Tampa Bay vs Orlando—Pros and cons of the dueling cities

Florida is one of the most sought-after states to live and visit. With its endless summer, limitless outdoor and indoor activity, crystal waters, and white sandy beaches, what’s not to love?

Florida is renowned for its fresh seafood, laid-back atmosphere, and casual existence. Tampa Bay and Orlando both reign supreme in some of the favorite cities to live in.

Here are the pros and cons of both Tampa Bay and Orlando:

A Comparison of Two Cities

People from all over the world—and namely New York—are flocking to Tampa Bay. Whether it be for the glorious weather or relocation for a job, Tampa Bay is seeing a steady increase in population.

Is Tampa Safer than Orlando?

Safety always plays a huge role in determining whether or not you should relocate to a specific place. According to the experts, Tampa—in general—is a safer place to live than Orlando. The violent crime rate is half that of Orlando’s crime rate. Orlando came in with a whopping 4,800 crimes per 100,000 people. Tampa came in with just 1,600 violent crimes per 100,000. Therefore, Orlando boasts three times more reported crime than in Tampa Bay. That is quite significant!

How Many People Live in Tampa Bay?

Tampa Bay is a beach town. It hosts around 2.8 million people like it as a part of the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metro area. This is the fourth largest in the Southeastern portion of the United States.

How Many People Live in Orlando?

Around 2.6 million people live in the Orlando metropolitan area. Being that it is located inland, there are no beaches close by. However, some of the country’s biggest amusement parks are located here—such as Disneyworld!

Is Tampa Bay or Orlando Better to Raise a Family?

A picture of a family in a yard filled with sunshine. A small house in the background. A mom, dad, three boys, and a daughter.

When raising a family—along with other factors—it is all about location, location, location! So which city in Florida is better for raising a family? Let’s take a deeper look.

Tampa Bay

According to ABC News, the short answer is YES! Tampa ranks #8 in the entire country for the best family-friendly city in America. Homes.com echoed the sentiment by revealing Tampa is one of the best cities to raise children based on the following factors:

  • Average commute time
  • Schools (K-12)
  • Cost of living
  • Affordability
  • Crime rate
  • Availability of childcare services
  • Park acreage per capita

Each of the aforementioned factors is incredibly important to raising children in a friendly, safe, and healthy environment. Tampa Bay is filled with bustling family-friendly cities equipped with offerings the whole family can enjoy. 

For urban families, there is nothing better than the downtown, historic, and charming neighborhoods by St. Petersburg. Family-centered communities also include Westchase and Hillsborough County, two beautiful suburbs of the city.

Orlando

Orlando falls lower on the scale for a great place to raise a family. According to the Orlando Sentinel, it ranks only as a so-so place to raise children. It ranked #70 on the list of metro areas in the United States in this category.

Although ranking high at #6 of “family fun” places—which is no surprise due to the plethora of amusement parks—Tampa beats Orlando in this category as well. Health and safety ranking came in quite low—around 146 out of 182. This is not as conducive of a place to raise a family. Education, childcare, and affordability are also not as accessible.

Is Tampa Bay More Expensive than Orlando?

Contrary to popular belief, Tampa Bay is more affordable than Orlando. Tampa boasts both lower home prices and a higher average income. According to Numbeo, $4,287 in Tampa Bay easily maintains the same standard of living as Orlando’s $4,300. It is not a significant difference; however, Tampa Bay is less expensive than Orlando. Learn more about Florida cost of living.

Is Traffic Worse in Tampa or Orlando?

A picture of Orlando. Large high-rises in the background  a picture of there freeway front and center. It's at sun up or sun down.

Orlando is the clear winner—or loser—as the traffic is far worse in rush hour than in Tampa. A lesser amount of tourists come and go from local hotels in Tampa; therefore, lesser traffic than Orlando.

As traffic is a deal-breaker for many—whether residents or tourists—Tampa Bay is less traffic. Four times constitute ‘rush hour’ in Orlando. They include:

  • 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.
  • 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
  • 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
  • 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

All in all, that totals up to a whopping six hours of rush hour traffic in Orlando.

Tampa rush hour looks like this:

  • 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.
  • 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Tampa experiences lesser tourist traffic during the mid-day which constitutes lower traffic than Orlando. 

Size of the Cities

Both cities boast similar populations—but which city has a larger landmass?

Tampa Bay

A picture of a Tampa Bay, Florida map.

Tampa Bay is settled in a large, natural harbor on the west coast of Florida. It consists of 2,201 square miles. It was formed around 6,000 years ago from a river that connected the landmass to the Gulf of Mexico.

Orlando

A picture of an Orlando, Florida map.

Orlando is significantly smaller in landmass than Tampa Bay. Coming in at just 119.08 square miles, its inland location limits its availability to sprawl like its sister city. It is also the county seat of Orange County.

5 Advantages of Living in Tampa, Florida

There are many advantages of living in Tampa Bay, Florida. Here are the top 5:

1. Beach Life

If you are interested in the beach life, Tampa Bay is surrounded by water and beautiful beaches. There is always something to do in the beautiful water city. You can enjoy outdoor activities all year round in the endless-summer destination of Tampa. The winter falls to only 60 degrees, still warm enough to enjoy the outdoors.

2. A World-class Culinary Destination

Tampa is known for its exquisite cuisine. Its true claim to fame is the development of the famous Cuban sandwich. From farm-to-table, Latin-inspired restaurants, locally-owned chop shops, and seaside seafood huts, Tampa is a food lover’s dream.

3. Top-notch Educational System

Tampa is well-known for its incredible educational system. The Hillsborough County School District is one of the ten largest school districts in the country. These expansive networks showcase numerous resources, unbelievable extracurricular activities, and wonderful curriculums.

4. So Affordable

Who doesn’t want to live well at an affordable price? Tampa allows you to live near the beach—and be able to afford it! There is no state income tax and the property tax rate falls around 2%. The average price of a home in Tampa is $219,000, which is quite lower than many other places in the United States.

5. Bilingual Opportunities

Expats thrive in Tampa. Bilingual job opportunities are in excess in Tampa due to the influx of immigrant populations in this area. People come from Mexico, the Caribbean, and other countries to embark on their new journey. Spanish and English prevail; therefore, finding a bilingual job is quite easy.

5 Disadvantages of Living in Tampa, Florida

As wonderful as Tampa is, there have to be disadvantages as well. The 5 disadvantages of living in Tampa include:

1. HOAs are Everywhere

One of the main disadvantages of living in Tampa is that most of the suburbs operate through homeowners’ associations. This means that your property will more than likely fall under the governorship of an HOA. The rules of an HOA can be tedious and strict.

2. Good Jobs Can Be Hard to Find

Tampa is not known to be one of the more progressive cities. It can be difficult to find a good job. The region is not in ‘development’ mode; therefore, corporate culture is not advancing like it is in other parts of the country.

3. Must Have a Car

If you move to Tampa, it is essential to have a set of wheels. While it is not impossible to get around town, it can be a bit difficult. Trolley and streetcar systems are there for your availability yet they do not bring you back into the suburbs.

4. Tampa is Hurricane Central

Tampa is known for its hurricane season. Tampa faces a higher-than-average hurricane and tropical storm risk. Being that the city is a coastal region, flooding is quite common when storms are heavy. Flood insurance is an absolute must.

5. Humidity Galore

If you are not a fan of humidity, you may want to rethink moving to Tampa. When the summer months are upon you, expect a flood of never-ending humidity. The moisture causes the air to be heavy and uncomfortable at times. Being this close to the sea makes it that much more humid with little relief to be found.

5 Advantages of Living in Orlando, Florida

There are many advantages of living in Orlando, Florida. The top 5 include:

1. Abundance of Green and Parks

Orlando is known for its parks. It is also known for its beautiful green, luscious settings. Lake Eola Park is one of the most famous parks in Florida and is popular amongst residents and tourists for private events, skyline-viewing, and boating excursions.

2. Disneyworld is Next Door

Orlando hosts Disneyworld—the happiest place on Earth. What could be better than that! If you live in Orlando, it is that much better. The amusement parks can be quite the relaxing, stress-free experience versus being a tourist.

3. Endless Adventures

There are endless adventures in Orlando. There is something to do every moment of the day, both as an adult and as a child. The beach is an hour east and only an hour and a half to the west. Outdoor rivers and parks make for countless outdoor adventures.

4. Beautiful Residences

Orlando is known for its beautiful neighborhoods and sprawling residences. Homeowners truly put in the effort to keep their curb appeal fresh and bright. The clean, welcoming neighborhoods are a great advantage for new homeowners.

5. Gorgeous Weather

Endless summer is the best way to describe Orlando. Even when it is winter, it is still beautiful outside. Most days are hot and sunny and not unbearably humid. You won’t really have to worry about weather pattern fluctuations like on the coastline cities.

Disadvantages of Living in Orlando, Florida

There are unfortunately several disadvantages of living in Orlando, Florida. The top 5 disadvantages include:

1. Retirement Communities

It is true, many older folks choose to retire in Orlando. With the perfect weather and no state tax, Orlando is the perfect place to find serene, beautiful, and peaceful natural landscapes. This can become taxing to those looking to get rowdy and have fun.

2. Price of Everything

Being Orlando holds several major amusement parks, the cost of everything is quite a bit higher than its surrounding cities. Although there is no sales tax and a lower cost of living, your entertainment and food budget will be noticeably higher in this location.

3. Traffic

The traffic in Orlando can be described as nightmarish. With all of the local attractions, Orlando is the main staple for tourists to flock to all months of the year. This can become exhausting as it takes a long time to go even a short distance.

4. Bugs and Critters

Orlando is known for its bugs, critters, and creepy crawlers. The humidity and bodies of water bring in the bugs—and they stick around. Alligators are not the only thing to look out for if you live in Orlando for the wildlife thrives here.

5. Tourists Will Drive You Bonkers

Tourists tend to take over this city in Florida. Orlando is the main attraction—and it brings in people from all over the world. Although they keep the businesses alive and flourishing, their presence can be annoying for residents—especially when you are just trying to live your day-to-day life.