You might think that living in Florida is all about sunshine, beach activities, year-round golf, great seafood, terrific shopping, and tons of nature and wildlife, but it’s not always that exciting. In these parts, we do normal things too, like go to work, school, and the grocery store. We do laundry, and we pay bills.
The only difference is we do it all in Florida.
The truth is, living in Florida is pretty great. But it’s not just the weather. It’s also the low cost of living, the affordable housing, and the tremendous opportunities for entertainment and recreation. If you’re wondering what it’s like to live in Florida or if you’re thinking of moving to Florida, we have a bit of a snapshot that will help you decide whether this is the state for you.
Golf and Other Sports
Many people decide on a Florida retirement simply because they imagine playing golf almost every day, and this is a great place to do it. Florida has approximately 1,250 golf courses, more than any other state. The Villages, one of the most popular Florida retirement communities, has 11 championship and 32 executive golf courses all on its own. Many of the courses are public and come with reasonable greens fees. According to Golf Digest Magazine, the best Florida golf courses include TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra and Calusa Pines in Naples.
As a Florida resident, there are lots of other professional and amateur sports to enjoy. Spring training baseball is a big deal, and the Grapefruit League brings teams like the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees, the Toronto Blue Jays, the Baltimore Orioles, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Minnesota Twins, and others to Florida for pre-season workouts and games. Professional football, hockey, and basketball are all represented in Florida, and there’s nothing like college football season when the rivalry between the University of Florida and Florida State University gets real.
Beaches and Lakes
With 663 miles of shoreline, there are hundreds of beaches on Florida’s Gulf Coast and Atlantic Coast. Some of the most visited beaches include Clearwater Beach in Clearwater, Siesta Key in Sarasota, and Jacksonville Beach in Jacksonville. One of the things that makes beach hopping in Florida so much fun is that you can find different things to love at each coastal spot. For great sunsets, head to Venice Beach, and for family fun, try Daytona Beach.
If saltwater gets tiring, there’s plenty of freshwater fun to enjoy as well. Florida has more than 30,000 lakes covering over three million acres of the state. These are great for fishing, boating, kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding. Some of the prettiest and wildest lakes can be found in communities like Kissimmee, Lakeland, and Ocala.
Florida is also known for its crazy rivers like the Myakka River, St Johns River, and the Withlacoochie. There are also natural springs throughout the state, providing a place for snorkeling, swimming, and watching the wintering manatees.
Cities and Towns
Florida is made up of a lot of cities and towns that make excellent full-time homes and part-time snowbird retreats. Plenty of people decide to live in heavily populated cities like Miami, Tampa, Orlando, and Jacksonville. This makes sense, but there are some smaller towns and hidden communities that also have their own charm.
Consider Mount Dora or Leesburg in Central Florida, where there’s antique shopping, rolling green hills, lakeside shopping and dining, and plenty of 55+ communities offering amenities and spacious homes. Planned communities like Lakewood Ranch are suburban and growing in popularity, with easy proximity to retailers, shopping malls, schools, and commuter routes.
Nature and Wildlife
Florida has a diverse range of habitats, and humans have learned to share space with alligators, manatees, dolphins, endangered tortoises, white-tailed deer, panthers, bobcats, armadillos, and about 44 species of snakes. Wildlife lovers, equestrians, hikers, and bird watchers will have a hard time finding a better place to live. There’s a vast and impressive state park system that includes trails, campsites, historical sites, and guided programs.
Some of the best places in Florida to enjoy nature include Ocala National Forest, where visitors can swim in the springs, hike for miles, camp under the stars, and enjoy activities like canoeing, fishing, and snorkeling. There’s also the swampy and astonishing Florida Everglades, where you can take an airboat ride, kayak through Cape Sable, or explore the coral necklace underwater at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.
Amusements and Whimsy
It’s hard to think about Florida without thinking about the amusement parks that people flock to every year. The entire Disney complex in and around Orlando includes mega-popular parks like Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center, and Animal Kingdom. There's also the nearby Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. In Tampa, it’s fun to visit Busch Gardens, and don’t forget Legoland in nearby Lakeland.
For a little fun that’s less crowded (and less expensive), consider some other entertainment venues for the easily amused. Old Town in Celebration has shopping, old fashioned ice cream parlors, and carnival rides. There’s also the strange but endearing Solomon’s Castle in Ona, which is a structure built completely of aluminum. Other fun places to visit in Florida that are a bit off the beaten path include Sarasota’s Museum of Whimsy and Spook Hill in Lake Wales, where gravity takes a weird turn.