The state of Florida spans around 53,624 square miles, which means that there are plenty of places to settle when one decides to live in or visit the Sunshine State.
That said, there are certain parts of Florida that are more densely populated. Miami, Tampa, Orlando, and Jacksonville are examples of places in the Sunshine State where people tend to settle in high numbers. For example, the population of Jacksonville is just over 970,000.
Some people would strongly prefer less populated options that are considered "hidden gems" or areas that fly under the radar. There's an option in central Florida that has the advantage of being close to a larger, major city but also the advantage of feeling like a smaller town.
Even better, this "hidden gem" has just been named one of the best places to live in the United States.
What is So Special About Alafaya, Florida?: The website Livability listed what it said were the 100 "best" places to live in the United States in June of 2023.
Livability looked at 100 different metrics to determine a city's livability score. The site looked at criteria such as economics, amenities, safety, education, and health.
Alafaya was a Florida pick, along with St. Petersburg, Fort Lauderdale, and Orlando. However, Alafaya is arguably the least-known of these picks.
In fact, Livability said of Alafaya:
"Alafaya is a hidden gem located in the heart of the Sunshine State."
The website Niche gave Alafaya A ratings for its schools, family friendliness, and diversity.
Where is Alafaya and What Does it Have to Offer?: This city of around 90,000 people is very close to the University of Central Florida and to Orlando - which has a much larger population of around 307,000.
Therefore, living in Alafaya would give you the amenities and fun things to do in Orlando - like Orlando Magic Games and shows at Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, while living in an area that feels smaller in size.
Alafaya has an excellent school system, as the area's Timer Lake High School ranks much higher than national averages for college readiness.
The community is said to be close-knit, with a high degree of volunteerism and an emphasis on local community events. If you enjoy shopping, Waterford Lakes Town Center offers a wide variety of retail shops and restaurants.
One Niche reviewer had this to say about the Alafaya community in 2021:
"Living in Alafaya has been an amazing experience for my family and me. The community is nothing short of amazing. This community has introduced me to a very diverse society and has helped me gain many lifelong friendships. Alafaya is a beautiful, welcoming, and fun community to live in. Families of all ages can comfortably live in this community and still feel welcome and have fun."
The city also has some great opportunities to enjoy the outdoors without having to travel too far. Check out Lake Claire Recreation Area, which is less than 10 minutes away. It's a 22-acre park on the shores of the large and beautiful Lake Claire. There is no admission fee to enjoy this park.
Another great option is Blanchard Park. You'll find three miles of scenic hiking trails - much of it shaded. The combination of lush greenery and the wetlands that surround the park make this a serene place to take a walk.
If you wish to ride your bike or kayak in a beautiful area, Econ River Wilderness is quite pretty. Pine and cypress trees cover the biking trails, but the area isn't exclusive to bikers. There are also areas for canoeing and kayaking.
Finally, if you're willing to drive for 20 minutes, you can visit the gorgeous Lake Eola (pictured at the top of this article) in downtown Orlando, with all of the amenities the downtown area offers.
Opposing Opinion: It is always prudent to look at opposing opinions. One reviewer on Niche was unhappy living in Alfaya. Of their experience, they wrote in 2020:
"I've lived here most of my and the population continues to increase substantially due to the local university. Property prices are on the rise and most jobs around are entry-level, minimum-wage jobs. If I could move I would."