So you're moving to Florida, and you'd like to get the inside scoop on the place before you relocate. We know there's a lot to take into consideration when moving to a new state - you can't just hop in your car, head south and hope for the best (at least, not if you want to be responsible). But whether it's sunny beaches, luscious golf courses, juicy oranges or friendly Disney characters, Florida has something to offer for just about everyone (plus their kids and their mother).
Florida produces 67% of the U.S.'s oranges and a whopping 40% of the world's orange juice supply, but the state is about more than just citrus and Vitamin C. For starters, Florida is one of only seven states that has no income tax. So already you're in for a boosted immune system and bigger paychecks!
With more than 1,200 miles of beaches and average summer temperatures hovering between 80.5° and 82.7° at each end of the state, and average winter temperatures of 53° in the north and 68.5° in the south, it's easy to see why Florida has one of the fastest-growing populations in the country - with more than 1,000 people moving there each day.
In fact, this state is so popular that stateofflorida boasts, "With 87.3 million visitors in 2011 (a record number), Florida is the top travel destination in the world. The tourism industry has an economic impact of $67 billion on Florida's economy."
Florida is clearly an eagerly anticipated destination. Read on to discover more tasty tidbits of information that'll help make your transition to the Sunshine State a smooth and well-informed one. Don't forget the sunblock - or your affordable home insurance policy.
According to minimum-wage.org, Florida's current minimum wage is $8.25/hour. The unemployment rate is currently 5%, which is less than half what it was just five years ago. So what are the 21,312,211 people currently residing in Florida doing to earn their money?
Aside from the obviously ginormous tourism industry, some of the largest fields with available jobs are the construction, medical, housekeeping, automotive, retail, restaurant and spa industries.
Bookkeepers and massage therapists are in high demand, as are gigs where you can dress up as your favorite childhood Disney characters at Walt Disney World, in Orlando.
As far as wages go, sun-sentinel states, "In Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties, the mean wage for highly skilled jobs is $23 an hour, according to the state. Entry-level workers in high-skilled jobs start at more than $14 an hour."
Before you start getting excited about making big bucks by walking around as Buzz Lightyear in the summer sun each day, we do need to point out that costumed cast members only make $10/hour. People who've worked as Disney characters say that the job can be extremely rewarding in other ways, however - just showing up dressed as Mickey Mouse is enough to make kids (and some adults) squeal with joy.
Of course, when you move somewhere new, you'll need a new place to live. The average house sale price in Florida is $200,000, but ranges from $50,000 to $400,000, depending on the county. One-bedroom apartments can average about $1,150/month in some of the more populated regions.
Houses available for sale are fairly new, too. Most of the housing in the state was built in the decade 2000-2010 - one of the upsides to having such a rapidly growing population. Not too shabby.
In addition, since Florida has one of the fastest-growing populations in the country and is such a tourism-heavy spot, there is always new construction happening - all over the state. The current most-populated cities are Jacksonville, Miami and Tampa.
Culture and Natives
Some of the first Floridians were Native Americans, with a couple of tribes still surviving and residing there today, including the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes.
"Seminoles refer to themselves as the 'Unconquered People' and are descendants of just 300 Indians who managed to elude capture by the U.S. army in the 19th century. Today, more than 2,000 live on six reservations in the state - located in Hollywood, Big Cypress, Brighton, Immokalee, Ft. Pierce, and Tampa," myflorida states.
As a result, certain areas of Florida were named after Indian words - for example, the town of Weeki Wachee (which means "little spring" or "winding river) and Wacahoota (meaning "cowpen"). A couple of surviving Indian languages still spoken are Muskogee and Hitchiti.
As far as Floridians' opinions of their fellow inhabitants is concerned, the consensus seems to be that people from the area are really nice, but they joke that any less-than-pleasant people are not native to the state, and have moved from the North. In fact, some native Floridians refer to all Northerners as "Yankees."
So although Floridians are typically happy and friendly. because two-thirds of their year is lit by sunshine and the ever-flowing supply of vitamin-rich o.j., it might be a bit difficult to get accepted by the locals if you're moving from out of state. Perhaps you should come prepared with your own material about Northerners and how they're ruining everything - no one will know the difference.
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Can't-Miss Florida Fun + Activities
Theme parks are among the most obvious of Florida's tourist attractions - Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and Sea World being the biggest - all located in Orlando. Disney World offers a magical adventure for kids and adults alike, with its Epcot Center featuring internationally inspired architecture, cuisine, shops and activities. One day at this park can feel like a (somewhat less expensive) trip around the world.
Universal Studios is home to several rides based on huge blockbuster films like “Terminator,” “Jaws,” “Twister” and “Ghostbusters.” It also gives Disney World some competition for the coolest costumes - there are workers parading around the park dressed as well-known movie and TV icons such as Marilyn Monroe, Optimus Prime and Sideshow Bob.
Sea World houses an impressive variety of marine life, including manatees (which are a big deal in Florida), dolphins, and turtles. There is a section dedicated to the lost city of Atlantis, for those seeking fantasy. But the biggest attraction is arguably the group of famous performing orcas.
It's not all about theme parks, though. South Beach, located in Miami, is another must-see destination. Home to many parks and art deco architecture displays, South Beach offers something for all ages. It's also rich with history - two of the most-visited museums in the state are the World Erotic Art Museum in Miami and the Miami Holocaust Museum.
Florida is also home to the third-largest national park in the country - Everglades National Park. The park is a refuge for wildlife that is endangered or threatened, such as the Florida panther and the American crocodile. Make sure to bring your tennis shoes if you visit - and some raw meat to throw as a distraction while you run away screaming.
Pros and Cons of Living in the Sunshine State
Of course it's not all sunshine and alligators - there are pros and cons to living in any state. We've outlined a few for your consideration (and amusement).
Some widely agreed-upon PROs to Florida-living:
- Weather: Bestplaces.net states that Miami sees 248 days of sunshine per year. Their brights definitely are brighter.
- Wildlife: It's not unusual to see...unusual critters walking on the side of the road. Armadillos are native to Florida, as well as fox squirrels, opossums and raccoons. Manatees and alligators are abundant as well, and are a big draw for tourists.
- Stuff to do: Thanks to the huge tourism industry, you'll never be bored here. Between the theme parks, cultural cuisine eateries, art galleries, museums, golf courses, wildlife refuges and concert venues, if you can't find something to do, you're obviously not trying.
- Transportation: Florida is home to 19 commercial airports, 12 of which are international. Not only does the state offer plenty to see and do, but it provides the means necessary to come and go as you please - because if you're just visiting, they know you'll be back.
And of course, the almost-never-debated CONs:
- Tourists: Disney World and other attractions operate year-round, and people from across the globe come to get their picture taken with The Mouse. This of course means a massive influx of people can be happen at any time. Feeling claustrophobic?
- Traffic: Made worse by the tourists and "snowbirds" visiting from the North in winter months. Floridians complain of jammed freeways, crowded airports and lack of parking spaces because of non-locals.
- Storms: Being surrounded on nearly all sides by water, Florida is unfortunately subject to a variety of severe tropical storms and natural disasters - including hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and wildfires.
- Bugs: Mosquitos and lovebugs come out during the warmer seasons. Mosquitos are a pain because they bite, and lovebugs are...awkward because they constantly mate - in midair.
All states come with their share of weird, wacky and downright outdated laws. Here are a few:
- Elephants tied to a parking meter will be fined the same amount as an unattended vehicle.
- Selling your kids is illegal: We know you're tired of reruns of “Frozen,” but you can't make your problems disappear so easily.
- Women who fall asleep under hairdryers may be fined and so may the salon owner. Better bring some more interesting reading material.
- Stealing a horse is punishable by hanging: We also heard that if you cheat on a test you'll be tarred and feathered.
- Singing while wearing a bathing suit is illegal: No wonder everyone flocks to beaches here - they don't have to suffer through off-key renditions of Beach Boys hits sung by overly excited tourists.
- Doors on public buildings must open outwards: This one actually makes sense - it's done in preparation for high winds due to tropical storms - but that doesn't make it not weird.
Sunshine State, Here We Come!
So there you have it, folks - a list of some of the bigger points of concern when moving to a new state. Of course, there are many factors that could influence your health and happiness level in new terrain, but it's our hope that we've provided you with a good starting point to get your noggin aligned with all-things Florida.
If you can now fully envision yourself in your bathing suit (remember not to sing) lounging on one of the famous beaches, high-fiving a famous movie character or clapping for the famous performing orcas, then grab yourself a juicer and set off on the road down to Florida! Just make sure you're covered with an affordable home insurance policy.
Good luck - and don't say we didn't warn you about the sunblock.