We moved to Florida but missed our old social life. Here's how we made 1,200 new friends.

We moved to Florida but missed our old social life. Here's how we made 1,200 new friends.
Denise Rich with her husband and daughter in Melbourne, Florida.Courtesy of Denise Rich
  • Denise Rich and her husband Matt moved from the DC area to Melbourne, Florida, last year.
  • They love its proximity to great jobs and the beach but miss DC's breweries, wineries, and dining.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Denise Rich, a 39-year-old mother who works in the defense industry, and who moved from the DC area to Melbourne, Florida, last year with her husband and one-year-old daughter. The couple missed the social scene in DC and so they created one — through a Facebook group that is now 1,200 Floridians strong. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

We weren't planning on moving to Florida but there were some complications after my daughter's birth and we wanted to be close to family.

Before moving to DC in 2017, I lived in Orlando — and I still have family there — and my husband has an aunt who lives in Leesburg. So, we sold our home in the DC area for $637,000 and paid $450,000 for our house here. We moved in May.

We actually didn't even visit Melbourne before buying a house and moving here. My two masters degrees are from Florida Institute of Technology, which is in Melbourne, but I'd never actually been to Melbourne. We bought our house sight unseen, which was a mistake. The housing market was insane last year and we we sold our house in DC for $75,000 over asking, and our asking price was already very outrageous.

All the sellers did for this house was have two days of an "open house," but they didn't even let anybody come in and look at it. And so we offered $25,000 over asking and we got the house. But we thought from the pictures that it was move-in ready and it was the opposite of that.


We've spent $70,000 so far to remodel the bathrooms, get the front door replaced, get new floors, repair the pool, remodel the kitchen and get a new pool pump. It's essentially a new house.

We picked Melbourne because it's close to great jobs and the space industry

When we decided on moving to Florida, we were looking for proximity to jobs. I work in the defense and intelligence industry and my husband works in the defense industry. I was remote so we were able to keep my job and he was going to be getting a job down here.

When we were trying to narrow down where to go, we looked at Tampa. It would make sense to go there where there are a lot of defense industry jobs.

But we looked at the housing market in Tampa and we said, nope, we're not interested in Tampa. Sure, he could have gotten a good paying job, but just based on how much we would also be spending on a home in Tampa, we thought, you know, let's look at other places.

We moved to Florida but missed our old social life. Here's how we made 1,200 new friends.
A beach in Melbourne, Florida.Brad McGinley Photography/Getty Images

We thought about Orlando, where there are a lot of defense jobs, but Orlando doesn't have the whole space industry that we have here, which is pretty cool. That was a big driver for us.


My husband got a job at the Harris Corporation, a defense technology company based here in Melbourne.

We love the beach, but miss the good food, wine and beer DC had to offer

What we love about our new home is being a 15-minute drive from the beach. Since we live on the space coast — a strip of the Florida coast named for the nearby NASA field base Kennedy Space Center — we get to see the space launches from our backyard. We really like that.

But, the thing we miss the most about the DC area is all of the restaurants and breweries and wineries there. Those don't exist as much down here and the food has been a real disappointment. Sure, it has a small town feel but my husband has lived in a small town before, and that had better mom and pop shops.

We moved to Florida but missed our old social life. Here's how we made 1,200 new friends.
A rocket launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Denise Rich and her family can see the action from their new backyard.Mouser Williams/mouserphoto.com/Getty Images

So we decided to try and create what we missed most about DC: having a group that goes out to breweries and wineries.

We're setting up meet-ups at breweries, axe-throwing shops and restaurants through Facebook

We started one here on Facebook. It's called Drink 321. It has 1,200 members and we have outings in Brevard and Orange counties. We've partnered with local businesses down here to do it.


It's actually been really fun. We've met some really cool people through it.

Most of the meet-ups we've been doing are over here in the Melbourne area, but we're doing one over in Winter Park. A couple of the local restaurants that have reached out, and we plan to have meet-ups at those places in the future. We're gonna aim to have one at Walk-On's Sports Bistreaux in May. And then there's an axe-throwing place we're in contact with that's also a brewery in Cocoa that's asked to be on our list.

I feel like the dining and brewery scene here has got to improve at some point because you've got so many people coming from out of state that are demanding better dining options.