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Best in the U.S.

We know Sarasota is great. Don’t hate. Let’s celebrate.

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Continually in the top 10 rankings in U.S. News & World Report, Sarasota is winning once again. As recently announced, Sarasota ranked No. 5 in “Best Places to Live in the U.S.,” No. 1 in “Best Places to Live in Florida,” No. 2 in “Fastest Growing Places in the U.S.,” No. 7 in “Safest Places to Live,” and placing just shy of the top 10 as No. 11 in “Best Places to Retire.” 

Accolades for Sarasota aren’t new. Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, also known as Dr. Beach, has named Siesta Key beach twice as the No. 1 beach in the U.S. Sarasota Memorial Hospital is the only hospital in Florida to have earned the Federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid’s highest five-star rating for overall quality and safety since 2016. The Sarasota Chamber was recently awarded a four-star accreditation by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, making it one of only 11 chambers in the state of Florida to receive this accomplishment. The Sarasota Ballet has been invited by the Royal Ballet of London to perform in June, making its first international debut. And Sarasota’s society scene has such notable figures, it is continually written up in the New York Social Diary.

No doubt, Sarasota is on the international map. 

With a mass influx of new residents moving to Florida, numerous New York and California license plates have been spotted driving around the Gulfstream Roundabout, no doubt here to enjoy our gorgeous beaches, diverse food and wine scene, acclaimed arts and entertainment, parks and recreational sports that help drive those top 10 rankings. 

Yet, not everyone is happy about it.

While purchasing a birthday present for a friend at a local retail shop in Sarasota, I noticed a young man buying a T-shirt that touted: “Last Local. Sarasota Sucks. Don’t Move Here. Your State’s Great.” Another friend shared the U.S. News’ rankings on social media only to receive negative comments: “Noooooo. We are FULLLLLL,” “Shhhhhhhh” and “Stay away pleaseeee” to “Make sure your NIMBY membership is paid up!”

NIMBYism (Not In My Backyard) is the greatest risk to our celebrated and top-ranked city. But that is a column for another time. 

In 2015, Rick Kriseman, mayor of St. Petersburg, gave a presentation to Leadership Florida about the city’s growth. Asked what steps they had taken to transform the city, he replied, “We allow. We allow painting on walls. We allow dogs at restaurants. We allow skateboarding on streets. We allow music at bars.” 

While we have a ways to go on “allowing” things in Sarasota, we have seen more acquiescence as of late. One example is the new Boo’s Ice House & Dog Bar in the Rosemary District. A mural of happy dogs adorns the walls of the restaurant on Florida Avenue that specifically caters to dogs and their owners. Three different block parties took place downtown on Cinco de Mayo that resulted in only a few noise complaints. And perhaps the most significant is the approval of the redevelopment of 53 acres of city-owned land to create a public park, The Bay (of which I serve on the board, full disclosure). 

Zoning issues and amendments are coming across commissioners’ desks (The St. Regis parking garage on Longboat Key and the One Park condominium development in downtown Sarasota come to mind.), and Sarasota’s skyline is full of cranes that rival the years before the Great Recession. Currently, the city of Sarasota has 40 active development applications under review. At the behest of two 13-year-old boys, I recently had breakfast at Denny’s. Inside the restaurant is a blown-up image of Sarasota’s skyline that is already out of date. The late Gil Waters is surely smiling down from heaven at the second-fastest growing place in the U.S. 

So instead of lamenting about the way things used to be, grab your pooch, hop on a Veo bike, order a drink and raise your glass to the fact that you live in the best place in Florida and in the United States.

U.S. News & World Report 2023-2024 Rankings

Best Places to Live

Analyzing the 150 most populous metro areas. To qualify, a place had to have good value, be a desirable place to live, have a strong job market and a high quality of life.

  1. Green Bay, WI
  2. Huntsville, AL
  3. Raleigh & Durham, NC
  4. Boulder, CO
  5. Sarasota, FL 
  6. Naples, FL
  7. Portland, ME
  8. Charlotte, NC
  9. Colorado Springs, CO
  10. Fayetteville, AR

Best Places to Live in Florida

The best places to live in the Sunshine State span the beaches, coasts, farmland and tourism centers

  1. Sarasota, FL 
  2. Naples, FL
  3. Melbourne, FL
  4. Jacksonville, FL
  5. Tampa, FL
  6. Pensacola, FL
  7. Daytona Beach, FL
  8. Orlando, FL
  9. Tallahassee, FL
  10. Port St. Lucie, FL

Fastest-Growing Places

The fastest-growing cities in the country are determined by the percent increase of net migration of each metro area, which is measured by the growth or decline of the population over the past five years.

  1. Myrtle Beach, SC
  2. Sarasota, FL 
  3. Fort Myers, FL
  4. Lakeland, FL
  5. Port St. Lucie, FL
  6. Boise, ID
  7. Ocala, FL
  8. Daytona Beach, FL
  9. Naples, FL
  10. Salisbury, MD


Safest Places to Live                 

The safest places to live in the country are based on the metro areas’ murder and property crime rates per 100,000 people, determined by the FBI crime reports.

  1. Naples, FL
  2. Port St. Lucie, FL
  3. Fort Myers, FL
  4. Portland, ME
  5. Lakeland, FL
  6. Tampa, FL
  7. Sarasota, FL
  8. Worcester, MA
  9. Daytona Beach, FL
  10. Ocala, FL

Best Places to Retire

U.S. News analyzed data for the 150 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. to assess how well they meet Americans’ retirement needs and expectations. Top criteria include the happiness of local residents, housing affordability, tax rates and health care quality.

  1. Lancaster, PA
  2. Harrisburg, PA
  3. Pensacola, FL
  4. Tampa, FL
  5. York, PA
  6. Naples, FL
  7. Daytona Beach, FL
  8. Ann Arbor, MI
  9. Allentown, PA
  10. Reading, PA
  11. Sarasota, FL  



Emily Walsh

Emily Walsh is the president of Observer Media Group and has served as publisher of the OMG’s Sarasota-based publications since 2016. She joined the company in 2001 as Black Tie photographer, later serving as editor of Black Tie and Arts + Entertainment, an advertising sales executive and chief digital officer.

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