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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Sorry if this is long...just want to give the right background info!

My husband, 3 yo son and I currently live in beautiful Northern CA (Monterey area). We really love it here but have sadly come to the realization that'll we'll probably never be able to afford to buy a house here, at least not one in a good school neighborhood. So, we've decided that we'll have to move. We've been mulling over various areas. I initially was considering Seattle as I think it's probably pretty close to the social/political/cultural environment here. However, my mood can be very affected by gloomy weather so we've written that area off. We narrowed our choices down to Florida or Georgia. Those areas would work well for my husband's type of work. I'm currently a SAHM but will be going back to work as we just can't afford to live on husband's income anymore. I was a Project/QA Manager in high tech before I became SAHM.

A couple of weeks ago we took a trip to FL to check out 3 areas: Sarasota, Jacksonville, and Orlando. We only spent one day in each area and so I'm sure we didn't get a true view of the areas but we did at least get an overall impression. I was surprised to find that I liked Winter Park (Orlando) best of all and wan't too impressed with Sarasota. I had expected to like Sarasota best given things I had heard. Jacksonville just seemed huge. There were a couple areas in J-ville we thought "we'll, I guess, maybe..."

I haven't been to Atlanta yet and have heard mixed reviews so I'm not sure what to think about that area.

Anyway, here's what we're looking for:
Excellent schools
Reasonable home prices ($500k or under)
Walkable neighborhood (not sure how to explain this but I HATE the gated, homogenous communities you find in most of the FL areas we looked at. Houses that don't look identical and stores/restaurants w/in walking distance.)
We're vegetarian and try to eat mostly organic so access to a Whole Foods or something similar is very important to us.
Availability of High Tech jobs w/o a ridiculous commute.
Nice parks, museums, cultural activities.
SAFE
Clean air/water
Like minded people around (care about the environment, AP, co-sleeping, wanted to move to Canada when Bush got "elected", liberal social views, etc.)

Whew! I guess that's a big list but there you have it.
:

Anyway, does anyone live in the Winter Park area or Orlando who could provide opinions on how it would fit in with what we're looking for? How about Atlanta? I've heard Roswell and Alpharetta are nice. Do you live in an area that sounds like this? We're open to ideas of other areas as well.

Thanks for any thoughts and suggestions!!
 

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Winter Park IS nice, isn't it? I live about 2 hours away from it, and was thinking about moving there, because it IS walkable, which is important to me as well. It is actually rated one of the most walkable towns in FL. As far as jobs, I'm not too sure but Orlando is a pretty big city so, I'm sure there must be. Yes there are stores that sell organic vegetarian food. I think there is a Whole Foods actually, but not positive on that. Good luck. (Oh, and I was sooo ready to move to Canada when that "election" happened!)
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Hi Mirabella,
Thanks! Yeah, I really liked the neighborhood close to the downtown. I don't know if there are others like that. It's kind of like the Monterey/Pacific Grove area. Do you know of any other areas in FL that are like that?

Maybe it was just where we happened to look but I got the impression that a lot of Florida was those gated communities and strip malls.

Anyone else have any suggestions for areas to consider? Any opinions on how Winter Park or other areas of Orlando would fit that? Atlanta? Did I frighten everyone away with my long list?

Anyone? Please?

 

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Yeah, most of FL IS strip malls and gated communities. That's one reson I'm not too happy here. But I have heard great things about Winter Park, and also St. Augustine, which is much further away...Both are walkable and have character, which is, sadly, pretty rare for FL.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Hi Mirabella,
It's funny you should mention St. Augustine. We stopped by there briefly on our way down from Jacksonville and it was the other place that we really liked. We aren't really considering it though because it seems like I'd probably have to work in Jacksonville and I wouldn't be willing to do that commute. We really liked that it was close to the ocean though. That's one thing that isn't optimal about Winter Park. We both LOVE being near the ocean.

Have you been in Florida a long time?
 

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Hi!

I grew up in San Diego, went to school in SLO and LA, and then spent 10 years in Michigan. My husband and I just relocated to Alpharetta/Roswell a couple months ago. We love it hear! I even feel more at home than in California!

The schools in Alpharetta and most of Roswell are supposed to be good.

You can get a decent house for $160 to $200 and just about everything a reasonable person would want for $260 to $300.

There are several different types of neighborhoods... It's difficult to explain...

Only a few neighborhoods have sidewalks, and hardly any in the "old town" areas. If you want to walk to town, there is Old Alpharetta or Old Roswell. And houses are in your price range as long as you are fine with a "used" house. Our house in MI was built in 1917, so just about anything is modern to us.

I'm vegetarian also and am doing fine. There is a barbeque place in Roswell that has a portobello mushroom and fried green tomato sandwich w/ gouda. Harry's is owned by whole foods and on the border of Alpharetta/roswell.

I'll add more later...
 

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When you come to Atlanta..head for Decatur. Great schools and a very walkable area. Great restaurants..plenty of veg. Lot's of yoga too. I love it there. The houses are smaller than the ones in Alpharetta/Roswell for the same money..but you get the area. I like Alph/Roswell too. Another area to try with good schools is close to Decatur. It's the area with Lakeside Highschool (Decatur/Atlanta/Northlake area) as the anchor to all the other schools. Sagamore Hills Elementary is in a neighborhood (with sidewalks and you can walk to the school) and it ties in to this highschool. None of these areas have gated communities. Both these areas are close to Whole foods..which is also just down the road from a great vegetarian grocery called Return to Eden. Hope that helps. Just a few minutes out of Decatur is an awesome farmers market...called the DeKalb Farmers market...best prices and produce (organic and conventional) in the Atlanta area. I used to live close and I really miss it. These two areas I mentioned are very close to one another. Decatur is a bit more expensive than the other area..both are great.
 

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Winter Park is probably an hour from where we live. It's a very nice area.

We live in Lakeland, which is about half way between Tampa and Orlando. Many people live here and commute to one of those cities (45min-an hour+), but there are also lots of jobs here. There are at least 3 major companies based here that have tens of thousands of employees.

We live in the downtown historic distric. We can walk to the library, art museum, produce store, mini mart, lakes, etc in 5 minutes. In 10 minutes we can walk to the heart of downtown and find lots of shops, restaurants, parks, children's museum, etc. We do drive about 5 minutes or so to the grocery store. We don't have big name health food stores, but we have a few smaller ones which suit us just fine.

A house for $500,00 here would be a beautiful home. Really, though, it would be in a gated type community. If you want a walking neighborhood, you might have to spend less!

The main public school sytem isn't great and isn't horrible - just kind of in the middle. We do have wonderful magnet and charter school, though. My daughter is in a charter Montessori school and we couldn't be happier. There are also some great private schools (religious and non).

Good luck with your search!
 

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I'm in Atlanta. In SForsyth next to ALpharetta. I love it here. There a few recent threads on the 400 cooridor area (Cumming, Alpharetta and Roswell) if you want to do a search.........
 

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You can't beat Atlanta for I.T. work. Any of the intown neighborhoods offer you sidewalks with people walking their dogs and kids. You can spend $150-800K depending on which area you want to be in. For under $500K you have a lot of options here.

If you can bear a commute or get a job in the north part of town, you have more options of bigger/newer house for your money. Then you're getting more into the cookie-cutter subdivisions...

We're definitely lacking in being close to the ocean. It's about a 5 (or so) hour drive to Charleston, Savannah and Destin from here so it's not terrible. If you move to the north part of town you'll be near Lake Lanier.
 

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We just moved to college park, which is the Orlando neighborhood closest to Winter Park.

I like it here. Though I haven't met anyone yet, I'm on an active yahoo group of AP moms.

I LOVE college park. I can walk to just about anything, it is so not homogenous. Houses are expensive (for here) but if you're able to go up to 500K, you could get something decent, 1500 sqft or more. The elementary school we'd go to is one of the best around. There's a ton for sale in this area right now, so you'd have a good selection. I think college park is slightly cheaper than winter park, it's just that you have to be careful which school you're zoned for. We were so lucky.

There's a 3-bedroom condo for sale in our really nifty complex if you're interested. It's quiet here and we have a really nice pool that is hardly every used.

PM me if you want more info on the area. We also have a GREAT real estate agent if you need one.
 

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We live a few minutes north of Winter Park. It really is a nice area with unique older homes and lots of restaurants and shops within walking distance. I haven't looked at housing prices there in a few years, but I would guess that for $500k, you could get something with about 1900 sq ft. The only Whole Foods in the area is in Winter Park. There are a few other organic grocery stores around here, but they don't have nearly as much selection as Whole Foods. From what I can recall about the public schools, many of them are rated at the top. The local high school is one of the best and, per dh's report from listening to the local radio, the WP high school was voted the #1 party high school by Playboy magazine ~ now that should get ya packin'!!!


I agree with pp about College Park. It's very similar to WP (closer to downtown, even) with walking distance shops, restaurants, etc.

A few neighborhoods that are downtown that have older homes, local restaurants and shops are Thornton Park and Delaney Park. They're all in the same price range as WP. I don't know much about the downtown public schools, though.

There are pockets of older home neighborhoods in the suburbs of Orlando (such as what we live in, about 12 miles north of downtown), but many of them don't have the within walking distance entertainment.

It takes us about 45 mins to get to New Smyrna Beach, so I would estimate you would only have an extra 10-15 minutes' drive coming from Winter Park.
 

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Hello,

I am also a Georgia Mommy. I live in the Woodstock area and I love it here, however if I ever had to move due to work, Decatur would be my first choice.

I highly suggest figuring out where the job is going to be first. Then find a neighborhood you like. Traffic is really rough here. You may not want to be stuck in traffic 1hr or more each way.

Roswell/Alpharetta is also beautiful, however it was going to be too far from my dh's job.

PLease pm me if you have any other questions!

Good Luck!
 

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I lived in the Orlando area for 5 years... I loved living in both Winter Park and College Park.
-- College park is a bit more trendy with a slightly larger population of 25-35, but they are mostly young professionals, so they dont cause any trouble
The area definitely seems to fit what you are looking for. It is very unique, there are plenty of places you can walk to, and there are alot of cultural activities within a very short driving distance (museums, parks, I LOVE lake Eola).
-- I think Winter Park is a little more layed back than CP & a bit more family oriented. I also think that WP is a little more expensive than CP, especially if you want to live in the "walking" area of it. Also, Winter Park has Rollins College right in downtown. I havent heard of much trouble from Rollins students, I would just say to be careful & see who your neighbors would be... you wouldn't want to live next door to one of the students b/c of the parties (which dont get too crazy, but i'm sure would annoy the heck out of you & your family if they were right next door).
-- I also really enjoyed living in Lake Mary. It is located about 15 minutes down I-4. There is alot of new development going on. It is very family oriented and the county has invested alot of $ into putting in a natural trail that is absolutely gorgeous and goes throughout Seminole county. The upside is that it is a little cheaper than either WP or CP. The downside is that it doesnt have as many little unique restaurants/shops that CP and WP do and isnt as easlity walkable, but IMHO, the nature trail way more than makes up for it. Also, since the area is new, most of the housing is new and is in "cookie cutter" sub divisions.
-- Lastly, I grew up in Sarasota and recently moved back here. When I left for college, I swore that I would never come back b/c it was soo boring for me as a high school student... no place to get into trouble
However, a few years later, I changed my mind. I definitely have to say that this is by far my favorite spot. I really think that this is the best place that I've ever lived to raise a family. The housing market is a bit more expensive, but the school are great, lots of entertainment for families and adults, and.. SIESTA BEACH!!! A large part of Sarasota is comprised of the typical florida "cookie cutter" subdivisions, but the downtown area has lots of older houses that have been renovated. If you live in the downtown area, there are also many areas you can walk to. There are also lots of things to do with your family a short driving distance from anywhere (St.Armands Circle, Ringling Museum has a beautiful waterfront park, etc...). There are numerous organic stores in town. Also, Sarasota has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, so there are lots of available jobs (maybe not as high tech as in orlando, but I havent looked into it).

Anyway, sorry its so long, but hope it helps. PM me if you have any questions
Natalya
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Wow, lot's of really great info, muchos gracias!


Sorry it took me so long to get back, my computer went on the fritz. (Note of caution: Think twice before sitting down w/your laptop on your lap while holding a cup of tea with DC present.
)

smirlywittles
It's great to hear that a vegie California girl loves it there. I can't tell you how much that eases my mind!! BTW: My best friend and her husband went to school in SLO too!

Mommabelle and Mamm2
I'd heard good things about Decatur but then I talked to an old boyfriend's brother who moved to Atlanta. I mentioned we were thinking of moving there and asked about a couple of areas including Decatur. He said he'd picked up his car in Decatur after it was shipped down and he felt that the neighborhood was scary/dangerous. Is there a good and bad part of Decatur? Could he have been in a different area? He is new to Atlanta and lives in another area entirely so maybe he was confused?
BTW: Thanks for all the great school info...that was really helpful!

Mamm2
My ex's brother is living in Woodstock and he really loves it. But, they have horses not kids. I'd love to have a horse too but my priority is really the schools. How do you think the Woodstock area would fit us? Schools? I guess he works in Alpharetta and he says his commute is ok. BUT, we're from the Bay Area which has EVIL commutes so maybe it's only just better or similar to that!!


On the Brink
Lakeland sounds really nice! Can I ask who the 3 big employers are that you mentioned?

Atlanta Hope
Sounds like you might have some IT/High Tech background/info? Any suggestions about good companies in the area? I'm a Project Manager, have done SW but could probably do PM for other industries as well.

Koalamommy, Trimomma, HATAWA
Thanks for all the great info on the Orlando area! We did also look at College Park and Thornton Park (super quickly...maybe 30 minutes of driving through). We thought those areas had potential too. Any specific school recommendations? Also, we didn't look at Delaney Park. Where is that in relation to Thornton/Winter Park?
I'm a little horrified that Winter Park high was named #1 party school by Playboy...eeek!
That was one of the reasons we liked WP was because that school is pretty highly rated. (Not in the party sense!)

A couple other questions. The traffic seemed ultra reasonable. (We were only on the North side of Orlando by Winter Park. We were driving at around 5-ish too on a weekday. Did we just get lucky or is that typical?

How is the crime there? Are those areas pretty safe?

Lake Mary sounds nice, especially the Nature trail. That definitely appeals to me. What about Winter Springs? We liked the park and the High School there but the housing seemed to be of the cookie cutter type.

Atlanta peeps
I hear much about how awful the traffic is. Any idea how it compares to the SF Bay area? I've also heard that it's bad on the North side but not so bad S of Atlanta. Is it possible to both live and work on the North side? I.E. are there many jobs in the Alpharetta/Roswell/North areas? (High Tech type jobs.) How about Peachtree City? I've heard that's a nice area. I have the impression it might be kinda religious though, and that's not us. Is that true? Jobs down there?

You guys are awesome, thanks so much for all the info!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
HATAWA
I was going to ask a little bit more about Sarasota. I had assumed that I would like this area best based on what I heard but I was surprised that I liked WP better. We really only were very briefly in each of the areas. (3 days to drive from Jacksonville to Orlando to Sarasota and then back to In-laws in Del Ray Beach.) So, I'm wondering if we didn't look at the right areas? Downtown seemed nice but the houses were a pretty run down in the neighborhoods we saw. The other neighborhoods outside of downtown we looked at were of the cookie cutter variety. Are there specific areas that are nice? Where is Siesta Beach and what do you like about it? Can you surf there? Diving nice? The school data seems to indicate that the schools are pretty good. I have to say that we thought the housing seemed really overpriced though. (Cheaper than the Bay Area but WAAAY more expensive than other areas of FL we looked at.)

Thanks!!
 

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As far as high tech jobs:

IBM, Siemens, Verizon, and several other companies are in Alpharetta. Alpharetta seems to have lots of high tech jobs. Norcross and Suwanee are more of the traditional engineering/manufacturing jobs. Environmental jobs seem to be in Marietta and Kennesaw.

It seems like you can avoid traffic if you work 7 to 4. I had an interview in Doraville at 8 am. I left from Exit 11 in Alpharetta at 6:40 and arrived at 7:05. Absolutely no traffic... Also it helps to learn the backroads. The 400 backs up in Alpharetta, but not North Point Parkway.

Trader Joes is also coming soon! I had to wait 8 years for it to come to Michigan!

There are great parks, the Chattahoochee River, nice walking trail in all the parks, hiking trails in Roswell (w/ waterfall and covered bridge). Tons of stuff to do with kids, but things seem to fill up quick.

It seems much safer here than in Michigan or LA or many parts of San Diego. I might not take marta my myself at night, but would feel comfortable going into the city with the kids during the day. Even the homeless in the city are nice. We've had them offer directions when we look lost (before asking for money and they don't always even ask).

As far as clean air and water... It is still a city, but the air seems pretty clean. I think we may have had a yellow or orange day when it got really hot. I think we still went for a 1.3 mile walk in the park that day. I'm not sure about the statistics on the water... Overall it seems like a very healthy city to live in. Everyone is out walking in the parks. It's nice to have the weather for it.

As far as schools, it seems like you want to be in North Fulton, Cobb or City of Decatur if you are closer into the city. I have heard Duluth is good as well. I think N. Fulton and Cobb had average SAT scores of around 1100.

Old Town Marietta looked cute in addition to Old Roswell and Old Alpharetta. Lots of cool things here are hidden... We just went to a free bluegrass barn on Sat night. The HR person from an interview's family owns it. I didn't get the job, but we had friends here before we even moved down. www.everettsmusicbarn.com
 

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Having lived in Orlando (actually right on the Winter Park line) for 6 years, I can tell you that FL is not the place for what you want. I want those things, too, and they are so hard to come by. Yes, you can make it work, but I think you'd be happier in a place with several options for what you desire. Just my opinion. I'd move if I could.
 

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The further north you go from downtown Orlando, the worse the traffic will be in the mornings. One of the things I love about living in college park is that DH bikes to work. We are down to one car. If you're thinking about a commute into downtown Orlando, you're better off if you can do it without getting on I-4, it's a parking lot in the mornings. I don't know which Orlando schools are good or bad, but I know that in the college park area lake silver and kilarney (not sure of spelling) are not so good and Princeton is excellent. There's a lot of real estate that claims to be college park, but really isn't (same zip code, but the college park area is pretty well defined within that zipcode), I think Princeton is the elementary school for most of what is actually college park.

a pp is right, Florida is NOT crunchy, but I've found a crunchy group of Orlando mamas online, and I came from an even less crunchy place, so I'm fine here.

Atlanta supposedly has the worst traffic in the country though...
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Smirlynwittles
That's great info, thanks! I'm looking forward to going down there to check out the areas, hopefully in the next couple of months.

Erinwestpoet
Yeah, truthfully, FL started out at the bottom of my list of places to move for just that reason. It's moved up for a couple of others. (Convenience for my husband's line of work, being closer to family, weather. ) But, I do wonder if I would be happy there and be able to find friends w/similar outlook on life. Sigh, really, I just want to stay here.

Koalamommy
It would be a dream for me to bike to work! When I was working I had a 3-4 hr long commute on days I went in to work. On top of that I worked stupid hours because that's what you have to do around here. (At least in many high tech companies.) I'm not willing to do that anymore (work long hours) and I'd love to live somewhere I could ride my bike in.
Thanks for the school info. Do you know anything about Thornton Park area schools?

Thanks!
-scoobers
 
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