Florida is known for its flamboyant beach resorts, restaurants, amusement parks, and tropical climate that attracts millions of tourists from around the world every year. Being located between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, the state has the longest coastline in the contiguous U.S. (excluding Alaska and Hawaii).
It is a popular destination for both domestic and international seasonal vacationers who arrive from colder regions to enjoy a vacation in Florida’s tropical climate. According to an official report, the state received a record 35.6 million visitors in the first quarter of 2022.
Nicknamed ‘the Sunshine State,’ Florida has some of the most popular cities in the United States. With a population of over 21.5 million people, Florida is the 3rd most populous state in the country.
Apart from beaches, amusement parks, and vibrant nightlife, what makes Florida an attractive place to stay is that it has no state income tax (although there is a moderately higher sales tax). Moreover, the cost of living in many large cities in the state is below the national average.
As per the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Florida has the fourth highest gross domestic product in the United States. The current-dollar gross domestic product of Florida in the first quarter of 2022 stood at $1,303,944.
So, whether you want to become a Floridian or make your travel plans for a beach destination, here are the 13 best and largest cities in Florida for you to consider.
The 88,500-capacity Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on the University of Florida campus | Image Courtesy: Pablo Corredor/Wikimedia Commons
U.S Rank: 194
Total Area: 64.54 sq mi
With a population of just above 141,000 people, Gainesville is the 13th largest city in Florida. However, it is an important city (and largest) in North Central Florida.
Gainesville’s economy and culture are mostly influenced by the University of Florida (U.F.), the fourth largest university by enrollment in the U.S. and the second largest in the state after the University of Central Florida. The city has other public and two private colleges as well.
Due to its central location, one can reach Gainesville from anywhere in the state for a reasonable amount of time. The cities of Tampa, Jacksonville, and Orlando are at about 2-3 hours of driving time, while it takes about 6 hours to reach Gainesville from Miami.
The city is also known for its architectural heritage. You can find beautifully preserved Victorian and Queen Anne architectural-styled buildings in selected neighborhoods across Gainesville that were built in the 1880s and 1890s. Moreover, the buildings in the University of Florida Campus Historic District are built in the Collegiate Gothic architectural style that became popular in the late 19th century.
According to Gainesville’s Annual Financial report in 2017, the University of Florida and its network of medical facilities (U.F. Health) are two of the largest employers in the city.
The Gainesville metropolitan area, which includes the city of Alachua, has a vibrant startup ecosystem. It is home to a number of healthcare and tech startups, as well as a bunch of startup incubators and support organizations.
Fact: Do you know that the popular American sports drink Gatorade was invented in Gainesville at the University of Florida? It was initially developed for the university’s Gators football team and was later marketed for commercial use.
The skyline of Hollywood city | Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons/Abbasi
U.S Rank: 172
Total Area: 30.78 sq mi
Yes, there is an entire city named ‘Hollywood’ in Florida. It is located between the cities of Fort Lauderdale and Miami in Broward County. With a total population of 153,067 people (as of the 2020 U.S. Census), it is currently the twelfth largest city in the state and the fifth-largest in Miami metropolitan area.
The city was established sometime in 1920 by real estate developer Joseph Wesley Young, who arrived from California. Young invested a large amount of money in developing the city’s infrastructure, from schools, and parks, to churches, hotels, and a large business district.
Due to the rapid pace of public and private construction and speculative investments, Hollywood quickly became a red-hot real estate market. It was incorporated as a city within just a few years of its establishment in 1925.
Joseph Wesley Young is recognized as a Great Floridian. His historic house, located at 1055 Hollywood Boulevard, is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
South Florida’s Memorial Healthcare System is the largest employer in the city, with over 4,000 employees. It has about fifteen medical facilities across the city. Other large employers include the local government, Chewy (an online retailer), and Publix Supermarkets.
HEICO, a major aircraft equipment and electronics manufacturer, and Invicta Watch Group are the two multinational companies headquartered in Hollywood.
11. Pembroke Pines
U.S Rank: 155
Total Area: 34.76 sq mi
Pembroke Pines is a relatively small city located about 20-22 miles north of Miami. With a population of 171,178 people, it is currently the second largest city in Broward County ahead of Hollywood.
Pembroke Pines was initially incorporated as a village in 1960 and as a city in 1961. The origin of the name “Pembroke Pines” can be traced back to 1882, when Sir Edward J. Reed, a member of the British parliament for Pembroke county in Wales, established the Florida Land and Mortgage Company in South Florida. It is believed that the city’s name is largely influenced by the former Welsh county.
The city saw rapid population growth in the mid-1990s due to Hurricane Andrews, which affected most of Miami-Dade county in 1992.
A large population from different neighborhoods of Miami-Dade county migrated northward to Broward County, including Pembroke Pines city. As a result, Pembroke Pines became one of the fastest-growing cities in Florida by the year 2000.
According to the U.S. Census, about 33.6 percent of the population in the city above 25 years of age have a bachelor’s degree or higher. The median household income of Pembroke Pines in 2020 was $68,683.
While there are no multinational companies that operate in the city, a bunch of regional firms in the software and healthcare industry have offices in Pembroke. The companies include UKG, Citrix, and Brunswick Corporation.
10. Fort Lauderdale
Downtown Fort Lauderdale | Image Courtesy: KeanoManu
U.S Rank: 141
Total Area: 36.30 sq mi
The city of Fort Lauderdale is named after not just one but multiple forts built near the present-day city during the Second Seminole War in the 1830s. These forts were constructed under William Lauderdale, a prominent American military officer who served during the Second Seminole War.
After the end of the war, all forts were abandoned, and hardly any population settled in that region for years. The first noticeable land development in Fort Lauderdale took place in the late 1890s with the arrival of the Florida East Coast Railway in the area. It was incorporated in 1911.
Fort Lauderdale is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States. The city has earned the nickname “Venice of America” due to its extensive network of inland waterways. You can navigate these waters on a traditional Venetian gondola steered by a professional gondolier.
As per the 2020 U.S. Census, about 37.5 percent of the population in Fort Lauderdale, about 25 years of age, have a bachelor’s degree or higher. The median household income of the city was $64,311.
Tourism is a major contributor to the economy of Fort Lauderdale. The city’s seaport, Port Everglades, is the third-busiest cruise port in the world and one of the 20 busiest cargo ports in the U.S. Port Everglades is crucial to the economic growth of entire South Florida.
Other highly developed industries, apart from tourism, in Fort Lauderdale include banking and finance, manufacturing, automotive, real estate, and technology.
Automotive retailer AutoNation is the largest employer in the city followed by Citrix System. Both companies are headquartered in Fort Lauderdale. Financial services giant American Express has regional headquarters in the city.
9. Cape Coral
Aerial view of Cape Coral city | Image Courtesy: David Wilson
U.S Rank: 130
Total Area: 119.41 sq mi
Cape Coral is the ninth largest city in Florida, located on the Gulf of Mexico. It is the largest city between Tampa and Miami. The entire city of Cape Coral is basically a large peninsula surrounded by Matlacha Pass in the west and the Caloosahatchee River in the east.
Initially established in 1957 and incorporated in 1970, Cape Coral is one of the fastest-growing cities in Florida. According to the U.S. Census, the younger population (ages between 18-24) of Southwest Florida, which include the city of Cape Coral, is growing at a faster rate compared to the rest of the state.
Although the city has multiple public and private secondary schools, there are fewer higher education institutions. Most of the college campuses in the region are located on the other side of the Caloosahatchee River in Fort Myers.
Cape Coral has a satellite campus of Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU), one of the youngest universities in the state.
The economy of Cape Coral is driven by retail, real estate, and the healthcare industry. Some of the largest employers in the city include Lee Memorial Hospital, Publix Supermarkets, and Walmart.
Tallahassee capitol buildings (old building in the foreground) | Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
U.S Rank: 127
Total Area: 104.74 sq mi
Tallahassee is the capital of Florida, despite being only the 8th largest city in the state. It became and has been the capital of the U.S. state since 1824. According to the 2020 Census, the total population of Tallahassee stood at just over 196,000 people.
The city of Tallahassee is an important node in the Florida Big Bend and Panhandle region. The Big Bend is a large woodland region in northern Florida with a low population density compared to most of the state.
As the capital of the state, Tallahassee accommodates important government sites, including the Supreme Court of Florida, Chamber of Commerce, Governor’s Mansion, and Florida State Capitol, which is also a popular tourist attraction.
Tallahassee has three universities – Florida State University (FSU), Florida A&M University, and Tallahassee Community College. FSU is the foremost research university in the state with R1 (Very high research activity) Carnegie Classification.
In 2020, the total R&D expenditure of Florida State University stood at $350.4 million, the 75th highest in the country. According to FSU Center for Economic Forecasting and Analysis, the university has an annual economic impact of $14 billion. FSU is currently ranked 19th best public university in the United States by U.S. News & World Report.
The economy of Tallahassee is mostly fueled by state-run institutions. According to Tallahassee’s Annual Financial Report in 2021, two of the largest employers in the city are the State of Florida and Florida State University.
From 2009 to 2013, the per capita income of Tallahassee was $23,778, and the poverty level was estimated to be around 30 percent.
7. Port St. Lucie
Port St. Lucie’s Clover Park is the spring training center for New York Mets
U.S Rank: 114th
Total Area: 120.83 sq mi
With a total population of 204,851 (2020 census), Port St. Lucie is the seventh largest city in Florida. The city is located on the Atlantic coast, about 113 miles north of Miami. It is part of the Greater Miami commercial region, also known as the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Port St. Lucie Statistical Area.
Port St. Lucie is known for its more relaxed environment than its much larger neighbors. Apart from scenic beaches, the city is home to one of the most iconic golf courses in the state – the PGA Village golf complex.
According to the U.S. News Real Estate rankings, Port St. Lucie is one of the safest cities in the United States to live. It is also among the best places to retire.
Every spring, the city turns sports frenzy as it welcomes New York Mets for its spring training schedule at Clover Park stadium. Port St. Lucie has two local soccer clubs – Port St. Luciue Soccer Club and Mako Soccer Club.
According to the 2020 U.S. Census, more than 89 percent of the population in the city above 25 years of age are high-school graduates, while only 23.4 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Hialeah Park | Image Courtesy: Phillip Pessar
US. Rank: 101st
Total Area: 22.82 sq mi
Hialeah is currently the sixth-largest city in Florida and the second most populous city in the Miami Metropolitan area. It is located northwest of Miami.
The city of Hialeah is one of the few regions in the United States that have a separate street grid numbering system from the rest of the country. Other places in Florida with their own street grid system include Bal Harbour, Homestead, Sunny Isles Beach, and Miami Beach.
Hialeah has the second highest concentration of Hispanic population in the United States after East Los Angeles in California. The city has the highest percentage of the Cuban American population in the country.
In 2009, Forbes magazine ranked Hialeah as one of the most boring cities in the United States due to its large population and lack of nightlife. According to Movoto real estate guide, Hialeah is the 19th most boring place in Florida.
Hialeah has a vibrant retail industry with a strong presence of large retailers, including Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Starbucks.
Sedano’s, the largest Hispanic retailer in the United States with more than 35 stores across Florida, was founded in Hialeah. Navarro Discount Pharmacies is another example of a successful retail chain in Hialeah. It operates mainly in Miami-Dade county.
The city also has a number of small, family-owned stores that compete with large retailers.
5. St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg skyline | Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
U.S Rank: 85th
Total Area: 135.49 sq mi
With a population of well over a quarter of a million, St. Petersburg is currently the fifth-largest city in Florida. It is also the second-largest city in the Tampa Bay Area after Tampa.
The city is often referred to as St. Pete by residents. St. Petersburg also gained the nickname of Florida’s Sunshine City for having the clearest (sunny) days in a row between 1967 and 1969.
The city has over a hundred neighborhoods. Perhaps the most prosperous and important among them is Downtown St. Petersburg. The downtown area consists of the central business district (with corporate offices and banks), and two university campuses.
Two major sports teams – Tampa Bay Rays (MLB) and Tampa Bay Rowdies (United Soccer League), also have home stadiums in Downtown St. Petersburg.
The Grand Central District is another important area of the city which consist of restaurants, cafes, art galleries, and studios.
The economy of St. Petersberg is largely supported by the healthcare and retail industry. Three large medical facilities in the city, namely; Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, St. Anthony’s Hospital, and Bayfront Medical employ more than 7,200 people combined.
St. Petersberg also serves as the headquarters city for two Fortune 500 companies – Raymond James Financial and Jabil Inc. Raymond James is the largest employer in the city.
Night view of Orlando skyline | Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
U.S Rank: 67th
Total Area: 119.08 sq mi
The city of Orlando is one of the favorite tourist destinations in the world. Every year, millions of tourists visit its internationally renowned Walt Disney World Resort and the Universal Orlando Resort, along with its many cultural sites.
In 2020, Orlando’s population stood at 307,573 people, making it the fourth largest city in Florida. The Orlando metropolitan area or Greater Orlando is the third-largest metropolitan area in the state after Miami and Tampa and the 23rd largest in the country.
Orlando is home to the University of Central Florida, the second largest public university in the U.S. by enrollment. Moreover, the Orlando International Airport is the seventh busiest airport in the country. In 2021, the airport handled 19.6 million passengers.
The city has two major league sports teams – Orlando Magic, which plays in the NBA, and Orlando City SC of Major League Soccer (MLS).
As with other major cities in the Sun Belt region of the United States, Orlando has seen rapid economic and population growth since the 1960s.
The city is an important hub for high-tech research and engineering. Several large aerospace and industrial manufacturing companies, such as General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Mitsubishi, and Siemens, have research labs and offices in Greater Orlando.
Most of the large research labs are located in the Central Florida Research Park in the city. It is one of the largest research parks in the U.S., both by the number of employees and tenant companies.
View of Downtown Tampa from Bayshore Boulevard | Image Courtesy: Ebyabe/Wikimedia Commons
U.S Rank: 52nd
Total Area: 175.83 sq mi
Tampa is the third-largest city in Florida and the second-largest on the Gulf Coast of the United States (after Houston, Texas). It is part of the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater or Tampa Bay area, which is the second largest metropolitan area after Miami metropolitan.
The city of Tampa has a rich history. It was formally incorporated as a village in 1849 after a community of a few hundred people along with military personnel settled north of the U.S. Army garrison of Fort Brook (southern Downtown Tampa). Within just six years, in 1855, it was large enough to be reincorporated as a town.
After the final defeat of the Confederacy during the American Civil War in 1865, Tampa became a rather neglected town with multiple disease outbreaks and low economic activity.
However, by the 1890s, Tampa not only revived but flourished with the discovery of large phosphate deposits in the nearby Bone Valley region. Phosphates are naturally occurring phosphorus and are essential for fertilizer production.
Furthermore, the expansion of the narrow-gauge railroad in southern Florida and the establishment of the cigar manufacturing industry in the mid-1880s greatly contributed to the economic boom of the Tampa Bay area.
Channel District, Tampa
Tampa’s economy is largely supported by industries such as banking and insurance, shipping, and tourism. The city is home to the largest credit union in Florida – Suncoast Credit Union, with about $15 billion in total assets in 2022. Two Fortune 500 companies, Bloomin’ Brands and The Mosaic Company, are also headquartered here.
Port Tampa Bay is the largest port in Florida by cargo tonnage and one of the busiest in the United States. It has an economic impact of more than $17 billion and supports 85,000 jobs.
Downtown Miami skyline | Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons/Marc Averette
U.S Rank: 44th
Total Area: 56.07 sq mi
Miami is a coastal city located in southeastern Florida. With a total population of over 442,000, it is currently the second largest city in the state.
The city is part of Miami-Dade county, which, together with Palm Beach and Broward counties, make up the Miami Metropolitan area. It is among the most densely populated regions in the U.S.
A popular cultural and tourist attraction, the City of Miami receives the second highest number of foreign tourists in the country after New York. Some of the most popular attractions in the city include South Beach, the Art Deco District, Lincoln Road, and Downtown Miami.
The Miami Beach Architectural District, popularly known as Miami Art Deco District, is renowned for its historical buildings, beaches, and shopping complexes.
Miami is home to three major sports teams –
Miami Heat – NBA (champions in 2006, 2012, and 2013)
Miami Marlins – MLB (World Series in 1997 and 2003)
Miami Dolphins – NFL (Super Bowl 1972 ¯¸and 1973)
Brickell Avenue in Downtown Miami | Wikimedia Commons/Averette
Miami is a leading city in commerce, finance, business activity, international trade, culture, and arts. The Miami metropolitan area is perhaps the largest economic region in Florida.
Miami is home to five Fortune 500 companies and one Global 500 firm. The city’s financial district, Brickell, is one of the largest and most influential business districts in the United States. It is dominated by high-rise buildings operated by major national and international banks and other corporations.
In 2020, the city of Miami was classified as a Beta + global city by Globalization and World Cities Research Network (GaWC).
According to a 2018 survey by UBS, a major investment bank, Miami was the second richest city in the United States and the seventh richest globally in purchasing power.
The Southbank neighborhood in Jacksonville
U.S Rank: 12th
Total Area: 874.46 sq mi
Jacksonville is the largest and most populous city in Florida. Jacksonville is a city located on the Atlantic coast of Florida, the most populous city in the state and the largest city by area in the contiguous United States. It is also the most populous city in the southeast United States.
Although not considered a major financial hub, Jacksonville host two Fortune 500 financial services companies – Fidelity National Financial and FIS. The city is also home to many regional BFSI (Banking, Financial Services, and Insurance) firms such as Black Knight Financial Services, U.S. Assure, and VyStar Credit Union.
Over the past decade, large multinational banking institutions (like JP Morgan and Deutsche bank) have increased their presence in Jacksonville, strengthening the city’s growing financial sector.
The railroad transportation giant CSX Corporation is the third Fortune 500 company based in the city.
More To Know
Largest Cities in Florida Based on Population Density
Below is the list of most densely populated cities in Florida
|City||Population Density (Person/sq mi)|
|1. Miami||12,284.47/sq mi|
|2. Hialeah||10,338.21/sq mi|
|3. Miami Gardens||5,900/sq mi|
|4. Coral Springs||5,877.97/sq mi|
|5. Hollywood||5,616.93/sq mi|
Most Popular Tourist Attractions in Florida
The ‘Sunshine State’ is known for its beaches, resorts, and amusement parks. Some of the most popular tourist attractions in the state are –
- Walt Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando
- Miami beaches and Downtown Miami
- Duval Street and Dry Tortugas National Park in Key West island
- Fifth Avenue South, Third Street South, and Naples Zoo in Naples
- Everglades National Park
- St. Augustine (for history buffs)
17 Megadiverse Countries In The World
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