The Best Cities to Live in Florida 70

If you’re moving to Florida and like the the energy that larger cities provide, then you probably have best cities to live in floridabeen 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.

Are there any towns left in Florida that are have a lower cost of living and are safe? Yes, here they are!

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.

Florida’s Healthiest Most Walkable Towns

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.

Learn why 7000 people move out of Florida every week now and how you can avoid making the same mistakes!

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70 thoughts on “The Best Cities to Live in Florida

  • Jamie

    I hadn’t realized unemployment was so high in Florida. That always takes a big toll.

    I also am a big fan of university towns and will be reading some of your other posts on Gainesville. I love Boulder, CO and Eugene, OR–both are smaller cities but great places for art, movies, and great/affordable food because of the university presence.

    Will also look into Jacksonville more closely. The climate you describe sounds very appealing. I want some sunny weather, but I don’t want to swelter all year long!

  • deb broos

    I lived in Lake City, Fl for 10 years. It has a laid-back country charm, no state taxes, and the ability to homestead ($25,000. tax relief) after the first year of home ownership. The property taxes are quite slim. That is one reason I hope to leave Ohio and head back to the Land of Dixie!!!

    • India

      I live in Ohio also and I want to move out too I hate the cold winters it hurts my bones. I want to move to Florida but I want to make sure I move into a good neighborhood.

      • Ron Post author

        My experience has been that most people who move to Florida just to escape cold winters end up up moving back home or to a third state. Moving to a state that has 9 humid months can be worse than a state with 3 cold months and 3 humid ones. However, I’ve also noticed that long term satisfaction with Florida’s tropical climate is higher for people older than 75, or people under 75 if they have joint damage, bad arthritis because of certain long term employment, disease or just genetics or other ailments that worsen with the cold.

        Many older women (and men too) that suffer from osteoporosis may be right for Florida too. If you wear a sweater or jacket to the grocery store in the middle of summer, you may be an ideal candidate for Florida. The key to a successful move is to make sure that you won’t likely encounter more negatives in the other reasons folks move out of Florida, that will outweigh the perceived temperature advantage. The temperature in the grocery stores, malls, homes, cars, etc. in Florida are the same as they are in any other state. Don’t throw your coats away.

  • Alex

    Lol you picked Jacksonville. The city with the highest crime rate, highest rate of depression and suicide, and least amount of stuff to do for a major area in this state. Its ok, Im sure it will be worth it to be 4 hours closer to the Northeast and all the “smart” people there.

    • Ron Post author

      Check your facts Alex. Miami has the highest rate of crime in the state St. Petersbug and Tampa the highest rate of depression, suicide, etc (although all of Florida’s major cities rank high on the depressed chart compared to the rest of the US). Read more here

      Jacksonville has golf courses, beaches and everything else the rest of Florida has except theme parks, but they become boring to Florida residents after about the 6th visit in a year. Being 4 hours closer to the northeast saves on time and money visiting the people back home. Moving to and from Jacksonville (because most will move back eventually) from the northeast (where the “smart” people who only vacation in Florida live) costs less than moving from Tampa or Miami.

      • Ryann

        I was born in Gainesville and I still live here.

        However,I have also lived in Jacksonville and worked there. The crime rate is high and unless you plan on buying home starting at $300,000, you will be living in the more unfortunate areas. There are beaches but they are definitely not the nicest and the traffic is terrible. Some places like the San Marco area near the river are nice but very expensive.

        I love Gainesville. The homes are overpriced for the area, but overall it has everything you need. We are two hours from the beach, and we have multiple springs and rivers for kayaking. We also have a nice camping area and all of this in a 10 mile radius. Just like any other place there are “bad areas” but the majority is safe and nice. Our biggest crimes here are bicycle theft…

    • Ron Post author

      All of my picks in the “Best places to Retire Florida 2014″ are small towns or small cities (just big towns really), so you may want to start there. Please be aware that because they were chosen as a place to retire, they were chosen without regard to school district rating or the availability of employment. A planned February 2014 post on the “Best Places to live Florida 2014″ will include schools and jobs as a main consideration.

    • mm

      Ocala is a good place to retire. Rent is still ok and you can buy many houses for a great prize. Country feel with everything close around to have fun.

      • Ron Post author

        Ocala ranked poorly in the State of American Well-Being Index done by Gallop-Healthways. That’s where a child was beaten unconscious the very first time she rode the school bus there. Unless you’re a horse rancher, I wouldn’t live there.