7 reasons Sarasota-Manatee is the best place to live in Florida – and maybe the country – Sarasota Herald-Tribune

We recently ranked among the top places to live and visit in the U.S.A. – again. Here’s why.

The Sarasota metro area recently ranked ninth on U.S. News & World Report’s annual list of best places to live. 

Boulder placed first.

I’ve been to Boulder. In fact, I lived in nearby Fort Collins and wrote for multiple publications in Colorado.

I prefer Florida.

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I’ve also covered entertainment in Orange and Los Angeles counties while living on Newport Beach, California.

Again, I prefer Florida.

And not just anywhere in Florida.

I’ve lived and worked in Tampa, Gainesville and St. Petersburg. And after spending enough time there to know better, passed on taking a job covering entertainment at a publication in Miami.

I prefer Sarasota-Manatee. 

It’s where I have now lived and worked for the majority of the past two decades. 

It’s a special place.

And it seems the rest of the country is taking notice. And not just because we’re a nice place to retire. 

Just a few days after the annual U.S. News & World Report on top spots to live was published, Time magazine posted its list of The World’s 100 Greatest Places of 2021.

Sarasota was one of only two Florida cities that made the cut along with Orlando. Now, Orlando is a fun place to visit, especially if you’re entertaining children, but not exactly a great place to live.

Sarasota-Manatee, though, we’re a place to call home.

“Miami has long held the reins on all things young and hip in Florida,” begins Time magazine’s blurb on Sarasota. “But there’s something special percolating along the once sleepy Gulf Coast these days.”

It’s a fine write up. But there’s so much more to living the good life in our Gulf front corner of Florida than what Time could capture in 150 words.

A few years ago, I put together a list of seven reasons why Sarasota-Manatee is the best place to live in Florida. Looking back, I realized it held up nicely but could use improving. So, here ya go. A friendly reminder that Sarasota-Manatee is still the best place to live in Florida, and perhaps the top spot among metropolitan areas nationwide.

1. Weather

You could say this about any coastal place in Florida, but, yeah, that nearly daily dose of sunshine and utter lack of freezing cold temperatures is the No. 1 reason people from the rest of the country continue to relocate here as if we are giving away waterfront property.

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2. Beaches

Yes, there’s a reason our sugary white sands such as the ones found on Siesta Beach are consistently ranked among the best in the country. I really didn’t appreciate this until I spent a year living on Newport Beach, where, to quote legendary comedian Bill Hicks, the beach just looks like “where dirt meets water.”

What are the best beaches in Sarasota-Manatee? Here are 10 of our favorites

3. Restaurants and bars

I can walk to a handful of excellent and a couple dozen really good restaurants from our office in downtown Sarasota. There are many, many more choice spots within an easy drive south to Venice or north to Bradenton or Anna Maria Island. It’s hard to imagine an area this size anywhere else in the country that has as many outstanding dining options. Plus, let’s not forget about the award-winning craft beers and Siesta Key Rum made in Sarasota-Manatee, as well as our impressive collection of rooftop bars.

What are the best restaurants and bars in Sarasota-Manatee? Check out our favorites

4. Arts scene

It’s also hard to imagine another city the size of Sarasota with such a vibrant arts scene. Take your pick: nationally-acclaimed museums, art galleries, orchestras, opera, ballet, and professional and community theater companies. Plus, our live music scene includes a bunch of gifted musicians, especially in the blues, roots rock and reggae genres.

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5. Parks and preserves 

While the beaches get the most love, exploring the great outdoors at places like Myakka River State Park, Nathan Benderson Park, Robinson Preserve and Bradenton Riverwalk can be equally charming. And often much more thrilling!

Looking for outdoor fun? Visit the 10 best public parks, nature preserves in Sarasota-Manatee

6. Things to do

Every week I easily assemble a list of the Top 5 things to do in Sarasota-Manatee. On July 30, for instance, the annual Summer Circus Spectacular opens at The Ringling and runs through Aug. 14. Oh, and, July 26-31, we have a world cornhole championship coming to the Bradenton area!

What are the best things to do in Sarasota-Manatee? Here are lists of our favorites

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7. Lots of celebrities live here 

Look, even if you never run into Stephen King at the local bookstore or have lunch next to Jerry Springer, it’s nice to know celebrities do live here. I mean if it’s good enough for them, it must be good enough for us regular folks, right? And, who knows? I did once witness two other Sarasota celebrities, rock legends Brian Johnson (AC/DC) and Dickey Betts (Allman Brothers Band), playing together at a fundraiser at the old Five O’ Clock Club (now Brady’s Neighborhood Bar).

Who lives here? 20 celebrities with homes in Sarasota-Manatee

Wade Tatangelo, the Herald-Tribune’s entertainment editor, may be reached by email at wade.tatangelo@heraldtribune.com. Support local journalism by subscribing.​​​​​​