They’re both major Florida cities, but Orlando and Jacksonville are far from similar.
Many native Floridians say that the Sunshine State is upside-down: the northern areas are more “Southern” and the southern areas are more “Northern.” This is certainly the case with the centrally located Orlando and the practically on-the-Georgia-border Jacksonville.
So to help you make the decision or maybe just take a deeper look into two of Florida’s major cities, let’s check out Orlando vs. Jacksonville and see which city reigns supreme. If you’re considering moving to or from one of these cities, here’s what you can expect.
Jacksonville: The Bold New City of the South
Jacksonville (or Jax, as it’s sometimes known) is by far the larger city of the two (954,000 people against Orlando’s 310,000) but that number is a bit deceiving. It’s primarily because the city’s square mileage is larger. In fact, at 875 sq. miles, Jacksonville is the largest city by area in the lower 48 states. Its size means that it technically has less than half the population density of Orlando.
Despite being north of Orlando, Jacksonville has a much more “Southern” feel to it, mostly because of its proximity to the Deep South (Florida is not considered “the South,” by the way). Many have even called it the “Capital of South Georgia.”
The majority of its citizens are white and conservative, but diversity is gradually gaining a foothold. Jax is home to the largest Filipino-American community in the country and is quickly gaining new residents from outside the country.
All this growth has led to a resurgence of Jacksonville on the national scale. Quite frankly, it’s becoming cool again, with the feel of a community on the rise (much like Austin in recent years). Artist communities are gaining traction in a city known for its financial and insurance industries.
Jacksonville has four main beaches and is bisected by the St. John’s River, so water lovers will take to this city like…well, a duck to water. Surfing, fishing, or just walking along the Riverwalk will give you plenty of opportunities for enjoying the sea breeze.
If you’re an NFL fan, Jax has that, too. The Jaguars are on the rise, so if you plan on moving here, you’ll have to practice your “Duval!” chant.
Finally, just south of Jacksonville is St. Augustine, the oldest continuously inhabited, European settled city in the US. Soak up the Spanish history, visit the lighthouse, and the Fountain of Youth, supposedly Ponce de Leon’s landing site.
If the Orlando vs. Jacksonville debate comes down to ocean access and population density, Jacksonville is the clear winner. You’ll have fewer tourists to deal with on a regular basis, and the cost of living and price of property is lower, despite being on the water.
Orlando: The City Beautiful
Orlando might be smaller in both population (310,000) and area (113 sq. miles), but its residents are much more densely packed. There are 2,700 people per sq. mile here. (Jacksonville has less than half that.)
Being closer to the Caribbean (or perhaps just closer to Disney World), Orlando is a politically “blue” pocket surrounded by “red” counties. It has a much larger Hispanic community than Jacksonville, as well as significant Haitian and Brazilian populations. Orlando, maybe because UCF is one of the largest universities in the country, also trends a bit younger, with the majority of the population being between the ages of 25-44, and single too!
While Jacksonville might be an up-and-coming city, Orlando has reached peak “trendy” status. It has been named the third best city in the country for vegetarians/vegans, second most pet-friendly city, and best place to get married (yep, #1 in the country!).
It won’t surprise you to know that the hospitality industry is huge here, but there is an emerging tech industry as well comprising more than 2,000 companies.
Of course, Orlando isn’t all work and no play. There are the theme parks, of course, but that’s not all. Conventions, festivals, concerts, state parks, and nature attractions will give you plenty to choose from. (Although many residents do have an annual pass to Disney or Universal as well.) All this activity does increase the amount of traffic you’ll sit through when living in Orlando.
Orlando doesn’t have an NFL team, but they do have the Orlando Magic (NBA), the Orlando City Lions (MLS), the Orlando Pride (NWSL), and the UCF Knights.
You don’t have immediate beach access in Orlando, but you’re only an hour away from Daytona and New Smyrna Beach on the Atlantic, and it’s not much farther to get to the Gulf Coast. Living in Orlando, you’ll never run out of things to do.
When looking at Orlando vs. Jacksonville, if you’re young and single and looking for every kind of adventure imaginable, Orlando is the clear choice.
Orlando vs. Jacksonville: Which Is Right For You?
Both Orlando and Jacksonville are thriving cities with great weather, but their location and residents make them completely different cities.
If you’re looking for more diversity, lots of people, awesome food, and plenty of attractions, Orlando is probably right up your alley. If you like the idea of a thriving metropolis, but appreciate Southern hospitality and coastal life, Jacksonville likely floats your boat.
Either way you choose, these are both winning cities with a lot to offer, so move with the confidence of knowing you’ll be right at home, whichever city you choose. The good news is, the distance from Jacksonville to Orlando is about 125 miles, so only a two-hour car trip. That means, whichever city you choose to call home, you can still enjoy the attractions of the other without much complication.
Whichever city you wind up in, Cento Family Moving can help get you there. We’ve moved people all over the country, so a two-hour drive up the coast is no big deal. Call today for a free quote.