Since graduating university, Paul has worked as a bookseller, librarian, and educator. Born in the UK, he now lives in Florida.
What Is Life in Florida Like?
Florida, also known as the Sunshine State, is the southernmost state of the United States, known for its tropical climate, diverse wildlife, and plentiful beaches.
However, it is actually quite a big, varied state—far from uniform. The Miami area feels like New York transposed to the Caribbean. The panhandle area, which includes cities such as Tallahassee, on the other hand, definitely has more of a southern feel. The Orlando area is very touristy, and the Florida Keys are totally unique.
I have experienced much of the U.S. and wider world, but I now reside in the Sunshine State. If you're thinking of moving here, there are the relative advantages and disadvantages of living in Florida that you should consider before taking the leap. In this article, we'll explore:
- The Pros and Cons of Living in the Sunshine State
- The Cost of Living
- The Most Popular Cities to Move to
The Benefits of Life in Florida
Florida is the third fastest-growing state by population in the United States, so there must be a good reason why so many people are moving there, right? Well, here are a few:
- It is hot and sunny most days. As well as just being more pleasant, this means that you can plan an outdoor event knowing that the weather is likely to be good.
- There's no need to shovel snow in the winter! Scraping ice off your car windows is also uncommon, and there's no need to dress up in thick layers of winter wear every time you venture outside during the colder months.
- There is no state income tax. You'll just have federal taxes to worry about.
- There are lots of world-class beaches and state parks to enjoy. Even if you live inland, the beach is never far away—you can venture out to the coast and be back home the same day.
- It's a great place for yachting, sailing, diving, swimming, or going for a cruise, thanks to the warm weather and scenery. There is surfing too, of course.
- It's perfect if you like outdoor sports, such as golf and tennis. There are lots of high-quality facilities and the weather means that you can play pretty much all year round.
- There are lots of theme parks—Disney, Universal Studios and Busch Gardens—and leisure/recreational venues for the whole family. There's never any reason to get bored in Florida.
- Plenty of interesting and exotic animal life.
- Lots of nature trails, springs, rivers, and lakes to explore. There's also the Florida Everglades.
- The state is cosmopolitan and it has a very mixed population—there are lots of different groups and types of people of all ages. It is one of the most diverse states in the nation.
- In many parts of Florida, you can buy a new home for a relatively cheap price.
- The cost of living is relatively low in much of the state (though not everywhere).
- You can grow oranges and grapefruit in your own yard.
The Cons of Life in Florida
Despite what it may look like on TV and social media, Florida is not all sunshine and beaches. If you're thinking of moving to the Sunshine State, here are a few reasons to reconsider:
- The heat and humidity can be oppressive, especially in the summer months. Even if you are in the shade, you'll still sweat. Whether sat inside or driving in the car, you'll be totally reliant on air conditioning for most of the year.
- The weather can turn nasty sometimes. It rains a lot and it rains heavily. Thunderstorms can knock out your electricity, and lightning strikes are very common. Hurricanes can be disruptive and destructive if they come near you.
- Florida is completely flat, and it can make driving around tedious. If you like mountains, hills. and valleys, this state is not for you.
- There are lots of bugs everywhere, some of which are very large in size. The roaches and the fruit flies are a real nuisance, and you have to be scrupulously tidy when cooking or dealing with food. There are also snakes, spiders, and scorpions to contend with, as well as hordes of bloodthirsty mosquitoes.
- Some areas of Florida can be very touristy and over-commercial, especially in the Orlando area.
- Apart from a few notable places, such as St. Augustine, there aren't a lot of historical landmarks in Florida. The population of the state was very low until A/C was invented in the 20th Century.
- The state's population is exploding, which is placing an increasing strain on its infrastructure and natural resources, such as water.
- There is very little public transport—you have to drive everywhere. The only land travel alternatives to the car are buses, which offer only a very minimal service in most places.
- You don't really get four seasons—it just gets less hot and humid in the winter. If you like to experience the progressions of spring, summer, fall, and winter, you might be disappointed.
- If you like building snowmen, throwing snowballs, sledding, or picturesque snowy scenes blanketed in white, be prepared to be disappointed—there's no snow.
- South Florida suffers from high crime rates and a very high cost of living in some places.
- The drivers are terrible. The roads are generally good, but there is a lot of low quality, unsafe, and crazy driving that takes place.
My parents didn't want to move to Florida, but they turned sixty and that's the law.
— Jerry Seinfeld
How Much Does It Cost to Live in Florida?
Florida is not the cheapest state to live in, but it's not the most expensive either. A 2018 survey by the Council for Community & Economic Research (C2ER) ranked Florida as the 30th most affordable state in the US regarding the cost of living.
The cost of living varies considerably depending on the part of Florida, from the super expensive to the very reasonable. Your experience will also be influenced by the place that you come from because that's what you'll compare it to.
Because Florida is a popular destination for celebrities, retirees, and families chasing warmth and sunshine, housing in high demand. Though the price of groceries, utilities, and general expenses are comparable to the United States average, what makes Florida more expensive is the cost of housing—the average home costs $230,000, whereas the median price for a U.S. home is $200,000 dollars. Do keep in mind, however, that these prices may vary widely depending on which country you're looking to live in.
Considering its popularity amongst retirees and rich people with vacation homes, the cost of living is not so bad. It's important to bear in mind, however, that the minimum wage in Florida is $8.25—far below $11.75, which is considered to be a livable wage.
The Best Places to Live in the Sunshine State
If the cons listed above aren't enough to scare you away from moving to Florida, here is a list of some of the most popular cities to live in. Keep in mind that Florida is a large state, and there are plenty of other places to live beside the ones listed here, such as Pensacola, Jacksonville, St. Petersburg, Boca Raton, and Sarasota, to name a few. Make sure to do your research so that you can find the area that's right for you and your lifestyle.
Miami is probably what most people think of when they think about moving to Florida. It has the beaches, the year-round warmth, and diversity and feel of a big, metropolitan city.
However, it does have its downsides: there is a lot of traffic, a higher cost of living than much of the state, and the people are rude—on par with the get-out-of-my-way culture of big cities such as New York and Los Angeles.
Orlando is a fun, lively city with lots of things to do. If you like theme parks, this is your place—Disneyworld, Universal Studios, and SeaWorld are right at your doorstep. For its size, it's a pretty clean city, and it has far more to explore than your typical tourist destinations.
On the flip side, Orlando is one of the most populous cities in Florida, and that means one thing—traffic. About 70 million tourists visit Orlando each year. If giving directions to strangers bothers you, this is not the city for you.
Tampa is a big city with plenty of job opportunities and inexpensive housing. It also has quite a few colleges, such as the University of South Florida and the University of Tampa. Best of all, it's in close proximity to many great, clean beaches, such as St. Pete's Beach and Indian Rocks Beach.
Unfortunately, Tampa gets a lot of visitors every winter from "Snowbirds," or people escaping the cold winters of higher latitude states, congesting the roads. The wages are also lower and have less growth than other cities of a similar size in the country.
Naples, Florida is a city on the Western coast of Florida. It is one of the wealthiest cities in the United States, and it's no secret as to why—Naples is absolutely beautiful. With gorgeous beaches, Everglades National Park at its doorstep, and a great food scene, the millionaires flock to buy real estate in the city.
On the downside, the high proportion of wealthy people means that the cost of living can be high compared to other parts of the state. It is quite popular with the rich and elderly, which means that those of you who don't fit into either of these two groups may feel a bit out of place.
Florida isn't so much a place where one goes to reinvent oneself, as it is a place where one goes if one no longer wishes to be found.
— Douglas Coupland
Why Are There So Few Two Story Houses in Florida?
Keeping houses cool is a major expense and hassle in the Sunshine State, particularly during the hot summer months, and single story properties put less strain on A/C units. A big part of the reason for this is that hot air rises, making the upper floor of a two-story property difficult to keep cool.
Why Don't Houses Have Basements in Florida?
There's often too much water underground to make basement construction feasible. Much of the land in Florida sits on or near wetlands, swamps, or the coastline. The high water tables and damp soil mean that a basement would be liable to problems with flooding.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: How hot does it get in the Cape Coral area of Florida during winter?
Answer: January is the coldest month. Temperatures can be between 54 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, with an average temperature of around 64.
Question: Do I need a Visa to live in Florida?
Answer: If you are not an American citizen, they you will normally need a visa or green card to live there full time. Visas generally cover specific circumstances, such as study or work, and may no longer be valid should those circumstances change. A green card holder is classified as a "permanent resident" with the right to work and live in the USA full time. Qualification for visas and green cards and residency rights generally depend on the circumstances of the applicant.
Question: What are the summers in Florida like?
Answer: Florida summers tend to be hot and humid, thunderstorms are common. People tend to do outdoor tasks during the morning or evening, if they can, in order to avoid the afternoon heat. The coastal areas of Florida are generally slightly cooler and more comfortable than inland areas during the summer months. Insects are much more prevalent when the weather is warm and you are more likely to be bitten.
Question: What is the coldest it has ever been in Florida?
Answer: The coldest temperature ever recorded was 2 degrees below zero on Feb. 13, 1899, in Tallahassee. (Source: NOAA)
Question: Do people in Florida celebrate Christmas?
Answer: Yes, people celebrate Christmas just as they do in other parts of the USA, even though the weather is often fairly warm and sunny, and there is little chance of snow. Decorations such as snowmen and reindeer and tinsel-wrapped palm trees can seem a little odd if you are not used to it.
Question: What is the coolest month in Florida?
Answer: January has the lowest temperatures. December and February are the next coldest.
© 2015 Paul Goodman
Jim on July 27, 2020:
Reality Florida is hot, Humid bug infested , also infested with massive python snakes which unfortunately were brought in, native alligators in abundance, and people are somewhat prejudice and ignorant. You’ll find the ignorrents most with the so call native Floridians. Somewhat a nice place to visit for a short time but I personally would want to live there. If Disney world wasn’t there tourism would be down 1/3. The traffic at times could be horrendous and Hurricane season is no joke.
Yo what’s up on April 24, 2020:
That’s a lie everything‘s good
But the roads mostly have construction or usually blocked
Keidynce on March 26, 2019:
How is the weather, crime, that kind of stuff in West Palm Beach, FL?
Nancy on February 18, 2019:
whoever said that about a permit for everything was incorrect. That's only if you live in an HOA.
Jimmyj on February 01, 2019:
I also understand that you will need a permit for everything. Even trimming your own trees.
I would love a home on a channel to the gulf.
Chris on November 05, 2018:
I’d like to move. Not too sure about the wife...
anonomous on June 04, 2018:
this helped alot! thx for the pros and cons.
Eric on February 22, 2018:
Planning to relocate to Vero Beach from Audubon, PA this summer. Any info, good and bad, would be appreciated!
Paul Goodman (author) from Florida, USA on June 05, 2017:
Generally speaking, the coasts get worse hit by hurricanes. Inland is safer in that respect.
Alisha on June 05, 2017:
Is there any particular cities that are safer to live in than others for weather conditions
Brookie84 on May 30, 2017:
I moved from Virginia about a month ago found a great service. They actually went to go check out a couple of houses and the area where I was looking (mytruecity) so far Florida has been good to me and my family nice people and tons to do
Zee on May 16, 2017:
I'm a NY'er all my life. Brooklynite, for that matter. Used to living in an apt building, lots of noise, convenience of having every and any amenity at a snap of my fingers. I'm 45 raising two children (12 &8). I'm tired of the schools, excessive traffic, lack of space and the anxiety of planning to get to places outside of my immediate area. So, maybe it's time for a change?
Rjlamneck on February 09, 2017:
How does FL compare to So. California?
Lee on November 19, 2016:
We moved to Tallahassee almost a year ago, and we love it. We moved from Ohio. We do not miss Ohio at all. The people in Tallahassee are so nice, and we are loving the weather. Living expenses have been much more reasonable than Ohio. My advice to anyone that is able to move and you want to move: Move! You will not be disappointed.
Michael on November 17, 2016:
Florida is amazing for a few things, if you like the beach but don't want to live in Miami or Fort Lauderale and have a family their, you have Weston a inland city only 20-49 minutes away from Fort Lauderale and it ranked the 14th best U. S city, buildings are usually 2 or 1 story and it has some of the best Schools in America, as long as you avoid Opa Locka and Little Haiti, you have no problem, also, Florida is great for business and the air quality is always great, as a resident of Weston, FL I can tell you the truth about it all.
Mary on July 29, 2016:
I just moved to Florida 3 months ago and I agree with all points. My only true complaint is the CON of the drivers! I thought the tri-state area and NJ Garden State Parkway and Turnpike was dangerous. Get these 15 and 16 year olds off the road and reconfigure roads so there are no cut thru without having to go to a light. To much traffic for that.
Otherwise I love it here and happy with my decision! Living in Tampa/St. Petersburg area and very pleased. Do not let no state tax fool you - it costs the same to live here as it does in NJ!
Clementine on May 27, 2016:
Article written to try to discourage new people to move to the state. We have the same problem of over population in the state we live in, so people try to tell all the negatives about living here so that they won't come.
Most people that move to Florida know what they are getting into, for those who don't, they are the ones who have the negative viewpoint and dwell on it.