is not in dispute. However, the Sunshine State often takes some flak not just from the media and general public but also from its residents.

It is accused of being too hot. Property values are said to fluctuate too much. It is too touristy. With many illegal migrants. And old people. Unemployment is high. There is a deep divide between the haves and the have-nots. Crime. Drugs. The list goes on.

The thing is, though, there is no place in the world without its ups and downs. And Florida remains the third most populous state for a reason – after California and Texas, and just a spot above New York. The beauty of the state would put most places to shame.

Endless miles of coastline. Stunning beaches. Eleven thousand miles of rivers, streams, and waterways. Thousands of miles of hiking trails. The Everglades. Theme parks galore. And, of course, one of the most vibrant nightlife in the world.

The state scores excellent on GreatSchools, one of the most complete school-ranking platforms. This is significantly higher than the nationwide average of 6.0. General affordability is almost on par with the national average (101 vs. 100).

All promising figures.

For anyone looking to move to Florida, there are plenty of great places to stay – if you know where to look. Besides, the Sunshine State had an incredible nine cities on the 2017 list of 100 Best Places to Live in America, an annual ranking by the U.S. News & World Report.

Here are the 15 best places to live in Florida.

1. Valrico

ValricoSource: www.youtube.com

Valrico is first up on our list, a suburb of over thirty-six thousand residents that lies 14 miles east of Tampa. It guarantees a balanced blend of quality amenities, affordability, and strong economic growth.

The median home value currently stands below the national average, and the area promises excellent value. Local schools got a solid ranking on GreatSchools, scoring an 8/10. In a state accused of being violent, the crime rate is meager in Valrico.

As well, median household income has grown exponentially over the last two decades, registering one of the best performances in Florida. Still, a small percentage of households are families with children, making this a hidden gem for families.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Valrico are:

  • Buckhorn Springs Golf and Country Club
  • Busch Gardens
  • Xscape Theaters
  • Lithia Springs Park
  • Diamond Hill Golf Club
  • The Pottery Patch
  • R&R Ranch
  • Dinosaur World Theme Park

2. Oviedo

Oviedo, FloridaSource: Ebyabe / Wikimedia
Oviedo, Florida

Oviedo is a suburb in Orlando that constitutes 13 neighborhoods home to over thirty-eight thousand residents.

It is primarily a white-collar city with close to most of the workforce involved in white-collar jobs. In a part of the state where the availability of jobs is high, Oviedo is the symbolic apex of Central Florida’s livability, especially when you factor in the added incentives.

Its schools are first-rate, and the suburb offers plenty of recreation for families who love the outdoors. Be it canoeing or hiking at the Little Big Econ State Forest, alligator-watching at Lake Jesup, attending the weekly food truck night and local concerts, or strolling in the parks and walkable lakes, to cite but a few examples.

Houses in this ethnically-diverse town are over the national average, and the residents embody a strong sense of community.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Oviedo are:

  • Arcade Monsters
  • Oviedo Bowling Center
  • Center Lake Park
  • Regal Oviedo Mall
  • Econ River Wilderness Area
  • Twin Rivers Golf Club
  • Black Hammock Lazy Gator Bar

3. Weston

Weston, FloridaSource: Spinel / shutterstock

Weston is a small city of just over sixty-eight thousand residents in Broward County.

It may have missed a spot in the best places to live in the United States, probably due to several crime-related incidents. Still, Weston has remained a highly desirable place for reasons aplenty.

It has one of the highest percentages of families among communities in Florida, meaning a large part of it is designed to accommodate this reality. Its schools score an impressive nine on GreatSchools and witness a high graduation rate.

It is not short of fascinating stuff to do, including visiting multiple museums and historical sites, hanging out in the nature reserves, biking on the city’s 46 miles of bike trails, which promise spectacular views of the Everglades, and so on.

What’s more, the unemployment rate in Weston is low, with a high median household income of six figures, which is enough to cushion against the high cost of living.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Weston are:

  • Peace Mound Park
  • Markham Park and Target Range
  • Cafe 27 Bar and Grill
  • Flamingo Gardens
  • Weston Community Center
  • Emerald Estates Park
  • Library Park

4. Sarasota

SarasotaSource: Sean Pavone / shutterstock

Based on the report, Sarasota emerged at position 14 in the list of Best Places to Live in America, the state’s highest ranking, technically making this the best place to live for families in Florida.

It is easy to see why when you get down to crunching the numbers. Sarasota is downright beautiful. Its sugary white-sand beaches are stunning, consistently ranking among the best in the country year after year.

It has one of the most buzzing art scenes for a city its size, complete with orchestras, ballet, opera, museums, professional and community theatre companies, and roots rocks and blues artists. There are plenty of dining options and excellent restaurants where you will readily find award-winning Sarasota craft beers.

There are parks and reserves everywhere, and plenty of celebrities have homes here – Jerry Springer, Brian Johnson of AC/DC, and Stephen King! All that, and you wonder how properties have remained so incredibly low.

Rent and mortgages are both over the national average. It is not uncommon to see a three-bedroom, two-bath, single-family home for over $200,000.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Sarasota are:

  • Sarasota Jungle Gardens
  • St. Armands Circle
  • Bayfront Park
  • Siesta Beach
  • Ed Smith Stadium
  • Lido Key Beach
  • Sarasota Opera House

5. Naples

Naples, FloridaSource: Stephen Orsillo / shutterstock
Naples, Florida

Naples might be the place for you if you feel like flexing some financial muscle.

The city of over twenty thousand residents has carved out a name for itself as a millionaire playground, with high-end shopping and golf courses galore. Naples is fantastic, and to think you could rent a home for slightly over $1,000 is like a bargain considering the perks.

Peaceful white sand beaches mark it a pedestrian-friendly downtown area, and tourists love it for its proximity to the Ten thousand Islands and the Everglades. The crime rate is low in Naples, and it boasts an outstanding school system with a high graduation rate.

There is plenty to do, including spotting dolphins, fishing, or watching the sunset at Naples Pier, and the kids are sure to love the Naples Zoo, where you can jump on a catamaran to Monkey Island (yes, there are real primates there).

Living in Naples can be life-changing – for the better. Gallup-Healthways named it the Happiest and Healthiest City in.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Naples are:

  • Naples Pier
  • Naples Zoo
  • Naples Botanical Garden
  • Clam Pass Park
  • Lowdermilk Beach
  • Tin City Waterfront
  • Naples Depot Museum

6. St Petersburg

St Petersburg, FloridaSource: ESB Professional / shutterstock
St Petersburg, Florida

With sunshine every day of the year – bar five – St Petersburg has seen itself branded the Sunshine City.

It has a population of over two hundred and fifty thousand residents attracted to the Pinellas County area for its affordable cost of living and quality healthcare. These two things have endeared it to retirees.

But don’t be fooled into thinking this is a sleepy neighborhood. Entirely on the contrary, actually.

St. Petersburg has a lot going for it, and it is particularly famed for its active arts districts, museums, theatre companies, and festivals and events hosted all year round. It has recently taken a more youthful turn and features multiple nightlife options with a vibrant downtown.

Considering a two-bedroom single-family home goes for less than the national average, you will be hard-pressed to find a better place to live in Florida.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in St Petersburg are:

  • The Dali Art Museum
  • Sunken Gardens
  • St Pete Pier
  • Museum of Fine Arts
  • Image Museum
  • Tropicana Field
  • Vinoy Park
  • Weedon Island Preserve

7. Tampa

TampaSource: Bonnie Fink / shutterstock

Tampa is not mainly known as an exceptionally safe area, with crime and safety one of the factors that only serve to downgrade the overall appeal of Hillsborough County city. The only comfort you could derive from this is that crime is particularly rampant in Florida, at least compared to most other states.

That aside, though, the city of over three hundred and fifty-five residents is generally considered ideal for families, an understanding borne out of high-performing schools in the area, admirable healthcare, and a growing number of Fortune 1000 companies pitching tents here.

Indeed, Tampa continues to thrive in terms of jobs, and houses and rent remain below the national average. We could end it here, but let’s throw another one for good measure. Regarding recreation for the family, Tampa has 185 parks waiting to be explored, not to mention a theme park and many other attractions.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Tampa are:

  • Busch Gardens
  • The Florida Aquarium
  • Tampa Theatre
  • Glazer Children’s Museum
  • Adventure Island
  • Tampa Bay History Center
  • Tampa Riverwalk

8. Orlando

OrlandoSource: aphotostory / shutterstock

Another big city with over two hundred and fifty-seven thousand residents, the cost of living in Orlando remains surprisingly affordable despite the city emerging as one of the biggest tourist attractions in the state.

Houses and rent are going over the national average. And here is why we think this is the best deal in Florida. The Greater Orlando area has so many amusement parks that The Theme Park Capital of the World has been christened. We can’t remove anything from a city that draws as many as 55 million visitors annually.

But tourism is beside the point if you want to be a local.

Orlando has 115 neighborhoods, and more reasons why it warrants a mention on our list are 1. Unemployment rates are lower than the rest of the country (this is a biggie in a state with a high unemployment rate); 2. The public education system can hold its own; 3. The city offers good public transportation.

Sports lovers might also have to contend with coin-toss decisions every other weekend because there are all manner of great sports teams here. Basketball. Ice hockey. Soccer. Baseball. Women’s football.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Orlando are:

  • Universal Islands of Adventure
  • Universal Studios
  • Lake Eola Park
  • Magic Kingdom
  • SeaWorld
  • Orlando Science Center
  • Discovery Cove
  • Orlando Museum of Art

9. Tallahassee

TallahasseeSource: Sean Pavone / shutterstock

Show of hands if you thought Miami was the capital of Florida…The big city may be the most famous place in Florida, but the plaudits for the state capital go to [drumrolls] – Tallahassee!

Tallahassee often escapes attention partly because it is more of a big college town, with the likes of Florida A&M University, Florida State University, and Tallahassee Community College all based here.

The capital’s over one hundred and eighty-seven thousand residents enjoy more than a low cost of living in a city where decent houses go for below the national average.

There is a quality transportation system, the colleges have spiced up the nightlife and shopping, and many wonderful family activities – museums, local parks, festivals, sports events, etcetera.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Tallahassee are:

  • Cascades Park
  • Tallahassee Museum
  • Mission San Luis
  • Museum of Florida History
  • Goodwood Museum & Gardens
  • Florida State University
  • Knott House Museum
  • Governor’s Square

10. Davie


Davie is a suburb that lies 30 minutes outside of Miami. More than ninety-seven thousand residents call it home, a population that perfectly reflects the great diversity of Miami and the state in general.

This is a famous shopping town where you will find everything you need without having to venture far out, although there can be a snarl-up when everyone is out. By and large, though, this friendliest of towns is known for its high quality of life—the income per household averages over $50,000, with residents also enjoying minimal tax rates.

Homes in Davie go for over the national average, and the universities in the town also mean the proper infrastructure is in place to accommodate college students. The city’s numerous schooling options well cater to families.

The place offers the benefits of living outside a large metro area but is still close enough to the big city. If Miami is your kind of town, but you fancy taking up residence just outside of the bustle, then Davie is a great contender for ideal locations.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Davie are:

  • Flamingo Gardens
  • Vista View Park
  • Tree Tops Park
  • Marando Farms & Ranch
  • Paragon Theaters
  • Young at Art Museum
  • Bar-B-Ranch

11. Fort Myers

Fort MeyersSource: FloridaStock / shutterstock
Fort Myers

Fort Myers is about 80 miles south of Sarasota in Lee County.

It has a population of over sixty-eight thousand, with retirees having a particular affinity for the area mainly due to its general livability. Great weather. Gorgeous beaches. Restaurants are aplenty. Major retail and outlet shopping. And even an international airport, the RSW.

Fort Myers also has one of the most affordable living costs for a town of its stature, with homes going below the national average.

Add a charming downtown to that equation, a farmers market, top golf courses like the Eastwood Golf Course, and plenty of other recreation options. It is easy to see why Fort Myers was featured in the Best Cities to Live in America list, landing at position 38.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Fort Myers are:

  • Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve
  • Manatee Park
  • River District
  • JetBlue Park
  • Florida Repertory Theatre
  • Fort Myers Brewing Company
  • Lovers Key State Park

12. Lake Mary

Lake MarySource: Naufragio / Flickr
Lake Mary

Lake Mary is a growing town in Seminole County with just over fifteen thousand residents. Despite its low numbers, single-family homes in this area exceed the national average.

This is a little on the higher side, and probably the high cost of living was one of the reasons the town missed out on the best places to live list because few places in the entire state can guarantee a more ideal setting for families than Lake Mary.

It is best suited for parents searching for financially rewarding jobs who want their children to grow up in a place with a strong sense of community. Median household income stands around $90,000, and the place is adding many jobs in the tech industry, a plus for parents with children who are into math and science.

The schools also score favorably on GreatSchools.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Lake Mary are:

  • AmStar Cinema 12
  • Lake Mary Museum
  • Trailblazer Park
  • Lake Mary Farmer’s Market
  • Timacuan Golf Club
  • Gatorland
  • Topgolf

13. Jupiter

Jupiter, floridaSource: William Silver / shutterstock

Jupiter is a small town in Palm Beach County whose over fifty-nine thousand residents place particular emphasis on the environment. The air quality is superb, and Jupiter has made efforts to invest in ‘living green.’

This is also the birthplace of the Jupiter Seafood Festival. If you have never heard of it, this festival comprises three days of food, music, and family fun. The cost of living is a tad high, with homes and rent above the national average.

While the crime rate is still a niggling issue, as in most of Florida, the desirability of this area has never been in question, and the high cost of homes just serves to reinforce this. Community events and parties are often hosted at the 65,000-square-foot community center.

Jupiter also boasts an excellent public school system that ranks 9/10 on GreatSchools, and all these factors combine to make this town one of the best places to live in Florida.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Jupiter are:

  • Jupiter Inlet
  • DuBois Park
  • Carlin Park
  • Jupiter Beach Park
  • The River Center Aquarium
  • Jupiter Outdoor Center
  • Dog Beach
  • Lighthouse Cove Adventure Golf

14. Winter Springs

Winter Springs, FloridaSource: winterspringsfl.org
Winter Springs, Florida

Winter Springs perfectly marries excellent academics, easy access to many entertainment venues, and opportunities for social interaction, which is a great place to live and start a family. The city of over thirty-four thousand residents is just half an hour’s drive from Orlando, where families go for more fun and entertainment options.

Four out of five elementary schools in Winter Springs scored an ‘A’ on standardized testing, and the area also has two high-ranked colleges close by – the University of Central Florida and Seminole State College.

Most people work white-collar jobs, with as much a portion of the city reserved for residential living. This is one of the best options for families in Florida.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Winter Springs are:

  • Cross Seminole Trail
  • Spring Hammock Preserve
  • Secret Lake Park
  • Central Winds Park
  • Lake Concord Park
  • Black Bear Wilderness Area

15. Lutz

LutzSource: 42Jules / Flickr

Lutz, a small suburb in Tampa with a population of slightly above 20,000 residents, is rounding off our list of best places to live in Florida.

We consider it one of the best areas because this is an affordable community where the cost of living is reasonable, with rents averaging below the national average. Homes are valued over the national average, and although that’s a little high in Florida, a median annual income is more than enough to get by.

Moreover, the crime rate is one of the lowest in the state, and the area has some great schools, which rate an intense nine on GreatSchools.

This is a friendly neighborhood that somehow provides exceptional value for families.

As added perks, the community is just 15 miles from the economic center of Tampa. And families have convenient access to some of the best beaches in the state, with Honeymoon Island, less than an hour away, as a perfect example.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Lutz are:

  • Flying Squirrel Trampoline Park
  • Lettuce Lake Park
  • Lost in Lutz Escape Rooms
  • Lake Conservation Park
  • Carrollwood Village Park
  • The Florida Aquarium

15 Best Places to Live in Florida:

  • Valrico
  • Oviedo
  • Weston
  • Sarasota
  • Naples
  • St Petersburg
  • Tampa
  • Orlando
  • Tallahassee
  • Davie
  • Fort Myers
  • Lake Mary
  • Jupiter
  • Winter Springs
  • Lutz