Retiring in Florida is almost a cliche. Many Americans immediately think of Florida when they think of retirement. The Sunshine State probably has the most retirement communities and facilities in the world.
Certainly Florida has a lot going for it. The weather is nice most of the year, especially in the north. Some areas get almost 200 days of sunshine per year. South Florida can get humid in the summer, but the early mornings and evenings are pleasant. And there are many well-known attractions like Disney World, Universal Studios, Busch Gardens, and Sea World. Of course, the ocean beach is never far away.
The cost of living is about average for the U.S., and much lower than some other parts of the country like the Northeast and West Coast. And with so many retirees, there is an elaborate and well-established healthcare network in place. Finally, Florida has many airports, for those who want to travel. The median population age is 40.7, higher than the national median.
Many cities are spread out and lack a developed, walkable, central downtown area. So driving or public transportation are required in many places.
Living costs can vary a great deal within the state. Beach communities and southern towns tend to have much more expensive housing and higher costs than inland and northern towns. Although not the largest state, Florida is diverse enough to fit almost any retirement lifestyle.
The Florida climate is characterized as humid subtropical. Summers are hot and humid, while winters are mild. The weather is heavily influenced by the proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. Key West is the only frost-free location in the continental U.S.
The median home price in 2015 was $175,300 which was much lower than the national median. The price varies considerably across the state. In parts of southwest Florida and the Panhandle the price can be over $250,000 while in the inland parts of the north it can be as low as $55,000.
Florida’s overall tax burden is the 27th highest in the U.S. There is no state income tax, but the sales tax at 6% is one of the higher rates in the country. The property tax is 16th highest in the country. There is no inheritance or estate tax.
Florida is teeming with attractive retirement destinations. Here are several affordable choices.
A mid-size town on the southwest coast of Florida, Sarasota (population 53,000) is a beachfront community with a lot of cultural amenities.
Sarasota is known as the art capital of Florida. Italian architecture and culture are abundant in the area. Many local homes and buildings are designed in the Italian style. The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art is the state art museum of Florida. It contains 21 galleries of European paintings as well over 10,000 objects that include a variety of paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints, photographs, and decorative arts from ancient through contemporary periods and from around the world. The museum owns the Historic Asolo Theater which is used for live performances and films. The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall on the waterfront was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright’s successor firm.
Other Sarasota cultural attractions include the Sarasota Ballet, Sarasota Opera, and many other musical, dance, artistic, and theatrical venues, including the Sarasota Players and the Banyan Theater Company. The Florida Studio Theatre has been operating in downtown Sarasota since 1973 and produces contemporary plays, musicals, and musical revues.
Sarasota hosts the annual Sarasota Film Festival which attracts independent films from around the world. The annual Sarasota Chalk Festival started in 2010 is the first international street painting festival in the United States, celebrating the sixteenth century performance art of Italian street painting.
Sarasota is known for its street art. Italian inspired statues are common and Michelangelo’s David is the symbol of Sarasota.
The warm climate and waters help make golf and sport fishing popular activities in Sarasota. The local community center supports a variety of sports including badminton, basketball, boating, lawn bowling, shuffleboard, and tennis.
With 128,000 people, Gainesville is the largest city in the region of north central Florida. The Gainesville area was ranked as the #1 place to live in North America in 2007 by Cities Ranked and Rated. Gainesville was also ranked as one of the “best places to live and play” in the United States by National Geographic Adventure. It is home to the University of Florida, which has the eighth highest student enrollment in the nation.
Gainesville is famous for its music and was the starting point for many well-known groups. The founders of ‘Santa Jam’ hold concerts every December in Sarasota and throughout North Florida as a toy fundraiser for sick, injured, and homeless children. Gainesville also hosts an annual three-day rock festival known as The Fest, typically during the last weekend in October.
Other regular events include the Spring Arts Festival, one of the three largest annual events in Gainesville known for its unique art displays; the Downtown Festival and Art Show, which attracts national award-winning artists and more than 100,000 visitors; and the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire which has drawn thousands of fairgoers annually for over 20 years. The Gainesville Improv Festival provides a venue for new talent.
Gainesville also provides many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. The Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail is a 16 mile trail for walking, biking, and horseback riding. San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park has 20 miles of trails and is a popular place for walking, biking, and nature viewing. Ichetucknee Springs State Park is a 2,241-acre space for wildlife viewing and tubing and swimming in the six-mile-long Ichetucknee River.
Venice is a town of 21,000 on the west coast of Florida, just a short drive to Sarasota, Tampa and St. Petersburg. In 2014 Forbes named Venice among the top 10 U.S. cities to retire in based on location, and low cost of living and crime rate.
Venice is an exception to the spread-out design of many Florida towns. It was designed in the 1920s to recreate the atmosphere of a small town, with main streets lined with shops and restaurants, and surrounded by quiet neighborhoods with a variety of housing options. Venice has a hospital, art center, social clubs, and a dozen championship golf courses.
The town hosts events throughout the year, including weekly jazz concerts in one of its many parks. Venice is sometimes called the “Shark’s Tooth Capital of the World”, and holds a Shark’s Tooth Festival every year in honor of the many fossilized sharks’ teeth found on its coastal shores.The award-winning Venice Theatre has a full slate of live performances and the professional Venice Symphony Orchestra gives concerts and classes.
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