Quick Facts About Florida
One of the wildest, weirdest and most wonderful states in the union, Florida may be best known for its beaches and theme parks, but there’s so much more to experience here than the rides and sand and the surf. The Sunshine State covers over 53,000 square miles of subtropical and tropical terrain, much of it an unspoiled wilderness of sand pines, nature sounds and undulant dunes — prime habitat for the resident panthers, spoonbills and manatees.
Though many have painted the state of Florida with a broad brush, the roughly 22 million residents are anything but a homogeneous bunch. The Sunshine State has a diverse population from all over the globe. And, unlike most other states, Florida has several large metropolitan areas, rather than just one or two. So, you can find a city with a culture, community and style that suits your own.
Florida has welcomed over 3.4 million new residents in the last decade. According to the annual United Van Lines Movers Study, Florida is one of the top states people have moved to in recent years. It’s also the fastest-growing state, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Some of the newcomers are retirees, looking for mild weather and an easier lifestyle. Others are young people, seeking mild weather and an easier lifestyle. Even if you don’t intend to spend all your free time sunning on the white sand beaches or hit the greens on the many lush golf courses, there’s no denying that the palm trees and salt air slow things down to a less frenetic pace. It’s really impossible to move at a New York pace in weather that’s this sunny and humid.
Another benefit: Florida imposes no individual state income taxes. And though the cost of living in Florida is slightly higher than the national average, the prices are modest compared to other coastal regions, like California or New York.
With three national parks, hundreds of state parks and an uncountable number of festivals, fairs and performances, Florida is built for families and tourists — you’ll never run out of fun things to do here. So, whether you’re watching the sun set over Sarasota or a rocket launch from Cape Canaveral, you’ll know you moved to a state unlike any other.
Weather in Florida
One of the greatest appeals of the state of Florida is the weather, which lures snowbirds from their northern haunts each winter and persuades many of them to stay permanently. It’s hard to argue with an average annual temperature of 72.5°F.
Winters in Florida are mild and sunny, except in the Panhandle, which usually has a wet winter season. Expect temperatures to average somewhere in the low 60s. Northern cities can get quite chilly, sometimes seeing temperatures below freezing. The record low was set in Tallahassee in 1899, when the mercury dropped to -2°F. If you venture as far south as the Keys, the only ice you’ll ever see is in your margarita or beneath your oysters at a raw bar.
Summers in Florida are hot and humid across the board. The average temperature across the state is in the low 80s°F, but the air feels particularly steamy from Fort Lauderdale to the Keys by July. The Sunshine State is also known for its afternoon thunderstorms, which can be a welcome respite from the strangling heat. The statewide average rainfall in 2022 amounted to 54.12 inches, close to the historical average.
Hurricane season in Florida is no joke. The season threatens severe and unpredictable weather from June-November, and mandatory evacuations are becoming ever more common, particularly in coastal areas.
Moving to Florida in the winter may be advantageous to those who want to avoid breaking a sweat altogether, but the late fall usually brings cooler temperatures without the storminess of spring and summer.
Living in Florida
Despite the heat and the hurricanes, more and more people are moving to the state of Florida. According to the 2022 United Van Lines Movers Study, the top three reasons people are relocating to the state are for retirement, family and lifestyle. Nearly 19% of these movers relocated for jobs in Florida, which is no surprise since the state is home to 17 Fortune 500 companies. Also, the employment rate is strong — sustaining its upward trend since the height of the pandemic. Unemployment in Florida has been below 3% since May 2022.
Florida is an aviation and aerospace giant, no surprise given the state is home to the renowned Kennedy Space Center, Cecil Spaceport and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Additionally, the state has more than 4,000 other business establishments in this sector, including Sequa, United Launch Alliance, Boeing, SpaceX and Blue Origin.
The Sunshine State is also a leader in life sciences — over 32,000 Floridians work in this field for 1,000 different employers, including the Miami School of Medicine, the Mayo Clinic, Johnson & Johnson and Bristol-Myers Squibb.
Of course, the tourism industry still dominates the Florida market. When you factor in theme parks, restaurants, hotels and international events, it’s no wonder this sector still outdoes both manufacturing and agriculture in the state economy.
The cost of living in Florida is just above the national average. However, at under $62,000, the average household income lags behind national levels. Housing in the state can be spendy — a single-family home in 2022 cost an average of $402,000 and townhomes and condos averaged $300,000. On the flipside, Florida prides itself on being a pro-business environment and does not impose individual state income taxes.
Most Populous Cities in Florida
The city has gained over 130,000 new residents in the last 10 years. They have found careers in diverse industries, from advanced manufacturing to financial services to biomedical research. The Naval Air Station is a major economic resource for the region — the base contributes more than $2 billion to the local economy. The University of North Florida, located in the highly walkable downtown area, is another draw, as is the highly regarded Mayo Clinic.
Known as “America’s Logistics Center”, Jacksonville encompasses 874 square miles of northeast Florida, making it the largest city by area in the continental U.S. With a population of just under 960,000, it’s also the most populous city proper in the state. Housing in this river city is modest by coastal standards. The median home value in Jacksonville is just $203,400 and rent averages $1,146 per month.
One of the benefits of living in Jacksonville is that it does experience four seasons. It’s not often that you see snowflakes, but temperatures will dip into the 30s in the wintertime. Spring and fall can be delightfully cool.
Adding to its appeal, Jacksonville has the largest urban park system in the country, with truly unspoiled beaches up and down the coast — no crowds, no tumbling red Solo cups and no tiki cruises. What you will find are some of the best shrimp in the world. Whether you have them fried, steamed, blackened or broiled, it’s hard to beat the catch from Mayport.
Just three hours southeast of Jacksonville, Orlando’s population has swelled by nearly 70,000 since 2010. Today, 309,000 people call the “City Beautiful” home. Housing here is more expensive than in other areas of the state, with the median home value now at $283,700. Rent is far above average in Orlando, exceeding $1,300 per month.
It would be hard to find someone on Planet Earth who doesn’t know what Orlando is famous for, but the city is more than spinning teacups and diving dolphins, okay? There’s also the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! Beyond the theme parks, the city has developed a diverse economic base in bio tech, defense, simulation, aerospace and advanced manufacturing. It’s been named one of the Top 10 American Cities of the Future three years in a row. Plus, Orlando ranks second in the nation for job growth.
Orlando is also a place to explore outdoors. The annual North Shore Birding Festival, for example, leads ornithological enthusiasts on four days of wildlife adventures, where you could spy one of the 360-plus species of birds that live in and migrate through the region. Kayaking is another popular pastime, both at Shingle Creek — the headwaters of the Everglades — and through the clear waters of the natural springs, where you might happen upon a pod of manatees.
Nothing quite encapsulates the Florida vibe like Miami. The most cosmopolitan of all the cities in the state, the “Magic City” is known for its beach scene, its nightlife and its Art Deco architecture. This city of 439,890 has gained over 40,000 new residents in the last decade. The larger Miami-Dade County area has over 2.6 million residents. Miami has one of the most diverse populations in the state and the influence of the prominent Cuban community can be felt everywhere — in the food, the music and in everyday life. That’s especially the case in Little Havana, where you can sample a hand-rolled cigar from a local shop or watch a game of dominoes at Máximo Gómez Park.
Not surprisingly, tourism is one of the primary industries in this cruise capital of the country. Visitors flock from around the world to bask in the cultural riches while soaking up the sun. Some come to see and be seen at high-profile cultural events like Art Basel. Others gather for the wine and food festivals. Meanwhile, the museums and performances area draw for locals and internationals alike. But tourism isn’t the only economic driver in this paradisical city — trade, finance and media are also critical business sectors here. With all this activity, housing in Miami isn’t cheap — the median home value is $369,100 and rent averages $1,361 per month.
On the gulf side of the state, Tampa is a fast-growing, diverse, family-friendly city that’s home to major attractions like Busch Gardens and the Florida Aquarium. Today, 387,050 residents call the city home — an increase of more than 50,000 in just a decade.
This bayside city was founded in the late 19th century. Since then, it has solidified itself as the state’s business hub. Financial services, manufacturing, logistics, defense and IT are all major players in the state. Top companies in the area include Kforce, Masonite and Bloomin’ Brands, which operates Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s and Bonefish Grill. Housing here is above state and national averages but is still relatively affordable considering its coastal proximity. The median home value is just under $278,000, with rent averaging $1,249 per month.
Sports are a major attraction in Tampa, where the overheated can take refuge rinkside at a Tampa Bay Lightning game or get fired up for a Buccaneers game. The Yankees even do their spring training in Tampa. If you’re looking for less commercial action in your athletics, Tampa’s famous Grady Goat Yoga might be just the activity for you. This decidedly non-competitive but highly entertaining practice is good for both goat and yogi. You stretch, baby goats climb on you, and the world gets a little happier with each class.
Home of Florida State University (FSU) and Florida A&M University (FAMU), Tallahassee has grown by 15,000 people over the last decade, taking its population up to nearly 200,000. Housing here is modest by state and national standards. The median home value is $223,400 and the median gross rent is $1,072. Per capita, Tallahassee has the fastest-growing economy in the state. Healthcare, education, hospitality, technology and manufacturing are all drivers.
As a popular university town, the area has a lively, youthful vibe, combined with the stability a large academic institution brings. The surrounding area in the panhandle provides easy access to nature, including the Gulf of Mexico, which is only a thirty-minute drive south, as well as several nature preserves and numerous mountain biking trails.
In town, residents enjoy spending first Fridays in the Railroad Square Art District, while the Southern Shakespeare Festival puts on award-winning performances year-round. City parks abound, and the splash pad and Catalina Café at Cascades Park make it a local favorite.
Other cities in Florida have also become hot destinations of late. According to the United Van Lines 2022 Annual National Movers Study, most of last year’s top inbound markets were coastal destinations, and Punta Gorda, Sarasota/Bradenton and Fort Meyers/Cape Coral were all among the top 10.
Fun Things to Do in Florida
With a staggering 8,400 miles of coastline, and 825 miles of gorgeous, sandy beaches, Florida is one of the best places in the U.S. to soak up the sun. And with theme parks, state parks and national parks and hundreds of other unique destinations, the Sunshine State has fun experiences for every age group.
To some, spending time in the great outdoors in Florida means a poolside mojito and great people-watching. To others, it’s a pair of binoculars, a box of Kind bars and a can of bug repellant with serious DEET content. Fortunately, you can go easily from one of these extremes to the other — and everywhere in between. Some of the most famous seaside scenes are in Daytona, Panama City and Miami Beach. But did you know that there are over 200 national and state parks, preserves and recreational trails in the state, many of which also have beach access?
Florida has three national parks: Dry Tortugas National Park, Biscayne National Park — located near Miami — and Everglades National Park, one of the largest wetlands in the world. With 1.5 million acres of untamed beauty, it would be hard to see all of the Everglades but it’s worth it to try.
Cumberland Island National Seashore, located just north of Jacksonville, is one of the great island wildernesses in Florida. Manatees, alligators and wild horses are residents of this historic place. In fact, the only human inhabitants on the island run the famous Greyfield Inn, where you can dine on fresh-picked oranges and oysters pulled straight from the ocean outside the restaurant. A day trip on a ferryboat will give you ample time to explore the island’s historic and archaeological sites, where evidence of the Indigenous inhabitants, missionaries and industrialists tells a complicated and challenging story of America.
Florida’s state parks are one of the best ways to take in the natural beauty of the landscape. You can plan a day trip to go shelling or make a longer excursion out of it and stay overnight.
At Topsail Hill Preserve State Park, a serene getaway on the gulf, you can hike through the old-growth pine forests or paddleboard across the crystal blue waters, where you’re likely to see a dolphin or two. Topsail is one of five parks in the state that offers glamping services, so you can get reacquainted with nature with being, you know, too friendly.
If you’re more into wheels than water, Alafia State Park’s miles of mountain biking trails whiz their way through the hilly terrain of what was once the site of a phosphate mine. And here’s some cred: The trails have been designated as Epic by the International Mountain Bicycling Association.
If you’re hoping to see manatees, Blue Spring State Park is the place to do it — your family can rent kayaks and paddle along the warm waters of the St. John’s River, where these docile and majestic cows of the sea make their home.
Many Florida state parks were formed around old military forts and other historic sites, like Anastasia State Park, a 300-year-old coquina mine off the coast of St. Augustine, and the Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park, a former sugar cane plantation, which tells the problematic history of slavery in the United States.
If any city can claim to be the Theme Park Capital of the World, it is Orlando. There are the classics, like Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios and SeaWorld. But more recent arrivals offer updated appeal, too, like Disney’s Animal Kingdom, where you’ll encounter real and rare creatures — like okapis and cotton-top tamarins. You can also take flight atop mythical ones in a magical 3D flight simulator in Pandora: The World of Avatar.
LEGOLAND Florida has interactive fun for all your favorite pint-sized building enthusiasts. For those who have ever wondered, “Is it possible for a person to ride a firehose?” this venue answers an unequivocal yes with gravity defying Brickbeard’s Watersport Stunt Show. There are, naturally, LEGO-themed rides galore in this land of plastic building blocks, including the first virtual reality-enhanced roller coaster. (Generational sigh — even actual roller coasters aren’t sufficiently entertaining anymore.) The creation and building zone at LEGOLAND overflows with every imaginable shape, size and color of LEGO brick. We voted it the worst place on earth to go barefoot.
But theme parks aren’t the only playgrounds in the state. Florida is home to over 1,100 golf courses, including the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club and the Champion Course at PGA National. These are just a few reasons why retirees move to the state in droves. The weather, tax benefits and well-appointed retirement communities don’t hurt, either.
Speaking of sports, Florida is a great place to be a fan because there are so many large metro areas throughout the state. Baseball, football, basketball and (remarkably) even ice hockey all have strong teams. NHL buffs can root for the Florida Panthers or Tampa Bay Lightning; basketball fans have the Miami Heat and the Tampa Bay Titans; baseball fiends have the Miami Marlins and the Tampa Bay Rays; and footballers have their pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
One of the coolest things to do in Florida — or really, anywhere on the planet — is to watch a rocket launch. At the Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island (just north of Cape Canaveral), there are bleachers set up for public viewing of launches. The center is also an incredible venue to learn about the history of space travel, see the Lunar Module 9 and other spacecrafts and even meet a real astronaut. Those who want a little more action can buckle into a space shuttle simulator or explore the multi-story Planet Play area.
Eat Floridians’ Favorites
While thousands of miles of coastline, the Sunshine State is one of the country’s top seafood states, pulling in enormous hauls of shrimp, crabs, oysters, grouper, snapper, swordfish and mackerel each year. Which is to say that the ubiquitous fare of Florida — the blackened grouper sandwiches, the grilled mahimahi and the raw or fried oysters — should never be underrated.
Unlike the chain burger joints that pepper much of the country, the abundant mom-and-pop shops in Florida — like the Lazy Gator in Ruskin or Calypso in Pompano Beach — capitalize on just-caught catches and know better than to detract from the fish’s natural perfection.
The northern climes of Florida are known for their wild Atlantic shrimp. It’s worth making a trip to try the ones harvested from Mayport, whether it’s at a nautical dive like the Sandollar or a cozy, French establishment like Le Clos on Amelia Island. Don’t trust any place that doesn’t make their own tartar sauce.
Key West is famous for its smaller pink shrimp, which are well complemented by the local Key limes — both in palate and in palette. The unassuming Key West Lobster Shack serves a shrimp roll that is adorned by only a splash of fresh lime and some warm butter, exactly as the gods intended.
While you’re at the southernmost point in the United States, treat yourself to the city’s official dessert: Key lime pie. There are shops that sell nothing but, and bakeries that sell pies and more. The favorite of locals is the Old Town Bakery, where you can also score a killer chocolate croissant and the shop’s signature sandwich, the TB&J (that’s turkey, bacon, and red onion jam with lettuce tomato and sprouts).
In Miami, Cuban food is king. The place to sample the most expertly prepared traditional fare is at La Rosa. Since 1968, this elegant, approachable restaurant has been preparing the freshest ceviche, croquetas and empanadas. Of course, if you find yourself craving red meat, do order the Rabo Encendido, red wine and herb-braised oxtail that’s only served one or two times a week. When it’s not available, go for the deceptively simple churrasco, skirt steak dressed in piquillo pepper and chimichurri.
Prepare for Your Move to Florida
Are you ready to move to Florida? Get a moving quote from United Van Lines.
Choosing a reputable moving company like United Van Lines will help make your move to Florida as stress-free and easy as possible. Our professional long-distance movers can help you move to the Sunshine State from anywhere in the U.S. We can provide full-service moving packages so you can focus on what matters most: Settling into your new home.
Moving within Florida? United Van Lines’ local movers in Florida can help you move from one city in Florida to another independently under their own brands and business names.
Whether you want to move DIY or have us handle everything for you, our team can help make your move easier.