General Advice about Moving to Florida

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Where to Live in Florida?

June 2004

My husband and I are considering moving to Florida next summer and would like some recommendations on where to live. I am a school teacher and he is a carpenter (who prefers working on boats). Sad to say our story is being replayed over and over in the Bay Area:we cannot realize our dream of home ownership in this market and are looking for other opportunities. We are thinking of Florida because we want out son to grow up around the water and learn to sail, and I have family in Orlando (NOT even considering Orlando!). I have lived in the Bay Area since I was 18 (am now 33) and it's very hard thinking about leaving. So, we want to make sure to end up in a great place! It's important that we find a place that's diverse (in most senses of the word- I guess I really don't care if there aren't too many people that eat their bread with the butter side down), and that there are lots of different things to do. My husband is European and while he's assimilated well here, I'd hate to get him in to some small hick town where everyone knew our business and we felt smothered. (please no judgements on this, I used to live in one of those towns in Georgia, this is what I'm trying to avoid!) So if anyone has any ideas of a nice, diverse, teacher-needing Florida town/city (within 20 miles of the ocean) please share your thoughts. Thanks! margaret

I have lived in St Petes the areas around there. I love the area but the schools are horrible. Many race riots and fights. One that happened just before we left. There are very poor areas and it reminded me of the LA riots but on a much smaller scale. I understand your want of diverse areas but I can tell you that diverse in Fl means something much more different than the Bay Area. I am not sure how you can check on areas but maybe the local police or try subscribing to newspapers from the area or read them online. b3

Hi. I read your posting and thought I'd offer this website link to help you and your husband in your search for a new place to live:

I'm using it in my re-location search. What I liked about this article is it discusses the need for a city to have a balance of businesses in order to continue to grow. If you read the whole article, they go into depth about how they went about gathering their data etc.

I have family and friends that live in South Florida. All I can say is Florida is changing faster than any other place I've ever been.

My Grandmother lives in Pompano Beach and it's not the same place it used to be when I was a child. That's not a good thing. All the local charm has been taken over by strip malls and chain restaurants.

My friends that live there used to live in Chicago for 12+ years. They moved because of work. One of my friends is a flight attendant with American. He's a senior flight attendant and his route that kept him in Chicago was cut. He now has the South American route, hence the move to Florida.

They live in Hollywood, which has it's good parts and it's bad parts. In the last 2 years since they've been living there, they've witnessed a tremendous amount of transition as well. Too long to get into in this email, but if you wanted to talk to me about it off the list, I'd be happy to tell you more.

You will go into culture shock. Sorry to have to break the news to you this way, but it is the truth. Miami, or I should say South Beach, is really one of the only places in Florida that is gay friendly.

I put this in because in my own search, I'm looking for places that have a gay/lesbian center. I'm straight, but I feel that a city that supports gays/lesbians will have some sort of an arts scene. They are also less likely to be as conservative than the cities that surround them.

Having said all that, have you considered Sarasota? I don't know what the culture is like, but it's beautiful and they do a lot of boating there. Same with Boca Raton and Naples.

One thing you absolutely need to know about Florida is this: Bugs and Critters like you have never seen in your entire life. The first year/year and a half my friends lived there, I'd get weekly updates on what bugs were taking over the house, the lawn etc. It was like being on Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom.

The other things you should know about Florida is that it has really really bad health care, Dr.'s etc.

Also, it's the naked capital of the United States. If you can do it naked and make a profit, it' s in Florida. beth

Good on you for considering a move outside the Bay Area. My husband and I did the same search that you are doing just a few years ago (though we were moving from Europe) and narrowed our choices to Jacksonville and Tampa Bay. We opted for Jacksonville. Though, from your post, Miami is going to be the closest thing to what you think that you are looking for...

I will warn you, much of Florida is going to be very similar to the Georgia towns which concern you. For that reason, I would look to the cities rather than small towns. Also, other than Miami, there is not a lot of diversity (but really, how much diversity is there in Piedmont? Or, the Berkeley Hills. Or, diversity in political thought for that matter). Instead of using 'diversity' think in terms of 'can I find good Thai take- out nearby?'

Republicans and the Baptist Church have much of the same control in local politics that the far-lefties exert in our dear old Berkeley. Public education is not very good. Sex Education leaves an awful lot to be desired (no pun intended) We are still learning about international cuisine. There are too many confederate flags on pick-up trucks. That said, there are 'some great things happening here' and a crunchy, left leaning Berkeley girl like myself has found a home (a moderately affordable one at that) :-)

Miami (and oddly, Fort Lauderdale) were initially intriguing to us, but family moves to north & central Florida led us to focus on the Northern/Central part of the state. Like you we wanted to be near water so we narrowed our choices to Jacksonville and Tampa. Since then, we have found neat neighborhoods in Orlando (yes, really -- there are some great neighborhoods near Lake Oleola in downtown that were built in the 20s and have wonderful little shopping streets, diverse populations, etc). Tampa is definitely hipper and has a neat little light rail in its touristy section. It has decent museums and lots of nearby beaches. Certain aspects of Jacksonville could possibly be mistaken for 'South Georgia,' but we have managed to find a fabulous neighborhood where flamboyantly gay men rub elbows with the Lily set. We have great beaches and some small museums (just opened a Modern Art Museum).

Drop me an e-mail if you want to chat more re: a move to Florida or if you need any other help. Jan

We vacation in Florida every year, and while Miami/Ft. Lauderdale have a lot going on, Naples seems like a nice, growing community with a cute downtown. Michael

I grew up in St Petersburg. I wasn't going to post about this topic, since I didn't really like living there, but I wanted to comment on what someone else wrote about the St Pete schools being really horrible.

I actually had an incredibly positive experience at a public high school in St. Pete, and I am still grateful to have gotten such a great education. St. Pete High has a complete International Bacchalaureate program (meaning all of your classes, all 4 years, are pre-IB or IB classes - not just a class here or there like AP), which was just stellar - I have seen nothing to compare, anywhere else that I've lived. The teachers mostly had PhDs, and the students were really interested in learning. I felt challenged rather than bored in high school, and was well supported by teachers and staff. This was public school. St. Pete also has an arts magnet program at a different high school, also a public program, that was stellar when I was there.

Okay, that said - I think public middle and elementary schools don't compare favorably - my parents had us in private school until high school (that education was also really good), and my public school friends were pretty bored in their classes and had to deal with big race conflict issues.

As far as diversity goes... well, it's not all white. There are large parts of the population that are black, latino, and asian. But they are fairly segregated, location-wise and class-wise. My high school was probably 1/3 white, 1/3 black, and with big groups of asian and latino students, but they rarely intermingled, and there were big race tensions. There is a bit of local culture in that the area still has the local industry of fishing/sponge harvesting, and there are people who have grown up as fishermen and never left the area; but there is also a huge population of people who have moved in from elsewhere (my parents' community: entirely comprised of transplanted new york jews).

St. Pete doesn't have much in the way of an arts scene, that I could see, and they don't have a big alternative-lifestyle presence. Tampa and Sarasota seem better, but still not great. I think when I was there, the closest pride parades were in Atlanta or Miami.

Take all of this with a grain of salt, please, because I haven't lived there for 12 years. Jen