Floridians: Best place to live in Florida?

Ok…This is how much I know about Florida:
It has a diet book named after a beach near Miami.
Disney World and all those interesting little attractions are in the middle of the state.
It has a very large lake that I can rarely pronounce correctly.
And there are dinosaurs living in it’s rivers and streams.

Ok…I know relatively nothing about Florida. I am trying to learn as much about the state as I can, and due to the large doper populations that lives there, I’d like to hear from you.

Are the schools generally thought of as good. (public schools I mean)

Where are the most hip/trendy/cost effective places to live in Florida?

What areas are condiered ‘nice’ by locals? What areas are considered ‘not-so-nice’ by locals?

How is the economy in Florida? Jobless rates etc…etc… Mortgage prices? How much do they vary with proximity to the ocean/gulf?

Reason for asking…My wife and I are considering doing the split state thing with our residence. We’d keep our CT home, but we’d buy another home in FL. We can’t stand the slushy sludge between Dec. and April…We don’t have any children yet, but we are planning on it. My wife can work from home anywhere in the US, and I am thinking (just thinking as of now) to get away from teaching and start my own design business full time.

Any doper help would be greatly appreciated :slight_smile:

I’d relocate to Sarasota or Naples, if I were staying. I’ve lived in Orlando, Dr Phillips to be exact, for fourteen years and I’ve grown to hate it. If things go as planned, our children will be out of college and we can enjoy an early retirement in about ten years. They’re the only thing keeping us here for now. The only thing I’ll miss is the great fishing.

I’ll put in a good word for Gainesville. It’s not a big town, but because of the university, it has advantages that other small towns don’t (good shopping and restaurants, medical centers, jobs, etc.)

Gainesville was ranked the #1 place to live in America by Money Magazine a few years back, to answer your bit about economy.

And Alachua county has some fantastic schools.

Now, Gainesville is a small town at heart, bigger than it thinks it is because of the University. The University attracts quite a few top-rate speakers that are free to see. The arts community in general is fairly active, and the music scene here is more active than you’d expect.

One of its greatest benefits is the fact that it’s smack in the middle of the state. In two hours or so you can drive to Orlando, Jacksonville, St. Augustine, any number of beaches, and so on and so forth.

A good place to live, a great place to go to school. Don’t know how long I’ll stay after graduation, though.

It depends on where you are. I would strongly urge that you research the area before you move. Don’t come to Lake County…I’ve got the kidlets in private school.

If cost is a factor, avoid Isleworth, Windemere, some places in Winter Park, Palm Beach. The Deltona area of Volusia County has some nice houses for reasonable prices.

Pine Hills, aka Crime Hills, is a bad area. Parramore is getting better, but it still needs a lot of work.

There is no state income tax, and although there is a heavy emphasis on service jobs, you can get a decent paying job (like mine :D) if you know where to look. What’s your area of expertise?

Mortgages are a bit tricky. I consider Lake County, specifically the southern part, horribly overpriced for what you get in a house. That’s why we built ours. As I said, Volusia County seems to be pretty decent as far as costs go.

The schools in the Dr Phillips/Windermere area are top-notch by State standards. Fair by national standards. Most schools are terrible. The local school is a window into the community.

There’s an article in today’s Orlando Sentinel describing how a lot of housing in the state in being bought on spec and goes into detail how this is going to cause an oversupply in the near future. I’d link to it but you have to subscribe. I’d wait a year or so before buying.

Are there good restaurants? I was just there Tuesday and all I saw was chains. (my dad took me out to eat at, shudder, Ruby Tuesday at the mall) I’m thinking of moving there for school but I’m dreading giving up good food. (I actually grew up there but moved away in '86.)

I know someone who lives in and loves Gainesville. For your purposes, it is certainly a place to consider. As a long shot, I’ll mention a place called Cedar Keys. It is off the beaten path and living there would be a lot like living in Florida 50 years ago. The people are friendly and the seafood is outstanding, since it can’t be anything but fresh. Fact is that it is not too far from Gainesville and my friends go there for fishing and sailing. So here we are again, in Gainesville. :wink:

Oh, there are plenty of good places to eat in Gainesville if you want to avoid the chains! Of course, some chains are better than others. I miss that town like crazy, as I lived there (mostly) happily between 1996 and 2003. Try:

Chop Stix Cafe (pan-Asian)
Farah’s On the Avenue (Mediterranean)
Leonardo’s 706 (Italian)
Dragonfly (sushi)
Emiliano’s
Mellow Mushroom
Satchel’s Pizza
Sonny’s Real Pit Barbecue (Gainesville has the original!)
Gyro Plus
Falafel King
Las Margaritas (Mexican)
Mr. Han (Chinese)
Don Pablo’s (Mexican)
Cracker Barrel
Moraghot (Thai)
Mildred’s Cafe
Burrito Bros.
Yamato Steakhouse
Kotobuki (sushi)
Bento Cafe (pan-Asian food and bubble tea)
Mi Apa Latin Cafe
Tony and Pat’s (pizza)

All the town needs is a Fuddrucker’s, but there’s always plenty of good, cheap eats around Gainesville. And it’s just a great place to be in general, if you’re of college age. I’m 26 and I feel out-of-place there every time I visit, but I know it’ll always be the location of some of my happiest moments.

Lou, we need to have a beer next time you’re in town.

I was in Gainesville, Florida three weeks ago, and while I thought it was fine, it certainly would not be my first choice if I was looking for a college town. I would take, say, Charlottesville, Virginia (University of Virginia, Monticello, and much more) any day over Gainesville. Of course, that isn’t in Florida so Gainesville may be fine for you. However, I would pick Naples if it were me. Anyone know what the lesser Florida Keys are like? I know a little bit about Key West but I have never heard much about the others. Just curious.

A lot depends on where you were raised or what you like as to what part of Florida would be the best for you. I’ve lived in 3 regions of Florida, the urban South Florida, Orlando and Tallahassee. I am extremely familiar with all parts of Florida and have been to all 67 counties.

A good rule of thumb is this:

South Florida (from Vero Beach south on the Atlantic Coast) settled by and very much like the Northeast

I-4 Corridor (Daytona to Tampa) and Southwest Florida: Very midwestern like because most folks that settle there are from the Midwestern Rust Belt States. Although Orlando is getting quite a few South Florida transplants as is Naples.

North Florida (From Ocala up to Jax and over to Tally) South Georgia with exceptions of small pockets of liberals/tree huggers living in the University towns of Gainesville and Tallahassee.

Northwest Florida (the Panhandle from Apalachicola River to Pensacola) South Alabama with military being a HUGE influence and employer in this area. Only part of Florida in the Central Time Zone

So, if you like fast times and fast somewhat pushy people with year round warm winters with people of all cultures…South Florida is the place for you.

If you still like big cities but at a slower pace and not such a dense population as South Florida then try Tampa and Orlando.

If you like Live Oak trees with spanish moss, crystal clear springs and rolling hills, the Northern part is for you.

If you love a very conservative and small town type way of life with the most goregous beaches you’ll ever find…the Panhandle is it! Although development is surging in that area with the big gorilla known as St. Joe, the largest land holder and developer in the state.

Public schools ain’t all that great in Florida, but you’ll find the best ones in the big university counties like Alachua and Leon and in the affleunt counties like Sarasota and Palm Beach.

Personally I find Orlando the most annoying metropolitan area in the USA. 24/7/365 days a year of tacky tourist. An ungodly amount of traffic with poor freeways and a very blue collar/service industry dominated economy. Orlando reminds me of the kid in school that always wanted the teacher’s attention. While I find Tampa Bay to be way more beautiful than Orlando with it’s bay and gulf vistas and the people seem to be nicer and more laid back even though the metro area is twice the size of Orlando’s.

I love going back to South Florida, but after being pushed around for a week or so, I’m ready to head back to sweet quiet slow north. Yeah it gets cold here in the winter, yeah we have rednecks glalore, but the simple life with empty beaches and nature all around you is the life for me.

YMMV and I’m sure for many of you it does!

Your being from CT, I’d think you’d like South Florida the best. The housing is cheaper in the north areas of South Florida like St. Lucie county as opposed to Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Oh yeah and I think the hippest place to live in Florida hands down is South Beach, but you better be extremely handsome and pretty to live there…otherwise you’re gonna feel like a ogre.

Indoors! :smiley:

Wow! thank you very much! My wife and I have been jockeying the idea around for moving to florida for 6 mos. out of the year for quite a while. We have a resurgence of relatives that live in FL. and they love it. I have a brother in South Beach and several relatives in Lake County…Mt.Dora to be exact.
We are pretty easy…mainly looking for fun, intellectual things to do and have the opportunity for me to do a little design work on the side. We virtual toured a nice 3 bdrm home in WINTER PARK that looked nice. Covered pool, spa, very nice lanie (sp?) porch… and that was 375k We’re still looking…thank you all for the great support, more ideas and tid bits would be greatly appreciated!

Avoid Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties at all costs. Middle Keys are quiet, lots of fishing. Upper Keys are a bit more active, lots of Miami people.

I’d say Gulf Coast if you like the water.

I live, temporarily, in the area near the top of Tampa Bay, right where Hillsborough (Tampa) and Pinellas (Clearwater/St. Petersburg) come together. One thing that I love is that even though the area feels fairly developed/suburban, every morning and night I walk past incredible birds on the way to my car*. Two nights this week I’ve walked past some sort of eagle or other really big bird of prey** that likes to sit along the little ditch behind our place. In the daylight he’s not there, but there are other large waterfowl instead. Lots of ibises, cranes, storks, etc. Tons of geckos. The occasional deer, bunny or squirrel. Very rarely a gator (but not right behind my house). Even though I was raised here I still think this is very cool. Maybe because I never noticed this kind of stuff when I was a kid.
*The association rules for the condo we’re staying in don’t alllow me to park commercial vehicles, so I park across the street at the megaplex and walk the 1/4 mile each way, every morning and night.

**I looked it up and maybe it’s an osprey. Brown on the top and white on the underneath parts. I see a lot of them around here, sometimes in large nests built atop poles or dead trees.

South Florida is, for the most part, unpleasant. The weather, of course, could hardly be more depressing for three-fourths of the year. Of course, if you’re only going to be there from December to April, that wouldn’t be too much of an issue. The built environment is extremely unattractive compared to just about anywhere else I’ve been. The sprawl is horrific. Beyond that, I guess it’s okay. There is some semblance of culture and points of interest, and I like the Latin-American/Caribbean influence. If you end up there, I’d suggest living in Miami, which despite its economic and crime problems is much more interesting than the rest of the area. Miami Beach would be a fun place to live, though it’s not the most practical due to the high prices and risk of flooding and hurricane damage. Please don’t live in, and thus encourage the building of, any of the disgusting communities popping up in suburban Broward and Palm Beach with the identical, ugly peach-colored houses and almost complete lack of vegetation.

Tallahassee is underrated. It has loads of natural beauty and some culture. It feels bigger than it is. The people who live there aren’t stereotypical Bible Belt types. The schools in the county are much better than they are in most of the state.

Orlando and Jacksonville are bland, overrated cities (well, I can’t say for sure that anyone likes Jacksonville). I haven’t spent much time in Tampa, but it seems nice enough, along with the rest of SW Florida.

Make the right decision. :wink:

I live in Washington County, about 35 miles north of Panama City Beach. The geography is rolling sand hills with crystal clear ponds and creeks and lots of springs, and huge oak trees with Spanish moss, lots of farms and pastureland.

The Panhandle has the best beaches, in my opinion (and that of Dr. Stephen Leatherman, aka “Dr. Beach” who has picked Florida Panhandle beaches as the best in the nation three times in the past ten years.

Crime is low, cost of living is low, the schools in Vernon are rated “A” by the state, and almost all of the school facilities are brand new (the new Vernon high school just began construction) thanks to the state lottery. Unemployment in Washington County runs about 4%. The best jobs are in Bay County (Panama City and Panama City Beach), just south of Washington County. The military is a huge part of the economy in the area.

There are tons of useful information on this site: Florida’s Great Northwest.

I am currently training in Tampa, Temple Terrace to be exact. I am also trying to arrange a transfer down from NY to here, that’s how much I like it. Tampa is a city with a small town feel. I’m out by FSU, and let me tell you by NY (Orange County) standards the prices are a steal.

I’ve been out to Siesta Key in Sarasota, which is lovely. The beach is great for walking. That is less than an hours drive from Tampa.

OK, the only schools I’ve been looking at are graduated night schools, so I can’t really help you on the school angle.

I really like Florida, and the humidity is not all that hard to take