I concur with all that has been said about NW Arkansas. My husband and I relocated here 15 years ago for quality of life reasons and have not regretted it. We live in Fayetteville.
As others have mentioned, there is a great variety of possibilities here, and where you actually end up will depend in large part on your lifestyle needs. Fayetteville is kind of the cultural center of the area. With concert venues like the Walton Arts Center, as well as events associated with the University of Arkansas, there is a lot to do. Razorback sporting events (U of A) have a following almost like a professional team with tail-gate parties, etc. There is also a new baseball stadium in Springdale where the NW Arkansas Naturals (farm team for the Kansas City Royals) play. And the award-winning Fayetteville Public Library is not to be missed. If they don't have what you want, they can get it for you through interlibrary loan.
If you prefer a more bucolic lifestyle, then perhaps Bella Vista, Holiday Island or an area near Beaver Lake may suit you better. But even then distances are not too far to take in the occasional concert or other event in Fayetteville.
With regard to cost of living, yes, we do have an income tax, which Florida doesn't but the rate is very low compared to other states. Property taxes are approximately 1% of the purchase price of a home, and everyone gets a $350 per year "homestead credit." The only negative I can see in this regard is that sales taxes are somewhat high here (about 9%--varies from town to town) because local communities have added to the state sales tax to pay for infrastructure projects. But these are temporary until the project for which they were voted on is complete. So at some point, they will hopefully disappear.
I grew up in Minnesota and have lived in many places both in the US (Florida, Washington DC area, for example) as well as other countries. NW Arkansas beats them all. Florida is too flat. DC was nice but very expensive, although the cultural opportunities of a large city (i.e. Smithsonian, Kennedy Center, etc.) were unbeatable.
And I do think that NW Arkansas is pet-friendly.
If you need help in finding a home, I will also be willing to help in any way that I can. I basically work all over NW Arkansas from Fayetteville to Bella Vista and specialize in helping buyers like you who are relocating to the area. My main website at http://www.judyluna.com
has lots of information about the area, including lots of links to local websites (city sites, chambers of commerce, etc.). And my home search website has the entire MLS on it: http://www.NWArkansasHomeSearch.com.
And I have entered my blog web address below, so you can get an idea of some of the issues here and information about the local real estate market. There's lots to choose from and it is a great time to purchase here, as prices have come down significantly. It is a buyer's market.
If you have any specific questions about the area or the home purchase process in Arkansas, just contact me.