Does this place even exist?
June 5, 2010 8:45 AM   Subscribe

My SO and I are trying to figure out where in the state of Florida we should move. Please help us make a huge change.

We are a bi-racial couple, moving with our close friends and their two children (who are also bi-racial) (whew, forgive me for the overuse)...we are all excited to get the heck out of dodge, longing to leave the snow behind and look at some palm trees for a while. Most importantly, the lack of diversity in our area is a serious downer. And by downer, I mean abusive and depressing.

The man of the other couple is from Jamaica, and they would eventually be going there, whereas we would probably just rent in Florida, provided we like it. They will have about $3000 USD saved, we are semi-retired and so will be willingly floating them a bit (which is totally fine, and I only mention it because we will be trying to rent a large house or two bungalows or something that's sort of communal, provided we can find it). Northern Florida is totally out.

Here are our problems:

We really, really want to live in the least racist part of Florida. Diversity and tolerance are the MAIN criteria for this move. The kids are being abused, the adults deal with more than average bullshit. Less gawking by the locals will be a wonderful change (or at least we won't give a crap because we can retreat to the pool type of thing)

They have two small children, so a decent school system is very high on the list.

The oil spill is a consideration, obviously.

All of us are music people, dancing people, beachy people.

In reading some of the other Florida threads, a smallish town is exactly what we are trying to escape from.

Not-horrible crime levels would be wonderful.

We are just fine with all the touristy stuff, the kids (and the adults) are pretty ripe for some theme park action (not just Disney, but bring on some damn water slides, too, whatever.)

We have read page after page on the web about Florida, per capita murders, median incomes. We've looked at page after page of housing. We can afford $1500-2000/mo for rent, so no rich, rich, rich places. We do okay, not fabulously.

We trust you, Mefites, more than we trust those other resources.

Where in Florida has the lifestyle and attitudes we are seeking?
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation around Florida (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Besides getting advice from Me-fites, I have found the City-Data forums good for "should we move to" questions. With a surprising amount of racial-climate questions answered.

I've lived in Cape Coral and loved it, didn't notice any racial tensions, but it sounds like it is too small for you.
posted by cda at 9:07 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Stay out of Pensacola, and the rest of Northern, or panhandle Florida. At least when I was there it was pretty darn racist.

If I were you central Florida would be right out as well, at least rural parts. I don't know what Orlando is like tho.

Hopefully some florida mefites will chime in with some cool places. I wonder if the Keys would fit your criteria.

As far as quality of life I really loved living in Sarasota when I was there but it's been a long time and don't know anything about school systems, etc. Bradenton which is right above Sarasota would be a little cheaper and seems okay. Lovely lovely beaches!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:38 AM on June 5, 2010

Tampa-St Pete area or Miami area.
posted by gnutron at 9:52 AM on June 5, 2010

I am in a mixed-ethnicity marriage and so are most of my inlaws. mrdoodley and I live in Gainesville and we will not be staying here. North Florida is not what you want.

Orlando is pretty ok. There are a lot lot lot of Latinos and other Caribbean people of color (hard to parse that distinction but you know - Caribbeans whom white people would describe as black but who actually identify with their own nationality/island/ethnicity). It is only about an hour to east coast beaches (Cocoa, Daytona) from the east side of Orlando.

I have lots of family in Tampa, in various mixed ethnicity relationships, including Puerto Rican, Dominican, Jamaican, Cuban, Colombian and Haitian. Tampa has grown to become a very cosmopolitan city in the last 10-20 years and I bet you'd be happy there. Tampa has one beach on Tampa Bay (Ben T. Davis on the Causeway), but you're only 40 minutes from all the great Gulf beaches in Pinellas County.

Miami is quite lovely. Some people think it is crime-ridden but I think that depends on your expectations and where you can afford to live. It is by far the most cosmopolitan city in Florida. With your rent allowance, I think you could do quite well in Miami or anywhere else in Florida, provided you don't want to live *on* the beach. If you do want to live on the beach, you will have to evaluate the redneck-ness of the area in person.

In general, the Gulf Coast area except for Tampa is whiter/more redneck than the Atlantic Coast area, but there are plenty of exceptions. Look for larger cities, in general. Rule of thumb - inland is generally more racist (but always cheaper) than coast.

Possible exceptions: The north beaches of Pinellas County (Madeira, Redington etc) have lots of beach duplexes that used to rent really cheaply. IDK now but worth looking into. South Florida (Tampa down), including St. Petersburg, is full of neighborhoods that have lots of duplexes or else primary houses with "mother-in-law" units, and a lot of these are in historically nice neighborhoods that are not too affected by the crash.

Here's my shortlist of locations I am considering for when we leave Gainesville:
Tampa, St. Pete, Melbourne/Cocoa, Miami

Hope it helps. memail me with questions.
posted by toodleydoodley at 9:56 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

I live in Orlando and it's very diverse, although pockets exist within the city where you're more likely to see a particular ethnicity. If you find the right neighborhood you'll have access to music, culture, etc., but some parts of the city are lame (I used to live in a place loaded with million-dollar houses and while it was visually attractive and quiet it was also kind of lifeless). Winter Park, College Park, Thornton Park...all these Park-y places are nice and have coffee shops, bars, etc.

There's a lot of talk of crime here but I've never personally encountered it. Traffic, however, will seem terrible if you're from a small place. And one of my friends used to be a teacher here and was not fond of the school system.

Also the beach is an hour off.
posted by dervish at 9:57 AM on June 5, 2010

The further north you go, the further south you are.

I'd say near the highly rated schools in Palm Beach county or Broward county or Miami-Dade county. Much north of Palm Beach an you are limited economically and educationally (it's cheaper but there are mostly low-wage jobs). Exception is if you work in research/attached to a university and live in the community as well.
posted by tilde at 10:30 AM on June 5, 2010

Another vote for Tampa/St. Pete.
posted by tomierna at 11:26 AM on June 5, 2010

Miami or Ft. Lauderdale or anywhere between. The Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area is sort of a metropolis. Stay east of 95.
posted by millipede at 12:21 PM on June 5, 2010

Yet another for Tampa/St. Pete area. I've lived in several parts of Florida. (as a rule) you want to be South of Ocala, to me it was just like being in Georgia be North of Ocala. Orlando has many tourists, I would avoid. Tampa/St. Pete has a great airport, shopping, beaches and is very acessible. Both of my sons graduated from Tampa schools and did well. You have several universities there, such as USF, UT and several others. There is a Level I trauma center there, and a great Level II trauma center there. It is a well diversified area, and I really miss it. St. Pete has the Salvador Dali Museum, the largest collection of his work outside of Spain. The list goes on. Please MeMail me if you have particular questions.
posted by 6:1 at 12:23 PM on June 5, 2010

Tampa-St. Pete is about an hour north of Sarasota. So I'm throwing my vote in for it as well. You will be in driving distance of a lot of great stuff!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:32 PM on June 5, 2010

Test for a month before you commit. Going outside in any season but winter is like stepping into a giant oven.

Also, the place is infested by giant flying cockroaches that are attracted rather than repelled by light. Cookouts, or even sitting outside in the evening, are impossible.

Not to mention fire ants, killer bees and Formosan termites.
posted by KRS at 2:03 PM on June 5, 2010

I agree with KRS, you should come down for a month in the summer and see if all the time heat is your thing. I'd rather be hot than cold any day, and we don't even have a.c.

wrt bugs, it's not as big a problem as it sounds. cats will take care of your palmetto bugs (aka giant flying cockroaches), as will lizards and frogs (keep the cats away from these).

fire ants, meet amdro. killer bees - they exist but I've never met any. termites of any kind - if your house is susceptible, it will be tented as a condition of sale.

and as for sitting outside in the evening, just use some tiki torches. 19 million other floridians have already figured out how to deal with heat and bugs.
posted by toodleydoodley at 2:49 PM on June 5, 2010

We have cookouts all the time, and have never had a palmetto bug, though mosquitoes are unfortunately a part of FL life. We have tiki torches and citronella candles for when we sit outside the screened porch. You will have to get used to lizards rather than fireflies, which you will probably miss, and you will want to stay out of the heat in the summer afternoons. And yes, you will see a cockroach every once in a while, no matter how clean your home is. So you have a service that sprays every month or you take care of that yourself. Problem solved.

I was born in Temple Terrace, a suburb of Tampa, and I'd agree that the Tampa/St. Pete area is a good fit for you, for all the reasons others have already cited.

I wouldn't personally choose to live in the Orlando area because the tourism for the Disney area also leads to increases in the kinds of crimes that go along with it, everything from pickpockets to pedophiles.

I live in the Melbourne area now. When we first moved here, I had a really tough time assimilating because it was largely undeveloped, very spread out, and of course I didn't know anyone. Now that it has built up around me, it's a great place to raise a family. Pros: we're only twenty minutes from the beach and the school system is good, emphasizing math and science (naturally, since it is a tech-savvy area), cost of living is eminently reasonable. Cons: Unless you work in tech or support of the space program or military, the job market is very bad.

Although we have a diverse population, we tend to skew toward more Indian/Asian, perhaps because of the Florida Institute of Technology, which attracts lots of students from overseas. Thinking it over, I haven't encountered any Jamaicans here other than one of my neighbors and the Jamaican bakery down at the local strip mall.
posted by misha at 3:12 PM on June 5, 2010

I think Orlando is Florida's northernmost city. It's Georgia above that, the bad kind. I was going to say that really the only area for you would be the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale metropolis, but now realize that Tampa is kind of a blind spot for me in the state since I haven't been there much. For a racial salad bowl, a different attitude and tolerance level about race, music, dancing, beaches, non-smalltown, I say the Miami area is the place. So many people are from somewhere else, so it's fairly mixed up, and it's got the beaches and enough infrastructure and variety to give you options in terms of schooling. It's as cosmopolitan as you're going to get to my mind. No place is a post racial paradise, and there can be low-grade tensions between groups there like anywhere, but the point is you wouldn't be as unusual there as in smalltown nowhere. Crime is going to be an issue in any big city, but as in other big cities will depend on the area. There are places to stay away from, but you wouldn't be living in those places anyway.
posted by Askr at 3:20 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Coming in to echo the suggestion for Tampa/St. Pete. Leaning more toward St. Pete (the downtown area) because it's got a lot of character and is walkable to boot. Tampa is a bit of a sprawl.
posted by contessa at 4:27 PM on June 5, 2010

Want a metro area that's filled with beautiful and diverse people? South Beach.
Want more of a suburban feel with some decent night life? Delray.
Same as above, but less expensive? Lake Worth/Lantana.
Like beautiful white sand with the occasional patch of tar? Anywhere on the Gulf Coast in about 2 weeks.

We lived in Lantana for the year of the hurricanes. It wasn't too fun when we were into week two without power. Granted, it was an exceptional summer for storms. Ultimately we decided to move to NC for better weather (i.e., tolerable summers) and WAY better schools. The charter school system in Florida is broken and the public schools are a mess.
posted by Jambi at 4:45 PM on June 5, 2010

Used to live in Tampa, now live in north-central, rural Florida. My bi-racial friends from Tampa do not feel comfortable up here. Many people are retiring to this area, so it is changing. Tampa area would be a good choice.
posted by misspat at 5:22 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Support for Cape Coral/ Ft Myers. Plenty of foreign (read: German) part-time residents to mitigate the redneck aspect, and the property values have dropped substantially since the real-estate bubble burst, so rentals should be cheap.
Naples an hour south, Sarasota/ Tampa/ Miami within 2-3 hours.
School system I can't really speak to, but no worse than all of FL. Politics pretty neutral, as so many residents are snow-birds, and only there for 6 months and a day. Fairly decent social scene, and I detected no serious issues with race while living in Lehigh Acres for ten years- most hate was directed to the snow-birds. I worked in Ft Myers and Naples during that time, so I think anywhere along that corrider that fits your budget is safe.

Naples is the higher-end, but you should consider the area - and you can't beat the beaches at Sanibel/Captiva. It's just very hot and muggy until December.
posted by Stellaboots at 8:22 PM on June 5, 2010

dervish: Traffic, however, will seem terrible if you're from a small place.

Ha ha ha, that is funny. I moved to Orlando from Dallas, and I think the traffic is horrible.
posted by I am the Walrus at 1:54 PM on June 7, 2010

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