If you’re moving to Florida and like the the energy that larger cities provide, then you probably have been searching the web for the best cities to live in Florida. If so, you probably have been disappointed because Florida cities have not appeared anywhere other than the bottom of the best places to live lists for years.
Forget Looking for Best Cities to Live in Florida for another 2-3 years.
The last recession hit Florida harder than just about any other state in the U.S. It’s hard for a city to make a best places list when it has the among highest unemployment, foreclosure and crime rates in the country. In fact, Florida cities have made it to the top of a few lists and even dominated the top spots, unfortunately they were not the kind of lists you want to be on.
Florida Tops Most Miserable Places to Live in the US List
Forbes Magazine, a well respected business related publication named Miami as the most miserable place to live in the US in 2012. This year, thanks to Michigan cities like Detroit (#1 most miserable US city 2013) and Flint (#2) and multiple cities in California and Illinois, Florida Cities that dominated the list last year have been dethroned from the worst of the worst.
High Crime Miami Florida and Police Refusing to Take Emergency Calls While on Duty
Most large cities have a crime problem, but Miami has consistently ranked among the worst or the worst city. This video could help explain part of the problem.
Miami, named the #1 worst place to live in the US last year dropped all the way down to 20th worst place this year. That’s nothing to brag about and it still has the 7th highest crime rate of anywhere in the US. But it was given points for continuing to attract new residents (suckers?) and the unemployment rate has improved from the worst to just about average for the country. Florida is still the king of foreclosures but housing values have climbed back from the 60% drop in values at the beginning of the recession.
Florida Cities the most “depressed” in the US
Men’s Health Magazine did a study to see where the most depressing places to live in the US were. They used criteria such as anti-depressant use, high divorce, unemployment, and foreclosure rates among other factors that signal a less than ideal life. St. Petersburg and Tampa topped that list. The article explaining the results said that people living in Florida cities in particular were more depressed than in any other state. Could it be because a millions of people spent a fortune to move to Florida for paradise, but after living in Florida for a few years determine that it was just a mirage? Over 10 million people have moved to Florida only to move back out. The study from Florida’s own “University of Florida” where that data came from is the subject of other posts on this blog.
So Where are the Best Cities to Live in Florida?
If you are lucky enough to be in the top 5% of the wealthiest households in the US, you can find pockets of true paradise in any of Florida’s Major Cities. These areas are extremely expensive to buy or rent in, but they offer the best waterfront and or beaches, shops and restaurants all in a bubble of relative safety.
For the other 95%, my pick would be Jacksonville, Florida. In my opinion, it’s nowhere near the best place to live in the US, but I picked it for three main reasons. First, it’s the “least worst” city based upon my own observation from stays in each of Florida’s largest cities, and it suffers less from the ills that caused the other Cities to top the worst places lists.
Jacksonville is the northern most major Florida City. Although summer still last far longer than in the rest of the county, In Jacksonville you won’t be worn down by 9 months of heat and humidity every year like in south Florida. You could say it has 4 seasons but winter isn’t cold, just refreshingly cool in my opinion.
Because it’s just across the Florida border, it’s a shorter drive to visit the smarter people who still live back home. If you ever drove from the northeast US to anywhere south or west of Orlando Florida multiple times, or were unable to fly anywhere after the attacks on September 11th years ago, you’d appreciate how much easier the drive is from north Florida. Every year there seems to be more traffic and therefore more accidents and frustrating traffic jams.
Another place that I would suggest you consider is Gainesville Florida, home of the University of Florida. It is not a major city but because it’s home to the largest college age population in Florida, you’ll find most of the great things you wanted a city for, and a lot less of the crime and things you don’t want. Gainesville is also discussed in other posts on this blog.
In the late 1990’s Florida dominated best places to live lists. The sunshine state was the default place to move to for retirement. Things have changed. People are now moving to places that they perceive offer a more active lifestyle. Colorado and North Carolina make the top spots on on many of today’s list. More retirees are retiring in place. My own observation from spending a lot of time in Florida as well as the northeast US is that the winters in the north are getting milder (much to the dismay of ski slope operators) with the exception of this past winter, and Florida is getting hotter.
I do believe that Florida will rank higher on these lists within the next few years until the state experiences ugly hurricane seasons, similar to 2004 and 2005. Florida has gone eight hurricane seasons without a landfall by a major hurricane. That hasn’t happened since they’ve been keeping records of storm activity. That no major hurricane hit is going to end. That’s when I think that hurricane loss and sea level rise will combine to make homeowners insurance a real nightmare again. Florida already has the highest rates in the US. I don’t think it will be the default place to live or retire in the future.
Florida may or may not be for you, but if I was looking for the best city in Florida to live in 2014, Jacksonville and Gainesville would be on my short list. Actually, I would just chose Gainesville, but I’m not really a big city fan. In case you were wondering, I do not live in, nor do I actively show homes in either of these cities.