When most “outsiders” think of Florida, they think of South Florida. The beaches, palm trees, tropical drinks, and thriving nightlife often conjure up thoughts of one city: Miami! But, just one hour north you hit another Floridian gem: West Palm Beach.
In our last article, we looked at Miami and Fort Lauderdale, but this week, we’ll be focusing on Miami vs. West Palm Beach. Both cities have plenty to offer, but there are enough differences to help you find the perfect new hometown for you and your family.
Tourism remains Miami’s #1 job industry (no surprise there), but being so close to the Caribbean has created an entirely different job sector: international trade and banking. In fact, Miami is home to more than 100 foreign consulates and trade offices. At 5.2%, the unemployment rate is higher than both the national and Florida’s average , so you might want to have a job lined up before you pack. But with more than 147 corporate headquarters, that shouldn’t be a problem. Not a workaholic? Even better! Miami has an unspoken rule against talking about work during your off hours. So if your job is a snooze, as long as you have a cool hobby or fun weekend plans, you can still be the life of the party.
West Palm Beach also relies on tourism for its jobs. In fact, Palm Beach County had a record 7.35 million visitors last year. But technology jobs appear to be the future of the county’s economy. Tourism or tech not your thing? Palm Beach County is home to more than 50 corporate headquarters, including such companies as BurgerFi, Office Depot, and the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. West Palm Beach is also in the top 50 on Forbes list of “Best Places for Business and Careers,” so it could be the perfect place to grow your career.
Which City is Right For You?: Whether your field is tourism or international trade, Miami has a lot to offer in the way of jobs. But with its focus on fun and sun over career, Miami is the perfect place for those who don’t want their career to overshadow their personal life. But if you’re looking for a place to grow your career (and your family), West Palm Beach is the better option.
Cost of Living
Miami doesn’t do anything halfway, so it’s no surprise that The Magic City has a high cost of living. The average home price is $282,000 when the average for the entire state is only $207k. And the average 2-bedroom apartment is $2400/month, nearly $1,000 more than the average price in Orlando, according to Rent Jungle. A recent study by Go Banking Rates found that you’d need to make more than $77,000/year to live comfortably in Miami; the median income is only $50,000.
A West Palm Beach zip code doesn’t have quite the prestige of a Miami one, but the overall cost of living is much cheaper. The median home price is only $216k—a steal for waterfront property. Redfin.com listed West Palm beach among its “15 Most Affordable Beach Towns to Buy a Vacation Home.” Miami is on the list, too (with a higher ranking), but Redfin found that West Palm has a lower average home price and larger percentage of waterfront properties.
Which City is Right For You?: This is one choice that your salary will make for you. If you can afford the higher cost of living in Miami, then it might be worth it. If you’d rather have your paycheck go a little further (and you’re willing to forego a little of the “glitz and glamour” that Miami is known for, West Palm Beach will be the best choice.
The large Latin American population can make living in Miami almost like living in a foreign country. There’s a reason Miami is sometimes known as “The Capital of Latin America“: many neighborhoods are short on shop owners who speak English. (Sounds like the perfect opportunity to brush up on your high school Spanish.) And living this close to the beach, it shouldn’t surprise you that getting that “beach body” is just part of the Miami way of life. (It’s probably way The Magic City frequently grabs the top spot on any “Best Looking City” list.) The tropical atmosphere and “island vibes” mean a more laidback attitude among many residents, so don’t be surprised if your new friends are always late (although maybe that’s due mostly to the traffic).
West Palm Beach, on the other hand, is much cheaper and easier to navigate. Despite both cities having roughly the same size (both are around 54 square miles), West Palm has only a quarter of the population (100,000 residents as opposed to Miami’s 400,000). It has enough nightlife that it doesn’t feel like a small town, but without Miami’s traffic problem. Outdoor lovers will find that there’s plenty to enjoy. Just across the Intercoastal lies Palm Beach, arguably the country’s first “resort town”, and Palm Beach County has the largest number of golf courses in the state (PGA headquarters are nearby).
Which City is Right For You?: If you love all things Latin and love to hit the beach to see and be seen, Miami won’t disappoint. If all those (nearly half a million) people make you feel a little claustrophobic, stick with West Palm Beach.
Things to Do
Miami is so steeped in Caribbean and Latin American influences that it would be a shame not to dive right in. And what better place to start than Calle Ocho? This free, one-day festival celebrating Latin American culture takes place every year between 27th Avenue and SW 8th Street (hence the name of the festival). The rest of the year, go out and see the history, ecology, and culture that Miami is known for. Built as a summer home for a wealthy industrialist in 1919, the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens has been restored and preserved as it was in its heyday. Stroll the lovely grounds, admire the art, or do some moonlit yoga on the lawn. If you have young kids, don’t miss the Zoo Miami, Monkey Jungle, or Miami Children’s Museum. And art lovers will love the Wynwood neighborhood’s art galleries, antique shops, and eclectic restaurants.
While West Palm Beach may have started out as a haven for retirees and snowbirds, the city is definitely on the up and up…and Clematis Street is the epicenter of it all. From amazing restaurants, funky art galleries, antique shops, and the weekly Clematis by Night concert series, you won’t want to leave. And you’re in luck, because there’s plenty of other venues to visit: Art After Dark at the Norton Museum, shop or catch a movie at City Place, see the latest hit musical at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, or pick up some new furniture on Antique Row. And if that’s not enough entertainment for you, there’s always the music festivals: SunFest (every May) and Moonfest (every October).
Which City is Right For You?: Both cities have plenty of opportunities for you to fill up an average weekend, but Miami has a lot more of it. (They have a bigger population, what do you expect?) So if you’re the type that loves to experience something different all the time (extrovert), Miami is more your style. Prefer to stay home more and/or visit the same favorites over and over again (introvert)? West Palm Beach won’t let you down.
Miami has a culture and vibrancy that’s hard to deny: Latin American music and food, a thriving arts scene, and non-stop nightlife. And more than 400,000 residents agree. If you love to be in the middle of the action and are always on the go, Miami truly is The Magic City.
But not everyone is a mover and a shaker. If all the hustle and bustle (and traffic and cost) of Miami scares you, but you still want to live in a place bursting with culture (while staying relatively close to friends in Orlando), West Palm Beach is for you.
Whether you’re moving to Miami or West Palm Beach, call Cento Family Movers for a free quote on your move. We’ve moved Orlando residents all over the country (49 different states!), so a quick drive to South Florida is no problem. We’d love to meet you!