Florida is nicknamed the Sunshine State, but that moniker can be misleading. While there is no question that the sun beats down mercilessly on Florida even during the middle of winter, there's also a lot of rain, and not just when hurricanes hit. Your way of life and political outlook should be taken into consideration before deciding where in Florida you want to live.
Heat and Humidity
There is one way to describe Florida's weather: hot. Expect temperatures in the high 80s or 90s every single day of summer. Expect to be wearing shorts and short sleeves on New Year's Day. Florida will experience a cold snap or two every winter, and it has been known to occasionally snow in the northernmost reaches as well as dip below freezing even into central Florida, but hot is the word. Unfortunately, the weather is not all about the heat but also the humidity. Muggy weather is the rule, as the humidity typically adds around 5 to 10 degrees to the heat index most days.
Hurricanes are a fact of life that Floridians learn to endure in much the same way that Californians learn to live with earthquakes and Midwesterners learn to live with tornadoes. There is no spot in Florida to move to that will guarantee you don't get hit by a hurricane, although the most likely spots are the southern tip, the east coast and the gulf coast along the panhandle. It is worth noting that Disney World has never suffered a major hit from a hurricane, so Orlando may well be your safest place.
Socially speaking, there are two Floridas. For the most part, the panhandle is considered socially conservative and more economically disadvantaged. The part of Florida that juts out into the water is not necessarily more liberal but rather more diverse. This part of Florida is also more economically diverse; northwest Florida's economy depends primarily on military bases, beach tourism, agriculture and fishing. By contrast, central and southern Florida has theme parks, NASA and a very strong defense contracting industry.
People in Florida tend to dress less formally than in other areas of the country. In large part, this is due to the often sweltering heat conditions, but there is also the proximity of sand to so many places. While most establishments do observe a no-shirt/no-shoes policy, new residents will quickly find that this is not strictly enforced. In addition, sandals and tank tops are allowed to be worn in a surprising number of places.
Public transportation in most Florida towns and cities is limited to buses. Due to the low elevation, a subway is simply not feasible. There has long been discussion about a high-speed rail service from Orlando to Miami, but no progress has yet been made as of 2009. Several toll roads exist in the central to southern part of the state, while the panhandle features several toll bridges to get to barrier islands. The single worst aspect of transportation as it relates to Florida is hurricane evacuation. One of the best pieces of advice a newcomer can receive is to learn to evacuate early; otherwise, plan on spending an hour in your car to move 10 miles.
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