Sometime this year, Florida is expected to surpass New York State in terms of population. Both are now neck and neck with about 19 million residents. From an informal survey of friends and acquaintances, here are 10 reasons why.
10. Spring training. Where else can you see Major League Baseball for under $20 a ticket, up close and personal? Fans lean over the rails asking players for their autographs. Kids, parents and grandparents watch the Yankees, Phillies, Blue Jays and other Grapefruit League teams in relaxing, uncrowded stadiums.
9. Arts and Entertainment. Who says there’s no culture in Florida? Almost any day of the week, you can see world-class performances such as the Florida Orchestra or nationally-known musicians, singers and dancers. Ruth Eckerd Hall, the Capitol Theater and other venues are as good as any in the U.S.
8. Old Florida. Great restaurants, beaches and scenic views are almost everywhere. And some spots appear much as they were 40 years ago, including the Tarpon Springs sponge fishing pier, downtown Dunedin and parts of Clearwater Beach, serving grouper sandwiches, hogfish and other specialties.
7. Doctors. Let’s face it. None of us is as young as we used to be. So, it’s a pleasant surprise to find doctors accepting new patients and willing to see you in a few days, not sometime six or eight weeks away. From dermatology to cardiology, the doctor will see you now.
6. Home prices. Most things cost about the same here as up north, but homes are about one third the price. Median home prices in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area are reported at $142,000; in the New York metro area, $391,000.
5. Healthy lifestyle. Almost any day of the year in Florida is a good day to go out for a walk, bike ride, fishing, golf or any other outdoor activity. Not like up north, where people are stuck indoors -- breathing heated, stale air, exchanging germs and scratching dry, itchy skin. No reason for cabin fever here.
4. Friendly taxation. Florida seems to welcome people, not drive them away by ever-increasing taxes on everything from pensions, to Social Security benefits and other income. Property taxes are much lower than the $10,000 to $15,000 a year on typical homes in most New York area suburbs.
3. Transportation. Florida has decent roads, bridges and bus transportation. Potholes are a rarity, which can wreck tires and wheel alignments. Traffic at times can be congested, but it is nothing compared with a one-hour commute through the Lincoln Tunnel to midtown Manhattan. Air fares to visit people up north are reasonable in the off-season.
2. No windshield de-icing. Throw away your window ice scraper, because that aggravating chore is no longer necessary before starting the car in the morning. January can be a long, chilly month in parts of Florida; but nothing in comparison with New York’s below-freezing temperatures.
1. Florida sunshine. Florida may not be the sunniest state in the nation; that would be Arizona. But expect 244 days in this part of the state to be at least partially sunny. Spirits are brighter and people are happier when the sun comes out. But wear a hat and sunscreen. It can be intense.
- Joseph Santangelo is a former reporter with the Bergen Record in New Jersey. He has worked in business, government and community service. He writes from Clearwater and volunteers at the Clearwater Main Library information desk.