This Major Florida City Was Named the "Least Laid-back" In the State

Not all retirement destinations are created equal.

Jacksonville sunset
Updated July 18, 2024
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Florida is known as a retiree destination, but some locations are better than others for those looking to live a laid-back retirement life

Many factors go into choosing a retirement destination — besides the weather — and while many retirees flock to Florida expecting relaxation and a low-key vibe, at least one city in the Sunshine State was found to be ranked higher on the stressful end of the spectrum. 

In a recent study, Jacksonville ranked eighth out of 10 on a list of the most uptight cities. While the study wasn't specifically looking at retirement locations, it did use specific criteria and methodology to rank cities for their laid-back lifestyles. 

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Criteria and methodology

Andrey Popov Data scientist

How does one determine just how laidback a city is? 

Factors such as well-being, local economy, livability, and leisure activities were used as criteria, along with more than 25 different data points between those categories. While the study's focus was to determine the most relaxed locations, it also ranked the least laid-back cities that people found to be the most stressful to live in. 

There is no perfect scoring system for subjective concepts. However, data such as statistics from self-reported mental health scores and search volume for topics like "stress relief" can establish a general baseline average for things like well-being. 

Data points such as traffic and pedestrian options helped establish livability scores, and economic factors looked at the cost of living and below-poverty numbers. 


Jacksonville ranked 8th for least laid-back

Michael Jacksonville sunset

Jacksonville is the second-worst city for pedestrians across the country and is in the bottom 10 for bicyclists. The difficulty in traveling the city without a car lowers its livability score significantly, and it also has some of the lowest scores for farmers markets and concert venues. Unless your retirement plan is to sit at home and never leave, you may want to rethink retiring to Jacksonville. 

Overall, Jacksonville scored 45.1 out of 100. The only category in which it scored above the average was economic factors, in which it scored 18 — less than one point above the median.  

What about the rest of Florida?

Creative Studio 79 - stock.adobe.com Orlando, Florida

Miami is at the forefront of peoples' minds when thinking of Florida — beaches, boats, and sun can sound like the perfect combination for retirees looking to relax. But despite its breezy reputation, Miami scored 56.5 on the laid-back scale, barely above the average. 

Tampa scored slightly better, coming in at 58.8. Its strongest category was economics, but it still came in below the average. 

The best score in Florida went to Orlando, home of Walt Disney World, and ultimately ranked as the eighth most laid-back city. Being a top tourist destination can have a lot of overlap with nice places to retire, and much of the city is built around enjoying free time for vacationers. 

Not surprisingly, the plethora of theme park options also gives Orlando the highest rating among all the cities for leisure activities. 

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Bottom line

aceshot Two empty chairs overlooking the sunset over the beach

Different cities have different social atmospheres, and while some enjoy the hustle and bustle of busy city life, many look to retire somewhere quieter and more relaxed. 

Those picturing retirement with many leisurely walks to the farmers market and strolling to the nearest live music venue should probably avoid settling in Jacksonville. The city undoubtedly offers benefits, but relaxation may not be one.

Florida so often seems to be the default choice of retirement locations, but Seattle is the most laid-back city by the numbers. 

That may seem like the cold tundra of the north to snowbirds looking to spend their leisurely years somewhere warm and subtropical, but it has the highest well-being score of 23 and a livability score of 18.8. Overall, it scored 71.8, making it a prime target for those considering relocating — for fun or retirement. 


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Author Details

Cassandra Yorgey

Cassandra Yorgey is a journalist with more than 15 years of experience covering a multitude of topics ranging from science-fiction and fantasy genre reviews to the impacts of sociological developments on the political landscape. She champions financial literacy and consumer protections that value human life over monetary profits. She has been featured in both online and print publications, including AOL, Examiner, MSN, Exemplore, Yellowbook, and Wealth of Geeks.